Friday, March 10, 2006

Last Night's Games

Not much to say, really. I didn't see very much of the UCLA game, because it started fairly early, but it sounds like Hollins played pretty well. Oregon State isn't very good to begin with, so when you take away three of their best players, they're probably going to get their asses kicked. The nice thing is that Coach Howland was able to give extended minutes to some of the bench guys, and was able to rest Farmar and Afflalo.

Great to see Lo Mata back in action. If he's able to provide some minutes and/or fouls come tournament time, that could be a nice boost. Not that I expect much, mind you, but every contribution helps.

The ankle injury to Ced Bozeman illustrates exactly why I think conference tournaments are stupid. You play extra games, you expose your best players to injury, and the teams derive virtually no benefit outside of the financial. For the power conferences, you're going to have a handful of teams that are already in, and winning the tourney really does nothing except perhaps move them up a seed. And if a team that otherwise wasn't in (say, U$C for instance) gets on a roll and wins, that knocks a more deserving team off the bubble. For small conferences, you could have a school that dominates its league all year, then someone gets lucky in the conference tournament and beats them, leaving them on the outside looking in. So basically a 15-18 game conference season of dominance can be erased by one three point shot.

As for the Kings, their five game winning streak came to a screeching halt last night in Detroit, as Aaron Miller probably played just about the worst game of his career. He was at least partially responsible for four Detroit goals. He got undressed by Robert Lang on the first goal, accidentally deflected the second goal in, passed the puck right to Henrik Zetterburg for the third goal, and failed to outmuscle Zetterburg for the fourth goal. The Kings hung in for a while. They were tied 2-2 halfway through the game, and even after the Wings took a 4-2 lead, Lubo scored a power play goal to pull them back to within one. But the Wings dominated the third period much like they dominated the first two periods, and that was pretty it, as they pulled a Deadmarsh (1996 World Cup version) by scoring a goal in the final minute AFTER they'd already scored an empty netter.

Two more hoops games tonight, which I'll probably watch, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to write about them. I'm leaving right after to go see Mazarin at Schuba's, then I'm having people over for St. Patty's day festivities tomorrow. I normally don't do parties at my apartment, but I'm the lone holdout that still lives in close proximity to all of the Lincoln Park bars, so it's kind of fallen to me by default.

And with that, I'll leave you with a Brian Jonestown Massacre video.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Kings add an American

Dave Taylor worked the phones yesterday and came up with a deal that should help the power play. The Kings added American international Mark Parrish and offensive (you pick the emphasis) defenseman Brent Sopel in exchange for former first round picks Dennis Grebeshkov and Jeff Tambellini. There's been a lot of concern among Kings fans over the progress of Grebeshkov, or lack thereof. A couple of years ago it was assumed that he'd be quarterbacking the power play by this season, but according to reports, he's actually regressed. His attitude hasn't helped much either. Tambellini seems like the real deal, though. He led Manchester in scoring before the deal, has great speed and a wicked writst shot. Tough to lose him, but with Kopitar, Tukonen, Pushkarev, and Boyle all making progress, they have the depth at forward to make a deal like this. It does make them a bit thinner on the blue line, with Richard Petiot being their only good prospect back there. If I were still an Islanders fan (I used to love Mike Bossy when I was a kid), I'd be pretty happy with this package.

I am still a fan of the Kings, though, and similarly, I'm pretty happy with this package. The Kings get better right away without taking anything from the big club. Parrish will improve the power play, although I'm a little concerned that he'll take some minutes away from Dustin Brown there. I liked what I saw out of Brown on the power play lately, and Parrish is a similar player in that he goes to the front of the net. He's more skilled than Brown right now, though, and he's one of the best in the NHL at deflecting the puck. Sopel, honestly, I don't know all that much about him. I've heard that he's a skilled defensman as far as his offense is concerned, and that if he's paired with someone like Matty (which will probably be the case) he can be a real asset. He should also help improve the power play. Don't know whether he'll be on the first or second unit. I still like seeing Lubo and Corvo out there on the first unit.

Parrish is an unrestricted free agent after the season, so the Kings will have to make the decision to bring him back if they have the cap space. Sopel is guaranteed another year after this, which puts Corvo's future with the Kings into doubt. Corvo's a UFA after this season, and he's played well enough to demand a good contract, and now with Sopel in the mix, the Kings might decide they don't need to pay a couple million to both of them. Personally, I'm a Corvo fan, so I want him back.

One thing this trade does for me is it shows me just how much the unbalanced schedule prevents me from knowing that much about Eastern Conference players. I liked the old days when everyone would play everyone at least twice. Oh well. I'll pretty much root for anyone that's American, so it's nice to see the Kings add another one. Let's hope the deal pays immediate dividends, starting tonight against the Wings.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Kings 3; Wild 2 (OT)

For the first time since 2002, the Kings have won five games in a row. With 18 games to play, they sit in sixth place, five points clear of the ninth place Sucks. If they take care of business against their rivals, they ought to make the playoffs this year, which would also happen for the first time since 2002. Three of those five wins have come without their two most talented forwards, Pavol Demitra and Alexander Frolov, and they've come while trade rumors have swirled around goaltender Matthieu Garon, who was excellent in last night's game.

Honestly, I saw this one via my DVR. We had a bye this week in my floor hockey league, so a couple of us got together to have a couple of drinks. When the Kings got down 2-0, I pretty much fast forwarded until the Kings got their second goal, and watched from there. Brilliant play by Derek Armstrong to set up Lubo for the game winner, but one of the nicest plays that may not have looked like it at first was the goal by Kostopolous. He had to reach behind him a bit to corrall the pass, and he quickly pulled it in and ripped the shot home. I praised him the other night, but he really has been playing well since the break.

Once again, they aren't showing major improvement in one or even two areas, but they're showing some improvement in ALL areas, and that's been enough to push them to three straight wins after the Olympic break. Always good to open a road trip with two points, and every point from here on out is absolutely crucial. If they could steal a point or two in Detroit, that would be huge.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A difference of opinion

In a comment to the last post, the Chronicler opines that the video for "Just" by Radiohead is overrated. I obviously disagree, but I'll leave up to you readers to decide. He points us to a video by Japanese duo Cibo Matto for the song "Sugar Water".

Now, I've watched this video, and I'll admit, it's pretty damn cool. It's really kind of hard to describe, so you just have to watch it. However, I have a hard time saying it's better than "Just" when, truth be told, it's not even the best Cibo Matto video. That title belongs to the video (available below) for the Cibo Matto classic "Know Your Chicken" (unfortunately, this one dies about 2/3 of the way through, but you get the gist of it).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Since I figured out this cool YouTube thing

I thought I'd do you all a favor and post the greatest music video ever created. You're welcome.

Catching up

Three games yesterday, so instead of giving each their own post, I'll lump them all into one. That's what happens when you're recovering from travel and recovering from particularly nasty stye.

Blue Jackets 2; Kings 3

The Kings were playing very poorly in just about all facets of the game before the Olympic break. They weren't scoring, they weren't playing defense, they weren't getting good goaltending, and their special teams were awful. It felt like they needed to make big strides in a couple of areas to start winning again. But they've gone in another direction. Instead of big improvements in a couple of areas, they've made small improvements in every area. They're getting timely goals, improved defense, very good goaltending, and they've now played two games without giving up a power play goal, while netting a couple themselves. The results are two straight post-break victories, giving them a four game winning streak.

Sean Avery was hero and almost-goat yesterday, as he recorded his first ever mult-goal game. The first came shorthanded on a two one one as he fired a wicked snapshot past Marc Denis' glove. The second came near the end of the second period when he tapped home a one timer off of a Tom Kostopolous pass. Kostopolous has been skating really well the past few games.

After allowing two goals in the opening five minutes of the third period to even the score, the Kings settled down, and got a late power play goal from Michael Cammalleri that provided the winning margin. I can't be the only Kings fan whose happy to see Dustin Brown getting power play time, and his presence in front of the Columbus net led directly to that goal.

Matthieu Garon, while not tremendous, was very good yet again, and he did come up with a couple of excellent saves. They need that sort of solid goaltending to reach the playoffs. And if the rumors are right, they might not be getting it from Garon much longer, as he has been mentioned as part of a deal that would bring Canadian National Team goalie Roberto Luongo to the Kings from Florida.

UCLA 75; Stanford 54

For the first time in nine years, the Bruins are the champions of the Pac-10 regular season, and they earned it by playing probably their finest game, start to finish, of the entire season. For the first time in four games, the Bruins actually showed up to play in the first half. In wins over Oregon, Oregon State, and UC Berkeley, the Bruins had failed to crack 30 points in the first half, and trailed every game at the midpoint. But after falling behind 5-0 to the Cardinal at Maples Pavilion, they woke up, went on a 14-2 run, and never looked back. They extended their lead to 14 by halftime. Stanford went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to nine points with just under 21 minutes to play, but the Bruins slammed the door with a 10-0 run of their own immediately after.

They did it with a balanced attack on offense, and their trademark stifling pressure on defense. Four starters finished in double figures, with Michael Roll chipping in nine off the bench. The numbers don't show it, but Darren Collison had one of his best games as a Bruin with six points, and at least one more assist than the official scorer appears to have given him credit for. On the glass LRMAM led the team again with nine rebounds, and Ryan Hollins grabbed eight of his own. Jordan Farmar added 13 points and seven assists with -- brace yourself for this -- NO TURNOVERS. In fact, as a team, the Bruins only turned the ball over 5 times, ten times fewer than their hosts. That was really the difference, and it shows what a team can do when it values the basketball.

On the Pac 10 tourney, where they can hopefully sew up nothing worse than a 3 seed, and maybe even a two if they're particularly impressive.

Illinois 75; Michigan State 68

Two more games against the Spartans, two more wins, and two more chances for me to hold bragging rights over my dad (MSU class of '60). Two solid halves of basketball by the Illini led them to this win, but the way in which they put those halves together differed a fair amount. In the first half, Dee Brown's inconstent shooting and James Augustine's injury after a collision with Goran Suton meant that the Illini would need scoring support from other areas. They got it from Warren Carter's six points, and Sean Pruitt's eight points (including four for four from the free throw line). They went into the break trailing by one after officials took away an apparent buzzer beater by Jamar Smith (it was the right call).

In the second half, Augie got healthy, and Dee caught fire, throwing in 16 of his 20 points, and all five of his three pointers (he finished five of ten from beyond the arc). The Illini took control at roughly the fourteen minute mark. After palying even for the previous few minutes, Illinois went on a 12-0 run which consisted of two three pointers from Brown, and two from Jamar Smith. This seems to be the Illini M.O. in a lot of their wins this year. Play the game close. Maybe take a little lead, then give it up, then play even, then BAM! Go on a run that wears the opponent out, and that's that.

Earlier in the second half, Rich McBride fired up an airball in attempt to beat the shot clock. The Izzone, as is mandated in the by-laws of just about every college basketball student section, subsequently reminded him of it every time he touched the ball. As a result, there was no sweeter hoop than the open three that McBride hit on the feed from Augustine with 6:33 to go, and which put the Illini back on top by double digits. McBride was one of five Illini to finish the game in double figures, and it looks like this team is finally figuring out a way to score that doesn't require running the shot clock down to nothing before having Dee launch a desperation three. They need to get back to their solid defense for a full forty minutes. But if they put those two elements together, there's no one they can't beat on any given night.