Monday, June 28, 2010

Back From the Break

The Lounge has been quiet the last few weeks. And a good thing, too. The HD screen in the Lounge needs some work, unless you like the blinking or shutter effect on the game or program you are watching.

(Good thing hockey season is over.)

But now that I have spent weekends in Boston as well as Coney Island in Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach in Queens, it's time to get back to the matters at hand, and that, as always is hockey.

OK, first a college football note. Glad to see Colorado leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-10 plus 2. The Texas schools always acted like they were doing the conference a favor of being in with CU, K-State, KU, Mizzou and Iowa State when all they really wanted was OU, OK-State and the Cornhucksters. And well, what did CU need with Baylor?

Nothing. Hopefully this is the final year of the association and then goodbye and good luck.

Now on to a short note about baseball. I've tried, believe me, to get through a full MLB contest. But I can only reach the fifth inning before I think that I might want to clean a garage (it doesn't need to be mine), spend an afternoon following someone who loves to shop or sit through a time-share pitch. I used to love the game, but it just drones on now. And the announcers won't be quiet. Yap, yap, yap. I'll check back in on Labor Day.

Until then, I'll monitor the progress of the New York-Penn League (Staten Island Yankees, short-season A) and the Pioneer League (Casper Ghosts, Rookie) for my baseball fix.

Now back to hockey. The draft's over and the free-agent fun begins July 1. We're back in operation here at the Lounge. Come on in. The first one's on us.

Here's the song that's bouncing in my head at the moment.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bears Win Calder; It's Time for Summer

The Hershey Bears won their second consecutive Calder Cup championship on Monday night, defeating the Texas Stars, 4-0.

The victory completed a winning run of four consecutive games for the Bears, who spotted the Texas Stars a 2-0 lead in this American Hockey League series before coming back with three victories in Texas and the series-clincher back in Hershey. The Bears get another entry on the list of AHL champions; it is Hershey's 11th Calder Cup title.

This officially concludes the 2009-10 season, giving the Lounge some time to unwind with a few draft previews, some cold adult beverages and the NHL Network's off-season fare, which will include classic Stanley Cup finals, every game from this past Stanley Cup tournament.

It all gets serious once again around the first week of September when the rookies compete in the fine prospects tournament at Traverse City, Mich. That's certainly something to look forward to.

Calder Cup Finals
At Hershey 4, Texas 0
(Hershey wins, 3-2)
Recap is here
Hershey Bears, 2010 Calder Cup Champions

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hershey Takes Lead in Calder Series

There's at least one game left in the hockey season, and it will be played in Hershey on Monday night.

The Hershey Bears took all three games played in Texas and will now have a chance to clinch the Calder Cup on home ice after a 2-1 overtime victory on Friday night. The Stars led the series with road victories in Games 1 and 2, but the Bears topped that mark with three road victories to gain the advantage.

Monday's game and Game 7, if needed, will be televised by the NHL Network, starting at 7 Eastern. The full spreadsheet report on the series is below.

Calder Cup Finals
Hershey 2, at Texas 1 OT
(Hershey leads, 3-2)
Recap is here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kane Ends Chicago's Wait for the Cup

It wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I stated that Patrick Kane was the X-factor in this series, but his overtime goal in Game 6 was exactly what the Chicago Blackhawks needed to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, to claim the Stanley Cup.

And now comes the hard part for the franchise, which will next face the accountants who will help them scan the roster and trim the payroll to fit under the salary cap next season. (Sporting News Today offers Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp and Dustin Byfuglien as candidates for departure. Consider and discuss. Who are your candidates?)

There will be some pain this summer. Some critical figures in the dressing room will be on the move. Some champagne or cold beer in the Stanley Cup should help make that part of the story go down better.

Next up is the rest of the American Hockey League's Calder Cup finals (check the spreadsheet bookwork below for all the details) and then the NHL draft. After that, I put the Lounge's remote control on the shelf, open up the blinds and throw out about 400 pounds of notes, box scores, magazines, schedules, power-play diagrams, depth charts and take-out menus.

And after that, summer is officially marked in the Lounge by watching the NHL Network, which shows every game of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, from the first to the last. Thanks to better technology, good cable plans and some fortysomething eyes that can still get the job done, I watched all but 6 games this spring. Gotta do better than that next year.

The CBC always does a good job on video montages to sum up the playoffs, and I thought they would be hard pressed to top the production of last season, which was put to the fine tune "Sleeping Sickness" by City & Colour (for my money, ain't no flaws there). This year the Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight" gets the call.

And while I might have been disappointed by the song, the footage remains top shelf. Seeing Jean BĂ©liveau giving the Canadiens' Glen Metropolit a note of encouragement is enough for me. I hope it is for you.

Don't forget about us here in the Lounge this summer. We'll be here. Thanks for dropping in.

Stanley Cup Finals
Best of 7
Chicago 4, at Philadelphia 3 OT
(Chicago wins, 4-2)
Recap is here.
Three stars by Puck Daddy.
Chicago Blackhawks, 2010 Stanley Cup Champions

Calder Cup Finals
Best of 7
Hershey 4, at Texas 2
(Series tied, 2-2)
Recap is here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hershey Gets Back in Calder Series

Andrew Gordon, Kyle Wilson and Mathieu Perrault each had two goals to rally the Hershey Bears to a 6-3 victory in Game 3 of the AHL's Calder Cup finals. With the victory, the Bears trail the Texas Stars, 2-1, with Game 4 set for Wednesday.

Should Texas win on Wednesday, the Stars could clinch at home on Friday night. Game 6, if needed, is June 14 in Hershey. Game 7 would be on June 16.

Below is the spreadsheet bookwork on the series.

Calder Cup Finals
Best of 7
Hershey 6, at Texas 3
(Texas leads, 2-1)
Recap is here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Looking at the Cup After Game 5

After the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 7-4, to take Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, the immediate talk centered on which goaltender the Flyers would use in Game 6.

Keith Jones of Versus said he guaranteed that Michael Leighton, who was pulled after the first period of Game 5, would be the starter again on Wednesday night. Kevin Weekes, who has been working on the NHL Network during the finals, thought that Brian Boucher had earned the starting nod for Game 6.

The Puck Daddy blog looks at the question a bit deeper, although it prefaces it's post by stating that it really doesn't matter who starts so long as the Flyers play Game 6 as they did Game 5.

But that's too simple (It may be true, but that response is more about being a smart aleck than trying to view the game from a coach's perspective). You are trying to decide who will give you the best chance to win with the assumption that you will play your best game. You shouldn't open the door to the ice if you don't think you will play your best. (This is most likely the reason why the Puck Daddy blog decided to carry out it's analysis rather than just say, a la "Meatballs," "It just doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter." By the way, that movie gave us Bill Murray in a Blackhawks jacket straight from Gunzo's, just like mine.)

And just remember, Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette did not spend a second, either after Game 5 or (below) during the off-day, considering a response to the reporter who asked whom he would start in net on Wednesday. He knows; he's not telling. Next question.

Here are some postgame thoughts, first from Leighton.

Next up in the Lounge is Boucher.

OK, now that you've weight all the words, written and spoken, just whom would you start for Game 6 if you were Laviolette?

I say Boucher. He has looked much more confident in his time in net and I believe he can best complement his team's effort rather than force them to do even more to lessen the goaltender's workload.

But I'm just behind the bar here at the Lounge. What do the customers say? (Here is what Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer has to say. And now that we've heard from the Inky, I guess I'll have to dig up a copy of the Daily News to see of that part of Philly is on board with the same plan.

Ah, here's that copy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Rich Hoffman is wondering a bit about the goaltending situation as well.

Down at at the other end of the bar, Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville looks pretty good after doing some major shuffling of lines. My question, why did it take until Game 5? Yeah, I know. I'm no expert. But that is why I am asking the question. What made him confident that he did not have to make major changes for Games 3 or 4, considering that there were signs of trouble?

Those are the words on the bar today in the Lounge. Following the spreadsheet bookwork on Game 5, you will find the latest installment of "Coach's Corner."

Stanley Cup Finals
Best of 7
At Chicago 7, Philadelphia 4
(Chicago leads, 3-2)
Recap is here.
Three Stars by Puck Daddy.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Texas Takes 2 in Calder Cup Finals

Travis Morin's goal in the final minute of regulation time gives the Texas Stars a rather big advantage as they try to claim the Calder Cup in the final series of the American Hockey League playoffs.

With Texas' 4-3 victory, the Stars lead the series, 2-0, with the series moving to the Austin area for the next three games. Game 3 is Monday night and Game 4 is Wednesday night. If needed, Game 5 is Friday night. Hershey would be the host for Games 6 and 7, if needed.

Calder Cup Finals
Best of 7
Texas 4, at Hershey 3
(Texas leads, 2-0)
Recap is here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Flyers Answer Challenge. Hawks? Hello?

Two unassisted goals in the first period. For that matter the game. When you have that going for you, you have to like your chances in the Stanley Cup finals. The Philadelphia Flyers responded when presented with the opportunity to dictate terms in this series, recording a 5-3 victory in Game 4. The series is tied at two games apiece.

Patrick Kane, Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Toews have struggled as a line in this series, which is why we are having this conversation now. The Puck Daddy blog raised the issue of breaking up the top line in this post on five questions the Blackhawks must answer.

I'd like to ask a question to the list, this one going out to Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville, who has placed his toes dangerously close to the the tires of the team bus with his comments that the Flyers were setting the tone of the game with more ease than the Blackhawks liked.

That's the coach's job to address. But the Hawks appeared, from my seat well north of Philadelphia, to keep butting their heads against a wall rather than devise a new plan to get around it.

Smarter, more composed, more disciplined. Yes, that one is on the players. But when it's not there, it's on the coach to regain control on the situation.

On the other bench, the Flyers are feeling better about life after having erased a two-game deficit in the finals. They're confident and relaxed. Maybe too relaxed, according to Daniel Briere.

Go through the spreadsheet bookwork below and see if you can come up with a plan that might work for the Blackhawks in Game 5. The Flyers' Peter Laviolette thinks his team has been on the right track all along. After Laviolette's comments, you will find the spreadsheet bookwork and then, as a treat, a look at the top draft prospects as presented by "Coach's Corner."

Stanley Cup Finals
Best of 7
At Philadelphia 5, Chicago 3
(Series tied, 2-2)
Recap is here.
Three stars by Puck Daddy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Texas Takes First Game of Calder Cup Finals

The first game is finally in the books with the Texas Stars opening the Calder Cup finals with a 2-1 victory over the Hershey Bears. Game 2 of the American Hockey League's championship series is Saturday in Hershey.

Below is the bookwork of the series as players try to join this notable list of champions. Some went on or are now playing in the National Hockey league.

Calder Cup Finals
Texas 2, at Hershey 1
(Texas leads, 1-0)
Recap is here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hockey in Eastern PA., Part 2

Yes, it's warm out, pretty much feeling more like summer than anything else. Still, it's a perfect night for hockey, as it was last night.

Giving a nod to the days ahead, and to the hockey we will see and hear from Hershey and Philadelphia this week, here are the Hooters, the band out of Philadelphia who released this song back in 1985, when a number of players had hair as long as this.

Brings back memories and a smile, just as this song does. Enjoy.

The Lounge thanks you for your patronage.

Hockey Week in Eastern Pennsylvania

Yesterday it was Philadelphia. Today, it's Hershey, Pa., where the American Hockey League's Calder Cup finals begin tonight. The Texas Stars, the top minor-league affiliate of Dallas, is the the opponent for the Hershey Bears, the top affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

The Bears have been idle since May 22, when they closed out the Manchester Monarchs in the Eastern Conference finals. Texas eliminated the Hamilton Bulldogs on May 26. Both teams should be rested and ready to determine which team is the best of the AHL.

Here's the Bears' roster, and here is the roster for the Stars.

Test the Internet radio links on the teams' Web sites (look for click here to listen on the site) to hear the game action, if you do not get the game on a regional TV outlets or subscribe to the AHL's live Web video stream. (Texas link is here; Hershey link is here.)

A View of the Cup After Game 3

Listen to Eddie Olcyzk's amazement at the end of the video above. Puck leaving the Flyers' zone in overtime. Two Blackhawks head to the bench for a line change. (It's a long change, Olcyzk says, meaning the new skaters will have to go the length of the ice to help defend the net.)

The Flyers were too fast for that. Basically a shorthanded situation for the Blackhawks, who had no answer for Claude Giroux, who moved past his closest defender to get in place for a deflection. Dirty job. Giroux gets it done. Flyers have gained a measure of tangible confidence to go along with the "What, me worry?" attitude they had prior to Game 3.

Hold serve at home is the next job.

Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Aaron Asham and Giroux gave this team the spark on this night. But can they keep this up? To take the next game, or perhaps the next two and put themselves in better position to win at home in Game 6, the Flyers need this type of effort to be the rule rather than the exception.

And listening to Coach Peter Laviolette, you hear him admit for the first time that some people did not do as well in Games 1 and 2, which goes against what the coach was saying after those games.

This victory gives you room to reassess and not sound hopeful. listen to the Flyers' Mike Richards, below. That's the sound of confidence of purpose.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews calmly listed what he thought his team did well, and what was lacking. Well, no one was accusing Chicago of being overconfident, but now we have to wonder what will get the top line going on a consistent basis.

The puck possession issue, which Toews addressed, is not going away if the Blackhawks maintain their style of play. The Flyers are taking the fight to them, and the Blackhawks look like they are searching for a knockout punch rather than try a sustained offensive flurry of their own.

But Chicago is capable of doing it. Game 4 is a chance for them to prove that they can do it in response to a loss in the Cup finals.

Next is a little joust between Ron MacLean of CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Nothing like a little between-period entertainment last night. Just how uncomfortable do you get watching these two trying to stomp their foot down on the other's shadow?

Hmm, I think I would like to see the feet of these two as they sit next to each other. I imagine the two like kids, trading kicks to each other's shins, safely hidden behind the pew in front of them. (I like to imagine some competitive confrontation.)

Note to Mr. MacLean: It would be good to have a winger who can speak the bizbabble that any corporate executive might present. I'm not saying Mr. Bettman is lying, but he's using terms that you, whom I would never accuse of being stupid, did not seem to pick up on right away.

Note to Mr. Bettman: The fans of franchises who are reported to be having business issues, if you will, DO CARE about the status of their team, even amid some of the best hockey we have seen in years. Maybe you are right, but does have to take that nah-nah-nah-nah tone?

Now stop kicking each other while I mention that here is Puck Daddy's scorecard on the bout and that next up is the spreadsheet bookwork, followed by a few words from Don Cherry on the CBC's "Coach's Corner."

Best of 7
At Philadelphia 4, Chicago 3 OT
(Chicago leads, 2-1)
Recap is here.
Three stars by Puck Daddy.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Love Your Hockey, Love Your Cheesesteak

A side treat to this great series is enjoying a good cheesesteak as a tribute to the Philadelphia Flyers. (Any excuse to eat a cheesesteak is no excuse. It's a good reason.)

In another life, I lived in Southern California, where I would sneak out of the newsroom with my good friend Steve, the Anti-Puck, and go to Philly's Best in Fountain Valley for a sandwich. (Sneak? Hah! We marched proudly out to the car and and then, with a smug face of satisfaction, lumbered to get back through the sliding doors of the office.)

Anybody who had ever lived in Philadelphia, including the Anti-Puck, had a pushpin placed in the wall-mounted map of the city to identify their old neighborhood. To complete the experience, there was an assortment of Flyers, Eagles, 76ers and Phillies posters and pennants, along with photos of customers and a few articles clipped from The Philadelphia Bulletin. Among the first to alert the Anti-Puck and me to the place was our good friend and scribe Elliott T., whose father once worked for The Bulletin.

The feast inside almost made you forget you were going to get cheesesteaks in January, in shorts and flip-flops, with palm trees shading your car outside. (Why did I leave Southern California again?)

Now about the video above. It's the little face-off going on in South Philly (footage is from 2008) involving Geno's and Pat's King of Steaks. I've been to both, and I have to side with Pat's in this little battle. But there are others who say there are better stands elsewhere in Philadelphia.

If you have any suggestions, pass them on here.

If you are in New York, I say get yourself to Shorty's on Ninth Avenue (between 42nd and 41st streets). In it's first incarnation, as Tony Luke's, it used to look more like a check cashing facility, only a little less charming. But the food was tight and priced to move. The New Yorker's little review noted that the preferred style of consumption resembled the way you would position and push wood into a chipper.

So true.

Now the joint is called Shorty's, it has a bar, and the clientele is a bit better for wear. But the style of consumption remains the same. Tilt head and grind away. Sounds like a hockey game. Sounds like dinner.

Who's with me?

Pierre LeBrun Sighting ... On the Web

Pierre LeBrun, the hockey writer who never seems to find his way on ESPN, the network, gives his thoughts on Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers.

He and his colleague Scott Burnside cover a lot of ground quickly, so be prepared to write fast. LeBrun's column for the day is here.

The Puck Daddy blog has given us the five ways the Flyers can get back in this series tonight. If you are Antti Niemi, you do not want the Flyers reading the first item on the list.

Mike Brophy of has a similar opinion, basing his argument on the widely-believed notion that the Flyers have the ability to change the course of the series. They just need to exercise that ability. Do that, Brophy says, and the Flyers can achieve what the Penguins did last year in the Cup finals. Erase a two-game deficit and go on to win the Cup.

And where would we be without a word or two from Jeremy Roenick, who had the pleasure of playing for both the Blackhawks and Flyers in his career. His word on Chris Pronger's puck collection: Bush.

Updated notes for Game 3 from Kukla's Korner are here.

Selling the Avalanche? Who's Asking?

Stan Kroenke wants to be an owner of the St. Louis Rams. Professional football. License to print money. Stadium subsidies all around. The biggest public trough around.

It makes sense, really.

But first, according to the Denver Business Journal, Kroenke will have to sell the Colorado Avalanche (NHL) and the Denver Nuggets (NBA). Maybe it's doable, but the DBJ says that Kroenke will retain ownership of the building the two teams play in and the regional sports network they appear on.

To show he still loves ya, Denver, he is expected to remain owner of the Colorado Rapids of the MLS.

So who will own the Avalanche, should this deal come to pass? And more importantly, who will want to own the team and then pay rent on the building? Will Kroenke retain concession rights? Can the new team owners get out of their deal on Altitude to see if the Fox Rocky Mountain regional network can do better?

Ah the offseason is shaping up to be an interesting one. Outside bids to move the team? Whether they will be accepted or not, I would not be surprised to see outside bids from, say, Kansas City, Quebec City or Salt Lake City.

Why? Because strange things can happen at any time in hockey. Let's see how this one plays out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Howard Baldwin? Now I've Heard Everything

A few days ago, just after the NHL said that Winnipeg and Quebec City would get a prime spot in the queue for expansion franchises, I said the only thing left was to have somebody other than the Zambonis (above) make a claim for Hartford.

Well, when you move the flashlight around a bit in a dark room, you never know what you might find crawling around the baseboard. Wait. It's Howard Baldwin.

According to the Associated Press, Baldwin is working on an outdoor skating rink at the Rentschler Field sports and entertainment stadium in East Hartford, Conn. Hmm, isn't that the field the state of Connecticut was conned into building for the Patriots? And did the Patriots ever leave Foxboro for Hartford? Anybody?

So Baldwin, who has World Hockey Association pedigree(and don't we just trust those fly-by-night operators), wants to prove Hartford is a hockey town.

Hey, here's a better idea. Prove that you have the money to be a hockey owner. No letters of credit; we've seen enough of those, thank you. Prove you have money.

Now say what you will about Wikipedia, but no one has sued them to take down this key line in the full entry on Baldwin.

"Baldwin's specialty was buying franchises with very little of his own money invested. For example, his actual cash investment in the Penguins was just $1,000. The rest was assumed debt and capital provided by other partners."

If he can prove he has money and not his hand in someone else's pocket, then I will listen. Perhaps not too intently, but I will listen. But I don't think that will be the case. Maybe Hartford deserves a team. I don't believe it deserves another dance with Mr. Baldwin.

Cue up "Brass Bonanza," please.

Stanley Cup Watch After Game 2

What more can one say about Antti Niemi and his game after the Chicago Blackhawks turned back a strong challenge by the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, last night in Chicago.

His shortcomings were few, and the way he weathered the surge at the end should give Flyers reason to wonder what more they can do on offense to win this series.

Placing Ben Eager in the spot of Patrick Kane was a brilliant move by Joel Quenneville, who told reporters after the game that he wanted to insert some energy at that moment. Energy, a funny but perfectly employable word when you want to say that you need somebody who will take a straight path to the net rather than fancy Dan to one side and pull a fadeaway when presented with a challenge.

Mr. Kane, take a seat. Chicago Blackhawks, advance one step closer to the Stanley Cup.

This puts the next move in the Flyers' hands. These two teams are not that far apart, and yet a two-game lead in the Cup finals can loom large in the eyes of teams that do not understand what it takes to come back.

The Flyers are not that team. It is up to Coach Peter Laviolette to fine tune his plan to get his team ready for two dates at home. After a few words from him, you will find the spreadsheet bookwork for Game 2 and another "Coach's Corner" with Don Cherry from the CBC.

Stanley Cup Finals
Best of 7
At Chicago 2, Philadelphia 1
(Chicago leads, 2-0)
Recap is here.
Three stars by Puck Daddy.