The Opossum-Palooza

It's okay. We don't know what the name means either.


13 left.

Also, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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And then there were 14

You can go ahead and file the New York Rangers and the Dallas Stars under the file heading "Stick a fork in them, because they are done."

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Contradiction in terms.

The fact that, in the NHL, there can be both a hooking penalty and a diving penalty on the same play will never cease to make me angry. First of all, it has to be either one or the other. Second of all, they need to stop calling it "diving", "embellishment of the inferred offense" sounds way cooler.



Because, as always, we should always try to be more like hockey.

Dan Wetzel, columnist for Yahoo! Sports, is one of my favorite sportswriters. Today he had a rather thoughtful piece on the state of college athletics. More specifically, on the question of age restrictions imposed by the NFL and NBA that are inhereintly unfair to star players and encourage corruption like the alleged foul play involving Reggie Bush's parents. His argument is that players like Bush are already worth millions of dollars, but are not allowed any of it lest they lose their "amateur" status, so it makes little sense for athletes of that caliber not to accept shady, under-the-table deals. I can't say I necessarily disagree with him. There's certainly no arguing that a player like Reggie Bush should be allowed to make the jump to the NFL if he so chooses, regardless of whether or not it would be a good decision. As Wetzel says, the freedom to make stupid mistakes and ruin one's career is one of the truths America is founded on, and the age restrictions in the NBA and NFL are patently un-American.

Unfortunately, Wetzel misses one important part.
No one seems to care about the gymnasts, the figure skaters, the singers and actors. No one cares about baseball or hockey players... If a kid mistakenly turns pro too early, it's his loss. If a team mistakenly drafts too young of a prospect, that should be its loss – pro teams make dreadful decisions on college seniors, too.

The added emphasis is my own. Because, unlike football or basketball, the MLB and NHL both have well-established professional minor leagues. As a result, a player who goes pro at age 18 needn't be forced immediately into action against the best players in the world. Obviously, in some cases, not every 18 year old needs to start out in the minors (Exhibit A: Sydney Crosby) but the minor league system in place allows young guys to develop fully before being thrust into the fire. Imagine if Kwame Brown could have spent a few years in a minor league learning the discipline and fundamentals he would need to be succesful in the NBA. But because of the structure of the NBA, Brown was pretty much screwed, and to this day he is not half the player he probably could have been had he spent a year or two in college. The new NBA age restriction is in place specifically to protect guys like him, and the NBADL is a step in the right direction, but I'm not particularly convinced.

The solution? I think the NCAA needs to allow players to declare themselves eligible without losing their eligibility. In fact, they should even be allowed to be drafted, without any loss of eligibility until the player actually signs a paying contract. In which case, a team can draft a player, thus securing the rights to that player, without forcing them to leave college early. As near as I can tell, this sort of thing already happens in the NHL, so I don't see why it would be all that difficult for football or basketball.

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The parade continues.

The Colorado Avalanche played the final 4:48 of regulation time shorthanded in the second game of their series against the Stars Monday, including nearly 30 seconds of 5-on-3 play. I get that the refs are supposed to be calling it close as they did during the regular season, but its starting to get rediculous. It's almost as though they are actively trying to find excuses to call more penalties. I thought the goaltender interference call on Dan Hinote seemed especially bogus as it appeared that he had been checked into Turco by a Stars defenseman. OLN didn't show any replays though, so I can't be sure.

Incredible accomplishment by the Avs though, to score a shorthanded goal during that span and then win the game in OT, after having blown a 3-0 lead. Great game.

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Playoff Musings

I was in New York City this weekend, away from my cable television and, as a result, today was my first chance to take in any playoff action. All I got to see was the tail end of Edmonton-Detroit and the last 15 minutes of Anaheim-Calgary, but if those small samplings were any indication, this is going to be a heck of a month to be a hockey fan. The end of Ducks-Flames was absolutely wild, with Anaheim putting together a rather entertaining parade to the penalty bench in the last ten minutes and nearly having to go to OT because of it. It was rather encouraging to see the refs calling it just as close with five minutes left in a one goal game in the playoffs as they had been all year. Here's hoping they keep that up.


And then everything was okay.

Just when everything I thought I knew was crashing down around my head, the Washington Nationals had 16 runners reach base, yet managed to score just one run in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

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Wow. As much as I hate them, I have to point out that somehow, someone from Gonzaga High School managed to drape a banner in centerfield of RFK Stadium tonight that said "Go Gonzaga! Beat St. John's! Go Nats!"

Now, I hate Gonzaga as much as the next self-respecting SJC alum, but they managed to get that thing shown on national television. Well done guys. You win this round.

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What kind of world is this?

Jaromir Jagr yesterday injured himself attempting to sucker punch Scott Gomez in the back of the head. And there was much rejoicing in the greater Washington, DC area.

For a minute, all was finally right with the world.

And then the Clippers won a playoff game.

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Big Honkin' Playoff Edition

Ah, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No three words inspire greater joy. I'm especially excited to see this years playoffs, if only to see how all the new stuff will work out. Things to watch for:
1) Enforcement - Will the referees continue to call it as close as they did during the regular season? In past years, when the NHL has "cracked down" on obstruction, the increased enforcement has seemed to wane as the year went on, and was nearly gone by playoff time. This year, however, it seems as though officials are still calling most of the penalties they did at the beginning of the year. They've gotten somewhat lax, but part of that may be attributable to the players' getting a better feel for what is and is not a penalty in the new NHL.
2) OLN/NBC - How good will their playoff coverage be? So far, from the looks of things, it is going to be a huge improvement over the Worldwide Leader. Hockey on OLN pretty much every weeknight, with coverage on NBC on Saturdays. Which sucks if you don't get OLN. But I do, so I will, hopefully, be completely immersed for the next few weeks.
3) Young guys - How well will the untested goalies hold up under playoff pressure? This year we're seeing alot of unproven talent between the pipes for playoff teams. Whether its Henrik Lundqvist in NY who is a true rookie (though he played exceptionally well in Torino), or Manny Legace in Detroit who has been around a while, but with little playoff experience/success. History, I think, would seem to indicate that alot of these teams are in trouble, and I have to imagine the teams that will have the most success are the teams with proven goaltenders like Martin Brodeur.
4)Old guys - How much longer can they keep it up? A large number of older veterans hung up the skates this year, unable to keep up with the pace of the new NHL. Not so in Detroit, where Stevie Y and Chris Chelios are still two very important cogs in the Red Wings machine. But at this point, they've already played 82 games, plus preseason. How well will they be able to handle the rigors of a playoff schedule?
5) Shootout - Will the lack of a shootout only screw over Dallas? Obviously, in any game going to overtime, the dynamic completely changes now that there is no shootout involved. I don't know how much of a change this will be, as playoffs overtime has always been different from regular season overtime, but when you consider a team like the Stars, you have to wonder how much of an effect it might have.

What's that? You want predictions, too? Okay, fine. I'm going to have to go with the goaltending and pick a Calgary-New Jersey final. Not what the NHL wants to see, I know. (The idea of having the Rangers in the finals right out of the lockout has probably been giving Gary Bettman wet dreams for months now) And as much as I hate the Devils, I see them carrying their hot streak all the way to their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years.

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But think how much lower they'd be if they'd wasted all that money on a pitching staff.

The New York Yankees are the first baseball team ever to be valued at over $1 billion according to Forbes Magazine. But that's not the interesting part. The interesting part is at number six on the list of MLB's most valuable franchises.

That would be the owner-less, TV deal-less, competent GM-less Washington Nationals.

How has MLB not sold this team yet?

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Final Calder Update

Alex Ovechkin had an assist in Washington's 4-1 win over Tampa Bay, to finish as the third highest scoring rookie ever at 106 points. Sydney Crosby has a goal and an assist in a 5-3 loss to Toronto to finish with 102 points on the season, a total that probably would have won him the Calder any other year.

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Calder Watch 4/18/06

Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist as the Capitals eliminated Atlanta from playoff contention, giving him 105 points with a game against Tampa Bay remaining. Meanwhile, Sydney Crosby became the youngest player ever to record 100 points with his three assist performance against the NY Islanders. He also has just one game remaining, against the Maple Leafs.

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Calder Watch 4/16/06

Alex Ovechkin had the Capitals lone goal in a 2-1 shootout win over the Florida Panthers, giving him 103 points on the year. Sydney Crosby was held scoreless as the Penguins lost to the NY Islanders 5-4 in a shootout, leaving him at 97 points. Both players have two games left to play.

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Calder Watch 4/13/06

Alex Ovechkin had his 50th goal of the season last night in a 5-3 loss to Atlanta, joining Teemu Selanne as the only rookies ever to record 50 goals and 100 points. Which means he should have the Calder all but locked up at this point, right? Wrong. Sydney Crosby continued his torrid scoring pace as he makes a last ditch effort to overtake Ovechkin, with a goal and three assists in a 5-3 win over the Rangers. Ovechkin and Crosby now have 102 points and 97 points respectively.

This could get really interesting.

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Jose v. Pedro, Round II

I was at the Nationals-Mets game at RFK last night, and let me just say, I was sorely dissappointed. The closest I came to seeing any ort of shenanigans was when Jose Guillen lined a pitch right back at Pedro Martinez. Which, I'm assuming, wasn't intentional.

I get that the MLB wants to protect its image, and bench clearing brawls do not accomplish this in any way, but the fact is that there were nearly 30,000 people in RFK Stadium just praying that someone would get beaned, and (presumably) because of MLB's warnings to the two teams, nothing happened and everyone went home empty handed. Except the asshole Mets fan who was sitting behind me.

I'd like to see baseball model itself after the NHL. If Pedro wants to bean someone, let him do it. If, in retaliation, a Nats pitcher beans Pedro or another Met, they should be allowed. In the NHL, this sort of thing happens all the time. But, the NHL also has a rule in place wherein any player leaving the bench to join in a fight is automatically ejected and suspended ten games. I think a rule like this would solve all of baseball's problems.

Except for Jim Bowden. There's no solving Jim Bowden.

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Calder Watch 4/11/06

Sydney Crosby had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 loss to Philadelphia, to give him 93 points on the season. Henrik Lundqvist is still out witha hip flexor injury.

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A story that's not getting alot of notice in the media, as near as I can tell: A former New York Rangers' cheerleader filed a sex-descrimination lawsuit against the Rangers roughly two years ago. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet ruled that the suit could go to trial. It's certainly something to keep an eye on.

It also begs an important question: Cheerleaders? At hockey games? I know this is nothing new. Smaller franchises like the Carolina Hurricanes started this nonsense. But the Rangers? One of the NHL's original six franchises? Why?

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Calder Watch 4/10/06

Alex Ovechkin had the game winning goal in overtime against the Boston Bruins tonight, giving him his 100th point on the season. He becomes the first rookie to record 100 points since Teemu Selanne and Joe Juneau both did it in 1992-93. It was also his 49th goal of the year, leaving him one shy of becoming only the second rookie ever (after Teemu Selanne) to record 50 goals and 100 points.

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College Hockey!!!

Congratulations to the University of Wisconsin Badgers, who took home their sixth NCAA D-I Men's Ice Hockey championship last night by defeating Boston College 2-1.

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Calder Watch

Both Alex Ovechkin's Capitals and Sydney Crosby's Penguins got shut out last night, so no progress for either of them. They still stand at 99 points and 91 points respectively. Henrik Lundqvist is still listed as day to day with a mild hip flexor strain, and did not play in the Rangers' 4-3 win yesterday over Boston.

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Goal... interrupted

I very nearly didn't attend last night's game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals, but at the last minute I decided that, regardless of whether or not I actually have the money, it was still worth it to have the chance to see Alex Ovechkin possibly score his 50th goal and his 100th point on the season. He had a first period assist and deflected Brian Willsie's shot from the top of the left circle in the third for his 49th goal and 100th point and MCI... *ahem* Verizon Center went nuts and it made the whole night worth it in spite of the less than desirable outcome.

Then I got home to discover that the official scorer decided he never got a piece of the shot in the 3rd, and the goal was credited to Willsie instead. So depressing.

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Comcast is the new evil.

Inevitably, my first real post here is going to have to be about the situation with the Nationals, MASN and Comcast. Not because I have anything new to say (for a well written opinion, go here) but simply because, when I turned on ESPN the other night to watch the Nats take on the Mets and I discovered instead a pointless ESPNews show, I was mighty angry. Still am. So there... let it be known that I am angry.

Yesterday, there was a congressional hearing involving MLB, Comcast, Peter Angelos/MASN and Cox (one of the many cable providers that do carry Nationals games). Excellent recap here.

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I've found myself, somehow, with alot of down time lately. So here I am creating a poorly-named blog. I hereby decree that it shall mostly be random thoughts about various sports-related things, as the only current way to find it is to click on my commenter name on Deadspin. That could very well change in the future, but for now, if you've somehow stumbled across this thing, I hope you enjoy it.