The world is at its quietest on Sunday nights.
Most are preparing for another grinding work week, shutting it down early Sunday evenings. Kids are worn out from their early morning hockey games, chasing autumn's fleeting sunlight, heading to bed a little early for Monday's classes.
And that's why Sunday night NHL television viewing might be my favorite night of the week. The quiet allows one to focus on the task at hand, and the light schedule helps to focus on one or two games.
At ESPN, where every game of every sport is on every night, what I find is that if you watch every game, you don't watch any games.
On Sunday night, there was just one NHL game. The undefeated Dallas Stars at the Anaheim Ducks. The game, via the NHL Center Ice Package, was on something called MY 27, KDFI in Dallas. It must be a UPN or WB thing. Although, I think one of those two went out of business, or maybe they combined forces. I'm not sure.
Anyway, let's watch the game together.
8:01 p.m.: The feed for the game tonight is from the Dallas Stars' broadcast.
I wonder how the folks at Center Ice Package decide on what team does the game. Darryl Reaugh (color) and Ralph Strangis (play-by-play) are the announcers for the game. It really doesn't get any better than this local affiliate announcing team. Reaugh, who is still borrowing Brady Anderson's sideburns from 1998, just described the struggling Stars power play as "constipated."
That's why I love Darryl Reaugh. He looks for different words to describe things and stays away from clichés at all costs. He is more verbally nimble than any NHL analyst working today. He has style and substance without yelling at me. He is a joy to listen to. He and Strangis weave in and out with great pace and energy.
8:07 p.m.: It's Ilya Bryzgalov vs. Marty Turco in net as the puck is dropped.
Scott Niedermayer was a part of the first pair of defensemen for Anaheim. Chris Pronger hopped over the boards after a minute of uninterrupted play. In fact, we are now at 2:30 and counting of nonstop action. Let's see how long this will go. Whistle -- 2:38 of continuous action to start the game.
8:11 p.m.: It's early, but it appears Turco spent this Sunday afternoon laying in bed, watching NFL football and eating a vat of Oreo cookies. He looks distracted. Then again, this is normal behavior. He should be fine. They just showed a shot of the Ducks' bench. Pronger, wearing an "A" and Niedermayer wearing the "C." They are sitting next to each other. A-C. Cool.
8:14 p.m.: Fourteen years after he entered the NHL, Eric Lindros still looks enormous. I understand that 33-year-old men don't normally shrink, but you would think there would be more big guys similar in size to the Big E. He looks good on the wing, but he was more fun to watch as a center, carrying the puck with reckless abandon around the ice. I understand that playing that way nearly resulted in a decapitation, but he was fun to watch.
8:19 p.m.: Mike Modano just had an awesome shift. He is playing with Lindros and Brenden Morrow. That's like walking into a nightclub in 1989 with Mike Tyson and Bob Probert. The chances of getting a drink thrown into your face are very small. Modano can still fly at age 36. He holds the record for most career points against the Ducks.
8:26 p.m.: After Bryzgalov made a pad save on a Lindros slap shot, Reaugh said, "That was a buxom rebound." I remember reading a bio on President James Madison and it said that his wife, Dolly, was a buxom woman. It's one of those sayings that has never, and will never, leave my hard drive. I don't know why.
8:31 p.m.: Four-minute power play for the Stars. Niedermayer and Modano are on the ice at the same time, two of the most visually pleasing skaters in the game. In between periods, they will don Rudy Galindo jumpsuits and have a figure skating competition. Reaugh said that Niedermayer skating is like a leaf floating down a stream. I hate you Darryl Reaugh for thinking of that metaphor.
8:34 p.m.: Todd Marchant makes it 1-0 Ducks. It's a shorthanded goal for Marchant, who is still a great skater, as well. He beats Turco with a backhander on the off wing.
8:39 p.m.: It's a 5-on-3 for the Ducks for 1:26. This MY 27 broadcast is now a pain in my butt. They are putting an isolation camera on Turco while the puck is in the Dallas end. I can't see how the Ducks are moving the puck. Can I just watch the game? I'd rather have a rhino dart shoved in my neck right now. The period ends. But wait! Matthew Barnaby and Travis Moen are fighting. This is Barnaby's 800th career game and he is celebrating by winning a decision over Moen. Reaugh just said, "That's a maraschino cherry on the first period."
The best part of this game is that there are no commercials. I'm hoping Ralph or Darryl will tell a dirty joke or something during the live feed broadcast, but nothing yet. Wait, a Dallas cameraman just found a female Ducks fan who, er, is wearing a revealing outfit and is enjoying a Carl's Jr. bag of fries. A "there you go" just came from the broadcast booth.
9:02 p.m.: Second period begins, 13 seconds in, the first whistle. The first period began with 2:38 of continuous action. Here comes a 2-on-1 for the Stars. Nice save, Ilya. He looks good. You want to know how good Ilya is? Just ask him, he'll tell you.
9:05 p.m.: Turco is the best in the league in intentionally knocking the net loose when there is trouble around his cage. He just did it again.
9:07 p.m.: A 5-on-3 for Dallas. Goal. 1-1. Modano to Sergei Zubov, who blasted it. Lindros was trying to sell that he tipped it in. Zubov has the goal for now; 700th career assist for Modano.
9:14 p.m.: This Anaheim crowd is sleeping. Watching games broadcasted in Anaheim is not thrilling. It always looks a little dark and the regular-season crowd is sparse and quiet. I know it will change in the playoffs, but it's sad this team doesn't sell out every night. GM Brian Burke has put together maybe the most entertaining team in the league and there are loads of empty seats in the lower bowl most of the time.
9:20 p.m.: It's 2-1, Dallas. Niklas Hagman chips one over the shoulder of Bdjhgshlkl. I'm tired of looking up his name, so I'm just gonna throw my fists down on my keyboard and see what happens. Let's try it again. Ilya Skisskkskl. That was fun. Coach Randy Carlyle just pulled Ilya jrfkirdcir. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is now in. Thank God. Carlyle stares at Ilya all the way back to the bench.
9:31 p.m. Andy McDonald is the Ducks' best forward. He is making $3.3 million this season. I was about to write that he is the peer of Paul Kariya, who is making $4.5 million. Then, I went and looked at their stats last season and how about this:
Andy McDonald: 34-51-85.
Paul Kariya: 31-54-85.
They are also listed at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds and both enjoy bacon.
9:37 p.m.: Antti Miettinen just fired a wrist shot from the faceoff dot to make it 3-1. The Stars are a good team. They have size, skill, and look like they play well together. Miettinen has a heavy shot. He must juggle shot puts during the offseason.
9:39 p.m.: If Chris Kunitz is still available in your fantasy league, grab him.
He should be good for 33-42-75, and 75 points last season was tied for 39th in the league. Vincent LeCavalier, Peter Forsberg (60 games), and Henrik Sedin had 75 points last season.
9:45 p.m.: End of second period.
10:01 p.m.: Third period begins. Niedermayer just passed the puck to Pronger for a one-timer. I still haven't made the mental adjustment of seeing those two together on the same team. It is SO not a salary cap NHL thing. Pronger says he is wearing No. 25 for Mark McGwire. Like Big Mac, Prongs doesn't want to talk about the past when talking about why he wanted to leave Edmonton, a team that went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals last season.
10:07 p.m.: I just realized Ryan Getzlaf has been invisible in this game. In fact, almost everyone has been invisible in this game. No one is standing out. I'm finishing up writing a Keith Jones autobiography and we were talking about Keith's time in Philly playing with Lindros. Keith said that some players in Philly resented Lindros solely because he demanded (and received) so much ice time, which took time away from the third and fourth liners.
That was bad for those guys, but good for Big E. And when you think about it, good for the fans. LeBron James plays over 80 percent of an NBA game. If Forsberg plays 18 minutes in a Flyers game, he is playing just 30 percent of the game. Phil Esposito has talked about taking two-minute shifts back in the day. There is something to be said about that in terms of the NHL as a television show. You don't see the best players on the ice for a very long time. You don't really notice the stars. It's like a sitcom on MY 27.
10:17 p.m.: There's 10:43 left in the game. And as I was about to type that it is still 3-1, when Niedermayer roofs one to make it 3-2. He received a pass from his brother, Rob. Scott is pulling in $6.7 million this season; Rob is making $2 million -- $8.7 million worth of sons. That takes the pressure off on the ol' "What do we do if the ol' 401K dries up?" thing.
10:31 p.m.: There's 4:30 to go, Dallas up 3-2. Anaheim is one of those teams that you expect to see score the tying goal here. They are physically pounding Dallas.
10:33 p.m.: What a save by Turco on a shot by McDonald from 20 feet; 2:09 left. OK, I change my mind. You notice McDonald on just about every shift.
10:36 p.m.: Giguere is pulled, the net is empty, and the Stars are barely hanging on. Time out Dallas.
10:38 p.m.: Anaheim ties the game with 19 seconds left. Pronger slapped a shot off of McDonald to make it 3-3. It might have also hit Dustin Penner, Penn and Teller, and Sebastian Telfair. Overtime we go!
10:42 p.m.: It's 4-on-4, overtime. But it's really 5-on-5. There are goalies, you know.
10:47 p.m.: Great action. The Ducks are showing a lot of will, but the Stars are surviving with will of their own. We're 30 seconds from a shootout. And we have a shootout. Like Strangis and Reaugh just said, this was like an NBA game. Not much for most of the game and then a great finish. This is why a shootout was always a no-brainer for the regular season. It puts a dress on a pig; although this was actually a pretty good game, just bad atmosphere.
SHOOTOUT: Let's try to predict the success rate. This shouldn't be that tough. Turco, good shootout goalie (71 percent shootout save percentage last season), Giguere, bad shootout goalie (54 percent in 2005-06). Dallas was 12-1 last season in shootouts, the best in the NHL. Anaheim was 3-7.
First shooter: Shannon. I say he scores. This guy can really fly. Here he comes. OH MY GOD! That was the greatest shootout move and the greatest shootout save of all time! WOW! Watch this! I'm 0-1.
Next, Zubov: This is a mismatch. I say he scores ... score! I'm 1-1. Dallas up 1-0. The NHL gave the home team the choice of going first and every team now chooses to go first.
McDonald: I say score ... score! 1-1 shootout. Me 2-1.
Samuel Pahlsson: I say no. No. Save Turco, Stars win. I go 4-1 (80 percent). Probably average among hardcore NHL fans.
Dallas is 5-0. Anaheim falls to 3-0-2. They got a point from sheer will.
Just what the doctor ordered for a Sunday night. Two fast, strong teams fighting to the end. The game had six goals, a fight, a late-tying goal, lots of hits, and an exhilarating shootout. It also had two great announcers. In the words of Sid in those sweet Reebok commercials, "I call it time well spent."
Just to let you know, if Alexander Ovechkin did whiff on his first shot, it is still a hole-in-one. Off the tee, the ball is considered not yet in play. A swing and a miss therefore does not count. However, after your tee shot, a swing and a miss does count. I like to tell people that between me, my dad, and grandfather, we have eight hole-in-ones. (Grandpa 7, Dad 1, Me 0). Congrats on yours.
Stephen J. McCarthy, CPA
That is incorrect, Stephen. From the USGA rule book: A "stroke'' is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball; but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball, he has not made a stroke. Once again, nice birdie, Alex.
As a longtime Pens fan (saw my first game in person in 1982 at 12 when Michel Dion stood on his head to beat the World Champs), I feel like I'm in the backseat of Thelma and Louise's car heading for impending doom.
Watching Balsillie on Thursday night, I couldn't help but be reminded of watching Ben Howland on CBS' broadcasts of the Final Four after Pitt had been eliminated and just before he bolted for UCLA, saying all the right things and believing none of his own words. What makes Howland's departure even more grating is the success that he has had since. Somehow, a flop and unceremonious firing would have validated that we were right and he never should have left. But Pittsburgh is a bug splat on the sports world windshield and I'm sure Mr. RIM will enjoy more success and revenues that he'd ever get here.
Only two things are certain after Sid moves back home. One, I'll never watch another hockey game, and two, I'm getting rid of my Blackberry (and, unfortunately, I doubt I'll be missed on either front).
All together now. LET'S GO PENS!
I was born in Pittsburgh. I saw my first 20 NHL games in person at the Civic Arena. Pittsburgh is a beautiful city with beautiful people, and a beautiful new downtown arena would be another jewel to a really cool, manageable downtown. I hope they stay in Western Pennsylvania for the sake of Western Pa. and for the sake of hockey in the United States. But, I have my doubts.
I saw you at a Bantam A game this Sunday. Just wanted to get your take on the new USA Hockey rules and how they were enforced. It seemed to me that they had a huge impact on how the game turned out. And yes, my son was on the other team. This isn't the first time that an outcome has been affected by the refs and how the new rules are interpreted.
Having children in USA Hockey for the past seven years, I didn't see a reason for an overhaul of how officials call the games. Perhaps, at the higher level of play, a problem arose, but I didn't see anything with my eyes watching average Mites, Squirts, Pee Wees, and Bantams play over the last nine years. It makes for bad hockey. It means the better players play more because most teams have better players play special teams. I think it also has made some kids tentative. If a player is battling for a puck and the opponent falls down, a trip shouldn't be called. Hockey is a game of will more than skill. The will should win out in how a game is called by a nose. Skill is for All-Star Games. Will is for Stanley Cup playoff games. Which hockey do you enjoy more? But, they just bring back the tag-up offside, they can do whatever they want. It's maddening. They are trying to develop defensemen skills that are better served being performed in practice. And from Pee Wees up, kids are sitting ducks to get checked waiting for teammates to clear the zone. I understand the mission, but I don't see the benefits.
I went to the Nashville-Chicago last night. Don't worry, free tickets, so I didn't violate my personal ban on supporting Dollar Bill Wirtz's continued destruction of an Original Six franchise. John, the building was maybe 25-percent full. Now granted, Predators-Blackhawks isn't exactly a marquee draw, but come on, this was the second home game of the year with the team actually showing some promise and there couldn't have been 5,000 people there! It was a pathetic sight to see such an empty building for a major sport in one of the biggest markets. At some point, the NHL has to step in and get this franchise revived. Wirtz must go!
Thanks, I feel better.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. If there was a major fast-food or coffee chain who didn't take care of the landscaping, didn't clean the bathrooms, didn't put prices next to their items on the menu, and they did this year after year after year, I would think Burger King, Wendy's, Tim Hortons or Starbucks, would have the right to take that franchise away from those managing the store. I've always believed the NHL should look into this with the policies of the Blackhawks. That being said, like I wrote before the season, the Hawks shouldn't be awful this season. And if anyone saw Jack Skille's goal for Wisconsin against North Dakota last Friday night, they know the Hawks have an exciting player on the way.
Quick question. I too had a similar experience with the new Guster CD. At first listen, I didn't like it very much, but it grew on me. On to my question: Any suggestions on other good CDs I might not have heard of?
The CD in my car right now is from a band called Band of Horses. They have a CD out called "Everything All The Time." I'm enjoying it.
In response to Maggie from California's e-mail, I was fortunate enough to watch Cam Neely's exploits back in the day. Unfortunately, it was as a fan of the Stanley Cup champion Penguins (ironic, isn't it?). He was one of the toughest players I've ever had the pleasure to watch. So much so, it inspired me to name one of the two greatest gifts god ever gave me (my daughter being the other) after him.
P.S. -- My son, Cam, just had his first birthday recently.
Happy Birthday buddy!
Now that the AHL has gone with mandatory visors, what's your position on the NHL mandating them? Every year, I write the same question, and like to see your response, especially now that most pro leagues have gone mandatory. As a former pro player (CHL and ECHL), I still would have liked the choice. On a side note, it is nice to see the Wild finally score six in a game.
ESPN doesn't tell me how to wear my hair, what clothes to wear or what to write. (Although one could argue they should on all three counts!) I would be uncomfortable telling players what to do. But players entering the league have worn face protection their whole playing careers and I see no reason why they can't grandfather shields in. If a welder signed a four-year, $13 million guaranteed deal, he or she would not be allowed to weld without face protection. These contracts are guaranteed by the owners. The players should protect themselves in a reasonable fashion to help the owners protect their assets and keep players on the ice. Grandfathering shields seems reasonable.
Please answer me these questions three:
1) What is your name?
2) What is your quest?
3) What is the air-speed velocity of the Minnesota Wild's "Slovak Line"?
1) Sir Galahad of Camelot
2) I seek the Grail.
3) What do you mean? A Canadian or European winger?
The official Rick DiPietro countdown clock is up and running here on Long Island. Only 1,228 regular-season games remaining until he becomes a free agent.
I think Brendan Shanahan scores 60 goals over 100 points, the Rangers win the Cup, and he abruptly retires. And I'm a Red Wings fan. Did I really just type that first sentence?! DAMN! Your thoughts?
My preseason prediction for Shanahan was 39-46-85. I assumed he would get off to a good start and then cool down as the season progresses. Half of his goals should come on the power play. So, I'm thinking 19 PPG and 20 equal-strength goals.
My wife and I are expecting a boy in January. We're huge, longtime fans of Guster, Fountains of Wayne, and our Stanley-cup-winning-against-all-expectations Canes. Little help?
Henry Abraham Haygood or Ryan Miller Haygood.
Hockey Fact: The Pittsburgh Penguins became the first NHL team in nearly 24 years to have three teenagers score goals in a game when Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Kristopher Letang did so Thursday night against the Rangers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time three teens had goals in the same game for a team was Oct. 17, 1982. That's when 19-year-old Dave Andreychuk, 18-year-old Paul Cyr and 18-year-old Phil Housley scored in the Buffalo Sabres' 6-4 victory over Edmonton. Thursday's game marked the ninth time an NHL team had three teen goalscorers in a game.
I like your predictions for this season, but I think after watching this first week of games that your point projections for some of these players will be a little too low. I think there will be easily more 100-point scorers this year than last season. What do you think?
Robert Price Neumann
That is a great point, Bob. There is definitely more let go now than this point last season, when the new standard was introduced. Also, as parity continues to increase, the league will likely become more defensive. Annnnnnd, as we have written here in the past few years, the evolution of the goalie has been breathtaking. That is why I believe that bigger nets are still something that can help the game.
What do you think about the new ¾-inch stick curve rules implemented this year? Does it really matter that much? Will the Europeans just cheat more towards 1 inch? Will hockey become Jai Lai on ice?
Sick and confused,
Players will always cheat in every sport because more productivity means more money.
My dad has been to every Flyers home opener for the last 35 years until this year. Because of me. He chose to drive to Upstate New York and babysit for his 2-year-old granddaughter so I could go to a wedding in Maine with my husband. Despite Philly's loss, I know he wishes he had been watching the shootout from his seat in Section 119. What can I do to repay him, besides ensuring that his granddaughter doesn't become a Rangers fan?
Thanks for your insight,
Buy him an autographed copy of Keith Jones autobiography, "Jonesy," due in late winter/early spring.
John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is firstname.lastname@example.org.