Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Leafs lose 5-2, but at least Domi Wins the Shootout

It's not much of a consolation after a 5-2 loss to the Sabres, but the Leafs can at least take some solace in the result of the post-game shootout. During the game, the Leafs ran into a very hot Ryan Miller, who CBS Sportsline has listed as the current league leader in save %, at .970.

It took sixteen shooters in the post-game shootout, before the Leafs finally won it on Domi's goal. Ed Belfour was a perfect 8-for-8 on the shootout, although he did let in 5 goals during the game. 4 of the regulation time goals came on the powerplay, as Buffalo was 4-for-12. Ryan Miller was 7-for-8, before giving up the goal to Domi.

For the second time, Leafs fans booed Nikolai Antropov when he stepped on the ice during the shootout. Showing his good nature, Antropov waved the booing crowd on, encouraging them to continue. THIS HAS TO STOP! Antropov has been arguably the best Leaf player during the preseason, is a hard-worker, a great penalty killer, and is ready to step his game up to the next level, now that his knees have had time to heal up.

As far as the Leafs on the bubble go, it looks like Kyle Wellwood, Alexander Steen, Steve Thomas, Nathan Perrot, Clark Wilm, Matthew Stajan, and Chad Kilger are battling for the final three roster positions at forward; Bryan Marchment, Carlo Colaiacovo, and Staffan Kronwall are battling for the 6th and 7th defensive spots (With Belak seeming like a lock for the 8th defensive spot, given the one-way contract and the way Quinn and Ferguson have spoken about him), while Tellqvist and Racine are battling it out for the backup goalie position.

At the forward position, Wellwood is making a great case for himself to stick with the big club. Matthew Stajan earned his spot on the roster after a tremendous rookie season with limited playing time, and should stick with the club. I would really like to see Wellwood and Stajan make the big club this year. I'm torn on the final spot, although I'd like to see one of Steen, Thomas, Kilger or Wilm in the position. Steen has been playing some decent defensive hockey, and has shown that he is ready to play in the NHL, but with limited North American hockey experience, he could use a year playing on the first line for the Marlies. I'd like to see Thomas in the Leafs uniform again, but it's hard to make the decision to give Thomas the nod over a player like Steen. For me, if the choice was between Thomas, Kilger and Wilm, it would be a tossup, as each brings a slightly different skillset to the team.

On defense, I'm guessing we will see Colaiacovo and Marchment make the club as the 6th and 7th defensemen. Kronwall shows that he is ready for league, and should get some time in with the big club this season, but would do well to put in a full season with first line minutes with the Marlies.

In goal, I am somewhat between the choice of Tellqvist and Racine. Tellqvist has performed well in international play for Team Sweden, and has played well in stretches in the AHL. Is Tellqvist ready for a full season with the Leafs? The mitigating factor is that the Leafs are going to be playing in a tough Eastern Conference race for a playoff spot, and every game of the season will be critical. With newly drafted Tuukka Rask coming up the pipeline, and a 40-year old most likely in his last season with the Leafs, it's time for the 25-year old Tellqvist to show what he can do in the league. In my opinion, Tellqvist has shown patience with the Leafs organization, and I believe that they should reward him with a full season as the backup to show what he can do.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Mixed Results - Ottawa 5 Toronto 2

Toronto got off to a strong start, with a 2-0 lead over the Senators after one period, but eventually tailed off, losing by a final score of 5-2. I didn't actually watch, but was able to listen to the game on Mojo Radio. I'm hoping that TSN will put up some video highlights from the game, but I don't see anything yet.

On the positive side, it sounded like several Leaf players, including Antropov, Ponikarovsky, Steen and Kronwall had strong performances. This bodes well for the future of the Maple Leafs. On the negative side, Toronto had eight penalties to kill, including three minor penalties called against Wade Belak, plus a couple Too Many Men on the Ice calls.

On the plus side, the Leafs were able to come out with a minor moral victory, as they won the shootout 2-0. Both Mats Sundin and Eric Lindros scored for the Leafs, while Alfreddson and Heatly were both stopped by J.S. Aubin.

I was a somewhat torn watching this game, as my former hometown goalie, Ray Emery, was between the pipes for Ottawa. I was a huge fan of Emery while watching him develop playing for the Sault Greyhounds a few years back. Emery has done everything asked of him while playing for Binghampton, and is slotted to be the backup goaltender behind Hasek as the season begins. In tonight's game, Emery stopped 19 of 21 shots, before giving up the two goals in the post-game shootout. Emery is an incredibly athletic goaltender, with a mean streak, and a penchant for getting into a few altercations a year, which is a little unusual for a goaltender, although the NHL has had it's share of chippy goaltenders in the past (Ron Hextall and Billy Smith come to mind) In any case, I wish the best of luck to Emery, but all bets are off when he's up against the Leafs.


He Shots, He Scores!!

Hockey is officially back in business. The first preseason game was played on Friday evening, and the Toronto Maple Leafs just finished the first period of their first game in over two years. I'm listening to the play-by-play on mojo 640. The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently ahead perennial division rivals, the Ottawa Senators, 2-0. The two players I expect to have breakout seasons, Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky have both scored. Nik Antropov scored a goal, assisted by Sundin and McCabe. Ponikarovsky scored a shorthanded goal on a two-on-one with Antropov with 14 seconds remaining in the first period.

From what I've heard following message boards, like the Hockey's Future boards, Nik Antropov has been possibly the most impressive player in Leafs camp. Jeff O'Neill has been impressing everybody with his play in camp. There are several young players that have been impressive. Carlo Colaiacovo is expected to make the team as the number six defenseman. Alexander Steen has been rooming with Mats Sundin, and there is an outside chance he could play on Sundin's line this season. On defense, Staffan Kronwall, has impressed, and is competing for a spot on the team with Wade Belak, Brad Brown, and Bryan Marchment. Other players competing for a spot on the team are fan-favourite Steve Thomas, youngster Brad Leeb, along with goalies Mikael Tellqvist and J.S. Aubin, competing for the backup spot.

Personally, I'm hoping the Leafs make a commitment towards developing their youth. They've done a great job sticking with Antropov, who is still only 23, Ponikarovsky, Kaberle, and Matthew Stajan. I'm hoping that Kronwall cracks the lineup, and Steen plays on one of the top three forward lines. I also hope that they sign Thomas, who has played his heart out in training camp.

I really hope the league sticks with the planned crackdown on interference and clutch and grab hockey. For the first few weeks of preseason, there is going to be some complaining, from both fans and players. In the Carolina/Florida game, Florida managed to receive 17 penalty calls, but somehow came away with a 5-4 overtime win. Carolina managed to score only two powerplay goals, going 2-for-16. Florida was 1-for-7 on the powerplay. I'm sure a game with 24 penalties called must have been frustrating for the fans.

The league has to stick with it, though. Give them a few weeks, and the players will figure it out. The clutch-and-grabbing will stop, and decade-long reign of New Jersey Devils-inspired trap hockey will come to an end. This is an exciting time for the NHL, and it's time to officially do away with the trap.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Which Michigan will we see today?

It looks like Michigan is missing five starters to injury. The offensive line is again missing several starters, and they will be without Tim Massaquoi and Mike Hart again today.

The key question is how Chad Henne will respond after a poor performance last week. In the previous game, Henne looked distracted and made many poor decisions throughout the game. I think we will see a resurgent Henne today. I can't see Henne allowing himself to play two poor games in a row. Look for Henne to rely on his big receivers, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston a lot more today.

I'm guessing that Kevin Grady will get the start at running back today. Eastern Michigan is a smaller team, so this should be a good chance for Grady to pick up some confidence in playing college-level football.

On the defense, I really hope we see the same level of performance that we saw in the second half of the game against Notre Dame, where they gave up only 57 yards. Eastern Michigan's quarterback, Bohnet, is supposed to be yet another mobile quarterback, with over 5 yards rushing per carry. Michigan needs to stop the run today.

Wow -- what a run by Steve Breaston on that punt return. It looked like he didn't have much to work with, but he weaved and bobbed his way all they way to the ten yard line. That's what I'm talking about.

I guess I was wrong about Grady - Max Martin got the start, and just scored the first TD of the game. Michigan has some great depth at running back, and it's probably a good idea to patient with Kevin Grady.


Monday, September 12, 2005

My Podsafe Music

I uploaded some of my songs to the Podsafe Music Network over the weekend. I first heard about the Podsafe Music Network on Adam Curry's Daily Source Code, which I started listening to about two weeks ago.

From Wikipedia's entry on podcasting:

The growing popularity produced specialties, including the "podsafe" category, which refers to a track that is legal for use on a podcast, usually because the band or artist is not signed to a major label and they (or their label) has given consent for their work to be redistributed via podcast or the recording was made under the Creative Commons license. However, the mere fact that an artist is not signed to a major label does not automatically mean that they have given consent for their work to be podcast. See also Copyright.

At podsafe sites artists can submit podsafe tracks and podcasters can sign up to get music for their shows.

To check out my music at the Podsafe Music Network, click on the link below:

podsafe music network


Saturday, September 10, 2005

Frustrating Day for Michigan

Is this the same Hawaii that defeated Michigan State 41-38 last year? Right now, it's 28-0 Michigan State, and it doesn't really like Hawaii deserves to even be on the same field. Mind you, this football game is rather entertaining - Michigan State's offense looks very impressive, with quite a few long plays already in the first half. Hawaii's offense is doing their part to keep the game entertaining, rotating two quarterbacks and running a stranger combination of plays than even John L. Smith would dream of. This is really starting to look like playground football.

So, Michigan lost against Notre Dame 17-10. So, what happened? The combination of strong play calling by Charlie Weiss, the absence of Michael Hart, and the missing players on Michigan's offensive line were just too much to overcome. Weiss made the right call by putting together an impressive array of no-huddle offensive sets to start the game, and quickly jumped to an early lead, which effectively took the crowd out of the game.

The absence of Michael Hart allowed Notre Dame to focus on Henne, and with several starters missing from the offensive line, the Irish defensive line were able to penetrate way too often, and the result was 2 sacks, 5 blocked passes, and a generally distracted Chad Henne.

I thought Michigan's defense actually played quite a strong game today. They had a difficult time on Notre Dame's first two offensive sets, where they couldn't even manage to force a third down. But once Weiss' first few planned sets, the Michigan defense held the line quite well. If you look at the numbers, Michigan dominated in the second half.

The difference really came down to a few key plays. Michigan was in the red zone three times, and came away scoreless, with a fumble, an interception, and a turnover on downs. Henne was unable to turn to Michael Hart, and the weak offensive line proved to be the difference.

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed with Henne's performance today. Henne was a combined 19-44, which just isn't good enough. With strong coverage on Avant and Breaston all day long, and Massaquoi out of the game Henne was consistently looking for secondary targets, like Tyler Ecker, Dutch, and Massey. With the game on the line, Henne failed to give the ball to his primary receivers, and often overthrew his receivers, threw the ball out of play, or feebly attempted to rush a few yards up field. Henne isn't a very mobile quarterback, so there isn't much point in even attempting to rush up the field with the ball. Overall, it just looked like the Fighting Irish defensive line got into Henne's head, and as a result he demonstrated some poor decision making.

I was also somewhat unimpressed with Steve Breaston's performance again today. He just didn't appear to be his explosive, game-breaking self. The end-around near the close of the first half was an impressive looking play, and if Breaston had been able to get around that last defender, he would have gone all the way. I was impressed with Breaston's apparent desire to make a big play, refusing to call for a fair catch, when it was obvious that there was a very good chance he would get hit immediately. In the first two games, Henne's has attempted to go deep with Breaston five times, and each time the ball has ended up just out of the reach of the receiver's hands. The one big catch that Breaston did make was just out of bounds on the sideline in the end zone. I really don't know what the explanation is for succession of missed passes. Has Breaston lost a step this season, is he injured, or is Henne simply overthrowing his target? The passes generally appear to be just a bit overthrown - several of them were thrown out of bounds in the end zone, and today's open field pass was just a bit too long for Breaston to catch up with. I really hope they can work out the timing issues this week, as Michigan's offense appeared quite ordinary this week.

So - did we learn anything this week? Last week, Michigan's offense did the job, but the defense looked suspect. This week, Michigan's defense did their job, but the offense failed. Today, we learned just how important Michael Hart is to the Michigan offense. No offense to Kevin Grady - I actually think Grady filled in admirably today, but he still has a few things to learn. I believe Grady has fumbled the ball three times in the first two games of the year. As Michigan fans, I guess we've just become a little spoiled with Hart, who fumbled the ball only once last season, and has carried the ball I think 283 times in a row without a fumble.

Does Michigan have what it takes to win the Big Ten this year? Do they still have an outside shot at a national title game? Last season, after the Notre Dame loss, Michigan reeled off eight straight wins, before consecutive losses to Ohio State and Texas. The good news is that the ball is still basically in Michigan's court in regards to the Big Ten title. If they run the table from here on in, Michigan can still take the Big Ten title, but without a matchup against Purdue, there is a chance that a 9-1 record might not be enough. Michigan does have what it takes, but it looks like Henne is human, and he does have a few things to learn. The man is only a sophomore, so I guess that is to be expected.


Michigan vs. Notre Dame - 1st Impressions

It's 7-0 Notre Dame, with 34 seconds remaining in the first quarter. For the first two series, Notre Dame's offense looked dangerous, and it looked like Michigan could not contain them. At the other end, Michigan was not able to move the football.

Thankfully, Michigan's defense is starting to step up. The defensive line is starting to put some pressure on the quarterback, Brady Quinn, which resulted in several throws that are just a little bit off.

On the offensive side, Michigan has so far had trouble establishing themselves. Notre Dame has been able to pressure Henne on almost every play, with several blocked passes and a sack. Notre Dame relied heavily on a no-huddle offense early long, and to me, it appeared that they were attempting to establish early momentum. Weiss' offensive schemes are going to keep Michigan's defense on their toes all game long, but I think their first few sets of downs were pre-established, and that they won't be able to continue to surprise the Wolverines with the no-huddle offense.

For me, the best news has been that Michigan has been involving Breaston in several plays. If they continue to involve Breaston, he will easily put up 150 yards offense.

Wait -- I just saw the double-reverse to Breaston to end the first quarter -- beautiful play. They just announced the Hart may be injured, as rookie Kevin Grady has stepped in. With Ecker stepping in for the missing Tim Massaquoi, and Hart possibly injured, the Wolverines are going to have to rely heavily on Avant, Grady and Breaston.

In any case, this is shaping up to be a very entertaining football game. It looks like Notre Dame has the early edge, but if Michigan's defense can keep up the same intensity level, and pressure Quinn all game long, the Wolverines should be able to pull out the win.


Wolverines Pre-Game Report /Leafs Report

There are two great matchups I'm looking forward to today: #20 Notre Dame at #3 Michigan, and #2 Texas at #4 Ohio State. Who do you think is going is going to win these two exciting matchups?

Notre Dame's offense is supposedly much improved, and with Michigan's suspect defense, the game isn't going to be a walkover for Michigan. There is simply too much at stake for Michigan this year -- they have so much talent that I don't think they're going to allow a legitimate nation title run be spoiled so early in the year. I guess if I had to pick, I'd say Michigan will win it 35-28.

I have no idea who will win the Ohio State/Texas game. Cedric Benson graduated, but Texas' new freshman running back, Jamaal Charles, ran for 135 yards in his first game, and Texas put up big numbers in a 60-3 win. I almost want Ohio State to win, which would give Michigan a better chance at a National Title shot if they can run the table, but I'm guessing that Texas will come out on top, 41-38.

Some quick thoughts on the Leafs:

How do you like the Leaf's chances this year, after signing Mariusz Czerkawski, and inviting Mike Kean to training camp? :) I think they're going to do alright this year - sure, the lost a lot of talent, but adding Lindros, Allison, O'Niel, Kavanaugh, and Czerkawski should make up for it. I hear that Staffan Kronwall and Alexander Steen are both playing great at the rookie tournament this week, and I hope both of them make the big club this year. There are four rookies with a legitimate shot at making the Leafs this year: Colaiacovo, Steen, Wellwood, and Kronwall. I would rather see Kronwall on the big club this year, than Colaiacovo, who seems a little bit overrated, and Steen on offense. I think Colaiacovo will have more growing pains and rookie mistakes than Kronwall, for this season at least. I think Wellwood is going to eventually play a decent roll in the NHL, but I don't think he'll ever be a good match for the Leafs while Quinn is coach (I liken him to Sullivan and MacCauley, who's careers both took off after they left the Leafs)

I think they should play three of the above four mentioned rookies on the club this year, but likely only two will make it, because the Leafs have filled up valuable roster spots with the likes of Belak, Kilger, Wilm, Domi, and Perrot. I like Domi, but the rest of those guys are just filler, and there is just more upside with Wellwood, Steen, Kronwall and Colaiacovo.


Monday, September 05, 2005

It's been a good summer - Let's play some Football!

Wow - I can't believe it's been over a month since I last posted to this blog! I took my summer vacation up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and spent a few days camping with my dad and my wife, Andrea, up at Lake Mijinemungshing in Lake Superior Provincial Park, where we had a wonderful time. Since then, I've had myself running in so many different directions that I've totally neglected this poor ol' blog, and for that I apologize.

This is an exciting time for me! My wife is going back to school to get a master's degree, the weather has been great, the NHL is set to resume regular season play in just a few weeks, and this past weekend launched the beginning of the 2005 Michigan Wolverines football schedule.

I think I'm going to spread out the focus of my blog -- Instead of focusing almost exclusively on politics and environmental policy, I'm going to take a wide-angle look at life in general. In the future, I'd like to continue to discuss politics, but also bring up hockey (specifically, the NHL and Toronto Maple Leafs), college football (Specifically, the Michigan Wolverines/Big Ten), movies (at least the ones I like), books, music, tech, gadgets, software and software development industry news (Think Slashdot, This Week in Tech, and Dot Net Rocks), podcasts, and anything else that I deem worth a few seconds of your attention.

I'd like to think that the end result of this experiment will be something along the lines of Rory Blythe's excellent neopoleon.com, but given that I'm generally not very funny, I don't think that's what we should expect.

Sometime this week, I expect to weigh in on the NHL, the free agency situation, and my thoughts on the Toronto Maple Leafs. For now, here is some football talk:

Quick Quips:

  • The Big Ten started up with very strong opening weekend, with the entire conference going undefeated. The Big Ten currently sits a perfect 10-0, with only Purdue remaining idle. Mind you, the Big Ten's opening weekend schedule wasn't exactly tough, but it was a strong showing overall. Wisconsin looks like they were tested by Bowling Green, with a final score of 56-42, with Brian Calhoun leading the way with 5 touchdowns and 258 yards rushing.

    Don't expect the perfect season to last very long for the big ten, however, as next week's matchups include 1) Michigan vs. Notre Dame, 2) Ohio State vs. Texas, 3) Northwestern vs. Northern Illinois, 4) Iowa vs. Iowa State, and 5) Illinois vs. San Jose State. The Ohio State vs. Texas matchup is going to be one for the ages, with the Vince Young-led Longhorns matching up against Teddy Ginn Jr and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Since the matchup taking place in Ohio, and with Cedric Benson now graduated the NFL, one would think that Ohio State would be a reasonably safe bet, but I'm not so sure. Texas put up a 60-3 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, and freshman Jamaal Charles set a Texas freshman record with 135 yards rushing in his first game.

  • Last year's Michigan squad dropped the early-season matchup against Notre Dame, and was never really considered a national title contender after that point, so I expect the Wolverines to come out strong at home versus the Fighting Irish. The opening season win over Northern Illinois answered some questions, but left a few unanswered. Michigan's offense looks as potent as ever. Michael Hart looks to be stronger and quicker than last year, and he will put up big numbers once again. With freshman sensation Kevin Grady, out of Grand Rapids, MI, the Wolverines will have an outstanding 1-2 punch in the running back position (not to mention Max Martin and Jerome Jackson)

    Chad Henne put up ridiculous numbers last season, although he tended to rely on the outstanding play of Braylon Edwards quite a bit. This season, he will have to spread out the offense a bit more. The sure-handed Jason Avant stepped up to the challenge and delivered this weekend, with 9 receptions and 127 total yards receiving. Avant is an amazing receiver, and will enjoy a fine season now that he is no longer under the shadow of Braylon Edwards.

    For me, the biggest question on offense that remains is the play of senior Steve Breaston. Last season, Breaston was hampered the majority of the year with an injured hand. It was in last season's Rose Bowl that Breaston demonstrated his true potential, breaking OJ Simpson's long standing record, by combining for 315 all-purpose yards in a single game. Breaston has all the tools to be the gamebreaker for the Wolverines this season, and, for me, he is easily the most exciting player in the game.

    In the first game of the season, Breaston was used rather sparingly. Henne called Breaston's number a few times early in the game, with long bombs into the end zone, but the time was just a little bit off. There were a few throws that landed just outside the endzone and just out of his reach. I would've liked to have seen Breaston used a little more often in the first week, but perhaps Carr was just saving him for the Irish.

  • The biggest questions for the Wolverines are certainly going to be on defense. It was last year's defense that was the achille's heal for the wolverines. For the majority of the season, the defense did a fine job, putting up big stops when they were needed. There were, however, some weaknesses, and those glaring holes were the most obvious against mobile quarterbacks like the Longhorn's Vince Young and Ohio State's Troy Smith. The first game versus Northern Illinois did not answer many questions on defense, and the Wolverines failed to protect against the running game, giving up 216 yards rushing, including a 76-yard touchdown by Garret Wolfe. To their credit, the defense did manage to create five turnovers, which ended up being the difference in the game.