While it's still going on, here's a Ducks/Avs update. After an excessively boring first period on Tuesday night, the two teams managed to put a pretty entertaining game together. Anaheim didn't get any goals by players not named "Joffrey Lupul", but it wasn't because of a lack of effort or opportunity. The Ducks have played very well so far, and they have faced some solid goaltending from the normally inconsistent Jose Theodore (it's safe to say that the Theodore/David Aebischieve swap didn't work well for either Colorado or Montreal). Theodore made some magnificent saves early on Tuesday to keep the Avalanche alive, and he kept it up throughout the game as Colorado struggled to handle the speed of the Ducks' forwards. Colorado finally solved the Ilya Bryzgalov puzzle, but they still aren't doing the little things they need to do to beat a team like Anaheim. The Avalanche aren't doing a good job getting back on defense (after three games, there aren't a lot of excuses for underestimating Anaheim's speed up the ice). They don't get nearly enough traffic in front of Bryzgalov (give Anaheim some credit for using their size to push the Avs around). And they aren't playing very smart on their power play, looking about as tentative as humanly possible with the man advantage. If there's a team that deserves to be down 3-0 in a series right now, it's Colorado. The first three games of this series have underscored how lucky the Avalanche were to advance to this round.
College impact continues. Zach Parise has played well for New Jersey. Maine's Dustin Penner has been a godsend for Anaheim. Guys like Matt Greene, Brad Winchester, Tom Preissing, David Hale, and Mike Commodore, among others, have played significant roles for their teams so far in the postseason. On top of the 18 former Hobey Baker Award winners and finalists still playing (I chronicled that last week), college hockey's presence is really being felt through these role players. I felt they merited a small mention for their contributions. No matter how many of these guys make it in the NHL, I always perk up a little bit when I hear an announcer call a familiar name (though I have to admit it was more like a "double take" when Jim Hughson called Matt Greene's name last night).
Speaking of Jim Hughson...I had never heard him call a real NHL game before. Just the video games for EA Sports. Hughson's awesome, but it was thoroughly weird to hear him call a real game. I kept waiting for him to say "____ has the puck on a string!", "____ just missed the net on that slapper!", or "____ has it in the big trapper!". Either way, it was fun to listen to. I'm all for more CBC feeds of NHL games, since I don't get CBC (memo to DirecTV: I want CBC!).
Quick thought on the NBA. First off, whoever is responsible for the night off today should be whipped. I don't care that TV rules the roost. There's no reason to not have any games tonight. Teams that played on Tuesday don't need to wait until Saturday to play again.
Also, I'm all for ripping Kobe Bryant, but let me bring something else up here. I agree that it's fishy that Bryant only took three shots in the second half of LA's blowout loss to Phoenix in Game 7 on Saturday, especially with how active he was in the first half. And I agree that Bryant may very well have packed it in and decided to put his crappy team on full display for everyone to see. But...
What happens if Bryant takes 20 more shots in the second half? The Lakers lose by double-digits, anyway, because they couldn't defend the Suns' fast break or half-court offense, nor could they rebound consistently against a terrible rebounding team (see: West Semifinals Game 2 rebound margin - Clippers 57, Suns 26). And Bryant gets ripped by everyone for taking 40 shots in a Game 7 and trying to do it all by himself.
Instead, Bryant tries to set his teammates up and let them show what they can do, and the Lakers get blown out of the arena.
Please keep in mind that I'm just playing devil's advocate to a certain extent. I can't stand Bryant. And I think he quit on Saturday. I think he got sick of carrying this team, and he let them fall off the map in the second half. As evidence of this, I'll not only offer the fact that Bryant only took three second-half shots, but I'll also offer that there were multiple possessions where Bryant didn't touch the ball, and since the Lakers' offense was basically run through Bryant all year, I found this to be quite odd.
But no matter what you say about Kobe, he was a legitimate MVP candidate this year. The second half of Game 7, with Bryant invisible, only underscores how amazing it was that he was able to get this horrible team to a seventh game against the second-best team in the West.
Larry King is here again...Javon Walker signed his new contract in Denver yesterday. I credit him for making sure everyone understands that Brett Favre didn't "drive him out of Green Bay". Whether I agree with the idea that GM Ted Thompson "disrespected" Walker by simply saying that the team wasn't going to redo Walker's contract or not, I'll give Walker some credit for getting Favre out from under the bus by saying he'd play with Favre anywhere, except Green Bay... Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith is retiring after a stellar career. Smith fought through serious adversity, both from injury and off-field issues, and had himself a very good career, mainly in Jacksonville... Kyle Lohse lowered his ERA to 8.33 by allowing one run over six innings. I'm sure Twins fans think he's worth every penny he won in arbitration... Apparently, habitual diving is bad for your ankles. Peter Forsberg could be out until January 2007 after surgery to repair bad ligaments in both ankles... While I've never gotten in trouble for blogging, Mark Cuban is a pro at it. Cuban was fined $200,000 by the NBA this week, both for going on the floor during Game One of the Mavericks-Spurs series Sunday, and for the linked entry on his blog, where he talks about improving playoff officiating. Unfortunately for Cuban, he has criticized officials too many times to get away with it now, no matter how much sense his ideas make (why are there 33 officials eligible for playoff games?). Cuban's last point in the blog is the best: "Giving less qualified officials an opportunity to officiate playoff games as a reward gives the official a nice attaboy, but it risks the quality of our product." Perfect. And, apparently, worthy of a fine from the league... I will give the NBA credit for one thing: They get television. All their playoff games are available nationally, either on ESPN, TNT, TBS, ABC, or NBA TV. The NHL doesn't get television. At all. No game last Saturday night. Two games at once twice in the conference semifinals, which only feature four total series. This is stupid. I shouldn't have to rely on Comcast to stream the Ottawa-Buffalo game on the internet for free so I can watch it because OLN is already tied up with a game. As long as the NHL is going to be this lackadaisical about scheduling games so they can be televised to everyone, they will lag well behind an inferior product (the NBA) in viewers and overall interest.