Saturday, May 26, 2007

Tough Luck Wings!

Well it wasn't to be for the Red Wings this year but it was a fine ride while it lasted. A tough loss in game 5, especially considering a bullshit penalty called on Datsyuk in the final minute that allowed the Ducks to score on the PP, just took the air out of the Wings. They lost it in OT and went on to a lackluster performance for two periods in game 6 which they finally lost as they ran out of time to tie the game. Give credit to the Anaheim Ducks for fighting every minute of that sixth game! The Wings did not play inspired hockey until it was too late.

Now I'm reduced to rooting for the Pistons. They've been pretty dominating in their NBA march to the Finals and now only need to win two more games against the Cleveland Cavaliers, to face off in the Eastern Conference Finals. As I've said before, it's tough being a sports fan in the Detroit area!

All of the Detroit fans want one thing more than any other this year, though, and that's a greatly improved Lions. I won't hold my breath on that one, but there are some good looking changes.

On the beer front, I decided not to take the BJCP exam last week, as I wanted to watch the Red Wings game and I didn't feel I was totally prepared for the tough exam. I'll take it the next time it is given, though. I did visit twelve breweries in one day, on the 14th of this month, though! The pic at top is just one of the photos taken during this trip. It was taken at Ann Arbor's Grizzly Peak. We wanted to visit twenty breweries but a pint at each one just proved to be too much for my delicate beer drinking abilities.

So many breweries, so little time!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What a great time of year!

I'm really quite busy these days. I will be attending the World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth, Michigan, today. Since I judged for the competition, I want to see what the winners were and especially, the Best of Show! Tomorrow I will be taking the BJCP exam (during the Wings game...). Wish me luck!

Tomorrow the Wings play the fifth game of the Conference Finals against the nasty, brutish Anaheim Ducks. The series is all tied, though the play of the Wings has improved steadily, as befits a championship caliber team. Pronger missed the last game due to a suspension, rather the the normal way he's missed the other games (by just not being an important factor!). Ducks fans are all fired up about his return, supposedly rested, fit and angry. I hope he is angry. It will be his anger that sends the Ducks into repeated penalty-kill situations, giving the very potent Wings PP a chance to show the Ducks what fer!

It has been reported that Pronger was upset at the officiating, especially the suspension handed down against him for boarding Homer, along with fellow goon Rob Niedermayer. Tough luck, buttercup! Don't hit from behind and don't lead to the head with your elbows! The five inch differential between the two players had nothing to do with the nature of the hit, either. Pronger aimed for the head and that's that!

All-in-all, this has been an exciting series. I do agree with Pronger that the officiating has been inconsistent. But that's no different from any of the regular-season games. If the refs begin calling all of the cheap obstruction penalties that Anaheim commits, this series could be over in two games, but don't bet on that!

For my money, the Ducks best player has been Getzlaf, the 22 year-old phenom forward. Even Selanne has glowing words for this kid. Still, none of the Ducks is as impressive as the young Detroit stars, like Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Fillpula. Look to these rising stars to raise their level of play even higher in the remaining few games.

As noted in the article from the Globe and Mail above, Detroit coach Mike Babcock muses that the best teams get better with each game in a series. If he's right-and he is-the Red Wings are looking at the Cup Finals in two games.

Go Wings!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Springing Forth!

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII

Now it just may be that this little ditty is one of the greatest ode's to beauty e'er writ. The only question is as to whether it refers to the beauty of the subject (fair lady?) or to the written ode itself. The poem tells us that beauty is fleeting in all of its manifestations. All the more precious! Of course, as the years since the poem's writing have shown, the words themselves endure.

The photo is mine. I took it the other day in my front yard. The foreground is a McIntosh Apple bough in full bloom, while the background is my gorgeous Birch tree! I assure you there were no shortages of honey bees in the four apple trees in my front yard that day!

Spring is my favorite season. I love the sights and smells of nature bringing forth her new life. It always brings a hopefulness that all things can be reborn aright. Sorry, I missed getting a pic of the Cherry tree, but Washington DC has my little tree beat all over, so you could easily miss it. But I'll place the four apple trees in my yard against any bouquet you care to show me. They are gorgeous!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Go Wings (and Pistons and Tigers)!

In spite of the terror of Joe Thornton (whose aggressive play reminds me a bit too much of 1995's New Jersey Devil's defensive standout, Scott Stevens), the Red Wings are poised with the momentum necessary to win this tough series against the very big, very tough, defensive-minded but offensively talented, San Jose Sharks. It's been a see-saw battle in the second round for the Winged Wheelers, with momentum changing game-by-game, if not period-by-period. I am officially in playoff fever now, though. I've even taken a short break from my beer-related thinking to post some thoughts on this playoff series. Wow! I must be suffering from playoff fever!

Lang, the enigmatic forward with the quick and accurate snap shot, finally scored a big goal early Thursday morning! About time, Robert! Bertuzzi, one of the meanest big men in the NHL, has not done much of anything, and even less of what he's done has been smart. Bertuzzi also has been one of the sweetest puck-handling of all NHL big men and in this series-in fact especially in the last game-he has not been able to keep a puck on his stick for two seconds. Get with it Bert! The Wings need a fired up and physical Todd Bertuzzi in this series, where they're outmatched in size and meanness, to win. But more importantly, they need the surprise deftness with which this guy can stick-handle and score. That's totally missing so far. I hope to see it today.

The Wings have the speed to change the game on these rough and ready Sharks. They have the experience. They have the goaltending in Hasek. They have the four-line arsenal and the puck-possession to wear down the Sharks' fine defense. So far, though the games are low-scoring affairs, the Wings have played inconsistently. The last game they lost, in San Jose, they came out flying and scored the first goal, outshooting the Sharks in the first period by oh, 20 to 7, not counting the ringer off the post or the several blocked shots and missed nets. They eased up a bit in the last half of the second and played lackluster in the third. That cannot continue! This team is the better team. Even the Sharks know that.

As Scotty Bowman said recently: "Whatever happened to the new NHL"? Yeah they're calling all the cheap non-hooks and even a few obstruction penalties, but the truth is, the Sharks obstruct-within the limits of what the "new NHL" allows-on every play. Watch as they go after the puck in tandem, and block, one-for-the-other, on puck movement and puck takeaways. They hit the Red Wings players long after the player has passed the puck or sent it into the offensive zone. They cross-check the players playing the puck, regularly and their goalie whacks every Red Wing that comes near him. I guess that's the new NHL, eh?

To be fair, there are many admirable qualities to this Sharks team. Thornton is a monster. He is big and strong and has the uncanny ability to get the puck in the right board area, hold it long enough to see a streaking left winger come towards the net, and deliver a perfect one-timer pass to that winger for an excellent scoring chance. Credit him for many of the scoring chances the Sharks get. That said, why is it the Wings give him so much time with the puck in that spot? That must improve. Also the Sharks seem to have an uncanny ability to block shots and clearing passes. They have especially been good at the latter. The Wings ability to clear their zone and handle the puck better in these crucial circumstances must also improve.

I believe the Wings will win this series but to do so, they must improve in those areas. Thornton will not go away and neither will Grier. Grier's been fairly quiet so far but had his best game Wednesday night. The Sharks are for real. The Wings are better but need to carry the play again, like they did Wednesday night, for three periods to win. No lapses and no stupid penalties by Bertuzzi. The puck possession of the Wings could be the thing that wears down the Sharks' defense like it did in the last game. In that case, costly turnovers proved deadly and the game was won. Let's hope the series goes the same way.

Datyuk and Zetterberg will combine for some goals today. Lang could improve on his lackluster performance, as well. Holmstrum can be the goal crease pest with the uncanny hand-eye coordination that baffled the Sharks last game. And Hasek could be the stone wall he needs to be. Today's game will be the game that turns the tide of the series. It may be the game where more than three goals are scored for one team. If the Sharks open up at all, that could be the crack in the defense the Wings are looking for, but don't count on it from a Ron Wilson coached team. Wings in six!

I don't even want to think about the other two teams in Detroit playing right now, because this is the most important series of all to me. Still, I will say that the Pistons series against the Chicago Bulls should be another nailbiter, especially due to the defensive play of former Detroiter, Ben Wallace. I look to the Pistons to win it but it could go either way. As for the Tigers, they are playing well and Sheffield is starting to hit. If the pitching remains solid, they could contend again. It's good to be a Dteroit fan right now! If the Lions could improve, we'd be in sports heaven. Why didn't the Lions draft a top-rated Offensive lineman in the draft? Oh well, I guess we really needed another good wide receiver, since we let Mike Williams go...Matt Millen, you better improve a whole lot this year or you might get dismembered by a rowdy mob of Detroit Lions' fans come Winter.