Ralph Wiggum Makes an Appearance at the Joe

Y’know, I hate it when guys say stuff like I told you so, but I did correctly predict the winner of tonight’s Stanley Cup Final and the recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy.  No doubt the media will be arriving on my front lawn tomorrow morning wondering about the secret to my prognosticative prowess;  here’s hoping I can get some chores done in between interviews.

Speaking of interviews, the line of the night goes to Jackson Cooke, the five-year-old son of Penguins forward Matt Cooke.  Here’s a clip from the tail end of Scott Oake’s on-ice interview with Cooke from CBC:

Runner-up prize goes to Marc-Andre Fleury. Asked by Oake to describe how he felt when he saw the Red Wings swarming his crease in the final minutes of the 3rd period of the game, Fleury smiled, shook his head and said, “Oh shit!” Spouse and I exploded with laughter.

Ferris Bueller Had the Right Idea

Shhh!   Don’t tell anyone, but Spouse and I have taken a couple of days off from work.

A day off is a wonderful thing;  if you’re anything like me, you have it in mind to accomplish so many things, but you also want to just revel in your chance to drive in the slow lane for a change.   For us, on these days, priority one is very definitely just kind of recharging our batteries vis-a-vis the workplace.

A very close second, though, was “getting those chairs painted”, you know, the ones my father-in-law started painting two weekends ago.  The lawn furniture in question is a set of two chairs with matching table and bird bath that my Dad made several years ago, and which he and my Mom kindly donated to the People of Juniorvania.  The acquired assets were in need of a paint job and – when he and Gillian were here in late May – Harold was, as Pierre McGuire is wont to say, “a monster” with the paintbrush.  He layed down a number of difficult early coats on all of the pieces over the course of a couple of days back-breaking work, but wisely fled the jurisdiction prior to completion of the task.

Here’s a picture of Harold getting the painting party started:

Painting the Chairs_8250
Harold Takes the Task in Hand

Spouse and I spent a couple of hours in the driveway ourselves this afternoon, gaining new appreciation for the difficult work Harold had already accomplished. With any luck, tomorrow morning will see the application of one final coat on each piece and I will happily spend the afternoon literally watching paint dry.

After the painting was done (well, actually, in between coats) we headed in to the backyard and were mesmerized by the movements of this little fellow:

Hummingbird in tree_8676
May Be a Juvenile Ruby Throated Hummingbird

I had a great time following this little guy with the camera and trying to get some good in-flight shots. It was such a beautiful sunny day that I could really ramp up the shutter speed and go full telephoto. Here’s a shot of our new friend heading in for a snack at the new feeder:

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JHB01 Looking for Clearance Runway Two Seven...

I am really pleased with some of the shots I got of this little visitor today.

We finished off the night with a bowl of fire out back (first one of the season) and a couple of beers before settling in to watch Malkin and the Penguins dismantle the Red Wings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final (turning point of the game:  for sure, Malkin’s first breakaway shorthanded in the second period.  He didn’t score, but it gave life to the Pens, especially Jordan Staal, who followed that rush up with a breakaway of his own and rang up a shorty in the process.  The Pens didn’t look back in the game and – with a few breaks and some discipline early in Game 5 in Detroit, they might not look back in the series.)  I’d like to write some more about the Final tomorrow.  For now, it’s time to pack it in for the night  and get some shuteye so I can get up early and enjoy doing whatever the hell I damn well please again tomorrow.

Stanley Goes to Motown. Again.

Mike:  You can exhale, uncross your fingers and toes, uncover your eyes, put down the four-leaf clovers, and – for heaven’s sake – let the rabbit have his feet back.  The Wings’ Cup championship was well deserved;  they outlplayed their rivals from Steeltown, and it would have been an unjust result had they not prevailed.  There had to be a few million Maalox consumed in the Motor City, though, following the harrowing final seconds of the game, with Osgood down and a loose puck bouncing – like deja vu – to the right of the goal and a Pittsburgh attacker whacking away at it with his stick as the clock.  Ticked.  Slowly.  Down.

In other hockey news, the Leafs have apparently made Ron Wilson an offer.  The guy has put up some decent numbers with teams in the regular season, he was at the helm of the Capitals (failed) run to the final in 1998,  and he coached the U.S. team to victory in the 1996 World Cup, but it’s somewhat troubling to me that the Leafs – professing a desire not just to qualify for the playoffs each year, but to actually win the Stanley Cup – are hiring a guy that was just fired for, at least in part, not being able to get that job done.   I worry too that much of Wilson’s success came in the obstruction/holding era of the late 90’s.  On the other hand, Wilson’s teams have tended to be pretty good on both power play and penalty kill – two areas that were absolutely woeful for the Leafs this year.

Again I say, it’s almost impossible for an outsider – someone outside the dressing room – to really know whether a hockey coach is “good” or not.   So only time will tell, assuming Wilson takes the job, whether this was the right decision.  But Messrs. Peddie and Tanenbaum need to look over their blue and white clad shoulders – with 11 Cup championships now, the Wings are fast catching the Leafs in the “number of championships won” category.  I spent the early part of my life hoping that Mike Palmateer and Darryl Sittler would propel the Leafs past the hated bleu, blanc et rouge to the top of that list at some point in my lifetime;  now I just hope we don’t get passed by the likes of the cephalopod-waving juggernaut from Hockeytown.

Bold Prediction Dept.

If Pittsburgh should happen to beat Detroit tomorrow night in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, whether the Penguins win or lose the Cup, Marc Andre Fleury is going to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.  That kid played absolutely out of his mind last night for the entire (three overtime) game, but especially so after the pressure had really been ratcheted up.  When the Penguins tied the score and sent the game into extra time, any missed shot would have spelled the end of the Pens’ season.

This save looked like it was staged specifically for the purpose of appearing on next year’s Hockey Night in Canada opening montage.  Wow.  In spite of my genetic pre-disposition to despise all things Wing-ed, I kind of found myself feeling a little sorry for Chris Osgood;  Ozzy was certainly fighting the puck a little bit down at the other end of the ice.  It wasn’t that he let in a bunch of bad goals – the Penguins’ first would have been a tough stop for any goaltender, and the second resulted from naught but bad, bad luck – but he wasn’t exactly instilling the kind of confidence in his impermeability as his counterpart in the black and gold.

Free Agent Frenzy

So, that magical midsummer day is over.   Okay, maybe not “magical”, but it was Canada Day, so that made it feel kind of special. 

July 1st has come and gone and all the pretenders have tried to become contenders by throwing money at a (for the most part, in my opinion) badly over-hyped crop of free agents.  The New York Rangers, it has to be said, managed to land two quality fish in this year’s tournament.  Both Gomez and Drury are quality players who have shown themselves to be character guys in the early portion of their respective careers.  The Blueshirts will be a more potent threat up front than many of their Eastern Conference rivals.  I would suggest it is a mistake, however, to label the Rangers “instant contenders” as some have done.  There are glaring holes on defence that will be exposed come playoff time ’08 unless Slats gets some help fast.   Don’t get me wrong, the Rangers are better and have virtually assured themselves a spot in the big tournament if only through the attrition suffered by their rivals, notably New Jersey (hey, Devils fans – ouch!), the Sabres (hey Buffalo fans – that smarts!) and the Islanders (hey Islander fan – you two, Mr. and Mrs. DiPietro – you have our condolences);  but teams don’t dance the final dance on the card unless their are proven and capable defenders able to carry the load. 

In that regard, don’t you just hate the Red Wings?  They lose a guy like Mathieu Schneider, who admittedly played a key role in the Wings’ playoff run and whose absence after he was injured hurt them more than any Leaf fan with a memory could possibly imagine – and promptly fill the hole with Brian Rafalski.  Do you mind?   For those of you uncertain of my meaning, imagine you are in the parking lot at Wal-Mart, and your ’92 Dodge Neon gets clipped by a delivery truck.   The company is apologetic, they offer to fix your car, pay for the damage and get you a loaner while you wait for the return of your vehicle – and the loaner is a Ferrari Testarossa.   Um, and you don’t have to give the loaner back.  Actually, given the Red Wings’ embarrassment of riches over the last few years, the metaphor would be better like this:  Lance McCoolguy, the all-city quarterback for your high school football team, is driving  in the parking lot of some cool nightclub that you’ve never even heard of, when the club owner accidentally knocks over some post attached to the velvet ropes that keep people like you out of the club, and the post hits Lance’s cherry red Ferrarri Testarossa, which the owner offers to replace with – a brand new Ferrari Testarossa!  I hate you, Lance, and I hate the Red Wings too!  Do you see how I have used the power of metaphor to make you the subject of scorn and derision, driven mostly by insane puerile jealousy?

Finally, with respect to my beloved Leafs, I am somewhat encouraged.   The Leafs’ need for a scoring forward to roll with Sundin has been obvious.  I am glad the person designated to fill that role is NOT Daniel Briere, who I thought disappeared through critical portions of the Sabres’ recent playoff loss to the Rangers.   Any fan of any team would have liked to see Ryan Smyth don the local jersey, but I think the Avs overpaid for him (as the Rangers probably did for Drury, too).   The player the Leafs did get, Jason Blake, seems like a good fit and it appears as though the Leafs got him for a reasonable price.  This coming on the heels of the acquisition of Vesa Toskala – an upgrade in the goaltending department – is almost enough to wash the bitter taste out of my mouth from draft day – you know, the one that began around the time that the Hawks picked first over all and kept growing and growing until sometime THE NEXT DAY when John Ferguson, Jr. finally picked our first player, the future former professional hockey player Dale Mitchell like 74th overall.   

But please, JFJ, remeber that sitting on your arse all day at the draft only makes sense if you are going to win NOW.  Because if you don’t win NOW, and you have sat on your arse at the draft, we won’t be winning later either.