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Archive for January, 2008

Dead cat bounce.

We’ve been hearing this whole season about how important Scott Niedermayer is to the fortunes of the Anaheim Ducks and, according to some, the very NHL itself. I am neither a fan of the Ducks, nor a fan of Scott Niedermayer.

Up until the ’06-’07 season, my rooting against the Ducks was based on the fact that they’re a division opponent and every point they lose is essentially a point the Stars gain. Then, it was about 50-50 the division rival thing and Chris Pronger.

Now, it’s about 10-45-45. Division-Pronger-Niedermayer.

Much was made about how much Niedermayer was missed when he casually left the Ducks hanging for two months while he decided if he wanted to retire. And how big of him it was to come back to play when he saw the Ducks were struggling. And how the only thing the Ducks needed to cure their woes was the return of the awesome Scott Niedermayer and his smooth skating. (If you’ve ever watched a hockey game with Niedermayer in it, you probably learned, through repetition, that he’s such a smooth skater.)

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That was a nice win to lead us out of the All-Star break and into the tough part of the season. After last night, the Stars have 28 games left, fewer than any other team in the league. Over the next 28 games, we’ll have to collect as many points as possible while hoping that the Sharks and the Ducks and, unbelievably, the Coyotes fail to collect as many points as possible.

Winning the division will get us the second or third seed in the Conference for the playoffs. Nobody is going to catch Detroit for the top seed in the West, so my hope is that we’re up there next to them. All the better to not have to meet them in the first round.

Detroit has struggled in the last few years in the playoffs, like we have, and I wouldn’t put it past them to do it again, but there’s no sense in testing them. Whoever gets the last playoff spot will have their work cut out for them. But they should take heart because it’s been done before.

Marty Turco got the win and looked really good doing it. He seemed much calmer and more focused. There have been games where you can tell by the way he makes his first save what the game is going to be like. (There have been games where the first save was after the first goal.)

He made some spectacular saves early, and then kept them in the lead at the end when the Canucks thought they saw a chance to tie it after cutting the lead to one.

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All-Star Game - Getty Images

That was a fun game!

It started out a little lopsided, but the West caught up the East and the competitiveness that makes kids become professional athletes started to bubble up. It came down to the last few seconds when Marc Savard scored to win it for the East.  Over the weekend full of player interviews and behind-the-scenes access and just general milling around, I was reminded of why I like hockey so much. The players.

I have my favorites that I’ve gathered over my short time watching hockey. Of course, all the Dallas Stars are at the top of the list, so I’ll save that for another time. But during the All-Star Game and the SuperSkills Competition and everything in between, I added a few surprise players to my watch list.

First, since I’m not talking about Stars players here, I’ll just say that the shot of Mike Ribeiro in the lockerroom between periods, watching his ADORABLE little kids walking around, was great. Ribbons did a fine job and so did Happy Meals. I hope they had a good time.

Now, here are a couple of players that surprised me by being surprisingly cute and/or cool.

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Versus failed to send me a magnetic playoff tracker and then took down the banner they told me to link to!

I feel like somebody needs to defend the All-Star Game event. Everywhere I go, it’s criticized for not being meaningful, not being competitive, not having hits, not having the right players, not being in the right town, not being on the right channel, not having the right superskills events, not having the right players in each event, and more and more and more.

I just don’t get it. It’s an exhibition game. It’s for effing FUN! I don’t know why people can’t relax and just enjoy it. There’s plenty of things to watch, plenty of things to enjoy about it.

I watch a huge amount of hockey over the course of a season. I have the Center Ice package, so whenever there’s no Stars game on, I’m watching hockey anyway. But even for somebody who just watches their own team’s games, that’s 82 times a season where you can watch a game that has hits and defense and makes a difference in the standings. There is nothing wrong with one game a year that is just for fun.

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Dallas All-Star Game

Last year the All-Star Weekend was held in Dallas and I got to go to the SuperSkills competition. I was a little overly focused on Philippe Boucher the whole time, so I managed to enjoy it, but without really keeping up with what was going on (I watched it later on TiVo). The SuperSkills is usually my favorite part of the All-Star event.

This year the NHL changed some stuff around for the SuperSkills Competition. They added a breakaway challenge where the creativity was judged, and they added an obstacle course and a one-timer challenge. They also changed the “fastest skater” event to a straightaway sprint instead of laps.

Another big change is the amount of online access that the NHL puts up. The NHL Network had an all-day kind of pre-game show, but it also played online with some delay. There were player interviews and morning skate footage and just general milling around, which I love. Versus might think that Tap-Out and WEC WrekCage might be more important to broadcast, but they are incorrect.

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James Mirtle has an idea that would put more Dallas Stars in the All-Star Game (accidentally). Instead of East vs. West, he suggests Matts vs. Mikes.

Knuble – M. Richards – Cammalleri
Ribeiro – Comrie – Ryder
Nylander – Modano – Samuelsson
Fisher – Sillinger – Grier

Commodore – Green
Lundin – Komisarek
Van Ryn – Mottau

Smith
Tellqvist

v.

Lombardi – Sundin – Stajan
Pettinger – Cullen – Cooke
Darche – Bradley – Foy
Tjarnqvist – Ellis – Dandenault

Schneider – Ohlund
Niskanen – Carle
Norstrom – Jones

Garon
Keetley

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Don't Click Here!

I love the All-Star Game. Love, love, love it. I look forward to it every year, because it’s a chance to see the personalities of the players. It’s also a chance to meet players from other teams and other conferences that I don’t know anything about. People criticize the game because it’s not competitive, but that’s the thing I like most about it. It’s for fun!

(One of the main reasons I dislike Jeremy Roenick so much is because he thought it was cool to lay hits on guys in the All-Star Games. Nobody’s bracing for hits, of course. Just evidence of what a jerk he is.)

Last season, the game was in Dallas and Marty Turco was in net. He raked in a ton of fans that night when he was mic’d up during the game and talked to the broadcast team while play was going on. Everybody loved him. He was very funny and charming.

I have an idea that I should have mentioned earlier, because when the League hears about it, they’re definitely going to want to do it. What they should do during the All-Star Game is put a mic on every single player, record it all, then edit it all together into a 2-hour DVD to sell at the FanShop. I’d buy one every year.

Even better than the main event, is the SuperSkills Competition on Saturday. I got to see it in person last season when it was at the American Airlines Center and it was just as fun in person. I like seeing the individual events like the fastest skater and the puckhandling drill and the hardest shot. This year they have some new events. The obstacle course relay event sounds fun, but of all the years when Marty Turco should be in the game this one is it, with a chance to shoot pucks at a net.

I’ll probably be hanging out over at IPB’s All-Star Game threads, so come on by!

(Also, I’d really love a magnetic playoff tracking board thingie. Or a hockey puck ice cube tray.)

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