Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Birth Of Father's Day

For most of my life, on Father's Day, my Mom would take us to my grandparents' place so the entire family could celebrate with the Family Elder. I'd wish every dad a "Happy Father's Day" except my grandad, who got the "Happy Grandfather's Day" greeting instead. Only from me, not any of his other grandkids.

I "met" my own father when I was 20. Before then, I had a succession of men volunteering for the job with varying levels of conviction; only one of them had some level of success, my brother's dad, who lived with us for over a decade. I learned many Life lessons from him; he was a lawyer, a sports fan, a history buff, a grammar nazi and a music aficionado - all things I could relate with or grew at least a passing interest in.

Still, I realized when I got to meet my biological father that we had even stronger bonds despite never having spoken to each other prior - he was court-ordered to never (ever, not even after I reached adulthood) contact me before I'd learned to speak, as I'd just begun taking my first few steps. We shared the same mentality, the same animal instincts, the same food preferences, a penchant for alcoholized drinks, the same irrational fear of skunks... and so much more.

So I've been celebrating Father's Day with him for the past 20 years as well, but also with my grandpa.

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend gave birth to my very own son. I was going to get celebrated for Father's Day for the first time, myself. We had things planned out, first on my girlfriend's side for lunch and early-afternoon activities, then an evening with my dad and his lady.

Except that on Father's Day eve - Saturday morning - my Mom called, telling me my grandfather, who'd been living in an assisted-living facility for the past couple of years, took a turn for the worse during the night and was entering his final few hours.

He hung on for as long as he could and waited for every one of us to each have our moment alone with him before taking his final breath, and I left his building around 7 PM on Sunday without having seen my own son on my very first Father's Day.

Life wanted me to close out the "Grandfather's Day" chapter of my life before I was to enter my own "Dad" moment. It was bittersweet, it was sad, and I wasn't at my best when I finally saw my kid a few minutes ago, still going on two mostly sleepless nights and a tear-induced headache, but I came home to my own family to begin a new chapter, having closed one a car ride prior.

Like a well-written TV series script, there will be repercussions from this weekend in the coming weeks, months and years - my grandmother still lives in the same facility, for one, and some family members were forced to re-open some old wounds that will require new stitchings when facing the Family Elder, but Life has a way of tying together loose ends that works a lot better than anything J.J. Abrams or M. Night Shyamalan can cook up.

Onwards and forward.

Happy Father's Day to those who can have that - and a nice stroll down memory lane to those who can't.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

NHL Playoffs: Third Round MVPs

Two teams remain, at 18 skaters and two goalies apiece.

Here are the players who have led the way so far...

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: the single most dominant player on the ice in almost every game he's suited up for in these playoffs. It's not even close. There's Rask, then there's a list we have to make of the rest.

Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues: oh, he's for real, for now. As long as the season doesn't end, neither will his fairy tale.

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins: urgh. Next.

Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues: the best skater on the Blues in these payoffs. He saved the team's behinds many a time when Binnington was feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins: played without mentor Zdeno Chara in the deciding game against the Carolina Hurricanes and showed everyone that he was actually the guy making the back end work on the best defense still standing.

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues: he's about to break Brett Hull's team record for single-season playoff goals. Then again, Hull never even made it to the Conference Finals in St. Louis...

Friday, May 24, 2019

NHL Playoffs Predictions 2018-19: The Stanley Cup Final

It's all come down to this...

Two teams that have consistently finished among the top-10 in the regular season for most of the past decade in wins, overall points, goals against, even hits...

Two teams that usually boast at least a half-dozen Olympians on their rosters (though the boys in blue are usually of the Team USA choking kind while Boston employs Canadians, Finns and over-achieving Slovaks)...

So... here we are.

Boston Bruins vs St. Louis Blues

Each time has won a game against the other in the regular season.

The Bruins were safely installed in second place in the Atlantic Division pretty much all year and finished with a 47-30-5 record, while the Blues, last overall in January, fought tooth and nail just to make the playoffs, replacing both their head coach and starting goalie in the process to finish third in the Central Division with a... 45-28-9 record. Just two wins fewer.

On offense, the Bs can now roll four lines without fear of looking outmatched at any point, but the bulk of the scoring comes from the first unit, comprised of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. For those keeping tabs, that's the best two-way center in the world for the past decade flanked by two 40-goal players. Luckily, one of them has a temper and can be sent to the penalty box.

The Blues can counter that with Brayden Schenn flanked by Vladimir Tarasenko (a 40-goal man once thought to be the heir to Alex Ovechkin, before we realized Ovie would just never stop scoring) and Jaden Schwartz, who is one goal away from tying Brett Hull for the team's single-season playoff record. Yeah, just throwing those all-time snipers' names out there.

The second and third lines are also tightly matched, slightly favouring Boston:

Jake DeBrusk / David Krejci / David Backes
Marcus Johansson / Charlie Coyle / Danton Heinen
Samuel Blais / Ryan O'Reilly / David Perron
Patrick Maroon / Tyler Bozak / Robert Thomas

Each team has a rejuvenated hometown boy (Coyle and Maroon), some sandpaper (Backes, Johansson, Heinen, Maroon, Blais), two-way acumen (Krejci and ROR) youth (DeBrusk and Blais), and players who are no longer the top guys they once were (Backes and Bozak).

St. Louis has better fourth-line depth, though, with players like Ivan Barbashev, Alex Steen and Oskar Sundqvist ready to take on bigger roles if needed, while the Bruins are content keeping Joakin Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner at just over 10 minutes apiece.

Zdeno Chara / Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug / Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk / Connor Clifton
Joel Edmundson / Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester / Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn / Carl Gunnarson

At first glance, this also looks like an even matchup with a slight advantage for Beantown. However, while Pietrangelo has played the most minutes in these playoffs (by far_, he's also the second-most exposed defenseman this season after Erik Karlsson. Something's just terribly off in the way he misses passes, turns the puck over, doesn,t backcheck quickly enough and constantly fails to clear the zone safely in the dying minutes of a period, instead provoking icings that cost his teams goals and games. The Blues should be playing Parayko (perhaps the best defender still standing) a lot more and Pietrangelo a lot less.

Chara's no longer a true factor for the Bs, meaning even if he sits a few games out with an injury, whoever takes his palce will be able to provide the same defense he can. But no one has his blast from the blue line. McAvoy's the real star of this blue line (perhaps very close to Parayko as the best still playing), but Krug - while he makes a lot of defensive mistakes - can also create a lot of offense.

Also, never underestimate "it" factors, like the fact that the Blues are handicapped with two former Toronto Maple Leafs players (Bozak and Gunnarson), who are known to avoid winning a Stanley Cup at all costs.

Hey, I'll admit Craig Berube has done a hell of a job with his Blues, matching what Bruce Cassidy has been able to achieve with a Bruins team that was supposed to have to go througha  rebuild after the Claude Julien years. It's dead even here.

Jordan Binnington's faced better goalies than himself in two of three rounds (Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets and Ben Bishop of the Dallas Stars) and came out on top, and he also put the San Jose Sharks' Martin Jones back in his place. His name can now be uttered in the same sentence as Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden, Ron Hextall, Cam Ward and Steve Penney (in that order) as the best rookie goalies OF ALL TIME in the playoffs. As a matter of fact, should the Blues win the Stanley Cup and he be in nets for all of his team's Ws, he'd break Roy's record of 15 wins as a rookie goaltender (1985-86).

The reason that won't happen will be facing him for at least 60 minutes per night, though.Tuukka Rask's name is thus far alone in the hat for the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP, win or lose. His performance is reminiscent of former Bruins star Tim Thomas (2011) in how dominant he's been relative to the competition. Not that there haven't been other examples in recent memory (Corey Crawford in 2013 and 2015, Jonathan Quick in 2012 and 2014), but to have two goalies from the same team be so much better than the competition in the same decade is something I don't remember seeing before, let alone Boston's. Even in the years of Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog and Bill Ranford with the dynasty Edmonton Oilers, so many other players were better than their peers by position that the goalies didn't matter as much. After all, we're talking about an era (now) where a team is lucky to score three goals per night, and where most games finish 2-1. Ain't no Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey or Mark Messier playing in this day and age.

This one goes to Boston. The Blues have played too many games for the week-long break to matter and give them an advantage over Boston. Rask will be Rask, he's shown us the good stuff for nearly a decade at this point, but there is a legitimate risk that Binnington might get cold with the time off. With the Bruins carrying a small advantage everywhere else, Rask tips it in their favour.

Bruins in 5 6 5 6 5 6.

Friday, May 10, 2019

NHL Playoffs: Second Round MVPs

The picture's getting clearer as to who means what to which team in these playoffs. Here are the most valuable players so far...

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: reminiscent of recent dominating playoff performances in front of the crease, in particular those of former teammate Tim Thomas (2011) and Jonathan Quick (2012 and 2014).

Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks: the word "clutch" doesn't even do these guys justice. A ton of points at the most opportune moments led a team of perennial underachievers to victories they probably didn't deserve.

Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes: possibly the best performance by a defenseman in the 2019 playoffs, Slavin is showing part-time hockey enthusiasts just what fanatics and Canes fans have been enjoying for years, which is the best current-day imitation of Nicklas Lidstrom-esque perfection.

Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues: I always hesitate to put a rookie goalie in the mix, because as we've seen with Cam Ward, a state of grace can be fleeting. But without his daily heroics, the Blues never get through Ben Bishop and the Dallas Stars.

Let the third round begin!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

NHL Playoffs Predictions 2018-19: Round Three

Here we are, with no team that really excites me in the third round, the Conference Finals. Chokers vs Chokers, Goons vs a Bunch of Jerks.

Western Conference Final:

San Jose Sharks (2nd in the Pacific Division) vs St. Louis Blues (3rd in the Central Division):

The San Jose Choking Sharks are trying to re-write History and perhaps using their talent and depth to win with a head coach, Peter DeBoer, who usually also likes to fail big. Former captain Joe Thornton would want nothing more than to face the other team he captained, the Boston Bruins in the Final, but has the ever-the-bridesmaids St. Louis Blues in his way in Round Three.

The Sharks needed the referees to cheat in their favour to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Blues outworked an exhausted Dallas Stars team to the point where they forced Stars goalie Ben Bishop to deliver a historic performance just to keep the series tight.

I may not like them, they probably should not have made the playoffs, but I feel the Blues at least somehow kind of deserve to be there, at least. I wouldn't mind if they made the Final, considering what the opposite means.

Blues in 7.

Eastern Conference Final:

Boston Bruins (2nd in the Atlantic Division) vs Carolina Hurricanes (WC1):

Sure, the Canes' story is cool. They pissed off Don Cherry, got seats in the stands, rallied each other through an overblown Team-Building Exercise. But I will never forget 2006, when Justin Williams tried to take Saku Koivu's eye out in the first round and some other asshole injured would-have-been playoff MVP Dwayne Rolosson when the Edmonton Oilers led the Cup Final. They bullied and injured their way into an undeserved Cup win, led by a goalie who would never play a single game as good as during that run in the 14 years since. I still refuse to count that Cup as legitimate, and will always root against them for as long as they remain in Carolina.

Don't get me wrong - I'm no fan of the Bruins. Goons to the core, with Brad Marchand (as dirty as ever in these playoffs, punching people in the back of the head after a whistle and ridiculing journalists after games) and Zdeno Chara leading the way, but Tuukka Rask is looking like a legitimate Conn Smythe winner in their net.

Rask is what you get when team management, the media and the fans are all honest about the way guys are playing, showing them their flaws instead of sugarcoating the truth (or outright lying about his performaces) to positively reinforce his mental game. Even with a Vezina trophy in tow, because he's not at his best against the Montréal Canadiens (particularly in the post-season), Rask scared his side so much that they went and acquired Jaroslav Halak to back him up this year, and both goalies split the games nearly 50-50 (46 to 40 for Rask with Halak having the best statistics out of the two, top-5 in the NHL where it matters most) in the regular season, which left Rask full of energy for the playoff run - and the Bs with an option should he falter.

I didn't think Boston would get through the Columbus Blue Jackets, but that's exactly what they did: they plowed through them, nice and slow, methodically, until it was over. They're now the top seed, the top team, and they very well might win their second Cup this decade.

Bruins in 6.

Friday, April 26, 2019

NHL Playoffs Predictions 2018-19: Round Two

Three out of five, and oh-so-close to being 4/4 or 5/3... I'm talking about my First Round report card, of course.

Round two has only two of the 16 top point producers of the regular season, and no division winners. As a matter of fact, 7 of the top 10 regular-season teams are now eliminated.

In the first round alone, the 2019 playoffs had as many games go into overtime (10) and series go to seven games (3) as the entire 2018 playoffs.

Eastern Conference:

Boston Bruins (2) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (WC2):
The Jackets took care of the might Bolts in four straight games on the strength of the league's best motivator/manipulatir behind the bench in head coach John Tortorella, a stingy defense led by Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and David Savard, who is cementing his place among the best shut-down defenders in the league. Sergei Bobrovsky - whom I repeat is the only active goalie with two Vezinas - took care of the rest and perhaps chased away his playoff demons.

The Bs, as expected, needed seven games to get rid of the Leafs. They might win the first two via adrenaline, but the Jackets are essentially the same team, just younger, fresher and perhaps even tougher. Boston won't get intimidated by Columbus like Tampa did, but they might run out of breath by next Tuesday.

Jackets in 6.

New York Islanders (2) vs Carolina Hurricanes (WC1):
The "bunch of jerks" will meet their match in the Isles. many were surprised when the Boys From Long Island disposed of swept the Pens, but let's not forget they weren't the underdogs, they'd actually finished ahead of Pittsburgh and second in the Metropolitan Division. Robin Lehner's still playing like a Vezina candidate, he can handle Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. The Isles just need to finish this one in 6 games or less; Justin Williams would be troublesome in a Game Seven.

Isles in 5.

Western Conference

San Jose Sharks (2) vs Colorado Avalanche (WC2):
Seriously, Sharks, no. In a Game 7 when he should have stopped the Golden Knights cold after his team scored four straight powerplay goals to reverse a 3-0 deficit in the third period, Martin Jones showed his teammates and the entire world that he was going to buck under pressure. Don't get me wrong, the Avs will feel like every round will get harder and every adversary will get better - because they will. But they can beat San Jose with their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Miko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, and Philipp Grubauer is showing some serious poise behind the pipes to help out on the back end.

Make no mistake - the Sharks didn't beat the Golden Knights in the first round; they beat a lazy Max Pacioretty with the help of referees who did their jobs so badly that they were themselves excluded from the second round. It was as if they'd gambled on the game and needed to influence it, so they gave Vegas a 21-minute disadvantage, including the late five-minute major on something taht was at most a minor penalty.

Avs in 7.

St. Louis Blues (3) vs Dallas Stars (WC2):
The Stars will need Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Mats Zuccarello to just throw everything and the kitchen sink at the hottest goalie on the planet, Jordan Binnington. He's stopping everything, at a 96% clip, meaning Dallas will need to pepper him with 60 shots per game, every game to wear him down and tear holes through his armor, and to trust Ben Bishop will take care of things in their own end. And barring another postseason injury, he will - he's having Conn Smythe-caliber playoffs himself, after all. The Blues have no business playing in May this year, they need to be brought down to earth (and will be, whether it's now or in the next round).

Stars in 7.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

NHL Playoffs: First Round MVPs

There's still a long ways to go before crowning a Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe winner, but here are the players who have stood as the most valuable so far in the first round:

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: "Bob", with the help of Seth Jones and a John Tortorella-inspired team effort to out-effort the Tampa Bay Lightning's entire offense, led the Jackets to the biggest upset in NHL history, a sweep of the team who holds the regular-season record for wins (62 in 82 games).

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: Similarly, the Avs eliminated the top seed in the West in five tiny, measly games, and while Mikko Rantanen also showed poise and scored key goals, and goalie Philip Grubauer held the fort, MacKinnon was the sparkplug that ignited almost every offensive chance and every play that put the Calgary Flames in trouble.

Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars: In another upset, the Stars also eliminated a division champion, with some run support from Alex Radulov. But it was Bishop's multipe 40-save outings and better-than-the-regular-season astonishing stats (1.89 GAA and .945 save percentage with a 4-2 record in the postseason, compared to 1.98 and .934 during the regular season) that outplayed reigning Vezina winner Pekka Rinne in a hard-fought series.

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: He played well. No one on the Bruins did anything unexpected. Meh.

Robin Lehner, New York Islanders: The Vezina nominee lept his compure and let the Pittsburgh Penguins shoot in his chest for an entire four-game sweep. The competition will get stiffer, but this is the stage he's been groomed for his entire career to overtake.

Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes: Mister Game Seven strikes again. What a tremendous leader. The Canes' captain serves as an inspiration that goes beyond what he does on the ice, yet he still shows up big when it matters the most.

Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks: Hertl played like a superstar all series long. He's the only Sharks forward I felt deserved to play past the first round.

Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues: Simply put, the rookie-from-nowhere is in a state of grace, like Cam Ward over a decade ago. Like Ward, his return to earth may very well be in the Andrew Raycroft/Jim Carey spectre, i.e. a huge drop, but for now, he's making it all look very easy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

NHL Playoffs Predictions 2018-19: Round One

Just like last year, the 2018-19 NHL Playoffs will be a tight affair, shock-full of marquee match-ups and perhaps a few upsets. As a matter of fact, I'll be one of the very few who will take ownership of rooting for one in the first round...

Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (WC2):
The Bolts boast the most complete line-up in the NHL. They have a Jack Adams (head coach of the year) candidate in Jon Cooper, a Vezina-level (best goaltender) started in Andrei Vasiljevskiy, the reigning Norris Winner (best defenseman) Victor Hedman, Art Ross (most points) and likely Hart (league MVP) winner Nikita Kucherov up front, and a support cast that includes former New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and future Norris hoarder Mikhail Sergachev on defense, a former 50-goal scorer in Steven Stamkos, as well as Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, Brayden Point and a slew of other steady players that helped Tampa put forth the third-best regular season in NHL history, behind the 1976-77 Montréal Canadiens and 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings.

But the Jackets aren't your usual eight-seed. They played most of the season with a division winner-type of roster that only fell short of that goal because their goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky - the only active goalie with two Vezinas - had a down year. Enough so that Columbus traded for a 1B backup in Keith Kincaid, who faced the Lightning in last year's opening round while with the New Jersey Devils. Not only did they opt to keep free-agent-to-be Bob at the trade deadline, they also kept one of the five best wingers in the game, Artemi Panarin, who is also on an expiring contract, in an attempt to win with them instead of risking not making the playoffs without them. They even went further and added two more forwards - Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene - and a defensemen (Adam McQuaid) in exchange for most of their 2019 and some 2020 draft picks. Oh, and the latter three players are also free agents at the end of the year, so they may very well lose all five and have no draft picks of consequence to build with, forcing a premature tank-and-rebuild phase to come.

Mind you, head coach John Tortorella and GM Jarmo Kekalainen fully embrace the gamble. So do I - as long as Duchene isn't a big part of it.

Jackets in 7.

Boston Bruins (2) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (3):
In the same match-up as last year, I will repeat what I said then: "if there was a way to have neither team advance, I would definitely root for that". Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews , John Tavares, William Nylander... sure, the Leafs have talent up front, and Frederik Andersen is a fine netminder, but they have two defensemen good enough to make a dent in the postseason when a contender needs at least four. There's also something in the water in Toronto, because they haven't been to a Final since their 1967 Stanley Cup win despite icing tremendous teams in almost each decade since, apart from the 1980s. Hopefully, they'll never win. Fuck them.

The Bs, on the other hand, have one of the three best lines in hockey, centered by Patrice Bergeron one of the best and most effective centermen in the world, sandwiched between 100-point man (?!?!?!?!) Brad Marchand and super-sniper David Pastrnak. They also have the best goaltending duo in the world in Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. If one fails, the other one will rise. Their defense is also coming together very well. They're not good enough to make it past the second round and clearly not deep enough to make a serious run, but they're good and nasty enough to beat the Leafs.

Bruins in 7.

Washington Capitals (1) vs Carolina Hurricanes (WC1):
Ah, the Hurricanes. Or as Don Cherry calls them, the "bunch of jerks". Sure, their post-win "surge" celebrations are fun and sometimes funny, but is it a good enough gimmick to unite an underdog this badly outmatched to will them past the reigning Stanley Cup champions, who boast eight-time 50-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin and a supporting cast of All-Stars like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom? No. And let's not forget the Caps' John Carlson is now an elite defenseman, having added "defensive play" to his list of qualifications. Braden Holtby is still one of the best Canadian goalies, to.

David versus Goliath? No, a nuclear weapon on a dry wall.

Caps in 4.

New York Islanders (2) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (3):
Did I mention the Caps were the reigning champs? Well, a year ago, their head coach was Barry Trotz, assisted by Lane Lambert and goalie guru Mitch Korn. All three are currently employed by the Isles, whose goaltending tandem went from dead-last (31st) in the NHL last year to 1st overall, with just a switch in coaches. They finished second in their division after not even making it to the Spring Dance last year, despite losing captain and point-per-game superstar John Tavares. I would never want to discount Pittsburgh's chances ever, specially after their two recent Cup wins despite a lackluster defense, but Kris Letang is out with an injury again, and their entire roster is fragile, from captain Sidney Crosby to goalie Matt Murray, sniper Phil Kessel, offensive beast Evgeni Malkin and all the young guns.

Isles in 6.

Western Conference:

Calgary Flames (1) vs Colorado Avalanche (WC2):
The Flames are elite everywhere except between the pipes. Mike Smith will be given the opportunity to start, but playing against the best line in hockey (Nathan MacKinnon, Miko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog) might mean a short post-season for him, as David Rittich is waiting to take his place. I think the Avs take the first game, but Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, Derek Ryan, Michael Frolik, James Neal, Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Noah Hanifin and Travis Hamonic will handle games 2 to 5.

Flames in 5.

San Jose Sharks (2) vs Vegas Golden Knights (3):
Remember that thing about the water in Toronto? Well, San Jose must import that water, because they suffer from the same disease of Spring Choking. Marc-André Fleury will shut them down, but if you need more reasons why the Golden Knights are the better team, here they are: head coach Gerard Gallant; the top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith; the best second line in the regular season in Paul Stastny, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty; youngster Alex Tuch; tough guys William Carrier and Ryan Reaves; the defense.

Vegas in 5.

Nashville Predators (1) vs Dallas Stars (WC2):
A team with no glaring weakness, and a defense made up of Roman Josi, Mathias Ekholm, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, Alexei Emelin, Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber with Pekka Rinne behind it would be scary for the opponent even if it didn't have a balanced offense, which the Preds definitely do.

The Stars do have top-end talent up front in Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin and a slumping Jamie Benn, but after that, it's the ghost of Jason Spezza, Mats Zuccarello and a bunch of disappointing middling forwards. Make no mistake - Dallas made it to the playoffs on a Vezina-caliber season from Ben Bishop, and that's it. And unless he's got a hat trick up his sleeve, the Stars' post-season will be a short one.

Preds in 5.

Winnipeg Jets (2) vs St. Louis Blues (3):
The Blues are, essentially, twelve middle-six forwards, six disappointing defensemen who should all be on second pairings and a surprising rookie goaltender called Jordan Binnington, who in almost any other year would get serious Calder (rookie of the year) and Hart (league MVP) votes - but not this year. He will be facing one of the most potent offenses in the league, one of the best defenses, and Vezina-caliber goalie Connor Hellebuyck. Better yet for fans of "Canadian-style hockey", only one of their players is shorter than six feet tall, Mathieu Perreault. Captain Blake Wheeler is 6'5" and 220 pounds; superstar center Mark Scheifele is 6'3" and 210; Patrik Laine is 6'5" and 210; Adam Lowry is 6'5" and 210; Andrew Copp is 6'1" and 210; Kevin Hayes is 6'5" and 216; Kyle Connor is 6'1" and 185; Bryan Little seems tiny at 6'0" and 190; the league's most feared defender Dustin Byfuglien is 6'5" and 260; Tyler Myers is 6'8" and 230 (yep!); Dmitry Kulikov is 6'1" and 205; Jacob Trouba is 6'3" and 205; Ben Chiarot is 6'3" and 220; even Nathan Beaulieu is 6'2" and 200. ALL OF THEM are fast. You don't fail as long as the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers have and not draft a ton of amazing players. They're all in their prime right now.

Jets in 4.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Video Of The Week: The Hazytones

Most days, I really like "stoner rock", distorted, slow-to-mid-tempo groovy rock like Queens Of The Stone Age, Bloody Diamonds and Priestess. The Hazytones definitely thread in those waters, with hints of Corrosion Of Conformity, Kyuss and heavy 1990s rock as major influences.

In the lo-fi video for the song "Living On The Edge", directed by Seb Black, the Montréal outfit shares the screen with wolf packs, "crazy" trains, fires devastating dead forests, mountaintops and psychedelic colours and effects:

I've already listened to it a few dozen times already this weekend. Good times!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Mansplaining Reactions To The News That Ryan Adams Was An Asshole

The New York Times continued to out public personalities as assholes/abusers today with a researched piece that has seven women (among them his ex-wife Mandy Moore) accuse indie darling Ryan Adams of being a manipulative creep.

It's a tad short (the article, not the women's suffering), but to the point.

I believe the women's suffering, and I believe there being (at least) seven makes for a pattern. Those are statements that are most likely facts, in a legal manner of speaking.

What I have a problem with is the public lynching in lieu of due process and the lumping apples and oranges to create a bigger story than it is.

Case in point, one at a time:
From this post
"95% of the music industry, from the independents to the huge stars, are mediocre pervert dudes." Notwithstanding the fact that almost all pop stars are female, that most of the music paid for in the past five years has been made by or with women, that the most influencial acts of the 1990s that weren't part of the "Seattle grunge quadrinity" (Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, maybe Mudhoney and Chicagoans Smashing Pumpkins thrown in for good measure) or Nine Inch Nails were women, including a lot of other Seattle acts (Hole, Babes In Toyland, Bikini Kill, L7, Sleater-Kinney, The Fastbacks, The Gits, Heart/The Lovemongers, Sonic Youth, Unwound, Bratmobile, 7 Year Bitch, The Breeders, Veruca Salt, The Pixies, Suture). I'm sure I'm forgetting obvious ones.

The Beastie Boys - not quite my cup of tea -  helped Luscious Jackson and Cibo Matto have success, because friends help friends, and gender doesn't have to be an issue.

One of the best songwriters of all time came from the 1990s, PJ Harvey, in England, but my limited knowledge of British music from my adulthood has me thinking ladies may have been rarefied there indeed. On the American side of the pond, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco and Liz Phair made a huge dent. In Canada, a jazz singer and pianist, Diana Krall, became a world-renowned jazz legend - the only jazz legend borne out of the 1990s of any gender. I doubt their critically-acclaimed work came only from their looks or men wanting to sleep with them.

I was not a fan of Garbage, Fiona Apple, Björk or Alanis Morrissette, but they had clout.

In the 2000s, the only decent new male rock acts were The Strokes, The Raconteurs and The White Stripes (female drummer). The rest of the fun and quality came from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills, Sahara Hotnights, Arcade Fire, The Donnas, First Aid Kit, The Pack A.D., The Dead Weather and so many others acts that proven women have a lot more balls and talent than their tired and lame male counterparts. Did all of those acts have to sell their bodies to make it?

And about the men...

Artists: Eddie Vedder, Trent Reznor, Beck, Andre 3000, Ben Gibbard, Marilyn Manson, Jack White, Robert Plant...

Executives: David Geffen, Russell Simmons, Bruce Pavitt, Jimmy Iovine, Berry Gordy... all pervert dudes? Each of their public personae go against all of that.

That's a serious fucking accusation, a high fucking number - and completely made up.

I ran a music festival for over a decade and every night, we had at least one woman on stage - usually one in at least two-thirds of the acts, never with a quota in mind - it just happened that way because that's what was good and worth sharing to concert-goers; the only style of music that didn't fit that statistic was noize - which is basically a bunch of solo sound nerds doodling and tweedling on knobs.

Here's another extremely harsh accusation:
From this post
I get the sarcasm, I get the exaggeration for effect, but while we're conducting public lynchings instead of going through the (failed, uneven, biased) Justice System, we are all responsible of our words, for the scope and impact of our comments. Hyperbole is dangerous. It isn't you with your friends in someone's living room; it's public, to the world. It's your public reflection of you.

If a threatening tweet can result in probably cause condemnations, so should false accusations.

Fuck, (wo)man, how many rapists do you think are around?

And all of that is saying nothing about the fact that if any one of the people overreacting to this story in particular played devil's advocate for just a few minutes, they could see that he actually has a half-credible defense if he can get expert testimony from a qualified shrink.

That probably wouldn't be enough to prove he wasn't responsible for the way his victims felt (civil case), but there may be enough evidence that someone who was already recognized as having had bouts of mental illness was just responding the way his brain was letting him, with threats of suicide and bipolarity (not guilty in a criminal case).

We're not there yet, but it helps to once in a while put yourself in the other side's shoes with a clean slate instead of a bias to understand the pattern of behaviour.

Again, I'm not defending his actions. But when he says he can sue over this, he might have a case.

What works for the NYT is having his ex-wife and ex-fiancée on record corroborating his actions in terms of behavioral change, tonal change, and so forth. They likely won't get him on impeding careers (not of all seven anyway, but maybe Moore), and he definitely inquired about the young one's age (she refused to provide ID and they never met in person) enough to get away with what would possibly have been the worst charge of all.

As a "fan" of legalese, this is far from the Bill Cosby case, but it's also far from the Chris Hardwick case.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Video Of The Week: Fox And Bones

Somewhere along the lines of five to ten years ago, I took part in a benefit concert for the Mile-End Mission (a homeless shelter) in which all participants agreed to sing political folk songs; most chose to cover Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg, Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger. My friend John "Triangles" Stuart used to hold these every month, each time with a different theme, which usually meant new songs we had to learn.

Fox And Bones sound like they would have attended a show like that one and been turned on by the general themes of "songs of the proletariat", but with an indie rock quality to their sound, a bit more polished.

The Portland, OR couple comprised of co-songwriters Sarah Vitort and Scott Gilmore know how to write a fine song; there's a nice positivity about Better Land that rises the song up like the best songs from acts like The Lumineers, however that takes away from the depth of what one expects from "songs for the people":

The video was co-directed by Chris Bigalke and video animator Zachary Winterton.