Friday, October 31, 2008

Aeros v. Providence Bruins - Game 9

What an odd game.

The word that came to mind during the game was "mellow" but the more I think about it, I think a better word is "tame." And this was explained to some degree in Joe O'Donnell's post-game interview with #1 star Danny Irmen, who said they were placing a big emphasis on keeping penalties at a minimum due to the Bruins crushing penalty kill.

Successful, the Aeros were assessed only one penalty (a blatant hooking call on Kolanos), and the Bruins only got two. What a shocking contrast to Tuesday's game with 29 infractions total between the two teams!

So, if the game appeared to be fairly polite... well, it was by design. We'll call it the Lady Byng game for the season, as I don't expect to see many more like this.

And by the way, the Bruin's PK really is a phenomenal sight to see. The Aeros had maybe 30 seconds of real offensive traction in their 4 minutes of power play time. And it was a different style of kill from the frenzied shot-blocking you get with the Aeros PK. They won't even let you in the zone. They just put up a wall at the blue line and good luck getting in.

Without all the rough and tumble of a typical Aeros game, what's left other than to discuss the goal scoring that led to the 4-2 score? Oh, besides how Clayton Stoner led the Aeros SOG after the first period. See? I told you it was a weird game.

Jason Deitsch had a big night with 1 goal and 2 assists and the #2 star, though the goal was a strange own-goal by a bumbling Bruins defenseman and Bruins goalie Kevin Regan. To be honest, I don't understand how that was his goal, as I thought I saw it go from Kolanos, rebound off the goalie, and then swept back at the goalie and in by the Bruins d-man, but I obviously missed something. And the second assist was on Lundbohm's empty netter for the Aeros fourth goal.

Kolanos' goal was another slick wrap-around. The guy really just has a knack for that play. He was also a turnover-forcing machine tonight, breaking up plays at the Bruins blue line and getting the Aeros back on the offensive more times than I could count.

The Irmen goal was a nice chip-in off a rebound. One of those typical Aeros "never give up on the puck" goals. Not pretty but a game winner. And Dietsch got the second assist giving him his second point of the night.

Beyond that, Ryznar had goal that was waved off. He banged the puck under the goalie and then the goalie slid into the net with the puck and then the whistle blew. The red light went and goal horn sounded, but the ref said the goal was after the whistle. It wasn't, but the whistle probably should have blown a couple of seconds earlier than it did. Nice chance though.

(ETA: Fred's correcting me again. Apparently the puck was not in the goal when the whistle blew. I am clearly stretching the limits of my distance vision up in the press box. Will be making an eye appt. this week.)

Anyway, definitely one of the most unusual Aeros games I've been to, just in terms of the energy on the ice. It's funny playing these eastern teams; you don't see them much so you never really know what you're going to get. Sometimes those games are just nasty (see last year's Hartford game) and then like last night, it's as polite and tame as an all-star game. I'd say games against Western conference opponents are a bit more predictibly smash-mouth hockey. Not that I prefer that or anything... *innocent face*

The Schaefer Brother match-up didn't lead to much drama, which I suspect is what both guys really wanted. The elder Schaef had two shots on goal but no points. Hopefully they got some nice family time out of the deal though.

Aeros are back on the ice at the TC on Sunday against the Baby Penguins, another good eastern team, and won't play at home again for two weeks. They have 4 days with no games and then a really tough road trip with another 3-in-3 against 3 different teams next weekend, then off to Grand Rapids on Tuesday and Lake Erie on Friday. The grind is set to Coarse.

Okay, it's actually set to medium, but ya can't win 'em all. Unless you're the Aeros playing at home.

Houston Chronicle report

Royal's blog report (which, incidentally, catches a bunch of little things I meant to say but was too lazy to dredge up, so go read it)
Photos from the game

ETA: I forgot to add the...


Scratches: Crowley, Hamilton (upper body injury), Adams, Kassian

Starters: Lundbohm, Ryznar, Irmen, Albers, Stoner, Schaefer

Captain: Lundbohm

No. of times Thriller by MJ was played: 2

And finally, from Russo's latest Strib article, a little bit of "feedback" for Cal:

Lemaire also wants Clutterbuck to shoot, not just hit. Clutterbuck leads the Wild with 23 hits in seven games, but he has no points and has taken just three shots.

"In practice, he's got one of the best [shots]," Lemaire said.

Nice. That's a good compliment there from ol' Jacques!


Band of Brothers

Last night, Wild and Canadiens fans were treated to the first face-off between Mikko and Saku Koivu with both brothers wearing the C for their teams. Frequent shots of Mom and Pop Koivu in the stands, cheering, cringing, looking away during the rough stuff... nice little drama.

Tonight, Aeros fans may be treated to another brother vs. brother match-up as the Providence Bruins come to town and Nolan and Peter Schaefer potentially go head to head. Peter was with the Boston Bruins last season but was waived during training camp and sent down to Providence (where, coincidentally, younger brother Nolan went to Providence College).

It's not a guaranteed match-up though, as the elder Schaefer has only played one game with Providence after sustaining a hip injury, but is expected to return tonight. And with two solid Aeros goalies in Schaefer and Barry Brust, it's never a guarantee which goalie the coaching staff will start, but there's no reason not to start Schaefer, so I would expect them to.

ETA: The game notes confirm that both Schaefers will be playing tonight.

Brotherly Love - Aeros’ goaltender Nolan Schaefer and Bruins’ left wing Peter Schaefer will play against each other for the first time when the teams take to the ice tonight. Peter is 30 months older than Nolan and has played in a total of 556 games in the NHL with Vancouver, Ottawa and Boston. He is in his 12th season professionally. Nolan is in his sixth pro season with seven games of NHL experience with the San Jose Sharks in 2005-06.
Here's Joe O'Donnell with an interview with the Schaefer Bros.

As a side note, word is John Scott may be back this weekend, though I haven't seen anything come across the transactions saying he's been released to Houston. And center Justin Taylor, who was with the team on a try-out, was released a couple of days ago.


Analysis of a No Goal call

So, I mentioned in my last game report a Marco Rosa no-goal caused by "unintentional goaltender interference" by Matt Kassian, and I want to go back and look at this thing. Ultimately, the Aeros didn't need this goal to get the win, but it sure would have made a nice night for Rosa and I'm guessing Kass wasn't feeling real good about it either.

My experience with goalie interference is thus:

  1. When you're new to playing hockey, they stick you on the wing and tell you to camp in front of the net to try and bang in rebounds. As you get a little more confident, you learn that you can have fun irritating the goalie by screening them, trash talking them, making fun of their ridiculous new pimp 'stache, etc.

    So, I found out a few weeks ago how much fun it is to get up in the opposing goalie's grill and I was hanging out right on crease line, IN the paint. I go back to the bench and they start in on me: "You have to stay out of the crease. If a goal goes in while while you're in the crease, it won't count." Oh heavens. Okay. Stay out of the crease. Check.

  2. Then there's the most recent, famous no-goal call on Thomas Holmstrom in the playoffs. Now, this was a picture perfect screen and nothing more if you ask me. But they called it goaltender interference and waved the goal off.

Yeah, so that's all I've got. Hey, I'm from Texas, man. WTF do I know from goaltender interference? You can bet I'm going to be asking our novice league ref about this on Sunday though.

Anyway, Fred, hockey photog extraordinaire, emails me and says, "Sweet Jesus, girl! You're blinder than the ref!" (Okay, I'm paraphrasing. He was a lot nicer than that.) And he sends me the rule:
Just pretend there's a big gray block of text here with a bunch of caveats about this and that regarding goaltender interference. I tried to read it but... meh..., so I read the first paragraph and found what I wanted. Pretty much the same way I got through English classes my whole life. Sorry, Mrs. Lee. No, I didn't read Beowulf.
But here's why I think the ref was perhaps overly strict (which was pretty much a theme for that game anyway... as I mentioned, he called EVERYTHING), but not necessarily wrong:
69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper - This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player's position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if:
(1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or
(2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.
Now, before I go into how I saw this go down, look at a couple of pictures Fred took of this goal.

Here's Kassian, having fallen into the goalie, trying now to get to his feet and get the hell out of the way, because everybody in the building knows Rosa's about to put the puck in the net. Click to make it bigger. Thanks to Fred Trask for use of the photos.

Now, this is "two seconds later" as Kassian has JUST gotten up and the puck, as you can see, is hitting the back of the net and the ref is about to wave his arms decisively, "NO GOAL!" And I'm sitting in the press box saying, "They're not gonna count that. No goal." and then watching the crowd, vividly remembering how painful that is when you're there as a fan. You jump up and you scream and clap and the world is perfect for a few seconds and then, "WHAT? Hey ref, you SUCK! You're f***ing blind!!!" Detachment is a blessing at times like this.

So, here's my take: What I thought, and what I assume the ref thought, was that just because Kassian had managed to get the majority of himself out of the crease upon the puck going in the net, his position just a second or two earlier interfered with the goalie's ability to move freely in his crease and get into the position he needed to be in (which, from where Rosa was shooting in the high slot, should have been at the top of his crease and not way deep in the net).

But because Kassian was wallowing in his crease and keeping LeNeveu from recovering fully... not only not getting into the ideal position, but also not even getting back up on his skates... the interference was still "in play" when when the goal went in.

And because Kassian's interference with the goalie was clearly not intentional and he was trying mightily to get out of the paint ASAP, it was clearly not penalty-worthy. There may have been something about penalty worthiness in all that rule stuff, but I'm gonna say the ref followed the spirit of the rule here regarding intention. (I made that last part up.)

Now, you could make the case that the goalie should have been able to get up more quickly, but look at that first picture again. He's IN the net, at least halfway, and Kassian is no small peanut... he's taking up that crease, so LeNeveu can't get up until he has a bit of room to move forward. But by then, he probably sees Rosa has wound up and there's a shot coming so he needs to just do the best he can with where he's stuck at the moment, which is, unfortunately for him, much too deep and on his knees (heh...)

You could also make the case that I'm a notorious goalie sympathizer and if a decision is on the fence, I'm taking the goalie's side every time.

Or, you could make the case that I really don't like to be wrong and, man, I was pretty definitive saying that was a good call. I have to at least make my case if I'm gonna be that definitive about it, right? Go big or go home.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oh yeah, there's video

It's boring; just a little clip from warm-ups last night, but I took the damn thing so I figured I'd stick it up here anyway.


Wild v Stars - 10/29

Well... I guess Ms. Conduct isn't such good luck for the boys from Minnesota. It was a bad bad game for the Wild. I've literally done nothing but edit my photos from the game and open this blogger window so I'm not sure what was said about the game but I'm gonna take a stab that JL wasn't real happy.

But, in spite of the crappy play and an ugly loss, it was SO much fun to see the guys in person finally! And to yell for my team, since I can't do that in Houston any more. But honestly, nobody had a good game, except maybe Josh Harding. Even Mikko didn't look superhuman. In fact, he looked like he had the flu. I think they all had the flu. I blame you, Reitzy!

Also, a special shout out to ATX and WATX from Russoville. Met up with them during the first intermission and they are as lovely as I expected. Hopefully we can spend more time the next time the Wild come to Dallas, and maybe the outcome of the game will leave us happier.

Finally, man, those Dallas fans are mild mannered. I was screaming for the Wild players and yelling at the refs and doing my whole "fangirl" routine and nobody said a peep. I was expecting a little push back from the people around me but nothing. In fact, they seemed pretty amused. I'm not sure they'd ever seen anybody really get into a hockey game before. Very weird. Of course, we were down in the lower bowl and I'm not sure how many of those folks (aside from the ones wearing Wild sweaters) actually like hockey or just got the tickets from work. Odd. But it's a very nice arena. The glass was so clear I could take pictures right through it and it was so bright in there. Really nice.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the evening.

The calm before the storm.

Sadly, my only decent picture of Mikko. Rawr...

Backstrom during warm-ups

Harding in net to save the day


Stars shots

I also got some shots of Turco for me (during warm-ups, since he didn't play) and some of Otter for my pal Red who lurves her some Otter:


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Aeros v. Iowa Chops - Game 8

The one thing that's consistent with last year's Aeros is that each game you show up to, you don't know which Aeros team is going to be on the ice. Tonight, in spite of some significant offensive absences (Locke, Hamilton, and Kolanos are all out injured or sick), the "Good Aeros" showed up and won 3-1.

As asst. coach Troy Ward told Joe O'Donnell after the game, sometimes a situation like this, having top offensive guys out of the line-up fires up guys who see it as an opportunity to get more time to show their stuff. And indeed they did. John Lammers, Morten Madsen, and defenseman Maxim Noreau each had one goal and one assist for the night.

Marco Rosa would have joined the two-pointers list but his goal was waved off as Matt Kassian was tagged for unintentional goaltender interference. I just happened to be watching him struggle to get to his feet and get out of the paint before his teammates got a shot off. I think he had maybe half a skate in the crease when Rosa's shot went in from the high slot, so it was a good call (ETA: unless you go with Fred's compelling case based on the actual rulebook rather than my own anecdotal experience... more on this later... I gotta git to Dallas) but you wouldn't want the game decided on it.

The team looked a ton better tonight. They were a little slow coming out in the second, but picked it up in just a few minutes. The defense was oppressive, like you expect the Aeros defense to be. They just gave the Chops no space to work, and when they did, Nolan Schaefer was so hot in goal, he stopped all but one shot, which came from the stick of Bobby Ryan on a long 3 on 4 Chops power play.

And speaking of Ryan, he looks like a man among boys on this Chops team. Why is he not in the NHL? I was nervous every time he touched the puck.

The game was penalty-laden with 29 infractions overall, the Aeros having the man advantage 10 times (with all three goals coming on the PP), and the Chops getting 8 PP chances resulting in the one aforementioned goal. The refs were calling everything, and honestly, most of it seemed pretty legit. The ones that I saw take place, anyway. But not much got past them. That's for sure.

And that's probably a good thing because there was already no shortage of gloves hitting the ice. First, the Chops' Brennan Evans goes after (total non-fighter and veteran leader) Bryan Lundbohm for a hit he had on one of the other Chops players, but Evans basically jumped him at center ice. Lundy dropped the mitts, but got socked in the face HARD right away and ended up leaving for the locker room with 8+ left in the second period even though his penalty was only 5 minutes.

Then Mitch Love and Troy Bodie went at the beginning of the third, but that was essentially a draw. That still didn't settle it so finally Kassian and Evans drop the gloves and Kass just completely schooled Evans. I mean, gave him a beating he's not going to forget soon. Kassian is a beast. And then they yelled at each other for seemingly the duration of their time in the box. Good stuff.

Bottom line: The Aeros did exactly what Constantine asked for on Sunday: They paid the price. They blocked shots fearlessly, they sacrificed and killed penalties deader than dead. And the guys with offensive talent did their thing at the other end of the ice, too. And they stood up for each other. That looks to me like the emergence of the "personality" KC was looking for, right?

Scratches: Crowley, Hamilton (injured), Locked (injured), Kolanos (sick)
Starters: Schaefer, Lundbohm, Ryznar, Irmen, Albers, Stoner
Captain: Rogers
Stars: 1 - Madsen, 2 - Lammers, 3 - Schaefer (I think I might have reversed this order... Schaefer was AMAZING)

Andrew's article in the Chronicle
Royal's blog on the game
Houston Press article
Fred's photos from the game


Meanwhile, the illustrious Mike Russo did a great feature on Cal for tomorrow's Strib. Just try and resist the Clutter Fever... I think I'm running about 102 tonight. Except it's just a regular fever. Bleh. Clutter Fever is more fun. Trust me.

And one final nugget for those who made it this far, but one that I don't really know what to make of: I sat this evening next to Gordie Roberts, a pro scout for the Montreal Canadiens who lives in Minnesota. Now, if you've paid attention to the Gaby trade rumors, you've heard Montreal a lot. So... ya know, maybe they're digging through the Minnesota cupboards a bit?

Of course, I didn't realize who he was when he turned and said hello to me at the beginning of the game and I kinda blew him off because I'm feeling like crap and just wanted to sit like the lump of overheated human I was feeling like. Of course, now I'm kicking myself. The guy has a monstrous NHL career, has coached in the NHL, has two Stanley Cups, etc. Jesus am I a schmuck or what? Don't tell me. I already know. Of course, I would have asked him something dumb like, "How many of those teeth are yours?"

But I can tell you, he was damned impressed with the Aeros' last penalty kill where EVERY Aeros player was dropping to the ice and blocking shots like mad men. He said something about how they all look like goalies out there. Yep. Welcome to Aeros Hockey, Mr. Roberts, at least when the "Good Aeros" show up.


Aeros @ Toronto Marlies - Game 7 & other stuff

Other stuff first:

New goalie mask photo compilation on Nom nom nom!!! Could Brian Boucher be any cuter with the little tufts of hair sticking out the holes? Thanks to Icethetics for the heads up on this.

Unfortunately, Josh Harding has, IMO, his best helmet ever (as opposed to the best helmet ever, which is Ryan Miller's) but Backs has been so good, he hasn't had any game time yet so it's not in there. Also, Kevin Weekes' mask is wicked. Shame he only plays like 5 games a year so nobody ever gets to see it.

Wild game last night was pretty entertaining, though injuries coming out of it are a concern. However, Cal and Mikko are healthy, so I'll be happy as a clam tomorrow night at the Stars/Wild game. And Burnzie has apparently made the trip to Dallas with the team, so hopefully we'll get to see him, too. I need to go print out maps and stuff. Just noticed that Avery is on the tickets we have. Heh.

Aeros in Toronto:

I watched MOST of this game. Kinda did a sampling of the third period to see Noreau's first goal of the season and to see if the steady level of "compete" I saw in the first two periods held up into the third. I felt like it did, but again, it wasn't enough. I won't bring up Deveaux's hat trick again. Rest assured, I'm making a very frowny face about it still.

Anyway, a quick game wrap-up: The Aeros looked very much like a team that had been spanked the previous two nights. They were moving their feet, playing like it mattered, looking like they wanted it. It was much better than Friday night.

In his broadcast, Joe O'Donnell pretty succinctly pointed out where some of the dirtier goals against were coming from: The Aeros were collapsing in front of the net on defense and, in the traffic and chaos, Schaefer was losing the puck and it was going in. As soon as he said that, I knew he was absolutely right. I'm not hockey savvy enough yet to always put my finger on a problem, so I appreciated that bit of analysis.

The penalty kill regressed a bit as a result, letting in 2 goals in 6 man advantage opportunities for the Marlies.

Some highlights of the game:

  • The first goal by Irmen from Lammers was a pretty 2 on 1 breakaway (with a second d-man hot on their heels). It's was a fast, neat play... one that you can see the momentum unfolding and you kinda hold your breath until it's in the net. Very very nice. I'm liking Lammers so far. Nice fit for this team. The Dallas Stars, at the very least, have a guy who, if they re-sign him after this season, will be a good player for them in Austin to kick their new AHL team off.
  • This was Jon Insana's first game with the team and he's pretty nifty with the puck and more offensive-minded than I expected. Some defensemen just look uncomfortable with the puck, but he was getting around out there. Turns out we needed him, too, with Love, Crowley, and Albers all out of the game for various reasons. And he did the initial work to set up the Aeros second goal of the night getting the puck free and then getting it to Schultz, who fed Lammers.
  • Adams also had a nice game and got himself an assist on the Aeros third goal feeding it to Rosa who took a sharp-angled shot on goal that Marlies goalie Pogge just lost in his gear and let trickle in.
  • Constantine stated before the game the take-away he had from Friday and Saturday's losses: “My big concern about the team right now is personality. And it takes a while for every team to develop its personality. Our new group of guys is a little more offensively capable and our D is still a work in progress. Our team personality hasn’t really formed yet. Our ability to handle the adversity of giving up goals wasn’t very good. One thing that a championship team has to do is they can’t latch on to any excuses.”

    Not so much a low-light of this game per se, but I always think it's interesting to hear where a coach thinks the problem is... is it a problem on the ice or a problem in the head? I think he'd probably say it's both but, obviously feels it's starting in the heads and hearts of his players.
  • Schaefer was not looking as sharp as he has in previous games this season. Even on the rubber he could see coming (no screen, no traffic), he just didn't seem to be seeing the puck real well in the first two periods, but did get better in the third.
  • Scratches: Love (not on trip), Crowley (driving his car back to Houston from Manitoba, or something like that... dear lord, I hope he had someone riding with him), Albers, Locke, Hamilton (all three of whom were a bit dinged up from the previous two games)
  • Starters: Schaef, Stoner, Rogers, Kolanos, Rosa, Olvecky
  • Captain: Rogers. O'Donnell said they're changing up the captain every two games. I question whether 2 games is long enough for a guy to really try to find himself in the role. I was assuming it would be a week at a time or a particularl stretch of games at a time. God knows the season's long enough to afford that. So far, I'm a fan of Stoner with the C.
Bring your applesauce (okay, don't really; they won't let you take it in) because the Iowa Chops are in town. Here's to good eatin' starting at 7:05 p.m.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Random late Sunday thoughts

  1. Hockey was fun tonight. Thanks to Michael for MAKING me go over the boards rather than using the gate. I hate doing it but I know I've needed to just suck it up and get used to it. I'm a chicken shit. And I still hate it, but I'm doing it anyway. Thanks for just forcing it on me.
  2. Aeros lost but I haven't watched the game and won't until tomorrow. I'm too tired to be objective tonight. I know they lost. AND I know that my AHL Nemesis Andre Deveaux got a goddamned hatty. Now that smarts, I tell ya. I just wanted to beat that guy down last season when he played for Chicago.
    Dear Andre,
    I know you're a good guy and all, but man, you made me mad last season (which I realize is your job). I just need to give you one good punch in the arm and then we can be friends, okay? I'm weak so I promise it won't hurt, but it will make me feel better.
    Ms. Conduct
  3. My hands stink, which tells me it's time to fill the tub and give my gear a bath. Pew. That's high on the agenda tomorrow for sure.
  4. My apologies to whoever on the red team I called a "fucker" when he got the puck from me. I'm sorry. You're not a fucker, fucker. But that was my puck and you took it and, well, sometimes words just come out.
  5. So tired. Advil and sleep on the agenda in the next 10 minutes. Busy week ahead. Tomorrow night the Wild play Chicago. Tuesday night I'm working the Aeros game. Wednesday, we head to Dallas for the day and then will catch the Stars v. Wild game that night and drive home after. Then Captain Koivu vs. Captain Koivu on Thursday night as the Wild and Montreal go head to head. Then more Aeros games Friday and Sunday. Phew!


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Avoid Blues ice if you have a lower body....

So first, Chris Mason's appendix goes kaplooey. Then Legace goes down after slipping on the carpet laid out for the ceremonial puck drop with That Woman. Now my big Ben Bishop has a lower body injury suffered during last night's game against Florida. So, backup Marek Schwarz filled in and finished off the shutout Ben had started.

With both of Peoria's top goaltending prospects up in St. Louis... can the Aeros hurry up and play them while they're vulnerable?? :)

Here's hoping the boys are angry at these two losses and and looking avenge their honor (or something similarly noble and righteous) against the Toronto Marlies at 3 this afternoon. The Marlies 2-3-0-1, so hopefully they'll be a little easier to play.

BTW, I watched those first two Manitoba goals from last night. The first one, Barry should have gotten. No screen and just a straight up shot on goal by a player who broke away from the defense. The second one was, I believe, one shift later off a face-off, where the Manitoba player shot from a few feet beside the net and the puck bounced in off of Paul Albers' leg. Ouch. At least, that's how it looked. There was a Manitoba player right behind Albers, but I don't think he got a piece of it.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Aeros @ Manitoba Moose - Game 6

For those of you who are more visually/aurally inclined, I'm providing a musical game recap:

Final score was 5-3 Manitoba. Aeros first goal came from a pretty Kolanos wrap-around almost identical to the goal he got last night (and earned himself third star tonight).

Rookie Dane Crowley got the second goal on a floater from the point that just bounced ugly past Schneider, and Rosa nailed the final goal with an empty net behind him in the final few minutes, but it wasn't enough to catch up.

Brusty was in net. I was right to some degree that his playing the puck better than Schaefer helped get the puck out of the defensive zone a little better. Not sure how many of those goals he could have stopped, especially considering I missed the first two Manitoba goals while I was making dinner. I'll have to go back and look at the archived game tomorrow.

(ETA: I watched those first two Manitoba goals from last night. The first one, Barry should have gotten. No screen and just a straight up shot on goal by a player who broke away from the defense. The second one was, I believe, one shift later off a face-off, where the Manitoba player shot from a few feet beside the net and the puck bounced in off of Paul Albers' leg. Ouch. At least, that's how it looked. There was a Manitoba player right behind Albers, but I don't think he got a piece of it.)

The Aeros did seem to step it up a notch from Friday night, especially in the first period. They didn't seem to be moving as slow, but Manitoba kicked their own game up another notch. Their defenders were all over the Aeros forwards like stink on Brad May in the 2nd and 3rd periods, and shots on goal were down as with Friday's game.

Highlights were a much improved penalty kill that proved perfect in 6 Manitoba attempts and didn't struggle as much as last night to clear the zone. Everybody looked pretty good in the first period. My notes are full of "Stoner's having a great game," "Barry is looking solid," and "Much better pressure and speed by the defense." My notes are lame, I know. And such notes stopped cold later in the game.

Like deja vu all over again, the bottom line is that the Aeros were flat out outplayed.


Scratches: Locke (DTD), Love (not on the trip), Insana, Kassian, Falk
Captain: Hamilton
Fights: Hamilton v. Bootland (Draw)
Pucks to the face: Kinch, the Aeros Equipment Manager took a puck on the bench. Didn't hear how he's doing but here's hoping he's okay.


Wild game... Exciting finish but I couldn't enjoy it in my mini-freakout about the fact that Clutterbuck was relegated to Boogaard minutes and didn't play a single shift in the third. What the hell did he do in the second period to piss off Lemaire?


More Cal

Okay, so my blog is turning into an Aeros and Cal Clutterbuck blog... Sorry. I'm just SO excited for the guy.

Anyway, My Hero Kevin Falness snagged Cal for another interview today prior to the Blue Jackets game. Cal's bit starts about 1/8th into the beginning of the pondcast. Covers his 7(+) hits in Thursday's game, where he's living, his guitar-playing prowess (or not), and more.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Aeros @ Manitoba Moose - Game 5

Well, if you were dreaming of the Aeros going 80-0, time to wake up. Aeros get their first loss on the season, getting pretty much run over by the Moose, who were well-prepared to neutralize the Aeros offense.

While the Moose did play well, particularly in terms of pinning the Aeros in their defensive zone with strong puck possession, the problem for the boys in the bombers appeared that they just weren't moving their feet and lacked hustle and looked like the goals would continue to magically happen. Constantine agreed during the post-game broadcast saying, "Our compete level wasn't good enough tonight. We tricked ourselves a little bit thinking we were playing okay, because the scoreboard said we were doing okay, [but] this is the most we've been outplayed."

It seems like a bit of deja vu from last year looking at the shot count, with the Aeros racking up a whopping 18 shots on goal versus Manitoba's 30 and looking very much like a team that's been off since Sunday. With long layoffs, Constantine said, "You forget how hard it is to be good. It's hard to get as emotional and competitive."

Though emotion didn't seem to be lacking as the game resulted in three fights, including the first pro tussle for Justin Falk against Darryl Bootland (draw) early in the game. That was followed up by Ryan Hamilton and Guillaume Desbiens dropping in the mitts in the second (slight edge to Desbiens). Clayton Stoner also went with Desbiens in the third, but was outmatched.

The Aeros only goal was provided by Krys Kolanos via Olvecky and Rosa, with the ROK line reuniting for the first time since Kolanos was called up to Minnesota. And in fact, Kolanos was driving hard to the net all night and seemed to be the only Aeros forward who made it look easy to get both himself and the puck to the Manitoba net. But the Moose defense managed to keep him to the outside and forcing him to shoot from nearly impossible angles.

Both Manitoba goals (third was an empty net) were from dirty scrambles in front of the net where the team just got enough traffic and the puck bouncing around where it seemed nearly inevitable that the puck was going in eventually. Schaefer played an excellent game and made some jaw-dropping saves and got the 2nd star for his efforts.

He played the puck more than usual and, as good as he looked, many of his attempts weren't sufficient to get the play moving to the other end of the ice as intended. It will be interesting to see if Brust is between the pipes tomorrow and how his style works against this team. He's better at playing the puck and this might be the thing to move the puck out of the defensive zone and get the Aeros more possession time. That said, we won't have to wait long to find out as they meet again tomorrow night.

A little housekeeping:

Scratches: Crowley, Insana, Justin, Deitch, Love (not on trip due to immigration issues)
Captain: Hamilton


News from Winnipeg; a couple of new PTOs

The Winnipeg Sun has a couple of Aeros articles today looking toward the games against the Moose tonight and tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the guys do this weekend. First road trip, potential distractions from local family and friends, historically tough teams...

Also, a couple of guys are with the team on tryouts. First is defenseman Jon Insana (I like that name) who is 28 and has been bouncing around the AHL and UHL, but had a pretty good season with Grand Rapids last year.

Second is center Justin Taylor (but not the Washington Ovechkins Capitals prospect by the same name). He's a former Flames draft pick and played in Russia last season... for 3 games, until he tore his MCL and returned to his native Edmonton for surgery and rehab. Now it appears he's looking to get back on the ice, so we'll see what kind of shake he gets with the Aeros.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who's checking whom?

A photo from the game tonight in the San Jose Mercury News:

Minnesota Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck (22) is checked into the boards by Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (6), of the Czech Republic, during the first period in an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008, in St. Paul, Minn.

Now, I don't know about you, but I've watched a lot of Cal Clutterbuck and if anybody's checking anybody, Cal is checking Spacek. Let's give credit where it's due.

And I know I'm biased, but it seems to me he's getting better and more effective every game he plays. He was even in some goal scoring situations a couple of times tonight. And he got the most time of all the kids at 14:26 (all even strength). Obviously JL is pleased with his hustle and responsible play but isn't ready to put him on special teams.


PHN: Aeros Adapt and Improvise

My latest article for is out today. Check it out.


Wild Live Blog (v. Sabres)


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

6 Things I Need to Say (but don't deserve their own posts)

  1. High in the 60s tomorrow!!! WOOO! I may go sit on the deck and wait for the front to blow in. Then come in and pull out all my 3/4 length-sleeved winter clothes! And my warm flip flops! Huzzah! Cool weather is HERE (well, almost... in about a week, it appears to be here to stay). This is a very happy time for us sweaty Texans, doncha know.
  2. Wild FINALLY play tomorrow night. It's been too long since one of my teams played, though watching the archives of Sunday's Aeros game on AHL Live took the sting out of it. But I can tell you, Wild fans get restless with this long between games, especially with the Gaby extension controversy erupting. Looks like Zidlicky and Sir Spin-o-rama will be back in the line-up, so two will sit. I'm guessing Reitz and Boogaard. Or maybe Mojzis. Shouldn't his 30 days since clearing waivers be approaching pretty rapidly? I'd like to get a look at him down here. (Oh, he was waived on the 29th last month, so he's got a few days before they have to send him down or officially call him up... or however that works).
  3. Aeros play Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I'll be out on a voting date Friday night with my equally liberal friend who I always go and vote early with, so just in case we get hit by a bus over the weekend, our lonely little liberal votes will be counted. Then they're back at home Tuesday. Not much of a break for the boys after a tough 3-in-3, but everyone knew going in that this schedule was going to be a ball buster. So it begins...
  4. My fantasy teams should have come with cyanide capsules.
  5. Check out this story about a letter Aaron "No really, my ass is as spectacular as advertised" Voros wrote to Jacques Lemaire thanking him for everything he learned from JL and Co. last season.
  6. Cal Clutterbuck. Just because.


Fun article on Khudobin

Adorable, right? Ahh, Dimples.

Though, since when is Halak the #1 goalie in Montreal? Thought it was Jesus Price.


Kalus made the right move

Russo put together a little article today addressing the Kalus exodus and judging by the quotes from Lynn and Riser, he made the right decision.

"He just wanted to go home," General Manager Doug Risebrough said. "Ultimately, his development is in more of his control now than it was in our control."
I'm just gonna take a stab at reading between the lines here: "We did everything we felt we could to develop Petr's talents, but he wasn't getting it, or maybe didn't want it. We brought the horse to water, but couldn't get it to drink."
Asked if he was disappointed, assistant GM Tom Lynn, who doubles as the Aeros' GM, said, "I haven't thought about it. It's probably not a high radar item."

But he's right. It might have been disappointing last season, but at this point, it was clear that he wasn't a good fit for this system and didn't ever seem to be fully on board after he was (apparently) healthy scratched a few times last season.

I suspected he'd bail after it became clear he wasn't on the short list for a call up to Minnesota. Can't blame him really. If your NHL chances are clearly shot for at least the next couple of years, you might as well play close to home.

Anyway, good luck to him. He was, if nothing else, pretty amusing. My favorite Kalus story was from when Coach Stalin was talking to him about how she plays hockey on a co-ed team. His eyes lit up when he asked her if she shares a locker room with the guys. He was clearly a fan of this concept. Heh.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Kolanos reassigned to Houston; other stuff

Aeros new offensive stud, Krys Kolanos, is returning to the fold as Marek Zidlicky and Pierre Marc Bouchard look to be healing up from their injuries.

Also, it seems the Emmerson call-up from yesterday was to facilitate loaning him to the Rochester Americans.

Andrew predicts doozies against Manitoba Friday and Saturday, and after looking at their roster, I agree. I don't follow other AHL team's players, but boy, I recognize a lot of names. Particularly Zach FitzGerald, who sucker punched Reitz last season and then got completely schooled by a truly angry John Scott. Rawr!

I just ordered up the AHL Live package so I can watch the away games. You can watch the archives for free (so I don't have to watch away games in real time, which is fantastic) so I've pulled up Sunday's game in San Antonio... Looks pretty good! There are obvious compromises in quality, but it's better than not seeing the games at all. Exciting!


Aeros vs. San Antonio Rampage - Game 4

I got nothing on this one. I was at the Texans game, which you know I was SUPER EXCITED about. Not. I still hate them. Fortunately, there were some Lions fans in the seats next to us, so I sat by them. While I didn't cheer for the Lions, I also didn't cheer for the Texans. So it was a nice transition between the Lions fans and Mr. Conduct (who, for some reason, didn't divorce the team along with me a couple of weeks ago).

Anyway, hockey... Andrew and John both wrote about the game, so I'll leave you with their words. Other than that, I really thought the Aeros would finally land in the L column this game and they didn't. Go figure. 80-0? :) Oh that's right, they're probably not even going to make the playoffs. Heh.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Aeros v. San Antonio Rampage - Game 3

Okay, finally adding some notes from this raucous game. You remember that thing they used on Men In Black that zaps you so you don't remember what you just saw? I think this game, for me, kinda "zapped" last season for me. It's hard to believe we were even in the same building watching the same team. Last year's Aeros were doing well to get 8 goals in 3 games.

Of course, you don't want to get too excited too early. The players and coaches are all saying the right stuff: There are still problems on defense and the PK that need lots of work. But come on, you gotta know these crazy wins are putting a little extra pep in their step, right?

For starters, I was right about them plugging Lammers into the Rosa/Olvecky line where Kolanos had been. That line earned the first goal of the evening on a picture-perfect wrap-around goal from Rosa. Olvecky got the fourth goal of the game with Irmen (and Rogers) assisting, so I'm guessing that line got switched up a bit as the game went on, though I wasn't paying all that close attention to line combinations at that point.

I want to give new guy (call up from the CHL's Texas Brahmas) Jason Deitsch some props: Not only did he get a goal but he set the goal up himself with some really smart anticipation in the Aeros defensive zone that led to a turnover allowing him to bring the puck down and score a really pretty goal. I don't know much about the guy but that whole play was pretty impressive.

I spent the first two periods trying to figure out what's so great about Corey Locke. Apparently, Corey Locke figured it out before I did and put together 4 points in the final period, basically making me feel like an ass for questioning him. I'm okay with that. I feel like an ass a lot anyway, so if it gets the Aeros a win, it's something I'll live with. He DOES get shoved around a lot though, being so small. It seems he's pretty durable.

San Antonio's second goal was not a goal. From where I sat, it looked like a slow whistle after Barry had it, but Fred's photos tell the tale. Oh well. Shit happens. Tough for Barry though. I wonder how that game might have changed if that hadn't been ruled a goal and Barry hadn't been pulled eight and a half minutes in.

That's about it. The other guys covered the rest of it. No sense in repeating them.

John Royal - Houston Press
John Royal's Blog
Houston Chronicle article
Andrew Ferraro's Blog


The Aeros new offense had a coming out party tonight. If there was any doubt this is a new team across the board, this game should put those doubts to rest. Even without Kolanos, who's been playing with the golden stick thus far, the team found the back of the net over and over and over, ultimately tying the team record for goals scored (8).

Of course, the flip side of that was San Antonio's 6 goals, an uncharacteristically high GAA for this defensive-minded team and source of obvious discomfort for Coach Kevin Constantine.

I had the excitement of getting to interview (nervously) KC and assistant coach and assistant GM Troy Ward after the game, so I'll put some of that up later when I get my notes transcribed. I dunno how these guys with nightly deadlines do it. Kudos. Plus, there was SO MUCH that happened in this game, I just don't have the energy to put it all down tonight, so watch for this post to get edited tomorrow.

The only thing left to say tonight is... it's official. Being a goalie on my fantasy hockey team is grim death. My sincerest apologies to Biron, Turco, Smitty, Osgood, and Kipper. Somehow the stank hasn't reached Buffalo yet, so Miller is safe for now. You're welcome, Crunchy.


Shifty Aeros Roster

First they lost Clutterbuck to the Wild.
Then they lost Kolanos to the Wild.
Then Lundy had a baby.
Then Kalus returned to Europe (no surprise and no disappointment on my part, other than I so enjoyed calling him Crack Squirrel).

Then Saturday they called up Jason Deitsch.
Then Sunday they called up Ryan Lang.
And now it seems they've called up Riley Emmerson.

Really? Him?

Well. Okay. All I can wonder is, is Manitoba particularly tough this year?

I suppose when you're going up to Canada for a 3-in-3, you might want to bring along an extra body?

Lots of question marks. Next article should be out in the next day or two, but the boss is happy with it, so I'm happy.


Fantasy Hockey Week 2


Got crushed in Football, mostly crushed in two of my hockey leagues, and a tie in the other hockey league.

Like the stock market, these are bad times but I'm just gonna ride it out and have faith in these players I've selected. I still believe in them.


It had to happen eventually, right?


My teammate won the puck in the corner and it squirted out to me at the bottom of the circle, I spun around with the puck on my stick, skated into position a little bit, and shot it on the backhand where it went past the goalie on the far side.

I honestly just stood there looking for the puck to hit the boards on the other corner, as I assumed I'd hit it wide. But then I saw the goalie slump and the whistle blew and people started congratulating me (Coach Stalin went all Voros on me and nearly knocked me down). Anyway, pretty cool. Totally lucky. But I'll take it.

Helluva hockey weekend for me, gang.


Saturday, October 18, 2008


I just had a dork moment: I've been calling the Aeros top line of Rosa/Olvecky/Kolanos the "ROK" line... and I realized that if Lammers takes Kolanos' spot, it will now be the "ROL" line.

Hey, I warned you it was dorky.

But that said, that's the line that scored like crazy in the first pre-season game. Will be interesting to see if they're back together tonight in Kolanos' absence and whether they can muster up the chemistry again.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Another goalie I like...

Among my stable of goalies I'm fond of is Steve Valiquette, the NY Rangers' #2 goalie. Not sure why I like him. Maybe because he's so gracious in his back-up role and so solid when called upon. I've never heard a bad word about the guy. I contend that he's one of the best back-ups in the league, could probably be a starter, but seems content, even grateful, in his role.

Anyway, he got a rare home game start tonight and put on a clinic opposite Toskala and the Leafs, who also put on the clinic. The game finished OT 0-0 and went to the shootout.

I wouldn't normally report much Rangers stuff, but this blurb in the article made me smile.

Three of Valiquette's 11 career NHL victories have come against the Maple Leafs, including a shootout win last season. He skated off as the first star of the game to chants of "Vall-ey! Vall-ey!" from the appreciative crowd.

"It gave me goose bumps. Now I know how Henrik feels," he said.

Now, I remember sitting in Madison Square Garden last March and the "Hen-rick! Hen-rick!" chant would erupt after each great save. All I could think was, "Man, that must feel like a million bucks to be a goalie and have your very own chant." If you're a lover of goalies, it does give you goosebumps. If you're THE GOALIE, man, that's gotta kinda blow your mind. I'd have to leave the rink through the loading dock, my head would be so big.

That said... Aeros fans... howzabout a "Schae-fer! Schae-fer!" or a "Bar-ry! Bar-ry!" for the many amazing saves those guys serve up? A little goosebump-for-goosebump swap? Maybe with a little help from the big board to get it going? Just saying...


A few miscellaneous things...

First, I just bought tickets to my very first Wild game! We almost decided to go to Minny for the Montreal game, but felt like 100K frequent flyer miles was a bit steep for an overnighter. So, we stuck with the plan to drive up to the game in Dallas in a couple of weeks. I'm excited!

We got seats on the goal line where Minny shoots twice, down in the bowl. Judging by the empty seats I've seen in the American Airlines Center this season, I'm guessing it won't be a problem to skooch over a section if we're too "in the corner." Shouldn't be a particularly popular game, I'm guessing (Sorry, Wild).

It will be fun to actually get to cheer out loud for my team again and wear my Wild Ms. Conduct sweater for the first time. Plus getting to meet my fellow Russotan's from Austin! I'm taking my camera!


More Ben Bishop news, potentially, as Blues goalie Chris Mason had to get his appendix yanked last night. So, either Big Ben or Marek Schwarz will get a call up to the big club from Peoria to back up Manny.


Last night's Wild game against the Panthers (yeah, that team still exists), which I fully expected to be a disappointing dud, was decidedly more exciting than anticipated. Cal seems to be finding his NHL legs and was very effective at breaking up plays, being a pain in the ass, and punishing guys with some hard hits. Defenseman Mojzis impressed playing forward very solidly. Reitz has also proven himself to be reliable and tough on the blue line. At this point, he makes me less nervous than Skoula, who has been playing like he's pregnant or something. This one check he had last night. OMG. *I* hit harder in my non-checking novice league hockey.

Of course, Mikko was totally mikko and got 5 points (1 goal) and just brought that shit like his life depended on it. He's ridiculous.


Another call-up

According to Russo, who used his hockey-reporting Spidey-sense to spot the player at the Tampa airport this morning, the Wild have called up Kyrs Kolanos from Houston.

I don't have to tell Aeros fans that this sucks for the Aeros, but it's a smart move by the Wild. The guy is playing really well and can contribute with the big club right away.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Kolanos/Rosa/Olvecky line that's been so hot for the Aeros. I'm assuming Lammers comes in and maybe gets on that line like he was in the first pre-season game.

Both games should be interesting Saturday. Unfortunately, they'll be interesting simultaneously. Wouldn't it be nice if the Aeros would show Wild highlights during intermission when the two teams play on the same night?

Update: Like the rock star he is, Falness nabbed a nice little interview with Kolanos regarding the call up. I think I have some crow to eat. He sounds like a pretty decent guy.

'Scuse me. I have to eat lunch:


Their mamas should be proud...

Isiah Carey reports on his blog that some of the guys have been busy on their days off this week helping out with one of the hurricane shelters. Clayton Stoner and Maxim Noreau (don't worry, I already left a comment saying who "the other guy" is) are the do-gooders, which doesn't surprise me in the least. Could this team be any more loveable?


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Khudobin to Everblades

Looks like Dimples is headed back into the (no doubt welcoming) arms of Coach Malcolm Cameron and the Florida Everblades. Great move by the organization to get him with a familiar coach, some familiar faces, and hopefully gobs and gobs of TOI so he's ready to back up Brusty next year.

The story is here.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Clutterbuck Interview

Kevin Falness is a rock star. I've even completely let that Fridge thing* go. I'm sure he's relieved.

Here's a nice little interview with Cal regarding his call-up last night.

I will say, though, that I got a bunch of sad faces in my email from Coach Stalin this morning when the Aeros sent the presser out about the call-up. She feels like all her favorite players have been taken from her... Voros, Reitz, Awe, Clutterbuck.

Luckily she's a Rags fan, so she now has Mr. Terrific Ass back on her roster. I dunno. Maybe she'll find a new Aero to root for. Maybe Cal will be back before she even goes to the next game for which she has tickets. For his sake, I hope not.

*Fridge thing: So I was LOVING Fridge last season and they did a Hockey Unplugged up in Minny last spring, which normally Kevin records and then posts for all us losers who couldn't be there to listen to.

Well, his recording equipment crapped out on him or something and the one with Fridge didn't get recorded. Turns out Fridge, who is musically inclined, sang "Deep in the Heart of Texas" for the crowd. OMFG! My favorite state, my favorite song about my favorite state, my favorite hockey player singing my favorite song about my favorite state. And I don't get to hear it.

Of course, the Unplugged with Gaby and Demo, where they give a bunch of vague non-answers and seem utterly disinterested gets recorded but not Fridge singing Deep in the Heart. So, it's only taken me about 8 months and lots of great interviews from Kevin with my boys during their time up in Minny for me to get over it. Because I'm obsessive and demanding. I suck. I'm sorry, Kevin.


Pretty pretty...

Well, that didn't take long. Former Aero Benoit Pouliot is 2 games into the season with the Wild and already has Jacques Lemaire speechless with frustration.

From Russo's Rants:

Lemaire wasn’t in the most talkative mood today... He is “surprised and disappointed” with the play of Benoit Pouliot, who clearly just doesn’t get it in Lemaire’s opinion. It was almost impossible to get a usuable quote from Lemaire on this, but he is not happy with the kid and clearly can’t get a read on him.

He took an offensive-zone penalty and rides guys up the ice with his long reach. At some point Pouliot’s going to take a very costly penalty, but Lemaire said that’s the least concern he has with Pouliot. But he wouldn’t specifically talk about what he’s seeing there.

Someone send the man a Houston Aeros t-shirt to welcome him to the club!

If things aren't turned around this season, he really just needs to go play in Europe on the big ice where he's got room to play the way he plays best.



My request to drop Bernier and add Mikko to my Wildbloggers team went through!

Mikko contains his excitement, but you can tell he's totally stoked and ready to get some goals for me.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dropping like flies in Minny; Clutterbuck called up

First, Butch's back starts acting up so bad that he just hops on the first plane out of Atlanta to go lay down for a few days. And then Olden Nolen hurts himself. That's two forwards down and none on the bench.

Guess the voodoo the boys down here are doing on their Wild dolls is working, because it's likely someone's getting a call tomorrow to fly to Florida. Plenty of guys earned the chance in camp, so it will be interesting to see who gets the call, if anybody. Lemaire said post-game it would probably be Clutterbuck.

Settling into the Kings/Ducks game, which is in HD and has some fancy new "Rinkside View" so that should be cool. Go Kings!

UPDATE: The Almighty Russo has confirmed it: "Cal Clutterbuck is on his way up from AHL Houston." Presumably he'll play against the Panthers on Thursday at 6:30 Central. Give 'em hell, Cluts.

So, who plays in Houston? Lammers or Kassian? (Royal figures Kassian and I think he'll be proven correct.)


Monday, October 13, 2008

Aeros v. Milwaukee Admirals - Game 2

Maybe it was my crappy end zone seats Saturday or maybe the Aeros are finding their groove, but the team tonight looked like the team I expected to see when the season started. Smothering defense, incomparable goaltending, and plenty of shots on goal, some of which actually see the back of the net. And they're just getting started.

There was some show stealing going on by a few players tonight in the Aeros 3-0 win:

Schaefer was even better than he was Saturday (but so was the defensive play in front of him). Other than a couple of really ugly goal mouth scrambles where I think Nolan and several others literally stood on their heads to get the puck out of danger, he was on target all night.

Kolanos' first goal (second was an empty netter) you could almost see coming in slow motion just a few seconds into the third period as he battled a single defenseman half the length of the ice hanging on to the puck the whole time, until he got in close and fired it past goalie MacIntyre. I had Pouliot flashbacks as it was a similar breakaway situation we often saw from speedy Pouls, except he would have tried to get fancy with the puck to get away from the defender where Kolanos just powered through the pressure, kept the puck movement simple and safe, and got the biscuit in the basket. He's really skillful at creating great opportunities for himself at severe angles around the net. I'm not ready to eat crow yet, but it seems he's doing more than enough offensively to make up for doing just enough defensively. Hey man, whatever works.

Clutterbuck looked good, but completely outdid himself during a penalty kill with 4:41 left in the second. He lost his stick at the beginning of his shift and played a full minute+ without his stick and was amazingly effective in spite of the handicap. Just as the penalty was ending, he managed to literally shove the puck out of the zone on his hands and knees. It was an impressive display of "I don't need no stinking stick." If there's a supersecret 4th star, Cal should get it for that shift.

Hamilton got the third star and really was just playing the game he always plays. Parking his ass in front of the goal and MSH (making shit happen). His PP goal was beautifully set up by Schultz and Locke and poked in the back door. Great stuff.

Tonight's raspberry goes to Milwaukee's Grant who was jawing and grabbing at Clutterbuck early in the game (believe it was 1-0 at the time, so he was rebuffed). And then when the game was 3-0 and Grant laid a hit on Hamilton that he took offense to, but when Hamilton offered up a tête-à-tête, Grant suddenly had a prior committment elsewhere on the ice.

Bottom line: More of this, please. The top two lines are nailing the puck possession game. I'm not sure how long it lasted but at one point in the second period, they kept the puck in the Aeros attacking end for so long, they finally had to let the choke-hold go and change lines. And what's more, they're SHOOTING.

Speaking of lines, for you folks who like to know who's playing with whom (and it's been pretty consistent):



Scratches tonight were the same as Saturday: Adams, Rogers, Lammers, Kassian, Khudobin

Also very nice to finally meet my fellow Aeros writers. I'll link up their articles when they're available. Check back. Meanwhile, the game notes.


Big Ben Bishop & Peoria

My fascination with Peoria Rivermen goalie Ben Bishop is no secret, right? Here's a good article on him from the AHL web site.

I'm looking forward to Peoria coming to town (wonder what reception Matt Foy will get), though I'll have to be on my A game to have enough focus to not just sit and watch him all game. And I love that he's coming up behind my favorite small goalie, Manny Legace, in the Blues organization.

For those keeping track, I think he's the only non-Aeros AHL player who has his own label on my blog. (Edit: I take that back. My friend, Kris Chucko, has his own.)

I'd love to do a little Aeros road trip if there's an Illinois swing with the Wolves, Ice Hogs, and Peoria in quick succession. SIL's family is in Peoria, so that would be good family relations to take our nephew to a game (though I'd have to watch my potty mouth). He's a spunky kid. I think he'd take to hockey pretty well. Hmm.


A few Monday morning thoughts

Every time I try to express how hot Mikko Koivu is, I find that there are no words for it. So, I have decided that the word "mikko" is now an adjective. As in:
"Mikko is just so friggin mikko!"
"Mikko is the more mikko of the Koivu brothers, for sure, though Saku is still amazing."
"When filling the role of Superman, the casting director was looking for the actor exuding the most mikkoness."
"Lecavalier thinks he's mikko but he's just a pretty boy."


I've also decided that Mike Cammalleri's new nickname is "Squid." Cammy is so dull.


I know the Stars haven't done much yet this season but this video put a smile on my face. Otter, Turco, Avery... man, the whole nasty package.


Aeros game tonight vs. Milwaukee


Fantasy Hockey Week 1

Okay, so my first week of fantasy hockey indicates that I may have brought forth a plague of doom upon the players on my teams. My goalies, except the one I was most worried about (Smitty in Tampa), all suck beyond comprehension. Avery is useless for anything but PIM, Iginla is invisible, on and on.

The only unaffected team seems to be the New York Rangers where Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival have played well. But I think maybe they're just slow to comply in the Big Apple. Give it a week, especially now that I have Zherdev on my newest team.

Anyway, my best result was in the Wild Message Board league, where we tied 5-5 (someone remind me that if I ever set up a fantasy team, there should be an odd number of stats used in scoring so that ties aren't possible). In the Russoville league, I got smoked big time, 11-2. I mean, I got crushed like an innocent grape rolling around on the freeway.

Blessedly, the third league doesn't start until this week so I have a few days to steel myself for total humiliation next Monday morning. My apolgies in advance Buffalo and Detroit fans for having your goalies. The only hope is that my curse is somehow transfered in the picking and not in the owning, in which case the Wildbloggers team should be right as rain.


Hockey Weekend Wrap-up/Catharsis

I need to ramble about my own hockey playing for a bit. If you're here for Aeros stuff, just skip it. This blog is part journal of my novice hockey experience, and this is from that part of my hockey life:

So, not only did regular season start for the Aeros and the Wild, but I actually played hockey twice this weekend. Once with the Play Like the Pros program at the Toyota Center and then our regular league tonight.

While it was a novel experience to play at the TC and the Aeros staff really goes to a lot of effort to make it comfortable and fun for everyone, I really didn't get into it that much. The green team sucked. I mean, we sucked HARD. I've never seen us our team play so poorly. Of course, I always suck, so really, I just sucked with brighter lights and more people watching (lots more came to the game the last time they did it... it was a sparse crowd yesterday). Not sure it was worth the cost, honestly, but I'm glad I did it once.

And then tonight we had a practice and then 30 min. scrimmage. Practice was good but frustrating. I'm such a miserable fucking puck handler, it's not even funny. You know how if you have two magnets and you put like poles facing each other, they'll repel each other? That's how the puck and my stick blade are. I feel like I have a learning disability. (Is lack of any athletic instict a learning disability?) Everyone is patient with me but at what point do they think I'm just not trying? *sigh* And then during the scrimmage I had a really sweet shot lined up and I just mothereffing WHIFFED that thing like it wasn't even there. AUGH!!!!

My teammate, Dave, who very kindly was trying to get me the puck and I fouled it up pretty much every time, but especially this time, gave me some advice, and then Coach Stalin gave me some even better advice. And we had a little breakthrough in her teaching me where she realized you have to tell me WHY I need to do things a certain way (like approaching the puck to hit it with the blade ALREADY ON THE ICE). She'd been telling me that but I didn't really see the value in it. Well, now I do. It was like the non-shot heard round the world.

Anyway, I plan to practice my puck handling this week in the garage. And I told Coach Stalin that I was going to come home and write, "I am NOT Jon Awe." 100 times. No slapshots for me yet. Blade on the ice.

I'm still struggling with my feelings around playing hockey, I have to say. I'm frustrated that I don't seem to have even the slightest offensive touch. I feel stiff and stupid with the puck. I love to skate but I hate dealing with the puck. But I love hockey (in case you hadn't noticed) and I'm learning a lot from the experience, I just don't think I have an ounce of killer instinct and I think you need that as part of your make-up to be a good hockey player. I'm more of a slow, deliberate, thoughtful type of person. The kind who makes plant trellises out of copper piping and fittings or does lovely paintings or mosaics. That's my zone. But those don't have anything to do with hockey, so I don't do them anymore. I guess I could make a hockey mosaic... or do the Wild logo out of copper pipes... but you get my drift.

Never the less, I'll forge ahead. As I told Mr. Conduct last week when I was dreading going to hockey (like I always spend Sunday doing), "It's when you don't want to go and do anyway that really tests your character." I even almost considered "accidentally" leaving my skates at home. That's how much I was dreading it. Add my angst to the fact that I woke up this morning with a hitch in my giddyup... something is wonky in my right hip, though I didn't fall or anything Saturday, so I don't know what the problem is. It's hurting less tonight but we'll see how it is tomorrow.

Anyway, that's enough angst, isn't it? If you've made it this far, you get a gold star.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fantasy Hockey: Wildbloggers

This is a 10 team league of Wild bloggers, as the name suggests. Some overlap with the Russoville gang but this time I finally let it autodraft for me and I'm pretty happy with the results, at least of the ones where I know anything about the players. Some I'm totally unfamiliar with.

1. (7) Jarome Iginla RW
2. (14) Pavel Datsyuk C
3. (27) Olli Jokinen C
4. (34) Chris Osgood G
5. (47) Ryan Miller G
6. (54) Alexander Frolov LW
7. (67) Nikolai Zherdev RW
8. (74) Michael Cammalleri LW
9. (87) Ed Jovanovski D
10. (94) Niklas Kronwall D
11. (107) Alex Goligoski D
12. (114) Pavel Kubina D
13. (127) Patrick Marleau C
14. (134) Jason Blake LW
15. (147) Martin Havlat RW
16. (154) Jonathan Bernier G

Obviously, Bernier is getting dropped as he's been sent down to the AHL. I've already put my add/drop request in but it won't take effect until Thursday and will work based on waiver order, which I should be third or fourth, so fingers crossed. In a league this small, there are some darn good players left on the roster. Maybe not fantasy studs, but guys who are worthy to come off the pine occasionally.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Aeros v. Chicago Wolves - Game 1

A little opening night homework first:

Captain - Bryan Lundbohm
Alternate - Clayton Stoner
Alternate - Ryan Hamilton

Scratches were Adams, Rogers (still rehabbing the shoulder), Lammers, and Kassian.

Also, apparently those pads and helmet that Schaefer confused me with are his new gear. Even though he just got new gear at the end of last season. Nutty goalies, eh. Hopefully Fred got some nice shots of his new lid so we can see what's going on there.

There was NO GOD BLESS AMERICA! THANK YOU, JEEBUS!!!! Of course, it was replaced by some odd songs about the Aeros and some other "America is awesome"-type song. But whatever. No GBA is a glorious revelation. Good job, entertainment people. (And my husband has a suggestion: Guitar Hero contest!)

Now, here's the part where I have to decipher my notes. This is so much easier when I have my laptop.

General observations:

Schaefer is en fuego. He was sharp sharp sharp tonight and is the only reason the Aeros even had a chance at this game. He made some miracle saves out there, though the D did a good job cleaning up in front of him when things got hairy.

Special teams needs a LOT of work. And that lovely puck possession game with good chemistry I saw in the first pre-season game? Gone. Chicago kept the pressure on, hard, all game, and I can think of about one (1) offensive opportunity that looked like the team I saw in pre-season. The rest looked like last season's Aeros who choke on the power play and can't get the puck in the net or sometimes even near the net (first goal was as flukey a goal as I've ever seen, the second in OT was legit).

Here's the other thing that was weird about this game: Until the GWG in OT (and right now I realize I haven't mentioned the final score was 2-1 Aeros in OT), I was ready to jump on Kolanos for his unrepentant lack of physicality. There's an odd laziness to his presence on the ice, but then he'd hustle and look really good for a few seconds, and then... the game winning goal. Dare I argue with results? I dunno. Give me a few games, but I can't help but think how much more he could be doing if he always hustled like that.

Among the other new guys, Crowley took two minor penalties but was otherwise quite effective. If he can get his stick penalties under control, I think he'd be pretty impressive. He has no qualms about shooting on net to give some rebound opportunities, which was a positive for him. Love is a tenacious player, not the best skater but patient with the puck and I saw him make a few good decisions in some pressure situations. Falk, the youngster from Snowflake who is celebrating his birthday AND his pro hockey debut today, was less impressive on the decision-making front. He needs some time to adjust to the pro hockey game but seems to have the tools otherwise to be a solid SAH d-man. A really big kid and a better skater than most guys his size.

Among the returning guys, they looked flat and lacking chemistry on offense. Clutterbuck was getting rocked frequently and didn't look like himself. Except when he was caught by the camera on the big screen after a little scrum saying, "F**k you." Hamilton established his usual front-of-the-net presence that offered a few "almost" opportunities. I know the rest of them have more and can do better. For all intents and purposes, it's still pre-season. The defense looked good outside of a few head slappers.

As an aside, I'm looking through my notes and I see simply: "PP - AUGH!" That tells you about the Power Play. Sloppy and ineffective.

My three stars were:
1. Schaefer
2. Pavalec (Wolves goalie)
3. Kolanos

The real three stars were the same but with Kolanos shuffled to the top of the deck at #1. I don't see how a few moments of productive hustle trump 62+ minutes of rock solid goaltending.

Bottom line:

A win is a win, but without Schaefer, there would have been no hope of a win. The Aeros cannot go another season forcing the goalies to stand on their heads every game. These offensive lines need to gel and make some noise.

Honk if you miss Wardo!

P.S. More skinny from the fellas who actually get to talk to players and coaches after the game. Apparently the Aeros are adopting a semi-rotating captaincy. I'm somewhere between rolling my eyes and loving it. I like the notion of leadership being spread out, as there is much to be found on this team, it seems.

And some great photos from the game by Fred Trask here.

And more photos from a Thrashers fan who was at the game.


Busy day

Too busy to post much. Gotta get ready to go play hockey, but I'm mostly looking forward to watching it, natch. But I am back from Mexico, which was lovely but 2 days would have been perfect. I was climbing the walls by Friday.

But a couple of things: John Royal is blogging the Aeros on his own time now because his editors at the Houston Press are dweebs. Good for him. Bookmark that shit, y'all. Though I question the name because I'm afraid of clowns...

Andrew predicts an Aeros win tonight. Good pre-game stuff from him. Bookmark that shit, too.

I predict an Aeros loss and a Wild win. Forecast calls for pain.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Outlook for the Week

Don't hate me because I'll be here this time tomorrow.

Well, maybe not THIS exact time, but tomorrow anyway. Meanwhile, back in Houston, quite a few hockey hearts will be crushed at the news of being cut and sent to the CHL or ECHL, and a few will be soaring on the news that they've managed to stick with the Houston Aeros. I'm looking forward to hearing who will fill those last gaps in the roster, so I'll definitely be checking in.

Apparently there is a media day on Wednesday, so I'm looking forward to good reports from the homefront. Then I'm guessing Thursday and Friday will be practice and then Saturday... HOCKEY. Hockey that MATTERS.

Saturday's line-up: Head straight from the airport to the Toyota Center for my novice league game which starts around noon. Hopefully we'll get to catch the end of the boys doing a bit of a morning skate after we get suited up. They introduce each of us, play the national anthem, music at the stoppages, and the whole shebang. Pretty cool deal.

Then it's home to watch the DVR'd Texas/Oklahoma game. My Horns should be feeling pretty confident, but I hear the Sooners are good this season. Should be a good game. There may be some napping at this point, and definitely some eating.

Then it's back to the TC for the first Aeros game, where I'll be sitting with our novice team but taking notes for my next article and again practicing being neutral. And I'll be avoiding the "out of town scores" when they put them on the big board during intermissions because...

THEN it's back home to watch the DVR of Wild v. Bruins and the NHL regular season debut of the Wild's power forward of the future, Colton Gillies. Welcome to the NHL, peanut!


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Suckfest and Happyfest

Good God, I motherf**king hate the Houston Texans and wish I didn't ever have to waste another Sunday on their sorry asses again. But I will because we have season tickets and I'm a good wife. But I'm going for the other team. Next week, I'm a Miami fan.

Okay, not really happy for the guys, but happy for the fans because Cal, Irmen, Kolanos, and Falk were assigned to Houston today. Frankly, the guys should be pretty satisfied knowing they were darn close to making the team and if it weren't for Gillies' age issues, one of them probably would have. And I think all of them have impressed Lemaire in their own ways, so I figure they'll have their chance.

Also, Scotty remains in Minny due to his "badly sprained ankle" and Brusty remains due to Harding's scratched eyeball. Might switch him for Schaefer if Hards isn't better by Saturday. Wouldn't mind it being BrustyTime right out of the gate. :)

There's more to say but I need my pre-game nap.

ETA: Post-nap, I'm feeling less full of bile. Lucky for the team from Sugar Land.

BTW, I swear I saw Matt Kassian on the concourse at the game. Boys had the day off, other than goalies and "select shooters" and practice wasn't until 5 p.m., so I would imagine a few of them took in the suckfest. I hope it didn't rub off on them. In fact, we should mandate that the Aeros players stay as far away from Texans players as possible. That shit might be contagious.


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