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  • Sunday night, I was sure there would be at least one first round sweep (I thought for sure the Flyers would sweep the Penguins – their defense and goaltending hadn’t really shown up for the playoffs yet). The Pens proved me wrong in a BIG way.

    I thought 32 goals in 3 games was crazy, but (according to NBC Sports) 45 goals in the first four games of a playoff series is a record. Penguins fans are clearly not happy with the way most of those were scored, but at least it was a Malkin goal (yes, Malkin finally scored his first two goals of the 2012 playoffs tonight) that broke the record.

    Interestingly enough, though Bobrovsky played more minutes than Bryzgalov, their stats were even other than that. They each faced 18 shots and had 5 goals against (.722). I wonder how many time’s that’s happened in the playoffs (or any game, really).

    Who would have guessed that the Pens could win a game the way they played the first three games? True, they scored 5 goals in the one, but that’s hardly helpful when giving up 8 in the same game. I can’t wait to see what happens Friday night. I won’t be able to watch live, but I’ll avoid news and watch as soon as I get home. Now that Malkin’s started to score, can they pull off what only the 2004 Red Sox have done? Jordan Staal had a hat trick, too. Don’t want to forget to mention that important point, but Staal had 2 other goals in the playoffs before tonight’s game. Malkin had yet to score a goal. (Letang, Niskanen, & Sullivan also scored their goals of the playoffs tonight in Philly. Crosby scored his third of this year’s playoffs, and Dupuis scored his 2nd.)

    In the other potential sweep (Los Angeles could have swept Vancouver tonight), there were a couple key changes. It’s really hard to say which was more important or might have the potential to sway the series in the Canucks’ favor.

    1. Roberto Luongo hasn’t played since the Canucks left Vancouver. Cory Schneider replaced him in net for Sunday night’s game and though he lost the game, he only gave up one goal, which was a significant improvement over the first couple games. He got the only win for the Canucks in the 2012 playoffs so far and I can’t imagine him not playing when the Canucks return to Vancouver for Sunday night’s game 5.

    2. Daniel Sedin came back from his concussion tonight. He was only a few seconds shy of twin bother Henrik Sedin’s time on ice and had one assist. One assist may not seem like a lot, but I think getting Daniel back had to be a huge boost to the Canucks’ morale.

    I can’t believe we all have to wait until Sunday to see what happens in game 5 of this series. (If they’re still going, the Pens/Flyers will play their game 6 that day.)

    The other game of the night was actually the most interesting game and is the more interesting series (unless the Penguins or Canucks end up making the first NHL comeback from the 0-3 start). The Senators won in overtime to tie their series with the Rangers at 2 games.

    Home ice hasn’t been an advantage for most teams in the playoffs this year. More away teams are winning than home teams, which seems odd. It’ll be interesting to see if this trend continues for the rest of this round and into the second round of the playoffs.

    The only two series that seemed like they weren’t going to be very interesting got a lot more interesting tonight. The NBC Sports Network may not be making all the right choices where fans have been concerned, but they (and their advertisers) have to be thrilled with the way the 2012 playoffs are going so far – especially since local stations don’t get the next round at all. (Sad for fans, but good for the channel and national sponsors.) FSN Sports opted to play two early season baseball games (Angels and Dodgers) in the LA area instead of airing playoff hockey. It’s a shame, but money talks and sadly the first week of baseball commands more money in a 164 game season than playoff hockey in the LA market. :-(

    Enjoy the playoffs!

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  • Here they are – my playoff predictions for the first round. Some of these were difficult for me to pick, but here are my thoughts.

    Eastern Conference

    Capitals vs. Rangers
    Capitals in 5 – I don’t think this will be at all challenging for the Capitals given the way the Rangers have been playing lately. I think the Rangers will win a game, hopefully at home for their fans. I may not like the team, but I think all fans deserve a win at home in the playoffs.

    Flyers vs. Sabres
    Flyers in 6 – The Sabres have been playing amazingly well lately and have the best record in the last ten games out of all the teams in the NHL, but I still think the Flyers will prevail in the end. They’re a strong team and I think they may be the team that’ll make it out of the east.

    Bruins vs. Canadiens
    Bruins in 5 – With Tim Thomas (who should get the Vezina again) in goal, I don’t see how the Bruins can go wrong here. The Canadiens only won half of their last ten games and certainly don’t seem to be in playoff form at the moment.

    Penguins vs. Lightning
    Penguins in 6 – The Pens ended their season with the second best set of 10 games in the NHL and in spite of not having team captain Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin healthy, they have been finding ways to win. There’s still hope that Crosby might be able to return at some point during the playoffs, though clearly the Penguins will be careful not to rush him back too quickly. If Sid returns, who knows how well the Penguins will be able to do with him back in the lineup.

    Western Conference

    Canucks vs. Blackhawks
    Canucks in 5 – The Blackhawks almost didn’t make it into the playoffs. They were 5-4-1 in their last ten games and only made it into the playoffs, since the Stars lost their last game of the season, too. I could see the Canucks sweeping the Blackhawks, but I think the Blackhawks will be able to win one game. The Canucks aren’t perfect and if the Hawks play well they’re an amazing team.

    Sharks vs. Kings
    Kings in 6 – I’ve heard some people say they think this will be the year the Sharks do well in the playoffs. It’s bound to happen one of these days and perhaps Nabokov was the reason they weren’t able to do well in the past. That might be true, but I don’t think so. These Sharks are definitely different than the Sharks on the last few years, but the Kings split their series with the Sharks including a win in the last month of the season. Of course, if the Kings who played the last two games of the season against the Ducks show up, I have to change this prediction to Sharks in 5. Anze Kopitar is definitely out until next season and though Justin Williams has been skating, he’s still an unknown. If he ends up getting back in time, he could help the Kings survive the first round.

    Red Wings vs. Coyotes
    Coyotes in 6 – The Red Wings have the worst record of the 8 teams who made it into the playoffs in their last ten games of the season (4-4-2) and have had some goaltending issues. The Red Wings look tired and I think the fact that they have quite a few older players and their goaltending isn’t as good as it has been the last few playoff runs. It took the Red Wings seven games to beat the Coyotes in the first round last year and I think the Coyotes will be even more motivated this year and will upset the Red Wings.

    Ducks vs. Predators
    Ducks in 6 – When Hiller got injured, a lot of people (including me) thought that would be the end of the Ducks’ playoff hopes. Hiller had been keeping the Ducks in the mix and very few thought they could manage without him. Anaheim proved us all wrong. Corey Perry (#1 goal scorer in the NHL this season with 50 goals) and Lubomir Visnovsky (the top scoring defenseman with 68 points) really stepped up. The Ducks have two of the top ten scorers in the NHL this season (and Getzlaf is tied for 11th) – if you resort by points per game, all three of their top scorers are in the top 10. I think that is what will get them past the Predators (whose top scorers are tied for 91st in the NHL). Pekka Rinne (the #2 goaltender in save percentage) has carried the Predators through the season, but I think he’s met his match in the Ducks’ offense. I don’t think it’ll be a super easy series, though I could see the Ducks winning in 5 games, too.

    Enjoy the playoffs!

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  • In spite of the fact that this year’s Winter Classic was up against prime time bowl games and other hockey games along with other prime time programming and all the activities people do outside of the home on Saturday nights, it was the most successful Winter Classic. The 2011 Winter Classic actually had the best ratings of any NHL game since 1975 with 4.5 million viewers. Four of the top five rated NHL games of all time are the Winter Classics and this year’s Winter Classic had an 81% increase in Pittsburgh viewers over the 2008 Winter Classic (the first ever, where the Penguins played the Sabres in Buffalo).

    In the Christmas Eve Winter Classic Preview, Versus pointed out that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin had the same number of points. Of course, Crosby got his 571 points in only 410 games (1.39 points per game). Ovechkin has played 435 games (1.31 points per game). Neither of the super stars the NHL and NBC clearly wanted to highlight in this New Year’s Day match-up scored in the Winter Classic this year. Evgeni Malkin did score, but he wasn’t in most of the advertising I saw for the Winter Classic. How about you? The NHL and NBC concentrated on two players and neither of them had much of an impact on Saturday night’s game. Alex did almost score, but it was called off due to his interference with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Crosby’s first Winter Classic appearance couldn’t have been scripted much better. This year’s Winter Classic is memorable for other reasons. It’s the first Winter Classic played in prime time and the first NHL game where the players (and most of the 68,111 fans in attendance) were in the rain for much of the game. Thankfully, the Classic was still able to be completed Saturday night, but I’m sure the conditions affected the game a lot. The streak trailing the puck and skates made that clear. Most fans I talked to on my way out were still in great sprits, in spite of the weather conditions and (for Pittsburgh fans) the outcome of the game. Capitals fans and Penguins fans were even chanting “Flyers suck” on and off on their very long way out of the building in the crowds – something on which they could agree even when the Capitals had just beaten the Penguins.

    The visiting team has now won ¾ of the Winter Classic games, so the 2011 Winter Classic outcome is probably not very surprising. The good news for Penguins fans is that it’s just ONE regular season game. Though the buildup is high and the event is amazing, in the end the Winter Classic is just one out of 82 games played in the regular season. The Penguins beat the Capitals in Washington to start out their 2010-11 series and the Caps beat the Pens at home in the Winter Classic. The Pens are still two points ahead of the Caps in the standings, having played the same number of games (40). Sidney Crosby is still 23 points and 18 goals ahead of Alex Ovechkin this season. I’d say the Penguins are winning the war in spite of losing the Winter Classic battle and most of their fans seemed to realize this fact.

    Overall, most fans seemed excited about the prime time Winter Classic game. Many fans I talked to about the change were more excited about the 8pm game than they’d been about the game when it was supposed to start at 1pm. Clearly, the 8pm start on New Year’s Day gave fans of both teams a lot more time to recover from New Year’s Eve and tailgate. Though I know hockey is popular and fans love to tailgate, I was amazed at the number of fans who were tailgating outside of Heinz Field as I walked by. Fans obviously took advantage of the later start and partied in preparation for the game.

    The game itself might not have been a great example of NHL talents, but the 2011 Winter Classic will be remembered as the first Winter Classic with rain and to take place in prime time. The prime time start was so successful this year, perhaps the NHL should consider moving the Winter Classic to prime time going forward.

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  • This is my first trip to the Olympics where the Olympics are my main goal and the only reason for being here. I’d only attended one Olympic event before (gymnastics in the Barcelona 1992 Olympics). Now that I’ve been to a few events, I can say without a doubt that the 2012 Olympics in London (which I’d already planned to attend with friends) will not be my last. My friend, travel companion, and organizer of this great trip, Stacy, said once you attend one Olympics it’s addictive and you want to go back. I’ve only been to three events so far and I couldn’t agree more.

    Our first event was the Russia vs. Latvia men’s ice hockey game at Canada Hockey Place (GM Place). We were in the 4th row, near the corner. Typically a bit close to be my ideal hockey seat, but they were great for my first Winter Olympic event. The crowd was amazing and the game was fun to watch, though the Russians were definitely in a different class than the Latvia team. With Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, and the other amazing Russian players, Russia was expected to dominate the game and didn’t disappoint the spectators. At that point, it still looked like Canada was the best team in the Olympics this year. At this point, it really doesn’t seem that way. They just barely beat Switzerland in a shootout (a team the US beat by two goals in regulation). Sunday’s USA vs. Canada game is definitely going to be interesting and I can’t imagine many people in Canada paying attention to anything else. I feel sorry for the other sports going on at that time. There aren’t a lot of events going on at the time, but there are events that end right before the game or shortly after it starts that will make things tight for some of the spectators and athletes who want to find a place to watch the game.

    My hockey thoughts can be found at HockeyBuzz. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my Olympic experience so far. I’ve seen two hockey games including Alexander Ovechkin’s 1st Olympic game (and first couple goals), Evgeni Malkin’s 1st Olympic goal (& game), Team USA’s 6-1 win over Norway, and much more.

    Our second day in Vancouver, we spent most of the morning getting to the curling matches we attended. Neither of us had ever seen curling in person before and it was a lot of fun. The US vs. Switzerland match was very exciting. It went to an extra end, so we got to see overtime in our very first curling match. Denmark and Germany also had a very close match. The other matches ended before they got to the 10th end, since the one team knew they were too far behind to tie it up.

    The woman who sat next to us at curling is Canadian and was a wealth of information on curling. It was really great to talk to her about the sport, since she’s played it before and is a big fan of curling. Every time we had an odd question (like about how they smooth out the ice, which apparently was the wrong question, since the ice surface isn’t actually smooth like hockey ice), she had the answer. This is part of the fun of the Olympic games. Wherever you go, there are fans who love the sport and the Olympics. You may not be rooting for the same team, but everyone seems to have a deep respect for good competition and those who are willing to support their team (say, by wearing Team USA hockey jerseys). On our way out of the Canada Hockey Place in our USA hockey jerseys (along with many others in USA hockey jerseys), the Canadians heading inside for their game were chanting for Canada and we chanted back for USA. It was very similar to the spontaneous shouting I heard on the streets in New York City during the Subway Series in 2000.

    We don’t have internet access in our room, which we hadn’t anticipated at all, but other than that our trip has been completely perfect. There have been fireworks we can see off our balcony every night (if we’re back in time, which we haven’t always been).

    The coverage of the Olympics here has been amazing and it’s great to watch from another perspective. The Canadian media doesn’t seem as Canadian-centered as the NBC coverage is American-centered, but perhaps if we were recording everything possible on a DVR here, we’d see that it is a lot more Canadian coverage. I liked that TSN had a special on Shaun White. Another great thing the competing media do here is tell you what’s airing on every other channel showing the Olympics. NBC doesn’t do that in their broadcasts and they actually own every channel airing the Olympics in the US. Coverage has been live here – even for things like figure skating, which NBC airs on a delay for the west coast. Canada’s coverage seems to be less east coast centered. They realize that there are people no the west coast who would like to see events as they happen.

    There are some amazing commercials here relating to the Olympics. Chevrolet (which many know is not a car I’d typically plug) has a great series of ads where the cars talk to each other about the Olympics, taking athletes to and from the games, etc. Coke also has a great commercial talking about how hockey is Canada’s game. RBC has a series of commercials with various sports. Visa has a funny gravity commercial that’s related to the Olympics. I’m sure they’re available online and I suggest checking them out.

    The cauldron was surprisingly difficult to locate – especially given the fact that Stacy and I had both noted that it was by the Convention Center. We tried to find it after the Russia/Latvia hockey game, but didn’t go quite far enough. Fortunately, when the ramp that gives you the perfect unobstructed view was open, they also had people telling you where to go. The only sign we saw for the cauldron was located close enough to the cauldron that you could see the cauldron well before anyone with binoculars could see the sign. However, if you’re going to the Olympic Cauldron I can definitely say the wait (we waited 20-25 minutes) is worth it for the ramp. Wait a little while and enjoy the best view of the cauldron. We got some amazing pictures there.

    Everyone here (volunteers for the Olympics and just average Canadians) has been amazingly friendly and helpful. The events have been well organized (especially with start times so close to the end of the previous games). Signage (with the obvious exception of the Olympic Cauldron) is very well done and there are maps in many locations.

    Getting tickets for events on the mountains seems to be a bit more difficult than we’d anticipated and shuttles to get up there are a bit difficult to organize when you have no internet access (we were supposed to, but do not and both of our phone carriers charge too much for us to bother using the internet on our phones) is a bit difficult.

    My only complaint about the Olympics here in Vancouver would be that the free Wi-Fi access that has been advertised widely about the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics does exist. However, it is not connected to the internet. That means even though Stacy has an iPhone and I have a Centro (both Wi-Fi capable), we could not get to the internet from the Olympic venues. We talked to quite a few people at the various events who were similarly disappointed. If they hadn’t advertised the free Wi-Fi access, I wouldn’t have a problem with the Wi-Fi they have not being connected to the internet, but what good is Wi-Fi without internet access?

    The weather here has been amazing and it’s still beautiful, sunny, and fairly warm. We’re enjoying seeing as much of Vancouver as possible, though Vancouver is a gorgeous city and I’d love to come back here when the Olympics aren’t in town so I can check out more of the city and mountains.

    GO USA!

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  • The Los Angeles Kings have two of the top 10 scorers in the NHL this season. Anze Kopitar is 1st with 26 points (13-13) and Ryan Smith is 7th with 20 points (8-12). Like every team, the Kings have had some moments where they haven’t looked that great, but this season they’ve managed to come back from those more times than not and win the game. When the Kings were on the east coast, they had their only losing streak longer than 2 games and their only set of consecutive games without points this season. A lot of people don’t watch late night games the next day or stay up late regularly, so they miss the rest of the Kings games.

    Beating the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins might help the Kings. However, I have a feeling a lot of people will talk more about the fact that some of the Penguins’ key players (Malkin, Gonchar, Kennedy, Talbot) were missing from the Stanley Cup Champion team than they do about the fact that the Kings beat the Penguins. Of course, what those people will be missing is that the Penguins have been beating teams without some of those players. Until Colorado played last night, the Penguins were in first place in the NHL. Though the standings don’t matter much this early in the season, since they change so much between the first month and the end of the season, the Penguins had won80% of their games this season before playing the Kings. That’s an amazing percentage and the Kings beat them.

    The Kings of the 08-09 season would not have won the game against the Penguins. Pittsburgh scored the only goal in the 2nd period of the game, though the Kings had outshot them 13-7. Last year’s team would have gone into the locker room dejected and come out ready to go home. The Penguins would have scored a few extra goals that no one would have been able to blame on Jon Quick. Instead, the Kings came out in the third period determined to win. They were not going to fold and let the Penguins walk away with a win (easy or otherwise). They showed their fans what they’re made of and extended their streak of games where they get at least one point to 8 (they’re 6-0-2 in their last 8 games).

    They put on a good show for people like my dad who were excited to see the #1 scorer in the NHL for the only time they can this season. My dad has DirecTV, so he won’t get the Kings game on Versus Monday and he doesn’t have Center Ice. The only time he could see the Kings play this season was when his team (the Penguins) played them. This is why every team should play the rest of the teams in the league at least twice (once at home, once away). At least then everyone following any team in the NHL would be able to see Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Anze Kopitar, and all the other great NHL players at least once a year in person (if they’re not injured – we only saw Malkin in a suit this time, though the injured players were traveling with the team).

    If the Kings keep on playing well on their road trip, they’ll start to get recognized as a good team that’s not just getting lucky. I guess we’ll see. The Kings begin a five game road trip in Chicago on Monday with their only nationally televised game of the season. Unfortunately, their only nationally televised game of the season is airing on Versus, so those with DirecTV who can’t find a bar willing to play a Blackhawks/Kings game when Monday Night Football is airing will not be able to see the Kings unless they’re playing their home team or have paid for NHL Center Ice. This is true of a lot of teams in the NHL. Though Bettman says he’s trying to expand interest in the NHL across the country, he doesn’t work to show different teams in national coverage. If you always show the teams with a huge fan base already (original 6 teams and other popular northeast teams), how will you improve your fan base? I understand that Sidney Crosby is the face of the NHL and I don’t argue that point. However, there are a lot of talented players out there and they’re not all on the teams in the northeast. Maybe someday the NHL will figure out a way to actually market the team, rather than just talking about it.

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  • If Kings fans missed the game last night against Vancouver, they might have thought they were seeing things when they read that their team lost 2-1 in a shootout. The only difference in the simple box scores was the game in San Jose taking 3 more rounds of the shootout to end the game.

    Though he always went on to say that he liked the shootout for the fans and realized that the fans like the shootout and get excited, Terry Murray made it very clear that he hates the shootout. Many of us think it’s a bit ridiculous to decide a game by a team with a skill competition. Yes, penalty shots are exciting and the skills competition of the All Star game is always my favorite part. However, other sports don’t end team games with individual competition, why does the NHL? Could you imagine after 9 innings of baseball deciding the game in a home run competition instead of continuing to play? What about the team that loses in 22 innings getting a point for that in the standings? Didn’t think so. What about the NBA ending in a free throw competition or a game of HORSE? So why give a goaltender who’s played well enough to keep his team in the game and get them through 65 minutes of play a loss (even if it is in the separate overtime loss column)? Okay, enough of my anti-shootout rant.

    Naturally, the Kings didn’t look as good in the second night of their back to back games. I still think that teams in back to back games should be facing other teams who played the day before on their second night (which would have worked if the Canucks had played the Ducks on Wednesday instead of playing them Friday). The Canucks will have the disadvantage against the rested Ducks tonight and the Ducks will be at a disadvantage on Saturday when they play in Phoenix. Somehow, it seems it could have been coordinated a bit better.

    On the bright side for Kings fans, their team got a point for the shootout loss in both of their last two games and points in their last 6 (4-0-2) games. The Kings had two four game winning streaks in the same month for the first time since… I’m not sure when. I went back to the late 90s and couldn’t find another time when the Kings put together two winning streaks of 4 games or more in the same month. The Kings are at the head of their division and despite many reports to the contrary, when they were tied in points with the Sharks the Kings were in the lead of the division, since they’ve gotten 3 points in their 2 games with the Sharks and the Sharks have only gotten 2. They only had two four game winning streaks in their entire last season (and none longer).

    It’ll be very interesting to see the Kings play the Penguins next week. They’ve played the Sharks, but the Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and (having lost only two games so far) are clearly still at the top of their game. The Penguins haven’t been to LA since November of 2006. For some reason, they tend to come to southern California in November or December (escaping the Pennsylvania weather for a bit?). I’ve seen the Penguins play so often the last couple years in Pittsburgh that I sometimes forget how little most southern California hockey fans have seen of the Penguins. The last time the Penguins were in LA was the season where they made the playoffs for the first time in years. It was Sidney Crosby’s first trip to California in the NHL and Evgeni Malkin’s first year in the NHL. They both had fairly big nights in LA and the Kings lost in overtime (Malkin scored the OT goal). Both teams have changed quite a bit since then. The Penguins have found a coach (Dan Bylsma) who seems to know exactly how to lead a group of young superstars. Bylsma’s record in his 61 games as a coach of the Penguins is 44-13-4 (they’ve won 72% of their games, 83% since his first training camp with the team). The Kings have done well with Terry Murray’s system focusing on defense and seem to have found a goaltender (in Jon Quick) capable of making the saves to give the Kings a chance to win every night. They’ve also added a few key players to help them achieve a higher level of play. Anze Kopitar has definitely stepped up his game this season. It’s early, but Kopi’s on pace to score almost 60 goals this season and has scored 1.5 points per game so far. (He was leading the NHL in points until Alex Ovechkin passed him last night.) Next Thursday’s game should be very interesting and will certainly be the biggest test the Kings have faced so far this season.

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  • I’m a huge fan of NHL hockey, so you’d think I’d own a lot of NHL DVDs (NHL’s Greatest Moments, The Vintage Classics series, specials on various Penguins and Kings, Stanley Cup DVDs, etc.). However, if you own any NHL DVDs, you know what I know. NHL DVDs are not well put together. I own the Pittsburgh Penguins: 10 Greatest Games 10 DVD set and just had to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup Champions DVD. Every time I see a DVD the NHL releases, I know not to expect much. However, there’s always this hope that they’ve learned since the last DVD or DVD set they put out and that this DVD will be different. It’s not.

    I finally got around to watching my Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup Champions DVD and it is horrible. First of all, though almost all of the playoff games were aired in HD (some not nationally, but most were recorded in HD somewhere), there is no Blu-ray option to purchase. The next big complaint I have about the DVD is that there’s not much on it.

    There are only five items in the Bonus Materials section. The 2009 Playoff Overtime Goals is okay and they made some good choices. However, it’s less than 8.5 minutes long and a large portion of that time is taken up with the horrible graphics telling you that these are “LATE GOAL HEROICS” and the specific game and period info for each goal shown.

    The Best of 2008-2009 bonus feature gets you the worst video compilation I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen compilations on YouTube). EVERY one of these highlights has graphics over them or black & gray bars above and below with distracting changes happening all the time, or fades to black all around the picture. This completely obscures the highlights they’re supposed to be showing in this section, which is a real shame. Whoever chose the highlights made some very good choices. All the clutter makes it very difficult to enjoy even a second of the one minute long (yes, the complete fade to black happens before the end of the 1.03 minute chapter) segment. I remember watching many of the highlights in their games and they were great. It’s too bad they chose so few moments and that then covered or surrounded their choices by constantly moving graphics to distract the viewer from the hockey highlights they’d like to enjoy.

    The Bill Guerin Practice Wireless bonus is amusing. They put a mic on Guerin for a practice and included it on this DVD. It’s a little over 10.5 minutes long and is definitely entertaining for any Penguins fan. They didn’t put graphics over it or destroy the picture or the sound. The Game 7 Celebration (about 14.5 minutes) was also well done. They talked to the players on the ice, showed some of the locker room celebration, and didn’t destroy it by putting extra graphics over the footage. The Parade segment (about 11 minutes) was also shown well.

    Unfortunately, that makes for about 35 minutes of good features, 8.5 minutes of good footage with WAY too much time spent on the horrible graphics telling you what you’re watching, and 1 minute of truly painful footage of highlights you can barely see through the overlays and annoying surrounding graphics.

    The main feature has good highlights from the regular season through the parade with brief interviews in-between segments and is well done. It’s over an hour long and is well done. It’s a shame the rest of the DVD couldn’t be put together as well as the main feature. Perhaps they’re all done by different divisions, but I’d think someone would watch the DVD before releasing it. The older DVDs being bad is understandable, but technology has come a long way. Why isn’t the NHL using it to their advantage?

    Fortunately, I still have the complete game 7 on my DVR, but I’m able to go back to DirecTV (as soon as I move, I can’t get it from my current place), I won’t be able to watch game 7 any more in HD. I’m sure the NHL will release a special edition 2008-09 Stanley Cup Champions box set, but I doubt it’ll be released in HD. Of course, until they release the set, I’ll keep hoping that someone will figure out that a lot of hockey fans have upgraded to HDTV and Blu-ray Disc. Though I prefer all HDTV to anything on a standard definition channel, I think the difference is most noticeable in sports – especially hockey. Anyone who has ever flipped from a game they’re watching in HD to a game that was only televised in standard definition knows what I mean. The quality is very drastically different and initially, it’s painful to watch – much more than switching from high definition to standard definition in regular TV. It’s possible part of the problem is the feed from the network in question being poorer quality than most of the television on normal cable these days, but I think the main issue is the fact that once you get used to being able to see the detail of a hockey game going back to the old way is like moving from being at the game to watching the game from a bar. It’s a huge downgrade.

    Here’s hoping the NHL will finally realize that hockey fans want HD products and that most of us would be willing to pay a bit more for a high quality of product. I’d much rather be charged a bit more and have a DVD I want to watch over and over again, rather than a DVD that has a couple segments I like and a couple that are horrible (including one that is probably the worst clips segment I’ve ever seen assembled), all of which are in standard definition on DVD.

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  • What a game. I don’t know about all Penguins fans, but this Penguins fan has a sore neck. It’s amazing how stressful just watching a game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals can be… When watching the horrible game 5 at Diesel on the south side in Pittsburgh, Bryan Trottier mentioned that he was just watching this year as a fan and that it was very stressful to be a fan watching your team in the Finals. Hearing that from a guy who won the Cup six times (4 with the Islanders, 2 with the Penguins) as a player and once as an assistant coach (with the Avalanche) was pretty surprising.

    In Pittsburgh, it would have been simple to pick a bar for watching game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and you probably couldn’t have made a bad choice. Every bar was surely filled with fans wanting the Penguins would win and the fact that the NBA wasn’t playing tonight didn’t matter as much to Penguins fans in Pittsburgh as it did to hockey fans in southern California. Here, most people care more about the Lakers than they do two out of town teams in the NHL Finals. Heck, even if the Ducks or Kings were in the Finals, I’d bet a lot of money that more people would care about the Lakers being in the Finals.

    I went to my favorite local sports bar (The Corner Office) with a friend figuring there were bound to be other hockey fans there watching the game and I was right. I left work a half hour early and we just barely got there in time to get one of my 5 favorite booths in front of the big screens. There was another fan in a Penguins jersey (also Mario Lemieux), a fan in a Red Wings jersey, one in a Red Wings t-shirt, etc. More people in the bar seemed to want the Penguins to win, but there were fans on both sides. The Corner Office even put the sound on for the game, which I didn’t expect. Could we hear it most of the time? Not really, but the bar tried and I think that was really nice of them.

    Game 7s don’t happen every year in the Finals, but they are a lot of fun when they do. The Penguins/Red Wings series was an exciting one, in spite of the blow-out in game 5 (where the Red Wings won 5-0). The 7th game lived up to my expectations. The game wasn’t over until the buzzer sounded. It was exciting and Penguins fans everywhere went crazy. I’m sure many of them worried when Sidney Crosby went down, but Max Talbot was amazing and gets the Stanley Cup winning goal, which he definitely deserved. Marc-Andre Fleury made some amazing saves, including one highlight reel save that will even show up on ESPN over and over, I’m sure. Dan Bylsma came a long way in a short period of time. From assistant AHL coach to Stanley Cup Champion head NHL coach. It must seem like a bit of a blur for him, but he’s done an amazing job and deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround the Penguins made this season.

    Sidney Crosby may not have played much in game 7 (he didn’t even get to 10 minutes, due to his injury), but he was still the youngest captain in NHL history to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory and raise the Cup. Evgeni Malkin became only the 5th player in history to win the regular and Stanley Cup playoff scoring titles (he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP). Marc-Andre Fleury proved he can play with the best of them and Marian Hossa chose the wrong team. Of course, there’s always the question of whether the Penguins would have been able to keep the necessary players (like Brooks Orpik) or afford the late season additions that allowed them to win the Cup this year. The NHL Network mentioned that Maxime Talbot specifically said he wanted to meet up with Hossa in the hand shake line and tell him he picked the wrong team. Clearly, he got to do that and I’m sure he enjoyed it as much as he thought he would.

    The Penguins didn’t make the playoff run easy for the fans. The Washington series was rough, but the Finals against the Red Wings were even more difficult. Pittsburgh has two reigning teams (the Penguins and Steelers). A friend of mine mentioned that the pressure is on the Pirates now, which is (of course – if you know anything about baseball) hilarious, since the Pirates are most likely to become the team with the longest streak of losing seasons in MLB history this year. Of course, the other end of the state (Philadelphia Phillies) is the home of the reigning World Series champions. Three out of the four top professional team sports – not a bad year for Pennsylvania sports.

    Now, we can all look forward to next week’s NHL Awards ceremony and the draft.

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  • Another great game tonight in Pittsburgh and the Pens are now tied in the series with Detroit 2-2. Clearly, I’m very glad I was able to make the trip to Pittsburgh for the finals and lucky enough to have tickets and be a fan at games 3 & 4. I had an amazing time cheering for the Penguins and waving my towel (though I’ll never quite understand the need for giving out towels).

    I think Marc-Andre Fleury completely deserved to be #1 star of the game, since he had a 94.9 save percentage and 37 saves against Detroit. I understand Crosby being named #2, since he had the game winning goal and an assist. I have NOTHING against Malkin (in fact, I bought this great “Got Milkin?” t-shirt yesterday complete with a puck being dunked in a glass of milk), but I do question the decision to make him the #3 star of the game. Yes, he had a goal and an assist, but so did Jordan Staal.

    It’s my belief that Staal’s short handed goal at 8:35 in the 2nd period was the turning point of the game for the Penguins. Not only did he score the tying goal, but it was short handed! I’m not really sure how they could have skipped him in the 3 stars of the game. He is listed as the third top performer of the day for ESPN. At least he got listed there…

    I find it interesting that the team shooting the most has lost every game in this series, all games have been won by two goals (perhaps that’s why Kunitz missed the empty net…), and the scores have been the same by city so far (both Detroit games 3-1; both Pittsburgh games 4-2).

    As a side note… Does anyone know if they track missed empty net attempts? I don’t have time to look it up now, but it seems like the Penguins have more missed empty net goals than any team I’ve seen (in years). It’s clear that Kunitz is truly a Penguin now – he’s missed an empty net at fairly close range. Perhaps that’s part of the initiation to the team. ;-)

    Saturday’s game should be amazing. It’s too bad NBC isn’t allowing the Penguins to show the game on the big screen outside. If you’re a Penguins fan, be sure NOT to record the game on NBC (or unplug the line that records that if you can – I know that’s not possible for those who have cable, but if you have DirecTV unplug the phone line) and go to a bar to watch the game. I’m all for higher ratings for NHL playoffs (especially the finals), but NBC’s reason for not allowing the game to be aired at the arena seems to be completely ratings based, so I think working to keep their ratings as low as possible is the best fans can do to show them how you feel about their enforcement of their contract.

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  • It’s very different to attend a game as a fan. The last NHL game I had attended as a fan was game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Pittsburgh last year (May 31st, almost exactly a year ago). Same teams, same venue and also the only games I attended as a fan last season. Though I was kicking myself a little for not trying to get credentials worked out in case I could afford the flight back to Pittsburgh for the finals, a large part of me is glad. There’s something about being able to get your face painted and jump up and down and lose your voice cheering for your team. It’s a lot of fun. I’m not saying I don’t have a blast as a member of the media. I do. I’m very thankful for the access I have and really appreciate all the Kings, Ducks, Eklund, and many others have done for me in that area.

    I traveled all day to get to game 3 of the finals in Pittsburgh. (I left my house around 5 my time and had gotten very little sleep last night.) So, I’m not completely coherent, but we had a great time at the game tonight. My sister’s favorite player is Maxime Talbot. She predicted that he’d get a goal early and he scored within a minute or so of that comment. Naturally, she was totally thrilled that he got (and deserved) the number one star of the game. Not only did he get half of the goals the Pens scored tonight (true, one was an empty netter, but what a decisive empty net goal), but Talbot created a lot of other opportunities and hit the post once.

    It was nice to see that there were fewer blatant missed calls in tonight’s game. With any luck, that will continue.

    Jordan Staal had a very good game in spite of being absent from the score sheet. He did have 3 blocked shots. Evgeni Malkin increased his scoring lead from 2 to 4 points with his three assists (Sidney Crosby only had one tonight). I may not have a voice and my throat is definitely sore, but it was great to scream like crazy. I have a whole day to recover before I really need my voice again.

    I really like that they had a special moment to thank Versus for allowing the Penguins to show the game outside on their big screen in front of TONS of fans. NBC is not allowing them to do that (not even for the finals) and I think it’s a very sad statement. Personally, I think Gary Bettman should have tried to iron that one out. I understand that it’s in NBC’s contract, but the NHL keeps talking about trying to expand the game and gain fans. The party atmosphere OUTSIDE the Mellon Arena for the game looks amazing (if the pre-game atmosphere was any indictaion). The fans are great and that’s what it’s all about. The Pens aren’t charging for the service, so I don’t understand NBC’s issue. If I were a Pens fan who wanted to do that, I would make sure everyone I knew did NOT watch at home, so I could lower the ratings as much as possible. I’d tell everyone to go to one location (a bar that would have it on anyway – Pittsburgh doesn’t have an NBA team, the only thing people care about around here is the NHL Finals – talk about a switch from southern California where it’s all about the Lakers) to watch the game and fight the urge to record. I know many people (like me) even record the games they attend, so they can watch certain plays again when they get home.

    The Red Wings still lead the series, but the Penguins have definitely shown that they have life and I’m sure most Penguins fans are happy with the way the tide has changed a bit in Pittsburgh. Needless to say, Hossa got booed pretty much every time he touched the puck. I’m sure you could hear it on TV at times. Fans here in Pittsburgh have good reason for booing him and I’m not really against booing when it’s the other team’s player and with a good reason. (As many of you know, I always frown on booing a player on your own team.)

    I hope you’re all enjoying the finals as much as I am.

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