Saturday, October 29, 2005

UCLA 30; Stanford 27

Wow. What a comeback. I will never doubt this team again. Three touchdowns in the last eight minutes. Amazing.

New NCAA Hoops Poll

The first pre-season AP poll is out, and there really aren't too many surprises. UCLA comes in tied for 18th with Wake Forest, just edged out by Illinois. Honestly, I think I'd move UCLA up between 10 and 15, and Illinois down between 20 and 25. This is, of course, based on nothing but pre-season reports, and I really have no way to guage how much guys are improving.

I think the Bruins will be pretty good, and ready to challenge for a national title next year. I see them as a sweet sixteen, maybe even elite eight this year. Barring injury, they're going to have one of the top five backcourts in the country with Farmar and Afflalo. Ced Bozeman's return is going to be a big plus on the defensive end, and he'll get plenty of time to play until Josh Shipp returns. One thing you can do with a knee injury is shoot in bulk, so hopefully Bozeman took the last year to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. It would be an incredible boost if he could make himself a threat on the perimeter. The real key will be the improvement of Hollins, Fey, and Mata, as well as the contributions of the freshmen, especially Ryan Wright. Losing Dijon hurts, but the imrovement of the guards, and hopefully better inside play should more than make up for that.

The Illini obviously lost a ton, with Deron, Luther, and Powell all graduating/leaving. The loss of Ingram will be felt more than most people think. Dee and Augie need to be healthy, and we'll see if Dee can really take over the point guard spot. There are so many question marks with this team that this ranking is based almost entirely on the two seniors and reputation. From what I've read, Pruitt and Randle have made huge strides, McBride has been playing with more authority, and the new guards have all been better than advertised in pre-season practices. If it's one thing Bruce Weber can do, it's make guards look better than people think they ought to look. That means Brock, Frazier, and Jamar Smith might just be more capable than a lot of outsiders think. If that's the case, then I'm not going to worry about recruiting. Bruce will make lemonade out of lemons, and if you do that consistently, you're going to start getting the pick of the crop before too long. They've got guys at ever position who have the potential to be very good, but they still have to prove themselves.

The Illini could play well above this ranking, or well below. The Bruins, on the other hand, I'm pretty confident about. I think they're guaranteed to be very good, but not great, at least this year. If Hollins and/or Fey break out, however, they could be top 8.

Sharks 5: Kings 4

Missed it. Friday night. Out drinking. And enjoying other grown up activities.

Just watched the recording, or at I watched the goals and the important plays at the end. The no-call on Roenick was questionable. It was similar to what was being called throughout season, although on replays it looked more like a shove than a hook. What was worse was the play about 30 seconds earlier when Roenick was checked from behind. Brown did hook the guy, but that's the kind of stuff they almost ALWAYS let go at that point of the game. New NHL, though, and you never know what you're going to get.

Anyway, they had about a million chances to stop that play at the end, and they failed on every one of them. They couldn't get the puck deep on that last kill, and that's what did them in.

Sweet goal by Conroy on that awesome spin and drive up the boards by Corvo.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Nation of Morons

This won't be up long, probably, but ESPN has a "Sports Nation" poll up on the front page asking the following question:

"Where is the baseball from the last our of this year's World Series?

a. Al Capone's Vault
b. Steve Bartman's House
c. The Weiner's House in Chicago
d. Doug Mientkiewicz has it"

Granted, this a really stupid poll, and I'm already giving it more attention than it deserves, but Weiner's House? WEINER'S FREAKING HOUSE?!?! Dumb motherfuckers. There is no Weiner's House. It's the Weiner's Circle, and it's the best goddamn hotdog stand in Chicago, and about a five minute walk from my apartment. Seriously, how hard is it to a do a quick Google search to make sure you aren't making an ass of yourself?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Flags fly forever

Congratulations, White Sox. And please don't set my car on fire.

Kings 3; Sucks 1

Any win over the Mighty Sucks is a satisfying victory. Honestly, maybe it's just becase the third period is fresh in my mind, but I really think 1-5 on the ice, the Kings were outplayed. Fortunately, they're allowed to play a sixth, because LaBarbera was fantastic. I'm on record as being a fan of the goalie rotation, a la Hrudey/Berthiaume back in 1990-1991. But it's becoming clear that LaBarbera is just flat outplaying Garon. Maybe it's because of the extra rest. Maybe it's because he's comfortable playing every other game. But it may be time to go to two for one split.

For the second straight time, the Kings had a goal disallowed, this time on a puck that Belanger knocked out of the air with a high stick. They rebounded to take the lead on the two man advantage with 10 seconds left in the period, Cammelleri banging home a rebound from the slot. They'd add another in the second, with Robitaille deflecting a shot from in front of the net over Bryzakjsahdfkov and into the net. The Ducks couldn't capitalize on a two man advantage in the third, but seemed to gain momentum, dominating much of the period, and eventually pulling within one as Andy McDonald went five hole on LaBarbera. The Kings were able to hold on, however, finally getting a power play near the end of the game . Conroy broke out of the zone, and a nifty move at center created some space and drew a hooking penalty on Sykora. The Kings went into puck possession mode, running down the clock until Conroy banged home the rebound of a Frolov shot to provide the winning margin.

Like a said, a win is a win, and when it's over the Ducks, it's even better. But outside of LaBarbera, I wasn't completely pleased with the way the Kings played tonight. I've harped on it before, but they need to be more effective on special teams if they're going to be successful. Despite the perfect PK tonight, I didn't think they were very good on the kill. LaBarbera was their best penalty killer all night, but they gave up way too many chances. Teams seem to be really playing a high pressure style of penalty kill against the Kings, and it seems to be working. On the flip side, the Kings have time and again gone into a passive box, almost daring their opponents to shoot. It's effective when your goaltender is on his game, but it's risky.

But we'll save those complaints for a night when it costs them. They're now 7-3 after their first ten games, which I think is better than most expected them to be, and it's certainly everything I could have hoped for at this point. Next up are the Sharks on Friday and the Blues on Saturday, then it's off to Dallas and Phoenix for back to back games next week. I'd settle for two wins in those three.

Monday, October 24, 2005

New Pornographers w/ Destroyer and Immaculate Machine @ the Metro; October 20, 2005

I've seen NP once before at the Metro, and I've seen AC Newman a couple of times, and I've never come away disappointed, so naturally I was looking forward to this show. But the real excitement came a couple of months ago when the show was anounced and I learned that they'd be playing with Dan Bejar's Destroyer, a great band in its own right. But more importantly, it meant that Bejar would actually be in tow to sing his NP tunes, a real rarity.

Immaculate Machine kicked the show off. This is Kathryn Calder's band, who is also known as AC Newman's long lost niece. She's also easy on the eyes. Anyway, it was Thursday night, a three act show, and I'm not getting any younger, so we hung out next door at the Ginger Man during most of their set before getting there for the last couple of songs. Good enough to make me want to listen to some more to form a better opinion. But man oh man, you could tell this was going to be a big crowd. I've been to sold out shows at the Metro before, but I don't think I've ever been to one that almost completely packed during the set of the first of two opening acts.

Destroyer was next and put on what I thought was an excellent and fan friendly set. There's plenty of fan unfriendly stuff that Bejar could have selected, but he kept it pretty upbeat, playing most of the songs I wanted to hear, which come almost exclusively from "Streethawk: A Seduction". They played Streethawk, Beggars Might Ride, The Sublimation Hour, and The Very Modern Dance. The only thing I really wanted to hear that they skipped was Hey Snow White. Can't complain.

About 15 minutes after their set ended, the headliners took the stage, and they didn't disappoint. What follows in an Incomplete and Out of Order Setlist®
  • Electric Version
  • From Blown Speakers
  • The Laws Have Changed
  • All For Swinging You Around
  • Testament to Youth in Verse
  • End of Medicine*
  • Chump Change*
  • Twin Cinema
  • Use It
  • Bleeding Heart Show
  • Jackie, Dressed in Cobras
  • These are the Fables
  • Sing Me Spanish Techno
  • Falling Through Your Clothes
  • Streets of Fire
  • Mass Romantic
  • The Fake Headlines
  • Slow Decent into Alcoholism*
  • Jackie
  • Letter From an Occupant
  • Body Says No
  • Graceland (from the Matador at 15 CD)
*Actually, I'm can't remember if they played these, or if I've just listened to them so many times that I can't tell the difference. I figure they played at least two of the three. I'm almost positive they played Chump Change, though.

As was typical of an AC Newman performance, there was a fairly regular banter with the crowd, dominated mostly by Newman and Neko Case, who looked good as ever. Bejar sauntered out, beer in hand each time, to sing his tunes sans guitar. It was definitely a hilight. Let's face it, I have a feeling that we'll be lucky to see Neko still playing live with these guys in a few years, so the chance to see the full band with Bejar was a definite plus. The set was nice and long, although on the clock, they really didn't play that long. Blown Speakers was probably the only real "request" that they played, and for all I know, that was up next on the setlist anyway. Newman had a chuckle with a fan whom I can only assume requested "Letter From an Occupant". He pointed out that "there are some songs that are just givens". I remember seeing a brief interview on MTV with Mary's Danish once where the guitar player sort of joked about how boring it gets to play "Don't Crash the Car Tonight" every single night, but hey, a band's gotta pay the bills.

So anyway, great show, can't wait to see them again, but I'm a little pissed off to hear that they'll be playing the Metro again on New Year's eve. Don't they know that some of go home over the holidays to spend some time in the warm sunshine? One of these years I'll actually have to stick around Chicago for New Year's.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Predictable: Flames 3: Kings 2

This is why people stop watching hockey. This was probably the ugliest game I've seen all season, and I lay the blame for that at the skates of Mick "Mr." McGeough and Brad Meier. This game featured 20 power plays, 10 per team, and many not of the obstruction variety. The Coup de Gras was the penalty on Tom Kostopolous with a minute and a half to go. He essentially was penalized for checking. That was called maybe half the time when I used to play in the CSHA, and it was legitimately a penalty in that league. But this is the NHL, and apparently as far as McGeough and Meier are concerned, physical contact is a no-no. And as the title says, the outcome was completely predictable. I doubt I'm the only Kings fan that felt like the game was over right there. I just knew the Flames were going to score.

The Kings, for the second time in their three losses, blew a lead which should have been enough, this time surrendering a 2-0 lead after the first period. Then the game slowed down under constant whistles. The Kings did absolutely nothing in the second period, not registering their first shot until three quarters of the way through. Calgary fought back and tied the games on goals by Chris Simon, left wide open in the slot, and Dion Phaneuf, whose centering pass went off the skate of Tim Gleason. The Kings appeared to take the lead in the third on a power play goal by Demitra, but it was disallowed when McGeough noticed Derek Armstrong in the crease. Apparently, he hadn't noticed that he had been checked into the crease.

As ugly as this game was, and as poor as the officiating was, the Kings have no excuse for losing this game. They were playing at home against one of the worst power play and penalty killing teams in the league, if not the worst combined, and they gave up 2 power play goals, while only scoring one in ten opportunities. If you're going to be successful in the "new" NHL, you have to be good on the special teams. So far the Kings have won despite average special teams play, but that won't continue. They need to get their act together in those situations, or this good start will have faded by into mediocrity before Thanksgiving.

Two big points up for grabs on Tuesday night against the sucks. Let's hope they can put this one behind them and come out a littler sharper. Let's hope LaBarbera can stay perfect.