Sunday, November 30, 2008

Aeros v. San Antonio Rampage - Game 20; more love for Cal

I'll be honest: I opened up a Word doc at 7 p.m. last night and it sat blank for the next 2 hours while I didn't take a single note on the game. What can I say? The Wild and Aeros were playing at exactly the same time, and I just didn't have the multi-tasking chops to watch two games and take notes.

But the Aeros looked good against a very, very bad San Antonio Rampage team, who are on a 13 game losing streak. So, I'm not sure how much of that looking good was relative, but my mama told me to never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Low-lights from the game included Jeff Hoggan running Brandon Rogers awkwardly into the boards where his face hit the dasher and he was bleeding rather profusely, apparently. He went off during the second, and was back on the bench in the third but didn't play, from what I understand. No penalty for Hoggan, so I'd hope to see some payback for that at some point this season.

Also, I believe it was Valette who basically stopped a slapshot from the point with his glove. Um. OUCH. Hopefully he's still in one piece.

Highlights include, as mentioned in my previous post, Rosa playing much better, taking shots more quickly, and doing so paying off after he shot from the top of the circle on a power play and Olvecky tipping it in the net. Atta boy! Also nice for Olvecky to get a goal after being quiet offensively so far this season.

Kassian nearly got himself a goal. Kinda weird to see him getting 3 shots on goal and someone like Lundbohm getting none. But I like it. Can't score if you don't shoot.

Scratches were Love, Falk, and Madsen. I'm guessing the d-men were healthy scratches but not sure about Madsen.

Back to the Toy Box again today for the Milwaukee rematch. I'd like to talk to Constantine after as I'm feeling a PHN story coming on but I'll have to jet as soon as the game ends to get to my own game in Willowbrook. In the meantime, I need to walk the dog and then sew the thigh boards back into my pads and try to figure out how to make them work.
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Here's an interview by Tom Reid with Cal from last night's game in Nashville where he was (as yet inexplicably) scratched.

Also, apparently, the team has told him to find a place to live in MN. Has anybody ever gotten more mileage out of leaving their car at the airport? Also, does Cal strike you as a Mercedes type? I had him pegged for something sportier. Plus, I was just amazed to learn there's a Benz available for less than $40k. Tells you the last time I shopped for a car was back in 2000 and the $30k I spent was WAY more than I should have for the money I was making then. Suze Orman would have wrung my neck.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

See Rosy?

You shoot. You get goals. Keep doing that.

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Special Thanksgiving Edition Hockey

Coach Dan put together a few extra skates with the unoccupied ice time they tend to have around holidays at Willowbrook and I participated in the one today. There was a pretty good showing... a lot of the guys with boys who play hockey had their kids playing and, of course, they skated circles around us old folks.

I had a really good game (thus confirming to me that a week off every now and then is good for the hockey soul) and I'd missed playing so I was ready to roll. And luckily I was on a line with Iginla and Drury (okay, not really but one was in a Flames jersey and the other in a Rangers jersey and they each got a goal, so that was nice).

Anyway, our team lost but that's okay. It was fun.

So, after 2 hours of playing hockey, then doing a little gear-comparing in the parking lot with Scott TCG, I lugged my goalie gear back in the building and suited up again. It was a public skate and a crowded one at that with lots of little kids, so I was quite the spectacle. Quite a few little kids just stared at me, mesmerized by the Sta-Puft marshmallow lady.

One, who looked like he'd already been crying and snotting himself from the trauma of skating for the first time, saw me, burst into tears, and screamed, "MOMMY! WHAT IS THAT??" I think my inflated countenance was the final straw for his overstimulated, stressed out little mind. It was funny.

And then on the ice, I was working mainly on forward and backward c-cuts, just pushing back and forth from different angles and trying to end up back centered in front of the "net." It was such a small movement that it was fine even with the crowd. They let me have the crease and that's all I needed.

Eventually the kids who play hockey (and even some of the dads) decided they needed to shoot imaginary pucks at me. One kid in a Red Wings jersey was especially trying to light the lamp, but they ALL fake-shot at me when they skated by. It was actually pretty funny and gave some context to my dorkiness, which I appreciated. Even though I'm pretty sure every fake shot went in. :)

Boy am I tired now. With every blink, the threat of me not re-opening my eyes grows. But at almost 5 p.m., it's too late for a nap.

Aeros and Wild play tonight. Go teams.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Aeros v. Milwaukee Admirals - Game 19

I'm not willing to call the ship righted just yet, but the Aeros were better tonight and Nolan Schaefer was out of his mind. The biggest disappointment from this game isn't so much the 2-1 overtime loss, as the loss for Schaefer, who made several HUGE saves and kept the team in the game in spite of a woeful offensive showing. The shots were there for the Aeros, they just were right on the goalie every time. Just like last year. *sigh*

The one goal the Aeros got was a fluky one on a Stoner shot that looked like it was going to go wide of the net and MacIntyre was going around to play it behind the net, but it took a funny hop and all he could do was dive back around the post as it slid into the goal.

The real pisser is that the OT game winner was lasered past Schaefer by ... wait for it... Ryan Effing Jones. Here's hoping Zids gets a couple against Nashville tomorrow to make up for that shit. Punk.

Now, you all know I adore these guys, so it hurts me to call out a guy I bragged on a lot last season for his solid play and his puck possession. But Marco Rosa has Pierre Marc Boucharditis in the worst way and I'm finding myself with having to look away when he has the puck. He dangles and dekes and twirls and stick-handles when what he should be doing is going to the net and SHOOTING THE PUCK. Good lord and butter. I can't even talk about it anymore. It makes me dizzy to even think about it. Marco, shoot the puck. Just go to the net like you're so good at and shoot. Stop being fancy. Stop giving the goalie time to set up for you. SHOOT!

I'm tired, so that's it for tonight. And it's a long weekend for the boys with 3 games in less than 48 hours then two more games on Tuesday and Thursday this week. Woof.

Scratches were Kassian, Falk, and Love, FYI.

Andrew's Chronicle article
Royal's blog post

BTW, I forgot to mention a couple of things:

  • That damn ref called every little thing. It was pretty even, but almost to the point where it felt like there were a bunch of make-up calls. Hockey's a contact sport still, right?
  • Krys Kolanos played really physical last night! To the point where I was wondering if he had a particular vendetta against this team or Constantine's put him on a Pay-Per-Hit plan. It was odd. Normally I like the guys hitting as much as possible but that guy, I want him living and dying on putting that puck in the net. Still, it's nice to see he CAN do it.
  • Meanwhile, the other "scorers" seem to be getting smaller and smaller and more invisible. Except for Hamilton, who continues to do his Holmstrom thing in front of the net.
  • Valette also seemed to have a bee in his bonnet at the start. He looked like Clutterbuck out there (just less smart about it as he ended up in the penalty box after a hit).
  • There was only one fight (Scott v. Yonkman, precipitated by that penalty-worthy hit by Valette) but it was a pretty chippy game at times. Scott, in particular, seemed to want another shot at Yonkman and was being kind of a ninny about it. It's good to be tough and stand up for your teammates but don't keep putting yourself in the box over it.

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Aeros pre-game; third jersey rankings

The Aeros are gearing up today for one of their 15 (FIFTEEN! I still can't believe it) 3-in-3s starting tonight. They face the Milwaukee Admirals tonight and Sunday and travel to San Antonio tomorrow.

In town with Milwaukee is former Wild prospect Ryan Jones who was traded to Nashville this summer for Marek Zidlicky. I think a lot of folks, including me, were pretty disappointed with losing Ryan from the system, even though Zids was a solid acquisition. But Ryan is a good hockey player and seems like a quality guy. Would have been nice to keep him around.

Anyway, he made the Nashville squad out of camp (along with our Joel Ward, who is apparently among the best shot blocking forwards in the NHL thus far) but was sent down recently, and is staying down, it sounds like until the big club has a need. Will be fun to see the kid again, at least until he scores on us, and then I'll be wishing for his stick to break everytime he goes to shoot. :)

And yeah, I'm ignoring the 800 lb gorilla in the corner related to how bad the Aeros were last time we saw them. Mr. Conduct is bringing a non-hockey fan to the game tonight. It'd be awfully nice to create a fan out of him tonight.

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Icethetics came out with their Third Jersey rankings and it's an interesting look to see them all together. Though, while I appreciate the drama of clicking to unveil each one, that's a bit tedious. Otherwise, good stuff.

My favorite, for some reason, is the Kings' third, which ranked pretty low. The thing about these thirds is that while some of the jerseys look awesome on their own, in the context of the whole uniform, they get a little bit fug. But the Kings is just badass. I love it. And my ranking here would be VERY different, but that's the fun. Everyone has a different take.

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Come on, man!

I didn't comment on the Covered in Oil "blogger vs. team" debacle a few weeks ago. I understand the organization's perspective, but I'm also a fan, a blogger, and a reasonable person, so I can certainly relate to the blogger's position. I figure if I'm gonna sit on the fence about it, I don't really have any business commenting.

However, my other favorite juniors blogger, Wrap Around Curl, who writes about the Spokane Chiefs (Justin Falk's old team) has run into a different flavor of blogger vs. team smack-down. In this case, she is not credentialed by the team and has no relationship with the team. She's just a fan with a great blog.

But apparently the Chiefs organization has dropped a few lawyerly nastygrams on her with regard to the use of photos of the team, the t-shirts and other gear she has for sale, and more. You can read about it here.

Now, I kinda get the issues with the shirts and stuff, though I think they're pretty cool and if the organization were smart, they'd get in on that action and make them official. But I can understand them having an issue with someone profiting off one of their player's names.

However, when it comes to her blog, they're ridiculous for trying to restrict the images and other content she posts. I'm too lazy to get into a whole thing here so I'll just drop to the bottom line: Wrap is the kind of fan teams should be falling all over themselves for.

Visible, knowledgable, spirited, funny, smart, committed. These are the fans teams should be cultivating. They spread the word of the team from a "by a fan for the fans" perspective that's approachable and fresh and engaging. Sure, she may say things that make the team PR guy squirm a little (to which I say "Stop being so square, man!"), but it's ultimately harmless and in the spirit of fun and appreciation for the team. Isn't that what being a hockey fan is about?

And once again I find myself grateful to write about an organization that has been pretty easy going and welcoming, even though my press pass is based on my ProHockeyNews association and not my blog. Rock on, Aeros.

And good luck, Wrap. And please join the rest of us in 2008, Chiefs.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gobble x 2

Yesterday, my favorite juniors blogger, Schultzie, posted her Thanksgiving thankfuls, and I thought that was a fantastic idea worthy of blatant copycattery.

First of all, I'm so grateful to Mr. Conduct, who taught me to love sports and now allows me to wallow in my obsession, neglecting him and the dog and pretty much everything else, nearly year-round in favor of writing about, watching, or playing this sport that has grabbed me by the heart and head so fiercely over the last couple of years. I don't know why he puts up with me, but I'm forever thankful that he does.

After that, I'm thankful for hockey itself. It has truly changed my life. At 33, I feel like a kid again--like I've gotten my second wind in life and unearthed a passion that, from where I sit right now, seems limitless. I should probably throw a "thanks, eh?" to Canadians in general as part of that. You know I adore you, Canada.

Coach Stalin is high on the list as well. She paved the path for learning to play hockey in her usual, "I want to do this, so I'm doing it!" way, and made it look like so much fun, how could I not? Then she patiently (very patiently) taught me to skate, played therapist while I angsted my way through all that, and has never pulled any punches along the way. You need one really honest person when you're doing something like this. It's nice to hear "great shift" from your linemates, but you need someone on the other side saying, "Move your feet, bitch." Coach is truly a one of a kind person and I'm lucky to have hitched my wagon to her star for this adventure.

Next I'm grateful for Russoville... not only to the all-knowing Don, who is among the greatest hockey reporters in the nation and yet ridiculously approachable, both in his writing and in his dealing with fans... but also to the folks there from whom I've learned so much and been so welcomed. What I love is that Russoville has a surprising degree of level-headedness and maturity for a public forum. It's my Wild Sanctuary. I adore all the regulars but must especially thank Buddha for having the good sense and patience to give me a gentle shove down the path of writing about the Aeros. That was huge! And Nick, who is marvelous in many ways but is, above all, a life preserver of sanity in an ocean of nonsense. And KiPA who gives us the perspective of an outsider but the friendship of an insider (and makes sure I don't fall into the fantasy sports abyss). Thanks for laughing at my jokes, fellas. Except you, KiPA. You should laugh at my jokes more.

I'm thankful for the Wild Message Board, as that's where I cut my teeth as a Wild fan and found an incredibly knowledgeable group of fans and great discussions, once I learned to filter out the junior high bullshit. It's a strange microcosm of humanity and I've learned a ton about the team, hockey, and myself by being there. Moreover, I've felt welcome and appreciated by fans who were pretty hungry for prospect information.

I'm thankful for my novice league team, especially Coach Dan, whose quiet patience with us newbies is exactly what I need. I so appreciate being able to get where I need to be at my own pace. And I'm also thankful for Mike forcing me to man up and go over the boards. I can't even begin to explain or understand how much not doing that was holding me back mentally. And the rest of the green team, who have been supportive and tolerant beyond reason: I apologize for what I'm about to do to you. Red team: You're welcome. And of course, I'm grateful for Scott, the Canadian Goalie, for convincing me to just get out there and play hockey this summer, and now for getting me going in goal. And for shaving off that porn stache.

I'm thankful for my seat on press row. And to my colleagues who have welcomed me into the fold. And to Fred for his guidance and humor and knock-out gorgeous photos of the team.

I'm thankful for Aaron Voros' butt, Cal Clutterbuck's hits, Barry Brust's "riverboat gambler" goaltending, John Scott's fights, Mikko Koivu's mikkoness, Kurtis Foster's tenacity, and all the other players who bring something special to the sport to make it as interesting and fun and loveable as it is.

I'm thankful for the hockey blogosphere, especially the Wild hockey blogosphere, for reading me, linking me, and sharing their talents and passion with everyone.

And finally, I'm thankful for all you folks who come here and read what I have to say. I write about what interests me and just hope that it's interesting to someone else out there. And I see you reading and my numbers growing so maybe I'm doing something right, though my inner self-doubter thinks people just come back to see if it's gotten any better since last time. Ha! Nope. Sorry. Still long-winded and self-absorbed!

Have a marvelous Thanksgiving holiday, y'all.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quick Hits: Outdoor Rink, Insana gone-a, Wild chokers, etc.

Never mind that it's too warm to leave the doors open this evening, the city of Houston has put an outdoor ice rink in its new Discovery Green park downtown. There was a bit about it on the news tonight and you could see the standing puddles, but really, it was mostly frozen. Impressive given highs in the 70s today. I'll be checking that out. Though I'm not crazy about skating on rinks with no markings. Hockey snob...

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Jon Insana was released from his PTO with the Aeros today. With Mojzis coming back, someone was gonna be out and I figured it would be him over Love, who brings a much-needed toughness dimension. UPDATE: Insana signed with the Chicago Wolves on 11/28.

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I've never wanted less hockey. If I could have 5 hour hockey games and a 365-day-a-year NHL season, I'd take it in a heartbeat. I love hockey. But lately, the Wild are making me wish hockey games were only two 20-minute periods because they can't seem to play a third. Bleh.

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We got a microphone for Rock Band. I do not sing heavy metal worth a damn, but I can kick some butt on Boston and Kansas. More bands should be named after cities and states. I wonder if there's any Chicago on there.

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Müller is at the post office. I missed the delivery today and it requires a signature. I'll have him in my hot little hands by 8:30 Friday morning because I'm going to the post office as soon as they open.

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Giant pads + Me + Ice = Yikes

So, I went out to SLICE at lunchtime with my pants, pads, glove, and blocker and set goalie skates to ice in gear for the first time today.

I'll start with the good stuff:

  • Not once did I think, "WTF are you doing? This is ridiculous. This isn't going to happen." It was just as difficult as I thought it would be but not much more. But more importantly, it just felt like the right thing to be doing. Every bit of it. Dropping to a butterfly in the crease, trying (not really well) to move around the crease as though I were centering on the puck, just doing "goalie stuff" all felt right. As much better as I've gotten skating as a forward, it's never felt like what I should be doing. I looked like an idiot, but I was smiling. These don't usually go together for me.
  • Once I ditched the gear to do a couple of laps and cool off, I was doing some c-cuts down the ice and I heard a figure skating instructor telling her student, "See what she's doing? Bend your knees like that..." Coach Stalin would be so proud.
  • As I was leaving the rink with my pads slung over my shoulder, a couple of young boys in hockey skates (not rentals, so I'm assuming they play) were getting a drink out of the soda machine and I heard one of them say, "Ohhh! A GOALIE!" to his little friend. It was all I could do to turn the corner before I broke into a huge grin.
But the good list pretty much ends there.

Skating is clumsy but I expected that. It got better when I loosened the pads a bit during a break. The inner-thigh pads on the pants are the biggest problem. There are 3 layers of pads there, so I'm going to poke around in there and see if removing one would help (and not hurt).

Stand-up mobility in the crease is... passable. Not good and I'd get lit up pretty easily, but I know what I need to do to improve there.

Ohhh, but the butterfly. The butterfly. So, I'm in the crease and I drop. And... there... I... sit... The puck better just hit me where I sit because there is no moving. Well, there's flapping one or the other pad out like pinball flippers, but no lateral movement.

Now, I know you're supposed to be able to push off with your skate to move across, but that's a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was difficult to get enough traction to move and when I did, I just kinda spun in a circle. It was the height of coolness, I tell ya.

I occurred to me after the fact that maybe I'm supposed to be taking some pressure off my knee and onto my skate cowling? I dunno. But clearly there are some skills here that I don't have and don't know how to get. I'm not looking for anything fancy here. It's just unacceptable to drop into a fly and be completely stuck there. It's not like I'm getting back on my feet with any speed yet.

So, tips? Help? Anybody? Bueller?

Now, am I ready to do this for 2 hours on Sunday night? I don't know. I'm so much better in my head than I am actually on the ice that I'm having a hard time gauging it. :) I do recall thinking, as I left the ice today, "No way in hell I can play 2 hours on Sunday." But I'm not sure how to get there, which is what's bothering me the most right now.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fantasy Hockey: Week 7

Le sigh.

Well, 1 out of 3 ain't THAT bad I guess, right? This was still kind of a disappointing week in fantasy land.

I really wanted to win my Wild Message Board match-up this week and I didn't even come close. It was 5-6 but his goalies didn't play enough for their stats to count, and knowing my goalies, I'm sure I would have lost those categories, too. I did, however, win the PIM, and if you can only win one category, I'm happy with it being PIM. I'm now sitting at 15 of 20 in that league, which is pretty bad. But I dumped Fedoruk for Boedker, so while my PIM will suck, maybe I'll get some better stats out of the guy.

I'm ranked 8 of 10 in the Wildbloggers league. Probably time to look at my roster and see if there's room for improvement. I lost 2-6 this week but might have tied if my goalies hadn't sucked. Damn goalies.

BUT in the Russoville league, I seem to have stumbled onto some luck and am all the way up at #2 after toiling in the basement for a couple of weeks early on. I'm pretty pleased with that. It was a close match-up in almost every category and could have gone either way, but I got the win 9-5. But there isn't much separating the teams so I could fall into the abyss again pretty easily.

I also won my football this week by just a couple of points, and upon looking at the rankings, I see I'm in third and I've clinched a playoff spot! Sweet. I didn't even know that. So... cool! Thank you, Drew Brees!

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Ms. Conduct: Goalie Version

Make that Ms. Conduct: The Mismatched Goalie.

Doesn't matter. I'm ready to stop some pucks, bitches!

Gonna head out to SLICE for the lunchtime public skate tomorrow and give the bottom half a run on the ice and see how I handle it.

I'll say, it's pretty exhausting just putting the gear on but that's how it goes, I've found. At first, it was exhausting putting the skates on tight enough when I was first learning to skate. Then it was exhausting putting on player gear at first (now I can get suited up in about 10 minutes). Now it's exhausting putting on goalie gear. Mr. Conduct had to rescue me a couple of times. :) But that will get easier, too.

Mmm. My hands smell like hockey from that old glove and blocker. Nice.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Wow. Just wow.

You can imagine the utter giddiness in my living room tonight. And actually, I was late to turn on the game and had put it on during the commercial break right before Cal's first goal. Get that? Cal's FIRST goal. Because there were TWO. Because we in Clutter Nation knew it was gonna happen sooner than later.

Here's his First Star for the game:

And then his first star for the LEAGUE on NHL.com! Get out!


In only 10:14 of ice time, the little fella had 4 hits and 2 goals. Boogie may call him Cannonball but I call him Efficient!

Video is here. Photos (some fantastic ones of Cal) are here. Post-game interview here. And the Strib article here. And I'm declaring this Cal Clutterbuck Day on the Ms. Conduct blog. But who are we kidding... every day is Cal Clutterbuck day here.

Also, congrats to Jimmy Shepperd who also got his first goal for the season. Here's hoping this kicks off a string for the kid.

And if all that wasn't fantastic enough, I spent the entire game sitting on my new goalie leg pads to get them broken in a bit. All that's left to arrive is Müller. Ack!

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Dougie!

Joe O'Donnell interviewed Riser during one of the intermissions last night. Since I didn't get to talk to him, it's nice to hear his perspective a bit.

Go here and listen.

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It's a new day...

Hey, the sun still came up! Go figure!

I can't even tell you how tempting it is to go down to SLICE and watch the Aeros practice today. I actually am going down there to skate at lunch, so you can bet I'll swing by their rink and see if practice is still going on. too lazy to go skate today. Or the beatings. Though I think Mitch Love should get a pass on the beatings after his two fights yesterday.

Anyway, the Hockey Junkies made a funny yesterday and I forgot to post it. Go check it out for a Monday morning laugh.

Also, here's a pretty good analysis of tonight's Wild v. Caps game from the perspective of a Caps fan. I can only imagine how boring the Wild must seem when you have Ovechkin on your team. I mean, really...

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Aeros v. Hamilton Bulldogs - Game 18

Well, I arrived at the game with a headache and left with a migraine. Skipping hockey tonight as a result. Boo. But I can't seem to shake it. Wearing sunglasses in order to look at my screen.

Anyway, Aeros lost 4-0. And the score pretty much reflects the game perfectly. It was ugly and the parts that weren't ugly were boring. I really can't find a silver lining. The Aeros didn't even win all the fights.

As much as I felt the panic button didn't need to be pressed yesterday, I can't say the same today. And seeing as how Troy Ward missed his regular spot on the post-game interview due to being in a meeting immediately after the game, I'm guessing the feeling was mutual in the locker room. Fine game for the Wild GM to be lurking in the shadows.

Frankly, I'm not even going to bore you or myself by writing the game up. 24 penalties, 4 fights, Hamilton was 3/8 on the PP (meaning the Aeros PK sucked... the one goal that wasn't on the PP was Schaefer badly mishandling the puck when he tried to play it... I know it looks fun and exciting when Barry does it but some guys have it and some don't. Schaef doesn't have it).

And if I were there scouting the Hamilton squad in anticipation of a trade, I'd be looking at RW Matt D'Agostini. Chipchura would also be a great addition. I'm not saying anything... I'm just saying.

Scratches were: Kolanos (neck), Schultz (lower body), Insana, Mojzis.

Also, the boys were sporting new wheat-colored jerseys. Here's a picture. I feel mixed about them. They look like the red Wild jerseys but in wheat, which I've always thought might look nice, but I'm not so sure now. They mostly look dirty, especially against the white ice and white goalie pads. But after this game, I hope they just go ahead and donate them all to a needy high school or rec league team. That would be the sporting thing to do.

Mr. Royal, you picked a good time to go on vacation. If I'd known, I would have stowed away in your luggage.

Update: Here's Andrew's excellent article for the Chronicle.

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Coupe Grey 2008

The Canadian Football League is playing their "Super Bowl" today, called the Grey Cup. It's come down to the Calgary Stampeders vs. Montreal Alouettes, being played in Montreal. It's starting at 4:30 CT on Versus, home of obscure sports.

I went to my first Grey Cup in 2000 in Calgary, one of my favorite cities... Alberta's like a Canadian Texas, so I dig the people and the terrain quite a lot. I even have a fondness for the Flames since I went to my first NHL game on that same trip (where they boo'd the US national anthem). Wikipedia tells me it was the BC Lions vs. Montreal in that game. I don't remember it. I just remember being quite cold and walking around the University of Calgary before the game, enjoying crunching snow underfoot.

We went the next year to the Grey Cup in Montreal and, while Montreal is a magnificent city that I've come to appreciate the history of as part of becoming a hockey fan, I was surprised by how French it really was. Now coming from Texas, I know enough Spanish to not feel completely hopeless when surrounded by the language, but French? Nary a drop of French do I know. I was intimidated and didn't enjoy it like I should have. However, we did go to a Canadiens game where they cheered the US national anthem (post 9/11). Funny how things change.

Our last Grey Cup game was 2002 in Edmonton, but it was quite a bit more eventful than the others. We never just went up for the games. We'd go up for a week or so and drive around whatever part of the country we were in. For this trip, we had a genius idea to drive up from Calgary to Yellowknife, NWT and try to see the aurora borealis. I know. Dumb. But whatever.

Anyway, we get up there, which was an event unto itself, and find out there's a big storm coming later the day we were leaving, so we figure we better get the hell out of there as early as possible. We head out at 4 a.m. and all is well. We get about 100 miles north of High Level, AB and hit a patch of black ice, our Ford Explorer flips a couple of times into a ditch, fortunately landing jelly side up. The other fortunate thing is that there's a Greyhound bus with a satellite phone stopped at the top of the hill ahead of us and sees it all unfold.

He very kindly calls for help. We're generally okay but my shoulder is in a lot of pain from slamming into the door. We have glass in our hair and cuts here and there and our stuff is all out in the snow. The top of the truck is squished.

Some other truckers stop and I'm feeling woozy from shock and one lets me sit on his jacket so I'm not sitting on the cold ground. The rest help Mr. Conduct get our stuff out of the truck while we wait for the police and an ambulance. The sand truck comes by as I'm sitting there on the road. I flip him the bird for being an hour late to sand this patch of icy road.

The police come and let me sit in their warm truck next to a very big gun. Then the ambulance comes and they strap me down to a board with a neck brace and we take a scary, painful ride south to High Level and the nearest hospital. On the way up to Yellowknife, we'd been laughing about how they were all excited on the High Level radio station about new x-ray equipment at the hospital. Well, guess who ended up needing it. Yeah.

So, they x-ray me and nothing is broken but there's a ton of pain so it's rotator cuff or something. They give me Tylenol 3 and we take a cab to the hotel for the night and are absolutely GIDDY with joy over being alive. I mean, crazy happy, crying and laughing. I'm in huge pain and the T-3 isn't touching it. But we order pizza and figure out the rest of the trip.

We decide to take the bus to Edmonton for the Grey Cup. We get to the hotel in Edmonton and they take pity on me and my arm in an immobilizing sling and give us a suite because it's the only room with a king bed and I need room to sleep where I won't get jostled. The game was pretty fun. It was cold but I was still just happy to be alive and okay. Then we took the bus back to Calgary and flew home.

It was a high drama trip but I look back on it with strange fondness. My shoulder still isn't quite right, and I haven't been back to Canada or any other place with wintry weather. I had a lot of issues with driving after that, panic attacks and stuff, but I'm aces now and jonesing to get back to Canada, eat at The Keg (OMG I love that place), maybe hit the Boston Pizza, which is our go-to place up there, get laughed at for our southern accents, etc. I just love Canada, the people, the terrain. It's fantastic. And of course, the hockey.

Rumor has it that the 2010 Grey Cup is going to be in Hamilton, ON. And since I've never been to Toronto or the HHOF, I'm thinking we'll have to go up for that one.

Anyway, just a little rambling on my Canadian résumé for a Grey Cup Sunday. Go Stamps!

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Aeros v. Worcester Sharks - Game 17

Ahh, I wondered when the game would come where the tide would turn among Aeros fandom. In an interesting bit of organizational sychronicity, it came the same night as it did in Minnesota. And for both teams it's something along the lines of "ZOMG! WTF CAN'T WE SCORE????"

With the Wild, I think the concern is frighteningly legitimate. With the Aeros, I think the personnel is there to fix the problem, but the chemistry isn't. And according to Troy Ward, it is a bit slower in coming than they'd hoped. Both Ward and Mitch Love told Joe O'Donnell after the game that players, and in particular the "scorers," are not on the same page.

But I guess I'm not ready to pull out the razor blade just yet. There were some good things happening in this game. The Aeros were slow of foot out of the gate but after the first power play, had knocked the rust off and found their legs. From there, the energy level was impressive and the guys were playing good hockey, knowing where their teammates were on the ice, passing crisply and moving the puck under control.

The first Sharks goal was flukey, hitting Brust's blocker and bouncing straight up and over his head and into the net. Fortunately, it didn't phase the Aeros and they came back with a 5 on 3 power play goal from Noreau a little over a minute later. It was a pretty one, too. The Sharks gave Max all day to fake a shot, which froze the goalie, and then he fired it right in from the high slot.

I didn't catch the offense that started it, but Love and Moore dropped the mitts and had a good, well-matched fight. Love had the edge with the take-down. Dude can seriously take a punch, too. Looked like Moore got a couple of solid shots on him and Mitch just kept handing it back.

The first period ended with a 1-1 score and 9-9 shots, and the period absolutely felt like it. The evenness continued into the second. The Aeros came out hitting hard and fired up, looking like they felt like they had it. And just to confirm it, 5 minutes in, Lundbohm deflected an Insana shot from the point past the Shark's goalie, putting them in the lead.

Things kinda started looking out of sorts here. There was some extracurricular stuff going on by John Scott. He tripped a Sharks player who was headed to the bench. So, in retaliation, one of the Sharks players slashed an Aeros player as he was coming off the bench. Fortunately, the refs only saw the Shark's trip, so they got the penalty (which the Aeros did nothing with). And he was jawing with McLaren. And Love was jawing with Demers. And Brusty looked jumpy. Entertaining stuff but indicated to me that the team was losing their focus a bit.

And the Sharks were utterly unphased, keeping up the same pace until 9 minutes later, while Olvecky was serving a too many men penalty, they scored again, evening up the game.

The back and forth penalties continued into the third and the Sharks seemed to be getting stronger. Aeros were doing more dumping and chasing and the power play couldn't get any traction.

And then the clouds parted, angels sang, and John Scott got his first goal of the season! He was all alone in the high slot when Olvecky passed the puck out from beside the net and he just blasted it in. One thing you don't get to see much is John Scott celebrating his goals, but it's worth the wait. He was damn happy and so was the team. It's a big deal when the big man gets a goal.

But things were still off the rails and it showed when the Aeros found themselves in a 5 on 3 power play and let the Sharks breakaway for a shorthanded goal that hearkend back to the stomach-turning shootout last Sunday.

Then Scott got sent to the box with a hooking call and the Sharks scored the go-ahead goal with 1 second left on the penalty. It was clear, from here, that the Aeros bench was deflated. They spent the rest of the game fighting it and it just wasn't going to happen. Everyone was going a different direction and the cohesiveness, patience, and confidence earlier in the game was gone.

Constantine pulled Brust with a minute and a half left and the Sharks sealed the deal with an empty netter ending it 5-3

Some thoughts:

Brusty is looking bad in general, but is looking particlarly abysmal one-on-one. Time for him to man the door for a while. Go here and check out Fred's photos. Sorry, but that looks like a big ol' flinch to me in the photo with his eyes closed. Yeesh. Tough times for #33 and mental strength doesn't strike me as his forte, so it concerns me some.

I thought Morten Madsen had a good, engaged game and was very strong in man-on-man battles, but he and Hamilton were both -3 on the night. As much as people bitch about Scott, he was the team high +2. Though his hooking penalty negates that to some degree.

My impression from the post game interviews done by Joe O'Donnell is that there's a disconnect with the scorers on the team. The chemistry between them isn't developing as well or as quickly as the team had hoped and there are some good individual efforts going on, but not enough of a team effort on offense. I think they're gonna get there, though. What was nice to hear from Coach Ward was how much character he feels there is in that room and that the coaches really don't have to say much for this team to understand what they need to bring this afternoon against Hamilton.

My only disappointment is that they didn't win for the HUGE crowd that showed up last night for the first bobblehead give-away and military appreciation night. But for the casual fan, there was plenty going on and it was not boring hockey by any means. Hopefully that's enough to get them back for a few more games. It sure is more fun with bigger crowds.

Scratches were Rogers, Kassian, and Falk.

Scott got the third star.

Back again against Hamilton Bulldogs at 5:05 today, possibly with defenseman Tomas Mojzis among the ranks, as he was sent down by the Wild last night and flew in this morning.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Aeros gameday

The Aeros have been off since last Sunday's game so they should be nice and rested to face the Worcester Sharks tonight and Hamilton Bulldogs tomorrow.

The "Awkward Face-Off Award" goes to Steve Valette today as he played for Worcester the past two seasons. Seems like every game lately, one of the Aeros is up against his former team.

Shipley took some time in his blog today to throw some props to Erik Reitz for his solid play after a rocky start on the Wild blue line, and says that (finally!) guys are coming up from Houston and making significant contributions.

I noticed that Petr Kalus has joined on with the KHL's HC MVD in Balashikha. BTW, his name looks like this in Russian: Петр Калус . He's played 3 games with no points and 2 PIM.

More tonight...

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Quick Hits: Les, Cal, and Mikko

Mr. Alexander
Apparently, Rockets fans dislike each other and the Toyota Center, too. Check out the comments in particular. I'm not one to complain... I'd rather have hockey at the Toyota Center than no hockey at all, but the arena is certainly lacking in atmosphere due to the double-decker suites separating the lower bowl from the upper level.

The building formerly known as the Compaq Center was fantastic for hockey on the second level. Center ice tickets were $11 up there and the view was what you'd get in the chi-chi club level seats at most of these new arenas. I really hate what those suites at the TC do to the place. And even though I've moved with the cheese and am not in the class of those who pine for the Aeros-past or endlessly bemoan the empty seats at Aeros games, I still have a pang of sadness every time I drive by the GodDome there at Buffalo Speedway and 59. I'm not a religious person, unless hockey counts as a religion (in which case I am a puck-beating zealot), so I still quietly root for the echos of slapshots and fights and victories that might still linger in an un-refurbished corner of that building.

Mr. En Fuego
If any guy ever had a hot start to his rookie NHL season, it's Cannonball Cal. I saw a list of Calder Trophy contenders the other day and thought, "Pfft. Goals. Goals are for guys who can't hit."
Anyway, everyone is buzzing about the guy, who had a fantastic game Thursday against Vancouver, has moved into the top 8 in hits in the league and had 3 shots on goal, all of which were quality chances.

And after comparing all NHL players with 50+ hits, he leads the pack in TOI/Hit, making pain deliveries every 2:33 of ice time. Matt Cooke was the only one close with one hit every 3:04 minutes. Granted, it's a mostly irrelevant and flawed statistic, but still kind of interesting to me.

Oh yeah, and he got third star of the game. How 'bout them apples?

Apparently his vehicle has been rescued from the airport by Brusty (good man), he had a little extra pep in his step at practice Friday, and says he's taking one day at a time. He and the media have gotten a helluva lot of mileage out of that car full of his things sitting at IAH.

Mr. Franchise
Yesterday, Ross McKeon at Yahoo! Sports busted out his list of NHL Power Rankings and franchise players. The power rankings are pointless in my opinion so I won't comment on that, but I certainly have an opinion (and it's the gospel, I tell ya) on the franchise player for Minnesota:

8. Minnesota Wild (10-4-1, Previous: 10) –Let’s see a show of hands for Marian Gaborik. Thought so. Wonderfully talented, no question, but does anyone trust his health, not to mention his reluctance to sign long term? Unless you want to hang the franchise tag on large 19-year-old left wing Colton Gillies, the best bet here is that the franchise’s best player – whoever that might be – isn’t part of the franchise yet.
Ever heard of a little Finn called Mikko Koivu? You know, the one who Brian Rolston called "Franchise"? And putting aside the omission... Gillies? Really? Have you seen the kid play in the NHL yet? It's a good 3 years before he's even part of this discussion. I like the kid a lot. Mature beyond his years and I think he's going to be a very good power forward some day, but he's running the popcorn machine most of the time right now and has no business coming up in this discussion.

I know it's hard to put yourself out there and write about teams you don't follow, but it really isn't hard to figure that the Wild is Mikko's team. No question. And the fact that the NHL hasn't put out a Koivu t-shirt is a testament to their cluelessness about this team. Owen Nolan has a t-shirt and Mikko doesn't? For the love of all things tall, blond, and Finnish! Get it together, NHL marketing peeps.

(Though I can't even tell you how much I want this shirt.)

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Local Press on Alby

Sometimes Google Alerts doesn't catch them all, so I appreciate when folks pass stuff along to me that I might not have seen. Here's an article on Aeros defenseman Paul Albers from his hometown paper.

From the Melville Advance in Melville, Saskatchewan:

Albers follows ‘Aero’ plan

Paul Albers is anything but a stay-at-home defenseman.

Former Melville resident Albers is now plying his trade in Houston as a member of the American Hockey League’s Aeros, farm club for the National Hockey League Minnesota Wild.

Although Albers feels he had a good camp in September for the Wild he knows it’s difficult to know what to expect for the rest of the season.

“Camp went well in Minnesota. It’s too hard to know if you’re going to get a call up (from Houston to Minnesota),” says Albers. “I fit into the same role that I was used on the team for last year.”

The offensive-minded rear guard plays anywhere from 20-30 minutes a game, logging a lot of ice time with a regular shift and also on the penalty kill and some powerplay.

The Aeros are currently in the middle of the pack in the AHL Western Conference West Division, just four points out of first place.

“Our team here is starting to gel and we’re improving every game,” adds Albers.
Albers went undrafted after his graduating season for the Western Hockey League Vancouver Giants. The high scoring defenseman signed with the Wild as a free agent in 2006.

In his fifth and final WHL season Albers led all defensemen in scoring with 17 goals and 62 points over 70 regular season games.

He had 19 points in 18 playoff games helping to lead the Giants to the WHL title and was named to the Western Conference first all-star team as well as the Memorial Cup first all-star team.

The 2006-07 season saw Albers toil with Texas Wildcatters of the East Coast Hockey League. He managed 43 points and was named to the ECHL All-Rookie team and played in the ECHL all-star game.

He had 21 points in 69 games with the Aeros last year.

As for Albers future as far as the NHL might be concerned he’s just going to have to put his nose to the grindstone.

“I just have to continue to develop in Houston and see where that leads me.”
A few points:
  • I actually didn't know he'd played in the ECHL All Star Game. That's a nice honor at any level of the pro game.
  • Nice also to hear that he feels like the team is gelling and improving. It's hard to know from the outside what's really going on in the heart of a team, but when I hear it from players, I tend to believe it's genuine.
  • As a fan, Paul is one of my favorite Aeros defensemen, simply because of the way he plays the game. He's the picture of self-sacrifice out there, blocking shots like he's oblivious to the 6 oz. of rock hard pain rocketing at him. He's a guy who has been willing to pay the price 100% of the time, and that's about as endearing as a hockey player can be in my book. If I'm a goalie, I want Paul Albers in front of me.
  • I haven't heard his status after being out the last couple of games. He got creamed on a hit during the game in Grand Rapids and hasn't played since. Not sure whether he hit his head or banged up a shoulder or what, but hopefully he's on the mend. I saw him wandering around after the game Sunday, so at least we know he's mobile and vertical. :)

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Meet Müller


Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I found my inspiration, but it was one of those serendipity things, where I got a suggestion from Fred in my email and had Naming The Mask on my mind...

And then I flipped over to my Google Reader to find this article in the NY Times Slap Shot blog about Robert Müller, the German goalie who's had 2 brain tumor surgeries, continuous chemotherapy, and has now been diagnosed terminally ill with the tumors, which keep returning and don't have a cure. And rather than retreating from life at this news, he is back in goal, doing what he loves for as long as his body will let him.

IIHF did a great article that lays out his whole inspiring story. If that doesn't put a lump in your throat, you might want to get checked for a pulse.

I'd actually read about him a few days ago and was really moved by his story. So, to have the story resurface right as I was pondering mask names... I dunno. Seemed like kismet to me. And I knew instantly that I had to name it Müller.

The name will remind me that no matter how difficult things get between the pipes, it's still just a game and to have fun and put my heart into it and count my blessings for the privilege of getting to play the sport I love. Thank you for sharing your courage with the rest of us, Robert.

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And don't forget the blanket coverage of Cal Clutterbuck

Cal's looking mellow today. And a little like, "Can we please ignore the gorilla in the corner that is my lack of points?" We in Clutterbuck Nation know it will come. Back off, reporter boy (okay, we would have asked, too).

Go here to watch

Also, it appears that Harding is healthy enough to go if necessary, so Schaefer is being sent back to Houston and Mojzis is staying up. Yay for getting Nolan back but I was hoping the Aeros would get Mosey, too. I'm greedy like that.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When in Rome...

Thanks to the "better than sliced bread" Google Alerts, I just got this in my email. Apparently Providence Broons player, Adam McQuaid, does a blog for the team. It seems they were inspired by being in the south for a few days:

Our trip to Chicago, Houston and San Antonio didn’t go as well as we had hoped but we were able to salvage the trip with a big win in San Antonio and a bunch of the guys decided to pick up cowboy hats and big belt buckles and wore them through the airports on the way home, getting a few snickers here and there along the way.
Good stuff. The only thing better would be a picture of the fellas getting their Texas on...

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Random Assortment

Got a muffin basket of delight for y'all today:

First off, it looks like our favorite big, blond, Southern defenseman, Jon Awe, is doing just fine over in Korea. NHL.com reports he has 5 goals and 11 points for the Anyang Halla.

Next, thanks to my homeboys over at Hockey Wilderness for the bitchin' shout-out. Check 'em out. There's good stuff going on there.

Also, I just got notification from the Canadian postal service that my goalie mask was shipped yesterday. It's currently in Mississauga, ON. I don't know where that is or how you might pronounce it, but it sounds like a good place for a Canadian-made goalie mask to spend a few hours. How do you suppose it feels about coming to Texas? Suppose its little mask friends are laughing at it? Those smug Montreal-bound masks especially... les batards.

Also, if you don't think I'll spend at least one day wearing that thing around the house and hitting myself in the head as often as possible, you just don't know me very well.

Help me out though... my mask needs a name. Drop a suggestion in the comments. It's like the one pictured but solid black. Six months ago, I would have named it Marty. But, um, not now! Thanks for ruining my perfect mask name, Turco, Biron, and Brodeur!

(ETA: Also just got notification that my Goalie Monkey order has shipped! But it won't be here until next Monday, so no goalie for me this week.)

Lastly, Tomas Mojzis cleared waivers but according to the Russoblog the team has 48 hours to decide what to do about it. Sounds like it's riding on the "lower body" evaluation of Josh Harding today. I'm guessing his lower body is quite fine.

ETA: Oh! Another nugget from Ryan Stanzel's blog:

I got Erik Reitz and Derek Boogaard to record quick clips for the Houston Aeros, who are honoring the duo by including them in their Aeros Legends Bobblehead Series. Both have bobbleheads coming up soon, and they’ll both get a few for friends and family.
Sweet! I took a pass on the Obama/McCain bobbles but these? Oh hell yeah! The Boogie ones, especially, I would expect to be a hot commodity. And no, you can't have mine.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shuffle Continues

Now Dimples has been called up from Florida.

One question:

How is he in the shootout?

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Mojzis placed on waivers by Wild

Change is in the air today, isn't it? The Wild waived Tomas Mojzis, who was originally signed to kinda take Reitz's place in Houston and be the #1 depth guy on defense for the Wild. I'm going to assume he'll clear waivers and we'll get him down here, which is terrific news and good timing with several days before the next Aeros game.

Sucky for him, of course, but at least he won't be in the press box every night like he is in Minnesota. Wonder which d-man down here gets the shaft. John Scott was already playing forward quite a bit (somewhat inexplicably, but that's another post altogether). Love or Insana. I'd wager it's Love who sits a little more. And if Scott goes back to D and Albers gets healthy, that's two spots that go away.

Linky

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Schaef called up to the Wild

Apparently Josh Harding has a slight "lower body injury" so Schaef got the call to head to Pittsburgh to back up Backstrom.

I guess we'll see what the trickle-down effect will be if the call-up lasts longer than tonight's game. Fortunately the Aeros don't play again until Saturday and presumably have a day or two off here at the beginning of the week.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Save the Brahma for your mama

Jason Deitsch was returned to the Texas Brahmas (CHL) today. No great shakes but he was a decent filler guy with 7 points in 10 games. Knowing how injuries go, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of him this season.

Though I do wonder if his going home means Olvecky is expected to be healthy by this weekend.

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Aeros v. Bridgeport Sound Tigers - Game 16

Let's hit the superlatives first, shall we?

  1. The Tigers are the ORANGEST team the Aeros have played all season. And their goalie, Peter Mannino, has the coolest pads. (Thanks to Fred Trask for the great photo in the link. The shrunken version was so ugly, I just decided to link directly to the image.)
  2. My dear Brusty had the worst shootout I've ever seen a goalie have. And I watched every Wild game last season... a season in which Niklas Backstrom was the worst shootout goalie in the NHL. He let 4 of 4 in. I wonder if he slept at all last night. That's the shit that will haunt a guy. Calling Bob Mason STAT!
  3. Most perfunctory, pathetic fight by two guys over 6'8" goes to John Scott v. Mitch Fritz. Boys, if you don't have the heart to fight, don't do it. That was a monumentally depressing display. So half-hearted, so spiritless, so useless. Granted, John did open up a cut on Fritz and after about 30 seconds there was blood streaming down Fritz's face as though someone had been throwing bricks at his head. But still. Lamest fight ever. And I've seen plenty of Voros fights so I know lame when I see it. Fred posted pictures of the gore here. Scotty's still a tasty dish though. Nice to see him back.
  4. Huge block of the night went to Jason Ryznar who flopped himself on the ice as a Tiger player was winding up a big slapper and just totally blocked the shot with his body. That cannot have felt good, but damn if he didn't take one for the team there. That's heroic shit.
  5. Nice thought/bad result of the night: Remember how I was saying the team was relying too much on Kolanos.... passing to him when he had two men on him vs. their one man? Well, add in an anonymous donor offering $400 to Houston Aeros Charities for a Kolanos hat trick after he got the two goals of the night.

    The game turned into "Get the puck to Krys" even worse than usual. I'm not saying it cost them the game like some believe, but it's a problem, last night and every night Kolanos is in the line-up. Of course, considering he's the only one who can score on some nights, the impulse is understandable, but these guys need to believe in their own ability to get the puck to the net.
Anyway, onward...

As I mentioned the two Aeros goals were from Kolanos. The first was a prototypical sharp angled roofer that Kolanos is so good at. Amazing how he gets those in. It's like there's some spot that every goalie isn't covering from that angle and he knows how to hit it.

The second was a spectacular give and go with Jesse Schultz that even had me dizzy, so I'm sure the goalie was just about coming out of his breezers trying to keep up with the play around him. Definitely check AHLLive.com for the highlights to see this goal (might take a couple of days for that to show up). It was most improbable.

Overall, I thought the team played well, particularly in the second period, where they seemed to know where their teammates were on the ice, passes were getting where they needed to be, guys were working as a unit. Defense looked as solid as it did back at the end of last season and in the first 11:30 of the second period, the Aeros held Bridgeport to only one shot on goal. They were clicking.

And then the donation was announced with 2:40 left in the second and it was pretty much downhill from there. I mean, yeah, they were killing penalties well (BTW, Kolanos had THREE minor penalties in the game) but they seemed to lose their focus and the domination of the second period was history. Blake Comeau popped one in, and then, during a 6 on 4 Bridgeport power play (goalie was pulled to get the 6th man out), Iggulden got one past Barry with 5 seconds left on the clock.

Both teams played well and hard in OT, but both defenses were on fire and kept the shot count to 1-0 in favor of the Aeros for the 5 minutes.

I almost don't even want to talk about the shootout, it was so painful. Brust, having looked SO good all game, couldn't have stopped a beach ball. Every one of them got past him like he was standing still. The Aeros got in 2 of the 4 attempts they made (Madsen and Locke potted theirs while Kolanos and Hamilton did not), but it wasn't enough.

It was a tough loss but Constantine was fairly optimistic afterward. Definitely a different disposition from the loss to the Baby Pens two weeks earlier where he was clearly troubled by the game.

Anyway, nice to have the boys home for a good long stretch and they don't seem to have the 07-08 team's problem of terrible games after a long layoff, so hopefully next Saturday's game will be the start of a good month-long run at home and some of the injured guys will be back on the ice.

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All Star Voting!

You can't complain about the results unless you vote. Of course, the Canadiens fans took that to a rather incredible extreme and voted a gazillion times, so the whole Eastern team is going to be Habs players. Yawn.

But check it out, they made a little widget so you can share the very personal decisions you made in your voting with the rest of the world. I made some decisions that a lot of people won't like, but if anything, that should encourage you to go vote yourself (especially now that they've mostly taken care of the initially-very-buggy web page it's on).



Some of my picks are obvious, some aren't so much:

  • Koivu vs. Koivu just HAS to happen, ya dig? Don't vote for one without the other, got it?
  • Iginla is a Wild Killer but damn if I don't just love that guy.
  • Burns is on my Dream Dinner Party list. You have to love this guy. No really. It's not an option. Chuck Norris will kick your ass if you don't comply.
  • Can't really argue with Lidstrom, right? One of the greatest. And I don't feel much affinity for any of the other Western d-men.
  • Backstrom, The Goalie, has been on fire this season. There's a bit of homer in that pick but I contend that he's a contender.
  • In the east, I really have no loyalties to anyone. I've explained Saku, and then Crosby and Ovechkin because they're just exciting players to watch and since I don't care about the players specifically in the east, why not pick the the guys I actually want to see?
  • Chara's huge and freaky. What else do you need?
  • Komisarek is the long lost third Koivu brother and just adds to the marvelousness of the other two Koivus matching up here.
  • And as I've said, I'm totally down with the WRITE-IN FOR TIMMMMMMAAAAAY! movement.
  • Finally, I also wrote in Clutterbuck. Because while there are other players in the West who I like, I don't really care enough to vote for one of them. So I'm throwing some props my boy's way. What the hell. It's all for fun.
Now, when you go vote (not IF but WHEN), they've added a little code thingy you have to type in to make sure you're human and not a Habs fan. You may have to refresh the page to get that to show up, so check for it before you start entering your votes. Otherwise it gets angry with you.

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Aeros v. Lake Erie Monsters - Game 15

The Aeros spent most of the week after a long 4-in-5 weekend in Cleveland going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, skinny dipping in Lake Erie, taking pictures next to the big FREE sculpture, etc.

That is to say, they were nicely rested from the grueling weekend, Krys Kolanos was back, John Scott was playing forward, and everyone was feeling fine by the looks of things, as the Aeros put a 3-1 victory in the books and headed for home.

Well, everyone was feeling fine except Peter Olvecky and Paul Albers, both of whom have either upper or lower body injuries. None of your beezwax which.

Also this game was a homecoming for Mitch Love, who played for Lake Erie last season. He even got into a bit of a skirmish near the end with Chris Durno, former San Antonio Rampager. I didn't get to see it, so I'm going to assume Mitch won and Durno went home crying to mama.

Brust played an excellent game stopping 30 of 31 shots. And really, if there was any consistency to the officiating in the AHL, the one that got in wouldn't have been a goal because there was a LEM player literally INSIDE the net (along with Brust, whom he ran and took into the net with him) when the puck went in. Talk about goalie interference! You can go to AHLLive.com and see the highlights for free.

The goals came from Hamilton, who had a great feed from Locker and just tucked it in point blank on the poor goalie. Then Noreau had a classic Noreau goal firing a shot from the high slot on a power play. Then Rosa got another power play goal, banging in a Stoner rebound from the bottom of the circle and down on one knee. Rosa hasn't been impressing me lately, but that was a nice goal.

Aside from the two injured guys, Kassian was also scratched for this game.

And pardon me for a minute while I go off on a tangent:

I'll tell you what stood out to me most of all was the large crowd there at Quicken Loans Arena and the relentless and cheesy, but fun, in-game entertainment. The choices of music and video clips (the AHLLive feed was the jumbotron feed) and funny little things they did was pretty good. Even got under my skin a little and I wasn't even there! It looked like a really fun atmosphere for a hockey game and I'd love to see the Aeros perk things up a little and get a sense of humor.

I will give them credit for ditching the truly awful Cowboy Mouth song they were using to tease the game and replacing it with something not corny and even slightly badass. I still don't understand why they play Three Dog Night's "One is the Loneliest Number" for the other team's first goal. Shouldn't they play something to pump everyone up. A quick search on iTunes for "lucky" reveals a song of the same name from a band called Lucky Twice. Upbeat, mocking the other team saying their goal was lucky, what more can you ask for in an opponents' goal song?



I know I shouldn't complain because I haven't heard God Bless America even once this season, but I will anyway. The Lake Erie game just reminded me of how much more fun they could be having with these games at the Toyota Center.

/end tangent

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Fantasy Hockey: Week 6

Things are looking up! I won two of my match-ups this week! And ironically, the team with my best goalie tandem is the one that's sinking like a rock.

In my Wildbloggers league, I got SPANKED (7-2). I did rock out the PIM though, so I think in the real world, we'd have just kicked the shit out of the other team and called it a day. I"m now third from the basement in this league. THAT'S worth booing. And how do you lose all 3 goalie categories with Miller and Osgood??? If they'd played better, I'd have won this match-up, too.

In my favorite Russoville league, I crushed (9-4) the same manager that spanked me in the Wildbloggers league. Kinda funny that we matched up in both leagues on the same week. I've moved up to #5 in Russoville Fantasy Hockey, which is a-ok by me. Sneaking up on you bastards at the top. Keep your head on a swivel, boys and girls!

In the Wild Message Board league, I moved up a few notches after beating angelina_e 8-2, but most of the categories were pretty close. Her goalies did her in. One of them is Jeff Deslauries, the goalie I was raving about earlier this week. Heh. I'd rather be wrong about him and win fantasy hockey, frankly. Sean Avery sucks this year, though. I may have to do a little LW shopping this week. (Update: I added Loui Eriksson and dropped Avery.)

ETA: I also won my fantasy football match-up this week in another squeaker. That's going pretty well, too. *knock on wood*

Okay, battery is going dead both on my laptop and in my body. Much more tomorrow as I wrap up the Aeros weekend, including the heartbreaker today.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Oh boy. Here goes!

I just placed an order that completes my goalie gear acquisitions, at least for getting started. The only things I'll need to replace is the chest & arm protector (the one I have is a bit small, but it will do until I can get to Dallas and try some on) and the glove and blocker (but that should last me a while, I hope).

So, here's the rundown:

  • C/A is a used Brian's Pro something or other. Feels like a lot when it's on but doesn't look as huge as most of them nowadays.
  • Glove and blocker are some old Cooper Reactors that look to be in good shape. I figure having them broken in isn't a bad thing. Of course, they don't match the rest of my gear, but whatever.
  • Mask is a black Hackva with a certified cage. Supposed to be absolutely the best mask for the money, so I'm really excited about that.
  • Pants are RBK 6K in black.
  • Pads are RBK 6K "Pro Spec" 34" all white with silver accents (like the photo except the black part is white)
  • RBK lexan dangler
  • Vaughn neck and clavicle protector
  • Itech goalie jill
  • Free GoalieMonkey jersey in grey (or whatever color they decide to send me if there's no grey)
All that's left is to figure out what to wear on my legs. I need to hit Academy later so I'll see what might work there.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

PHN: Aeros search for identity

My latest for ProHockeyNews.com.

I'm so in love with that picture of Schaef and Kass after the San Antonio win. It's better a bit larger because you can see the big grin on Nolan's face.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Clutterbuck vs. Gretzky

Wow. Helluva a Wild game tonight against Phoenix. 4-0 domination that had Gretzky red in the face and saying his team played like Juniors after the game. But, of course, the highlight for me is that Cal REALLY got under the Yotes' skin, leading to a fight against Keith Yandle (whom Cal probably started pissing off last year in Houston), and he drew a critical penalty that led to a goal. Clearly his best game in the NHL.

Here's the video of the fight. Apparently Gretz was screaming at him after the fight for leaving his lid on with a visor on it. I'd like you to note the point before the fight where Cal unsnaps his helmet and offers to take it off, but Yandle doesn't respond in kind, so he leaves it on. That was a perfectly reasonable decision IMO. Why leave yourself vulnerable if the other guy isn't going to man up?



Awesome.

Updated:
From Shipley's blog (who always makes me want donuts):

Cal Clutterbuck had his first fight of the season, giving Keith Yandle the business in a short bout early in the third period. Clutterbuck was so full of adrenaline, he nearly skated through the glass on his way to the penalty box.

“I was excited; it’s been a while since I’ve fought anybody,” he said. “It’s good to get that monkey off your back. It’s kind of like scoring a goal; you don’t fight for a while, you start doubting yourself. It’s good to get out there and just get into it again.”

Clutterbuck said he put a couple of good licks on Derek Morris to draw the ire of Yandle, but noted their relationship goes back to the AHL, when Clutterbuck was in Houston and Yandle was in San Antonio.
And here's the HockeyFights.com page for the bout.

Couple of nice pics of the fight here.

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Funny story from the road

I read Stanzel's blog about everything he goes through to make the players' travel convenient and timely and comfortable, and I recognize that I would be absolutely awful at such a job and have quite a bit of respect for it as such.

So, Joe O'Donnell's tale of woe about Patrick Armstrong, Stanzel's equivalent for the Aeros, is particularly painful and funny. Check out his latest blog post here.

What struck me is that Justin Falk was the only one to get behind Patrick. Is he just a really nice kid or maybe thinks he'll get more press if he sucks up to the media guy? Either way, I thought that was kinda charming.

The boys have had quite a few days to recouperate and hopefully see some friends and family, being so close to home for some of them. Nice little recharge. Here's hoping it pays off on the ice Friday and beyond.

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Hallelujah!

Kolanos has been reassigned to Houston! I was hoping with Olden Nolen returning to the ice that would happen. Though Russo says he's going to meet the team in Houston, which doesn't make any sense unless he's injured or something. They're in Cleveland another two days so it's not like he'd be cutting it too close to play.

UPDATE: Royal says he'll be meeting the team in Cleveland after all. I'm gonna assume that's true because I like that answer better. ;) Oh and Ryan Stanzel, Wild Media Dude and Blogger Extraordinaire confirmed it as well. Right on.

Whatever. Just bring your scoring stick, sugar.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Add this guy....

Jeff Deslauriers, to the list of young goalies I'm keeping an eye on as their careers progress.

I watched him calmly and flexibly spank the Rangers the other night and have been intrigued ever since. He's a big guy at 6'4" and has kind of a unique style. You know goalies have to be flexible, but this dude is constantly flopping into the splits. He's beyond flexible. He's Stretch Armstrong.

The Oil seem to have something in this kid. Here's a THN article about him. I mean, you never really know when guys bust out of seemingly nowhere and blow everyone away on a national level. But goalies don't seem to have the "beginner's luck" that skaters seem to have. In the NHL, if you aren't the real deal (and sometimes even if you are), they're gonna gitcha.

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Aeros v. Grand Rapids Griffins - Game 14

Not much fuss was made of it on our end, since it seems we hardly know the Aeros new defenseman. But Jon Insana spent the last two seasons with Grand Rapids, so it was a homecoming for him and here's a nice little article about it.

The boys in the bombers lost again in Grand Rapids yesterday in a 1-0 game reminiscent of last season, where the defense and goaltending being amazing just wasn't enough. They were tired, they were beat up (and judging by the big hit on Paul Albers early in the game, from which he didn't return, they're even MORE beat up now), they are probably really ready to come home after 4 games in 5 days, 3 of which were within 48 hours of each other.

And alas, the road trip continues to Cleveland for Friday's game against the Lake Erie Monsters. These are the tests that put hair on your chest and build team character.

It was an odd game. The Griffins came out of the gate looking very much like their parent club. They were just stifling in their puck possession. The first period literally looked like a 20 minute penalty kill for the Aeros. It was all they could do to defend-defend-defend, dump, change, defend-defend-defend. This is a game where the team really could have used Krys Kolanos and/or Ryan Hamilton (who was out with an injury) for their ability to break through the D and get to the net.

The first period ended with 3 shots for the Aeros and 11 for the Griffins and that tells the tale of that period pretty well.

In the second, the team started to get a little traction but not much, and four minutes of penalties didn't help the sense that the endless penalty kill was hanging around from the first period. However, they did get 7 shots vs. the Griffins 14 in the second.

Then in the third, the game started to even out and the Aeros were getting quality chances AND redirecting the constant barrage aimed at Nolan Schaefer the previous 40 minutes. Both teams ended the third with 6 shots on goal, but the Areos just didn't have a goal in them.

Never the less, the final shot count of 16 to 31 told the tale. You can't shoot if you don't have the puck and the Griffins were masterful at getting and keeping the puck.

Scratches were: Love, Olvecky (injured), Hamilton (injured)

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nobody looks cool in goalie skates...

Not even hottie Henrik.

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A shared angst...

This is why I love hockey fans, regardless of their personal foibles that might otherwise repel me.

Hockey fans do angsty and superstitious and quirky better than any other breed of sports fan anywhere else in the world. I dig that. I relate to that.

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Aeros v. Syracuse Crunch - Game 13

I was kinda letting this game slip by. I watched it. The guys played hard but not smart, and just couldn't get the biscuit in the basket enough to collect the win. Syracuse is a team that's gelled and I believe that's the difference. The Aeros kept up with the physical game, but just weren't playing together.

The power play was dreadful, the PK was good enough, but they couldn't get traction 5 on 5. Outside of Brusty, who was sharp, Ryan Hamilton made some great chances for himself and played like he wasn't afraid of shooting on the net like Some Guys, and I thought Paul Albers played a good game as well... stayed calm and patient with the puck no matter the pressure being put on him to cough it up. That's nice to see in a young player.

What's weird is that the same Aeros forwards were on the ice for all three goals, including the Aeros': Rosa, Lammers, and Deitsch. Love the offense, but ya gotta play D, boys. And Stoner and Insana were the defensemen on both the Crunch goals, in fact, Stoner own-goaled the first one. Poor guy.

Anyway, as I said, I was gonna just let that one go. There's a lunchtime game today in Grand Rapids, so that should be fun. But then my Google Alerts (best thing since sliced bread) alerted me to the HockeyFights.com page for the fight between Jon "Nasty" Mirasty and Matt "Squee" Kassian. It was a doozy and Kass seems to have impressed the hockey fighterati with his performance. Go here for a clip and the voting.

As for housekeeping, quickly, Lundy is still wearing the C. I'll be interested to see if it changes when they get back home. Healthy scratches were Valette and Falk. Olvecky was still out with an injury to either his upper or lower body, no doubt, but we don't need to know the specifics. See how that works?
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As an aside, I ran across this article today. I'm sure my Hockey Widower can relate to it, big time.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Fantasy Hockey: Week 5

If this keeps up, I'm going to have to make some Kipper and Turco voodoo dolls and do mean things to them. I guess I should just be grateful I didn't pick Brodeur or DiPietro and STFU, right?

Anyway, in the Wildbloggers league, I lost with gusto and dropped to 5th place. Even if I hadn't forgotten to set my roster for Sunday, I don't think it would have helped me any. I got wolloped.

In the Russoville league, Jokinen and Iginla prove to be a solid leadership team, in spite of my goalies being Turco and Biron. Lord have mercy. I beat Kevin this week and jumped from the lowly basement slot to #7. Woohoo!

The Wild Message Board league had me losing just as badly as in the Wildbloggers and dropped down to 17. Ouch. And this week I'm up against angelina_e, who is one formidable chica. Here's hoping she forgets to set her roster for a few days.

Gonna lose this week in football, too, unless Steve Breaston and the Cardinals defense pull off a helluva game tonight. Got 25 points to make up. ETA: Done! Amazing. Squeaked by with like half a point...

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I'm in possession of...

a big black bag of GOALIE GEAR! WOO!

The lovely and charming Scott, The Canadian Goalie, brought me his old stuff tonight. Sounds like the pads need some straps and I'll need a jill and goalie pants and a dangler to wear with my player lid, but that's about it, assuming the rest of it fits okay. He included his old mask but the chin is busted up and it's not safe to wear, but I put it on anyway when I got home just because I've never worn a goalie mask. It was smelly and awesome!

Anyway, I'm completely stoked and probably also completely naive as to what I've gotten myself into, but that's okay.

Had a great practice (even got a sick backhanded goal on one of the drills... I think backhanded goals are my thing... the goalies assume I've got no aim on the backhand but it actually seems a bit better than forehand for some reason) and then we did two 20 minutes periods of scrimmage that were really fun and I felt like I was skating well and had a little more puck action than usual (for me).

Got a throbber of a headache though. Advil needs to start working pronto.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

MYOB: Injury Status in the NHL

Alright, I suspect I'm in the minority given the bellyaching I'm hearing about the new NHL p0licy around injury disclosure, but I've read it all and still fail to see why fans are remotely upset about this.

Now, granted, Wild Assistant GM Tom Lynn has been his usual direct, no-mincing-words self on the subject, which is rubbing Wild fans the wrong way. I can see why it comes across abrasive and arrogant to fans, but I appreciate his candor and directness. Seems like Riser's the good cop, Lynn's the bad cop. That's fine with me. Somebody's gotta be the asshole.

And I'll be honest, I agree with Lynn on the injury policy. As a fan, I don't need to know what the injury is and I think any observant fan can look at a player's skating and/or traveling status (through beat reports and such) to get a reasonable sense of the severity of the injury.

I don't understand why paying fans are so deserving of the details of a player's injury. They're out. They're not playing. What else do you need to know? If you have tickets, they're still out regardless of the reason. If you're thinking about buying tickets and you're only going to see that player, as mentioned above, it's pretty easy to get a gauge of the player's status.

Since this has started, I've not once felt deprived of the information I needed to make decisions around this team. Granted, I'm not buying tickets to NHL games too much but if I were, it wouldn't be based on whether one or two players were in or out of the game.

What am I missing here? Help me out, because people whose reasoning I usually have a good deal of respect for are up in arms and I'm just completely taken aback by it.

Now, from a beat reporter's perspective, I get why Russo and others in the media are frustrated and pushing back in their way. It's an insult to their intelligence when they can clearly see players limping around the locker room, icing this or that body part, etc. to have to dance around what they know to be true. That goes against the mentality of a journalist.

But fans? I don't get why you're upset. What difference does it make other than assuaging your curiosity? What decisions are you making differently, or are having difficulty making, as a result of this change?

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Aeros v. Rochester Amerks - Game 12

The only good thing about this game was the interview with Constantine in the first intermission, which will provide lots of quotes for my PHN article.

Beyond that, the team played down to the level of BY FAR the worst team in the AHL. I'm guessing that was a long, quiet drive to Syracuse last night for today's game at 2 p.m. Central.
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For the first hand report, from Nick in New York, go here. Unfortunately, this was one of the worst Aeros games ... ever? Bad sampling and I'm not sure Constantine should be thrown under the bus quite so hard. I believe in him, but his team is strug-gul-ing right now to find the will to pay the price.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

1 or 2? 2 or 3? 3 or 4?

Here's some music to listen to while you read this post. I'm in a Willie Nelson mood today:



So, I went to the eye doctor yesterday. I've always had very good vision, just a very slight nearsightedness that bothered me in college a bit trying to see the board at the front of the big classrooms at UT. So I hadn't been in about 7 years, but no biggie.

The only thing I knew I had wrong is that my binocular vision was a bit off. For instance, when they tested my vision at the DPS for my driver's license, I couldn't see the test properly in the little viewfinder thing. But it's never really been an issue for me in normal everyday life, so I never dealt with it. I just avoided situations where hand-eye coordination was critical.

And now that I'm looking at putting myself in goal, I figured I could just play some catch, do a little juggling, and I'd get better at seeing the puck. But I guess in the back of my head, I was kinda feeling like the problem was getting worse (stubbing my toe more often, watching TV with one eye at night because when they're tired, they even less want to focus on the same thing at once) and felt like it might be problem for playing goal.

Well, it turns out I have pretty jacked up binocular impairment. This just means that the two images my eyes see don't come together to form one image in my head like it does for most people. It forms two and my brain has to filter one of them out. So, you can imagine how difficult under those circumstances it is to put your hand on something that's hurtling toward you with considerable velocity when your brain is trying to assess which image is the right one and convey that to the rest of the body to get in front of it.

It's a significant issue for a goaltender. And of course, now that I know what it is and how bad it is, I'm constantly aware of it. Such is the fixation of a hypochondriac like me.

I had a little meltdown about it this morning but am getting a grip on myself and forging ahead. After some research, it turns out that there's something called Vision Therapy and there's a well-respected practitioner here in Houston, who even has a sports vision specialty. The only catch is that, as far as I can tell, this therapy is not covered under either vision insurance or regular medical insurance. It really should be treated like physical therapy or something of that nature but I don't think it is. It isn't a deal-breaker but it's a factor. As if goalie gear isn't expensive enough, I gotta now go drop $? to get binocular vision.

The good thing is that apparently, once you're treated, you're treated for life. It's not a problem that comes back over time or that you have to keep getting treated to maintain.

So, I'm probably going to see about getting a consultation with these folks and see if it would be beneficial to get treatment, but I'm also still going to get in net as soon as possible. I figure what better way to gauge improvement than by putting my vision to the ultimate test. So, let me apologize to my team in advance for my deformed eyeballs.

And those glasses I thought I needed? Apparently my distance vision is still as good as it was in college, so anything I miss watching the game from press row is just me being an inattentive dumbass. Now THAT is a let down...

Okay, I feel better. How about a little goaltending song? Ahhh, to be back in a Hip mood. Yes.

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Aeros v. Hamilton Bullpups - Game 11 (Updated)

Here's a great pic of Jesse Schultz from the game tonight. Thanks to MattJohnsonFan for sharing these!

I will say this... I went to dinner at Houston's tonight and had the French Dip. One guess as to what we jokingly call that dish...

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Okay, finally sitting down after a busy, stressful morning. More on that later.

The Aeros 3-1 win over Hamilton last night left me with the following primary thoughts:

  1. I'm surprised they won. Last year's Aeros were atrocious after 4 game-less days. And the team had a few new guys in the line-up, one of whom (John Scott) was coming off a long, untested injury. The other being Valette, who is up on a PTO. And the Aeros are missing Krys Kolanos, who was on an impressive 5 goal streak before being called up to the Wild. AND, Hamilton is a good team with an 8-3-1-0 record and playing at home.

    BUT, they did have Locke and Hamilton back in the line-up, lots of rested bodies, and a pretty bad taste from Sunday's game lingering in their mouths for 4 days. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised.
  2. Neither team played as well as they can in the first two periods. Very sloppy, lots of turnovers, lots of bouncing pucks, lots of missed passes. Both teams were lucky that the frumpy play was going both ways, otherwise, someone was gonna get blown out. Yet both teams showed good hustle and emotion all game. Just one of those games.
  3. This Aeros team is figuring out defense. Slowly but surely. You could see it in the way they defended in the third period after the second Aeros goal. It was clearly, "We have this. We have to keep it." Reminiscent of last year's team (in a good way).
  4. It felt weird to be playing against Shawn Belle. Valette laid a HUGE hit on him that sent him flying early in the first period. Then later in the game, he and Scotty had some words. That's just one of those parts of the game that's hard to reconcile sometimes. I liked Belle, for better or worse, though I like having Locke on the team more, but it's still just weird. And I'm sure it was weird for Locker, too, going back to Hamilton and facing off against so many of his friends.
  5. Stick penalties were a problem for the Aeros, with 6 hooking or tripping infractions and only 3 for Hamilton. At least Scotty only got one of them.
  6. Antti made it extra special to win this game. Thanks man! You just keep testing the hockey gods!
  7. Brusty looked rusty to start, but got his groove on soon enough, though he certainly induced a few near-heart attacks with his aggressive style... gotta get used to that again--as much as I enjoy it, it's still kind of a white-knuckle ride with that guy.
  8. The Aeros out-physicaled (apparently that's a word, according to my spell check... really thought it might not be) the Dogs in the third, especially after the second goal. Never the less, I miss Cal.
Beyond that, if you want the goal-by-goal perspective, read this and this. (And FTR, who gets upset when a team can't get longer than a 4 game win streak? Is that really something to get down on a team about? Especially when you've had 3 such streaks this early in the season? SRSLY!)

A few more things:
  • Lundy was still wearing the C. Is it a perma-C? We'll C. Heh.
  • Dear Hamilton Bulldogs Video Crew: Please WIPE THE LENS on your center ice camera! It's filthy!
  • Seems Olvecky got hurt early in the game and is DTD for now.
  • The Chron write-up doesn't say it but Ryan Hamilton's goal was a beauty... nice breakaway up the middle with two defensemen trying to backcheck and failing. One of those God Bless Hockey moments. Especially coming from a guy like Hamilton who usually does his best work right around the net.
  • Three stars were: 1- Hamilton, 2- Brust , 3- Lehoux (Le WHO??)
  • Tonight the Aeros face the Rochester Americans, who, um, aren't exactly setting the world on fire. But they do have Riley Emmerson now. That could be interesting.
Can you tell I've been in training for work all week? Technical writers think in bulleted and numbered lists, ya know.

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