Thursday, April 12, 2018

NHL Playoffs Predictions 2017-18: Round One

The first round of the NHL playoffs have a few interesting match-ups this year, including one in which I dislike both teams playing. There are also many regional rivalries, yet just two Canadian teams.

Here's how I think they'll go.

Western Conference:

Nashville Predators (1) vs Colorado Avalanche (WC2):
The best team in the league, one with no glaring weakness, plays a bunch of kids, no defense and a backup goalie. Simply put, the Avs don't stand a chance. They might win one on the strength of MVP candidate Nathan MacKinnon, but a defense made up of Roman Josi, Mathias Ekholm, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, Alexei Emelin, Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber won't let him dominate like he did in the regular season twice in two weeks. And Jonathan Bernier loses the goalie duel to likely Vezina winner Pekka Rinne before the puck even drops.

Nashville in 5.

Winnipeg Jets (2) vs Minnesota Wild (3):
The Jets are no joke. They have one of the most potent offenses in the league, one of the best defenses, and goalie Connor Hellebuyck is two years ahead of my predictions as a star starter. The team itself may not have won a single playoff game in its current iteration (and that includes a decade as the Atlanta Thrashers, by the way), but they have guys who've had the experience of grinding out a Stanley Cup Final in captain Blake Wheeler and the league's most feared defender Dustin Byfuglien. The Wild have... a fine defense, and the league's most consistent goalie of the past four seasons in Devan Dubnyk. Head coach Bruce Boudreau often looks outmatched in the postseason. Dubnyk might steal one, but he can't steal two from these guys, let alone four.

Jets in 5.

Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs Los Angeles Kings (WC1):
Well, well, well. First off, it looks like the players may indeed have been sick of Darryl Sutter's message, as they bounced back from consecutive postseason misses to face their newest rivals - and the league's biggest surprise. Goalie Jonathan Quick is back to his old self, as is star defenseman Drew Doughty, former captain Dustin Brown is scoring again and Anze Kopitar has posted his best year so far, which will likely earn him a couple of MVP votes. However, the Golden Knights are the better team, way more balanced, better coached, and their net is just as safe with Marc-André Fleury standing between the posts. I could see the Kings playing extremely physically and slowing down the G-Knights, winning a couple of games along the way. This series could cost the Knights a Conference Final, as I see them coming out too battered and bruised to continue much further.

Vegas in 6.

Anaheim Ducks (2) vs San Jose Sharks (3):
If you've read any of these posts from me in the past, you know I trust the Sharks do to one thing right: choke in the postseason. I don't care that they added ball of anger Evander Kane at the trade deadline, he's just one more loser to add to a full stable, effectively taking up Patrick Marleau's spot as the second-line goal scorer who can't carry his team when it needs it. The Ducks have an aggressive and relatively talented defense that will crush San Jose's forwards at every opportunity, and the best goaltending tandem in the postseason in John Gibson and Ryan Miller (although the latter's far removed from his 2009-10 peak form). They also have three lines of 230-pound guys who can score as well as they can decapitate, unless Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler lose their cool, which usually only happens when they lose... which should be starting Game 2 of the second round.

Ducks in 7.

Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs New Jersey Devils (WC2):
Let's make something clear: the Bolts are the second-best team in the league, and the Devils don't belong in the Final 16 - especially not if they're going to start their backup Keith Kincaid over underachieving starter Corey Schneider. Taylor Hall will win the Hart Trophy and might get his team one W, but when the next scorer was 41 points behind him on his team and he's facing a defense comprised of Norris candidate Victor Hedman, former New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and future Norris hoarder Mikhail Sergachev and a bunch of guys who are just as good as he is on offense (Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde), it's going to spell B-E-A-T-D-O-W-N.

Bolts in 5.

Boston Bruins (2) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (3):
If there was a way to have neither team advance, I would definitely root for that. Yes, the Leafs have talent up front in Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and the rest of the kids, and Frederik Andersen is a fine netminder, but the Bs - against all odds - have still "got it". That means Patrice Bergeron remains among the best and most effective centermen in the world and Brad Marchand is still a pest who is as likely of scoring a hat trick as he is to get suspended for three games for a boneheaded move. But Boston now also has David Pastrnak, an offensive talent they have lacked since the 1988-90 heyday of Cam Neely. The Bruins' defense is still very suspect, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have just won two straight Cups with not just a "no-name" defense, but the worst d-corps of the postseason. And, like the Pens of the past couple of years, the Bs are solid in net with Tuukka Rask.

Bruins in 7.

Washington Capitals (1) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (WC1):
This is an unfair match-up, as neither of these teams deserve to be out in the first round; the Jackets are NOT a Wild Card team by any stretch of the imagination. They have a top-tier coach in John Tortorella, the stingiest goalie in the league in Sergei Bobrovsky (in the regular season, at least), the best young defense in the game headlined by Zach Werenski, Seth Jones and Ryan Murray, and a balanced attack that features a superstar with a chip on his shoulder, Artemi Panarin, as well as 35-goal sniper Cam Atkinson. And yet, the Caps managed to win their division with a team that, on paper, was depleted compared to that of years past; Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom are elite forwards, but the defense has lost too many important players to be considered solid, and the team enters the playoffs with their backup, Philipp Grubauer, playing better than their starter, Braden Holtby. The goalie controvery is likely what will once again sink the Caps. I would really like for Ovechkin to get that elusive Cup to shut his critics up, but it won't be this year.

Jackets in 6.

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs Philadelphia Flyers (3):
Normally, I would call this "Flyers in 7". I would talk about Pittsburgh's shitty defense, their fragile players (chief among them Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby), I would say that the Flyers have a knack for getting under Crosby's skin, and I'd poke fun at them and predict they'll fail, especially against world-class players like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Except that with two back-to-back Cups - both of which came from a wide range of memorable runs from the likes of Fleury, Matt Murray, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the young guns, despite Crosby's two unwarranted Conn Smythe wins - this team has shown it can and will find ways to win. And against this particular Flyers team, the Pens are much better coached (Mike Sullivan trumps Dave Hakstoll any day of the week), and a team cannot hope to contain Pittsburgh with Brian Elliott in net - not four times in a possible seven-game span, anyway. And those are words I would say even if Malkin hadn't been having an MVP-level season, which he is.

Pens in 6.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Video Of The Week: The Voidz

The things: I hate the 1980s, generally speaking. And Julian Casablancas can usually do no harm.

The former The Strokes singer now has a new band, The Voidz, with whom he continues to explore old 1980s synth music, and I like the dark undertones found in the song QYURRYUS ("curious"), for which he directed this video:

In addition to sounds, reminiscent of

Michael Bolton Signs John Bolton

Growing up in the 1980s, there were two staples of what was then called "Adult Contemporary" music that were lame as fuck and downright tacky: Kenny G and Michael Bolton. Well, John Tesh, too.

But both Bolton and G, as opposed to Tesh, have since embraced that fact and just ran with it, now laughing at that personae and taking it to new levels in a comedic way.

Bolton's been a tad more successful, particularly via his collaboration with The Lonely Island and his Netflix special, and he was on Stephen Colbert's The Late Show this week to show the ridiculousness of John Bolton's past comments:

I never thought I'd say this until that Lonely Island collab, but that fucking Michael Bolton is one hilarious guy who can sing.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Many Of Donald Trump's 2017 Twitter Attacks/Rants/Spats

Here was Donald Trump's 2017, essentially, considering he and the Republicans passed just one bill of note:

And that's notwithstanding his Twitter was with North Korean President Kim Jong-un.

I'm sure glad he gets along with everybody, 'cause I'd hate to see a world where he doesn't.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Video Of The Week: Temple Of The Dog

In the beginning, there was Malfunkshun. It was Easter Sunday in Seattle, in 1980. They owed a lot to Kiss and T-Rex as far as sound and look goes, perhaps with a bit more distortion in their guitars.

They played for years with such Seattle luminaries The U-Men (est. 1981), Melvins (1983), Green River (1984) and Soundgarden (1984); they were all friends. So much so that Malfunkshun's lead singer, Andrew Wood, started playing with Green River's Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard and formed Mother Love Bone, then moved in and became roommates with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell. The other half of Green River formed Mudhoney, who went on to have some success of their own.

In 1990, Wood died of a heroin overdose, which deeply affected all of his friends - and Cornell in particular; he wrote twelve moving songs in tribute to his best friend, ten of which made it onto Temple Of The Dog's self-titled record, a project he included Wood's Mother Love Bone bandmates in, including a new singer they'd brought in to front their new unit, then-named Mookie Blaylock in honor of the basketball star but would soon be renamed Pearl Jam, a Chicago-via-San Diego surfer/artist called Eddie VedderSoundgarden's Matt Cameron was on drum duty, having done the same on the Gossard's demo that prompted Vedder to move up North to try out for the new band, and PJ's lead guitarist Mike McCready was invited as well.

It was thus no lie when the Temple Of The Dog CD was adorned with a sticker that read "Pearl Jam + Soundgarden = Temple Of The Dog", and the video for Hunger Strike, which remains one of the best songs of the 1990s, made full use of all members sporting plaid shirts and shorts with underalls. It was directed by Paul Rachman and featured such Pacific Northwest staples as a beach, a "forest" and the West Point Lighthouse:

Cornell didn't actually think much of the song originally, until Vedder came along and added his twist to it:
When we started rehearsing the songs, I had pulled out "Hunger Strike" and I had this feeling it was just kind of gonna be filler, it didn't feel like a real song. Eddie was sitting there waiting for a (Mookie Blaylock) rehearsal and I was singing parts, and he kind of humbly - but with some balls - walked up to the mic and started singing the low parts for me because he saw it was kind of hard (and I was struggling). We got through a couple choruses of him doing that and suddenly the light bulb came on in my head, this guy's voice is amazing for these low parts. History wrote itself after that, (and it) became the single.
In music, history is often made accidentally. Lightning in a bottle.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Video Of The Week: Fergie

Unbeknownst to be, I've been following Fergie's career since I was six years old, as she starred in the long-syndicated in the U.S. (but hard to find in Canada beyond 1986) TV show Kids Incorporated as Stacy Ferguson, alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt, Eric Balfour (24), Martika (who sang the theme song, and the mega-hit Toy Soldiers a few years later), Mario Lopez, and Wendy Brainard (who went on to sing with Corey Hart and Donna Summer).

I fucking loved that show so much I'd get up at 5 AM to watch it on Saturday mornings in the second grade; my parents didn't understand what was up with me, but there was something about the five songs per episode (and maybe Hewitt, Ferguson and Martika singing them as well).

Then came the girl-group Wild Orchid, whose records I bought for the album covers (namely the self-titled debut and the Supernatural single) but seldom listened to.

In the mid-1990s (and pretty much my entire life, really), some pop music suited my ears, but rock and rap more so; The Black Eyed Peas' first two records were decent underground fare, but when they hired Fergie and turned pop for Elephunk, their career hit new heights of commercial success... and creative depths that represent pretty much everything that is wrong with modern pop music.

In 2006, she came out with her first solo record, The Dutchess, which was successful, but sounded like it should have been a Gwen Stefani album, what with the reggae-ska numbers, the semi-honest/touchy-feely numbers that hint at deeper turmoil but ultimately fail at being truly poignant. And the insipid pure-pop numbers just didn't make it for me - although they made my then-girlfriend dance and act wild.

Fergie has tremendous skill as a singer, in the upper echelons, but for most of her career, it has felt like she was either holding back or refused to exploit it correctly.

There are two ways to go when you have a voice like that: the Céline Dion/Frank Sinatra/Whitney Houston way, which is to have people write songs for you to belt out like no other, or to bare your fucking soul, which works whether your voice is great or unique (Tori Amos, Charlotte Martin, Joanna Newsom, Björk), "normal" (P.J. Harvey), or awful (Courtney Love, Yoko Ono).

Finally, at age 42, Fergie has chosen the latter, with A Little Work, from the album Double Dutchess, which is a tad cliché'd but still rings true. The long-form video (a.k.a. "short film") by Jonas Åkerlund brings the point home very well:

You may recall Akerlund's work - such as the 2002 indie film Spun, or his videos for Roxette, Prodigy (Smack My Bitch Up), Madonna (Ray of Light), Metallica (Turn The Page, Whiskey In The Jar), The Smashing Pumpkins, Blink-182's I Miss You, and countless others - is among the best in the business.

He was the perfect director to bring to life a story about drug addiction (be it Fergie's documented struggles with crystal meth or the current opioid crisis in America) and mental illness.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Video Of The Week: AC/DC

"In Rock we trust, it's Rock or Bust".

As they've done many times over the course of their careers, when AC/DC opted to have that line open the chorus of the title track to their sixteenth album, they meant it; it was the first record without longtime-riff-writer Malcolm Young manning one of the guitars (nephew Stevie Young filled in), and the video also featured Bob Richards (Asia, Shogun, Man) on drums in lieu of Phil Rudd, who was on trial for murder and drug smuggling in New Zealand (the murder charge was dropped, but the drug-related ones led to his being sentenced to eight months of home detention).

Rock Or Bust was the the 14th of 17 AC/DC songs with the work "Rock" in its title; they also have six with "Balls", so you do with that what you want.

And as he'd done many times for the band before, director David Mallet decided to play to the band's strengths for the video: the raw energy of their live shows, the musicianship, the fun they have playing together, and the riffage, filming at Middlesex, England's Island Studios, on its central stage:

It isn't the best AC/DC record, and thus far from their best song. It's still better than a lot of what's out there, both in rock and beyond.

Hail to Rock! In Rock I trust!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Unnecessary Censorship: Star Wars Edition

Jimmy Kimmel and his staff just keep upping the ante.

This week's Unnecessary Censorship clip is all about the Star Wars saga:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Video Of The Week: Halsey

Halsey is the stage name of one Ashley Nicolette Frangipan, from New Jersey.

She is a 23-year-old pop artist who is on her second record, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, having released Badlands in 2015. She has toured with Imagine Dragons and The Weeknd, recorded with The Chainsmokers and Justin Bieber, and is emo to the core, citing Panic! At The Disco as her all-time favourite band.

She spent her late teens dating a heroin addict in New York City and dropping out of college, so he had the regular rebellious lifestyle worthy of a TV biopic.

Oh, and she's way more into P!nk than she lets on, as can be attested by the video for Bad At Love, which she co-directed with Sing J. Lee:

There's a lot of Thelma & Louise in there, as well, of course. Because empowerment.

And because watching and getting inspired by Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Gas Food Lodging, Bound, Set It Off, Mulholland Drive, Frida, Suffragette, or Lost And Delirious is not cliché enough for a young soul who only pretends to be interested in cinema.