May 31, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 38

Finally, an ending.  And finally, a storyline mercifully snuffed out.

Game 6: Indiana vs. Miami.

I'm not sure this game was close.  Maybe in the opening minute or two?

After that, Miami was off to the races, ready to prove that this year's team is no slouch and that they are the better group all-in-all.

And really, such a devastating beatdown only serves to prove Miami's dominance as well as their lack of true competition.  Forget about people claiming that Indiana is an "elite" team.  That is completely bogus.

Plus, their weaknesses have been exposed and they're up against the salary cap (supposedly).  Those two things in concert equal a troubling offseason to come.

For my part, I'm pretty sick of the Pacers.  When they got off to the great start, it was fine.  And when they continued to dominate into 2014, I was actually looking forward to seeing them in the playoffs.  But then the wheels fell off and after the constant nonsense surrounding them through March and April, plus their inability to get past Atlanta or Washington with ease...well, it's easy to get tired of such things.

And, really, they probably should have been knocked out by Atlanta.  Had Al Horford played in the series, it probably would have happened.

Miami now goes to their fourth-straight NBA Finals.  This is impressive on its face, but when you dig deeper and look at some of the teams they've faced on their way to the Finals, especially this year and last year, it looks a bit less impressive.

My contention is that it's not quite as impressive as the last three teams who did it, mostly because they all did it 25+ years ago.  The competition was undoubtedly better.

This year's Eastern conference was just weak.  The greatest sign of that was that the Pacers were the #1 seed, stunk through most of the second half of the season, and still managed to get to the conference finals and then push Miami to six.

I'm glad Miami won.  I just wish they had done it in Game 5.

Miami wins the series 4-2.  They move on to the NBA Finals.

Later today, Game 6 in Oklahoma City.  With a win, the Spurs move on to the NBA Finals.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 42

While the Rangers wait, the series in the West goes to Game 7.

Game 6: Chicago vs. Los Angeles.

For once, it's pretty easy to tell who won this game and why.

Patrick Kane was the best player in Game 6, without a doubt.  He scored two goals (including the game-winner) and had an incredible assist that helped Duncan Keith score the game-tying goal.

His impact was most strongly felt in the third period.

In watching the highlights, it seemed almost inevitable.

Of course, at the beginning, things were not so rosy.  And in the third period, they got a bit bleak.  Crawford, as usual, gave up a couple soft goals.  But then he righted the ship and once Kane scored the winner, it was over.

Yup, even with nearly four minutes left.

The Kings were quite strong in a game that could have propelled them to the Stanley Cup Final.  They took the lead in the first and third periods, and probably would have held it if Kane hadn't gone into clutch hero mode.

Now the series shifts back to Chicago.  I would say that the Blackhawks hold an advantage...but I'm not entirely sure that they do.  Despite giving up four goals last night, Jonathan Quick has been incredibly tough to beat in elimination games.  Crawford, on the other hand, has a tendency to give up goals.  He's been strong at times in these playoffs, but his inconsistency may be a problem.

The series is tied 3-3.  Game 7 is Sunday.

Later today...there are no games.  The Rangers get to wait a little longer to find out who they'll play in the Stanley Cup Final.

May 30, 2014

Triptykon - Melana Chasmata (2014)

Editing can be a touchy subject when it comes to music.  An artist likely wants to present his/her content in exactly the form and manner in which it was written and recorded.  To cut out parts on a whim would be unacceptable.

Given the difference between artist and listener (though consumer might be the better term for the latter, as music is a product and should be judged accordingly), there is likely to be a discrepancy between what is thought of as "necessary".  What the artist thinks is "necessary", the listener might regard as tedious filler that wastes time and drains the listening experience of either momentum or quality.

This is precisely the problem that I ran into while listening to Triptykon's new album Melana Chasmata.

In my estimation, about 20 minutes of the album could have been tossed into the recycle bin.  Tracks 5-7 basically neuter the album and kill whatever momentum the first four tracks build.  This is because "Aurorae" and "Demon Pact" go nowhere, and "In the Sleep of Death" commits the sins of being too long and too repetitive.

The first four tracks, and to a lesser extent the last two, are simply brilliant. They stand alongside the best of what the band previously offered on Eparistera Daimones.

Melana Chasmata is just a touch too long and doesn't have the ideas to support its girth.  Even "Black Snow", a track that I consider a highlight, can be divisive due to excess lyrical repetition.

If this were the band's third or fourth album, I might be more forgiving as these issues would actually be codified into the band's "style".  But this is merely the sophomore full-length from the band.

Also, since it was produced in-house by Tom G. Warrior and V. Santura, it's obvious that an objective ear, while needed, was missing.

All in all, Melana Chasmata is not a bad record.  At the same time, it's not as good as some will claim.  Three tracks can be skipped with no impact on the listening experience as a whole.  That's a problem, but one that is easily remedied, either by shortening the next record or by bringing in more solid ideas that eschew repetition and instead crush skulls like the opener or "Breathing" do in spades.

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 37

Control over a series is sometimes as simple as asking the question "where's the game being played"?

Game 5: Oklahoma City vs. San Antonio.

I didn't see a lot of this game; it turned into a blowout in the second half thanks to OKC not really showing up on offense.

In the first half, both teams were pretty strong.  In the second, neither one was as good, but OKC was worse, scoring only 34 points.  Considering that they scored 32 in the first quarter, that's problematic unless their defense was exceptional.

Spoiler alert: it wasn't.

For whatever reason, the Spurs were not afraid of Ibaka and his shot-altering ability.  Not only that, but they were back to the efficient execution and shot-making that they showed in spades in the first two games.

Ginobili had 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-4 from behind the three-point line.  Combine that with 22-and-12 from Duncan and a well-rounded attack from Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and oddly enough, Boris Diaw...and there you go.

Durant and Westbrook weren't bad, by any means.  They put up roughly half of the team's total points by themselves.  I guess the problem is that none of the other guys were in double figures and the defense wasn't there.

What do you know, the box score doesn't tell the whole story.

At any rate, the Spurs have taken control of the series temporarily.  We'll see what happens when it shifts back to Oklahoma City.

My guess is that it'll get ugly on their end as the Thunder play better.

San Antonio leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Saturday.

Later today, Game 6 in Miami.  The series should already be over; still, Miami moves on to the NBA Finals with a win.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 41

One series ends, and that nagging light at the end of the tunnel is shining brighter.

Game 6: Montreal vs. NY Rangers.

I guess the best thing about this game was how obvious its "three stars" were/are.

It was a 1-0 win for the Rangers, so obviously, the goal scorer and both goaltenders were going to be celebrated.

I'm not questioning this tack at all.  Dominic Moore, Henrik Lundqvist, and Dustin Tokarski were quite obviously the best players on the ice.  I'm sure some will argue for Ryan McDonagh, as he's on a tear and had an assist leading to the only goal, or Brian Boyle, who also had an assist.

Surely there are others as well.

While the main thrust of the conversation will center on the Rangers' chances against either team coming out of the West, I'd just like to point one thing out: Tokarski looks like the real deal.  And just like John Gibson in Anaheim, his time is probably sooner rather than later.

The two situations are a lot different.  Carey Price is the starter in Montreal, I'd wager, as soon as he's healthy.  In Anaheim, on the other hand, Jonas Hiller looks to be on his way out and Frederik Andersen was shaky before he got injured.  So I guess if I was doing "Oddsmakers" a la PTI, I'd give Gibson a higher chance of starting in goal for Anaheim in October.  Still, it'd only be about 40% or so.

Given the results, Tokarski was great.  His worst game (in terms of goals allowed) was Game 5, and they won that one.  There's probably some refinement that needs to take place, but for a guy who was literally tossed into the fire, he came out looking quite good.

The Rangers move on to face either Los Angeles or Chicago.  They'll have the dubious advantage of rest, but home-ice is still to be determined.  Lundqvist may not be "standing on his head", per se, but he's head-and-shoulders above the other goaltenders in this year's playoffs.  Even still, it might not matter much as the Kings and Blackhawks just look better overall.  Watching from the beginning of the season as I did, I just got the impression that the West is the stronger conference and that whoever won, while having to fight off a bunch of tough teams, would be holding the Stanley Cup over their heads at the end of it.

NY Rangers win the series 4-2.  They move on to the Stanley Cup Final.

Later today, Game 6 in Los Angeles.  With a win, the Kings move on to the Stanley Cup Final.

May 29, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 36

Moving on?  Not just yet.

Game 5: Miami vs. Indiana.

Honestly, this game was ridiculous.

I was thinking about it overnight: I bet there were multiple games in the regular season where LeBron had fewer than five fouls, combined.  And I'm almost certain that the number of games in which he had zero fouls was greater than that in which he had five or more.

Of course, I'd have to check through the box scores from all the games he played in this season to verify that.

So while I'm not saying it happened for sure, I have a sneaking suspicion.

That points to one thing: his performance was an aberration.  The referees were unusually tight on a guy who rarely has his number called.

To say it didn't affect the game would be ludicrous.  He was 2-for-10 from the field and had seven points for the entire game.  Bosh and Wade, along with Rashard Lewis, surprisingly, had to carry the team in LeBron's enforced absence.

Even still, Miami was making runs throughout the fourth quarter, but for whatever reason they couldn't get over the hump.

I'm guessing that reason has something to do with LeBron and not being able to get in the flow of the game.

So now we head back to Miami for Game 6.  It shouldn't have happened, but since it did, I hope Miami crushes the Pacers.

Miami leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Friday.

Later today, Game 5 in San Antonio.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 40

Facing elimination and succeeding in spite of it.

Game 5: Los Angeles vs. Chicago.

Anyone would assume that tension would be higher throughout an elimination game.  With the Kings leading the series 3-1 and perhaps on their way to a second Stanley Cup Final in three years, the tension was raised to another level that we haven't seen previously.

The result of that is a first period full of craziness.  Five goals were scored in the first and Chicago led 3-2 by the end of it.

It seems like most of Chicago's chances were coming off of rebounds.  Like they couldn't get their initial shots past Quick, but a rebound would occur and then someone would skate in and get a tip-in with little trouble.

Brandon Saad was certainly the beneficiary of one such play.  It was pretty ridiculous, actually.

Patrick Kane had four assists on the night.  No goals and four assists.  That's a hell of a line.

The Kings were up to the challenge, though, and played about as well as could be expected.  They put up two goals in the second period and even held a lead for a little while.

The third period was an uneasy stalemate that took the game to overtime.

And when that wasn't enough, there was a second overtime.  Early in double OT, Kane and Saad got the puck moving into the offensive zone; Handzus was the beneficiary this time as he took a pass and shot a nifty backhand over Quick's left shoulder.

And I thought the first period was nuts.

Los Angeles leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Friday.

Later today, Game 6 in NYC.  With a win, the Rangers move on to the Stanley Cup Final.

May 28, 2014

Bleach 582 - The Headless Star

New Bleach chapter!  Let's talk!

Spoilers after the cut.

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 35

It's a series in the West? jest.

Game 4: San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City.

The combination of Durant and Westbrook scored 71 last night.  San Antonio scored 92...and lost by 13.

What's even funnier about that score is that San Antonio's reserves were in the game from about five minutes remaining in the third until the end of the game.  They didn't really close the gap, per se; I don't think the lead was ever below 10 in the second half.  Still, maybe they can take something from that going forward.

Or maybe they already know that if they move the ball and play unselfishly in their offense, they can beat OKC.  My guess is that they already know, but this stuff with Ibaka coming back when he was thought to be out has shaken their confidence somewhat.

It's a fact that when Ibaka was out, the Spurs dominated, and that domination went inside-out.  Now that Ibaka is back in, the Spurs have not looked good and have lost both games.  Not coincidentally, both of those games were in OKC.

So now we'll see what happens when the series returns to San Antonio.

My guess is that Parker and Ginobili (and/or Kawhi Leonard) will drive inside and either go to the rack hard or kick it out to Danny Green or one of the other guards behind the three-point line.  Their pick-and-roll offense can be devastating as well, but that was not really evident in OKC.

Either way, it's a series now and San Antonio has to pick themselves up after what has been a near-disastrous showing in Games 3&4.  They have the talent and the system to get things done and win games.  They just have to do it.

As far as the Thunder are concerned: they've got Ibaka back and in fairly good shape.  Durant and Westbrook are both firing on all cylinders.  The only thing they were really missing last night is secondary scoring.  IF they get that and Durant/Westbrook continue to be unstoppable, then they can easily win this series and face Miami in a rematch of the Finals from a couple years ago.

Of course, now that it's tied, the likelihood of it going seven games has increased by quite a bit.  That wouldn't be the worst thing for the league (or for Miami, really).

The series is tied 2-2.  Game 5 is Thursday.

Later today, Game 5 in Indiana.  With a win, Miami moves on to the NBA Finals.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 39

Here they come again, inconsistent to the end.

Game 5: NY Rangers vs. Montreal.

With a chance to close out the series in five games, what do the Rangers do?

It's hard to imagine the Canadiens scoring seven goals in a single game.  We already know the Rangers can do it, but the more playing time Tokarski gets, the more he looks like a guy who can take the starting job away from the overrated, non-"elite" Carey Price.

So the inconsistent Rangers are suddenly back, although this time they put up four goals in a valiant effort, through two periods, at least.  The third period was where it fell apart, but given the circumstances, I'm not terribly surprised about it.

I guess it's a little weird that they were failed by their goaltending.  Lundqvist gave up four on 19 shots and Cam Talbot wasn't much better, giving up two more on 8 shots.  What I don't like is that Talbot was saddled with the loss; even though he allowed the fifth and sixth goals (the seventh was an empty-netter), they wouldn't have been in that position had Lundqvist not allowed four and gotten pulled in the first place.  Not quite fair, but that's how it goes, I guess.

Chris Kreider tied it up at 4 with a pretty goal off of a great pass by Ryan McDonagh.  McDonagh in particular has been very good in the series, putting up points left and right.  Derek Stepan came back from his broken jaw wearing a mask to cover it and scored two goals with little problem.

Of course, the player of the game was Montreal's Rene Bourque.  He had a hat trick on four shots.  He also got into it with the Rangers' Derek Dorsett at the end of the game and was assessed a game misconduct penalty in addition to a major for cross checking.

Tokarski was the other bright spot for the Canadiens.  Once they went up 5-4, he held firm.  Giving up four goals isn't the best way to go out, but hey, he won the game and has been solid since Game 3.

NY Rangers lead 3-2.  Game 6 is Thursday.

Later today, Game 5 in Chicago.  With a win, Los Angeles moves on to the Stanley Cup Final.

May 27, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 34

In a seven-game series, the better team usually wins.  This series is an excellent example of that phenomenon.

Game 4: Indiana vs. Miami.

Unlike Game 3, there was no attempt by the Heat to even allow the Pacers to think they were in it.

It didn't really get ugly until the 4th, and even then it was mitigated by the fact that Miami took their collective foot off the gas.  The Pacers made a nice run in the 4th, but eventually LeBron just went to the rack, dunked the ball, and made his free throw to effectively end it.

I was fairly certain that Miami would win the series and I was hoping they'd do so with little difficulty.

If Game 4 proves anything, it's that when Miami is at their best (or a close approximation thereof), these two teams are not close.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Indiana wasn't even close to their best, either.

Lance Stephenson was ineffective throughout.  They he made some shots late.  Perhaps that'll carry over to Game 5.  And maybe being at home will help him too.

But so far, we've been sold that George is a "superstar" and there's been very little proof of it, despite the 23 points last night.  From my POV, Stephenson is far more deserving of that "honor", if you can even call it that.

At any rate, despite all their struggles, the Pacers have gotten to where they wanted to be.  Well, except for being down 3-1.  I'm sure they didn't see that coming.  And certainly, they didn't want it to happen.

Miami leads 3-1.  Game 5 is Wednesday.

Later today, Game 4 in Oklahoma City.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 38

And just like that, both series are now 3-1.

Game 4: Chicago vs. Los Angeles.

I guess I got fooled by the fact that Chicago just won the Cup last season, that despite their rather mediocre 2013-2014 campaign, that they'd somehow "turn it on" and blast through the Western conference on their way to another appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

If this is going to happen, well, it'll be a whole lot more difficult than anybody thought it would.

Starting out in a 3-0 hole is always bad.  Two of the three goals were scored on the power play, which indicates that penalties were taken, and that the Kings were ready to take advantage.

Of course, it also indicates that Corey Crawford was probably not on his game. He certainly wasn't showing the form that he did in 2013 when they were making that run.

Crawford gave up another one in the second period.  The Kings scored in the third on an empty-netter that capped it off and destroyed whatever comeback attempt Chicago had in the works.

Saad and Bickell scored for Chicago.  The main problem seems to be that their main offensive threats can't get going at the same time.  In Game 3, Toews was practically on fire, but nobody else put it in the net.  Last night, no one else was up to the task other than Saad and Bickell.

It's frustrating for me because I was hoping to see Chicago win the West and hopefully play Boston in the Final.  Obviously, that isn't happening, but it may be that neither team will be there.

My main problem with the idea of Chicago winning this series in seven? Jonathan Quick.  He hasn't been off his game since Game 4 of the first-round series against San Jose, practically.  And even if it gets to a Game 7...I dunno, I just don't see it happening this year.

Los Angeles leads 3-1.  Game 5 is Wednesday.

Later today, Game 5 in Montreal.  With a win, the NY Rangers move on to the Stanley Cup Final.

May 26, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 33

The scene switches from San Antonio to Oklahoma City.  And Game 3 adds an important factor heretofore missing from the series.

In other words, uh oh.

Game 3: San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City.

The score isn't really indicative of how out-of-hand this game got in the 4th quarter.  Really, when Butler hit a three from the right corner early in the 4th, this one was over.

But then a funny thing happened which could have an impact on Game 4: the Thunder scored two points in the final four minutes.  It made the score look a lot closer.  But it also indicates that if the Thunder aren't bringing their best for 48 minutes, the Spurs might be able to do something.

At the very least, they turned a twenty-point deficit into a nine-point loss.

That might not be anything incredible or mind-blowing, really.  It might have no impact on the next game or the rest of the series at all.

That said, the Thunder have to continue to play hard for all 48 minutes if they want to beat the Spurs in this series.  I'm not sure they can win the series, even with Ibaka returning and Reggie Jackson going nuts.

That's right, Serge Ibaka played in this game.  Not only that, but he had an impact throughout.  He had 15 points (6-for-7 from the field), seven rebounds, and four blocks.

More than the rebounding and shot-blocking though, his mere presence had an impact on how the Spurs ran their offense, something that Kenny Smith adroitly pointed out at halftime.

Obviously, it wasn't something that got better in the second half.  Or else the Spurs probably would have pulled this one out.

A testament to Ibaka's presence, the Spurs' shooting percentages were not that great.  Even Danny Green, who started out well, dipped.  Pretty much, the only reliable contributor was Ginobili.  He just couldn't win it by himself.

A rash of turnovers in the second quarter didn't help either.

San Antonio leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Tuesday.

Later today, Game 4 in Miami.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 37

The third round continues in the east.  People say it's a series thanks to the result of Game 3.  I wasn't so keen on that.

Game 4: Montreal vs. NY Rangers.

The Rangers had a couple of days to stew over the OT loss in Game 3 that had most people frothing at the mouth about how it was "a series" again.

As opposed to the beatdown that it had been before that.

Despite Montreal playing fairly well yesterday, I think we can once again dispel the flimsy notion that this is a series.  Since Carey Price went out, it's basically been a wait-and-see until the Rangers picked up their four wins and moved on.

That said, I still don't think Price would have made much of a difference.

At any rate, Game 4 was another exciting one that went to OT and also happened to go the Rangers' way (just as I had hoped).

Carl Hagelin had a goal in the first (a shorty, no less) and assisted on the OT winner.  He was the second star of the game for his effort.  The first, of course, was Martin St. Louis, who scored the game-winner.

Derick Brassard returned from injury in this game and had a beautiful goal in the second period.  Lundqvist played the puck in the trapezoid behind the goal out to Dan Girardi, who skated toward his own blue line before noticing that he had a man in open ice ready to do something.  That man was Brassard, and after Girardi rifled a very nice pass to him, Brassard rushed on net and buried a shot past Montreal's goaltender.

Words don't really capture it, though.  Click on "Boxscore" and watch for yourself!

NY Rangers lead 3-1.  Game 5 is Tuesday.

Later today, Game 4 in Los Angeles.

May 25, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 32

Zoom!  There they go, flying past the supposed competition.  Who, you ask?

Game 3: Indiana vs. Miami.

This one was close for a long time.  Much of that closeness is the result of Miami coming out to play for the second quarter.

Yeesh, and I thought their effort in Game 1 was bad.

Thankfully, they realized sometime in the second quarter that they are, in fact, better than the Pacers.  It took them awhile to really take control of the game, though.

In the meantime, though, LeBron and Wade were really quite fantastic.

And then when someone else needed to step up, why, it was the nigh-unstoppable Ray Allen who did so.  I admit, it helps a ton that the Pacers somehow decided to leave him "open" (more or less) behind the three-point line a couple times and completely lost him in transition on another attempt.

Speaking of which, he was 4-for-4 in the fourth from behind the three-point line.  And those twelve points were critical.  Not only did they help build/maintain a lead for the Heat (especially the last three makes), but they got the crowd involved and they convinced me that if the shots are falling, Miami isn't losing.

Oh, they may well lose another game and have to take it in six.  But they're winning this series.  I have no doubt about that, but then again, I didn't have much doubt before tonight.

Even after Game 1, I was like "no problem, they'll win in five".  And maybe they will.  Or like I said above, maybe it'll be in six.  But it's not going seven and the Heat will get to the NBA Finals again.

Miami leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Monday.

Later today, Game 3 in Oklahoma City.  Might there be a Serge Ibaka sighting?  He's day-to-day with a calf injury.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 36

One series may have taken a turn.  Maybe not for the better, either.

Game 3: Chicago vs. Los Angeles.

The 1st period was great for the Blackhawks.  Their captain, Jonathan Toews, put in a short-handed goal and another at even-strength.  It was 2-1 at the end and things were looking good.  Or great.  Either or.

And from then on, it just kinda flopped.

They didn't score again until there were five seconds remaining in the third period.  So basically, the game was over midway through the third.  At least, if it hadn't ended in the second.

After a troublesome third period in Game 2 in which Crawford and the defense had a bad time of it, Crawford's performance in Game 3 was not a whole lot better.  He saved 28-of-32, but four goals allowed won't win many games for you, especially when the offense is shut down for practically two-thirds of the game.

Also, other than Toews, nobody else really put their imprint on the game, including the returning Andrew Shaw.  Patrick Sharp had the third goal late in the third, which could be meaningful as the series moves on.

It probably bugs Chicago that they were taken out last night by guys who probably weren't expected to be producing.  Two of the goals were scored by defensemen, Voynov and Doughty.  Gaborik and Kopitar had seven shots combined, but no points.  Jeff Carter scored as well, coming off his hat trick in the previous game.

At this point I wonder if it was just a bad day, or something more.  I'm inclined to believe that they just couldn't get the chances they needed against Quick; they were close, but not quite there.  That's what the score tells me, but seeing so much time elapse between goals might signify something else.

The shots on goal were fairly even, so I don't think it's the "puck possession" that so many rave about that was the difference.

Los Angeles leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Monday.

What, no unnecessary days off this time?  Apparently not.

Later today, Game 4 in NYC.  A Rangers win would give them a 3-1 lead and would calm down this nonsense that it's actually a series.

May 23, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 35

Just when you think something's going the way you want it...yeesh.

Game 3: Montreal vs. NY Rangers.

Of course Game 3 went to overtime.  And of course, the Rangers lost after less than two minutes in OT.

The game was really a bit wacky.  Montreal's goaltender Tokarski was stopping pretty much everything in sight.  He had to, since the Rangers had a huge advantage in shots on goal.  Usually, that kind of advantage leads to a win.

Sorry, not last night.

Then the third period rolled around and things just got wackier.  Daniel Briere was credited for a goal he likely had nothing to do with.  And then the Rangers responded by shooting one in off of Alexei Emelin.

'Cause, y'know, fair's fair and whatnot.

Chris Kreider was given the credit for that one, but who knows if it actually went off his stick before hitting Emelin's skate?  Well, it sure looked that way on replay, but hell if I know.

There were also penalties galore.  Well, mostly on Carcillo, who apparently thought that pushing a linesman away is cool with the NHL.  It isn't, and he'll likely be suspended, although if you watch the video carefully it's...not exactly a violent motion on Carcillo's part.  Of course, it occurs multiple times.

One penalty that wasn't called involved a blatant and unnecessary hit by Brandon Prust on Derek Stepan.  It was kinda like Seabrook's hit on David Backes when Chicago played St. Louis in the first round, except this one was in open ice, so the boards weren't involved.

People will now say that it's a series.  Maybe it is.  Personally, I doubt it, especially if the Rangers sack up and win Game 4.  Which they ought to, since Tokarski can't stop everything.

Either that, or Tokarski can stop everything and this one's going seven.

I really hope that doesn't happen.

NY Rangers lead 2-1.  Game 4 is Sunday.

I love it when teams get two days off when no travel is involved whatsoever.

And then I imagine how the summer will be with no basketball and no hockey, and I just effing shudder.

Later guessed it: no games, again.  Game 3 in Chicago is on Saturday.

May 22, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 31

It's funny how things can turn sometimes.

On Day 31 of the NBA Playoffs, we were shown just how much of a turn this series has taken in a mere two games.

Game 2: Oklahoma City vs. San Antonio.

People will say that this series hinges on the absence of Serge Ibaka.

Maybe so, but the Thunder are having problems all over the lineup.  For instance, the starters who aren't Durant or Westbrook...they combined to score four points and played a total of 38 minutes.

How had Scott Brooks not foreseen this after their dismal performance in Game 1?  It boggles the mind, really.

Of course, what's worse is that neither Durant or Westbrook were really up to the task of scoring efficiently.  They combined to make 1-of-9 three-pointers. Also, Westbrook took an amazing 24 shots, making a mere seven of them.

I don't know how they win like that.  I'm assuming that they won't.

Otherwise, the team shot 2-for-20 from three, which is pretty poor.

What makes the beatdown harder to resolve mentally is that Kawhi Leonard really didn't play well.  In his stead, though, Danny Green hit 7-of-10 from three.  Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili combined for 47, and that was that.

I think OKC will win one at home.  At this point, I really have nothing to base that on, other than speculation and past performance from Durant and Westbrook.  But it's really difficult to see them getting swept, even with results as dismal as the first two have been.

San Antonio leads 2-0.  Game 3 is Sunday.

Later today...there are no games.  Game 3 in Miami is Saturday.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 34

A resumption of action on Day 34 after a short break.

And here we go into some craziness.

Game 2: Los Angeles vs. Chicago.

Five goals in the third period.

That's what this game comes down to.  The second period ended with Chicago leading 2-1.  And then the Kings exploded in the third, putting up four on Crawford and an empty-netter to complete Jeff Carter's hat trick.

How does something like this happen?

Honestly, i have no clue.

Maybe part of it has to do with Crawford, who does seem prone to these sorts of breakdowns.  Or maybe it was the defense not being in the right position to stop some of these shots before they even got to the goaltender.

In any case, the result is this: a series that should have been 2-0 with Chicago in control is now 1-1 and it looks like it could go seven when it probably should have ended in five.

It's a huge turning point.  I just hope that Chicago can come back and acquit themselves better in Game 3, from beginning to end.

It's surprising to me that such an offensively limited team like the Kings can all of a sudden catch fire and put up such a large number.  Perhaps the most surprising part of it is that Kopitar wasn't involved in the scoring and Marian Gaborik had one assist and no goals.

If they're not leading the charge and Chicago is getting hammered, oh, boy, could that be problematic.

But then again, if Crawford returns to the form he's been showing lately, such an outburst likely won't be seen again and Chicago will move on comfortably.

Nah, it'll probably go to seven.

The series is tied 1-1.  Game 3 is Saturday.

Later today, Game 3 in NYC.  The Rangers are shooting for a commanding 3-0 lead.

May 21, 2014

Bleach 581 - The Hero 2

New Bleach!  Let's talk!

Spoilers after the cut.

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 30

Another night, another third round game.  I was hoping for a better effort and maybe even a win.  And I think I got it!

Game 2: Miami vs. Indiana.

It might not have been an aesthetically pleasing game, but Miami pulled it out.  Games that end in the 80's rarely are, I guess.

LeBron and Wade did their usual thing; LeBron was especially good in the fourth quarter as he keyed the run that ended it.  I'm not sure how they went up 86-78 to 87-83, but hey, they won.

Now they avoid going back to Miami down 0-2 and have regained home-court for the time being.  I think they'll win both games in Miami without too much difficulty, but that will be predicated on how head coach Erik Spoelstra adjusts to Stephenson.

Let's face it, Lance Stephenson damn near won the game for the Pacers by himself.  He wasn't getting a whole lot of help from his teammates, although that is a bit deceiving, I suppose, since they were all in double figures again.

And by all, I mean the starting five.  Their bench is not good.  About as bad as Portland's, really.

Stephenson controlled the game for the first three quarters.  Then LeBron took over in the fourth.  My guess is that Miami will look to lessen Stephenson's impact throughout Game 3.  Whatever they've done on Paul George has been just right.

Speaking of Paul George, he claimed to have blacked out during the game. Obviously, this is a situation that should be monitored and treated with extreme care.  It might also end up affecting the tenor of the rest of the series, depending on whether or not he misses any time.  I doubt very much that he'll miss even a quarter from such a thing, but I'm not a doctor and to be honest, it never hurts to be too careful.

If there's an under-the-radar performance to be looked at, I'd single out Norris Cole, who was incredibly efficient, scoring 11 points on a mere four shots. He also had two assists and a steal in 27 minutes.  Not exactly huge minutes there, but he's clearly playing better at this point than Mario Chalmers. Something to keep an eye on, at least.

The series is tied 1-1.  Game 3 is Saturday.

Seriously, three days off, to go from Indiana to Florida?  Okay, then.

Later today, Game 2 in San Antonio.

May 20, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 29

The Western conference finals started yesterday.  It's Day 29 of the NBA Playoffs!

Game 1: Oklahoma City vs. San Antonio.

Apparently, Serge Ibaka's injury was serious enough to keep him out of this series.  It's a huge blow, to be sure.

Game 1 really exposed OKC's defense without Ibaka.  The Spurs got into the paint at will from the get-go; Tim Duncan had 21 in the first half.  Yet somehow, the Thunder kept it fairly close despite the Spurs putting up 67 at halftime.

Of course, the Spurs pulled away in the second half, even though they gave up the lead at one point in the third quarter.

It may be a concern to the Spurs that they can blow the doors off the other team in the first half, but consistently allow them back into the game in the second because they can't keep up the pace offensively.  Something to think about for the next round, assuming the Spurs get there.

Eh, who am I kidding?  Without Ibaka, and with Collison, Sefolosha, and Perkins performing like they did (spoiler alert: blegh), the Thunder don't have much of a chance.  Hell, they may steal a game or two just based on athleticism or a freak-out performance from Westbrook and/or Durant, but that's about all I'd feel comfortable betting on.

Either way, the Spurs' execution was relentless.  And Kawhi Leonard just keeps on keepin' on.  The numbers last night don't really reflect his play, necessarily.  His impact seemed much greater than 7-for-16 shooting would suggest.

San Antonio leads 1-0.  Game 2 is Wednesday.

Later today, Game 2 in Indiana.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 33

The third round continues in the east in Day 33.

Game 2: NY Rangers vs. Montreal.

After the beatdown in Game 1, I figured Montreal would be a bit feistier in Game 2.  Then the news came down that goaltender Carey Price would be out the rest of the series.

It didn't look like it was going to be that competitive anyway, but with Price out of the equation I don't think Montreal has a chance in hell.

Still, after giving up four goals in two periods, it's not like Price was playing like an "elite" goaltender in Game 1 anyway.  Alas, the media has rushed to judgment yet again, trying to anoint him merely because Boston choked away a 3-2 lead.

At any rate, the Rangers didn't play quite as well yesterday, and yet they still had a comfortable win in which they weren't seriously challenged.

Lundqvist had another banner night, giving up one goal on 41 shots.  I'm not sure how he does it, but it's obvious that he's the "elite" goaltender in this matchup.

Ryan McDonagh continued putting points up, collecting a goal and an assist on the night.  Derek Stepan was another big contributor with two assists.

Both teams scored early in the first.  Once the Rangers went up 2-1, and definitely when they went up 3-1, it seemed like the game was sewn up.

NY Rangers lead 2-0.  Game 3 is Thursday.

Later today...there are no games, again!

May 19, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 28

The third round began, not with a bang, but a whimper.  So let's get to it.

Game 1: Miami vs. Indiana.

I'm not going to make too much of the result of this game.  After all, it's one game and everyone knows who the better team is.

That said, yeccccccccccccccccccch.

Okay, that's about as badly as Miami could have...well, maybe not as badly, but let's be reasonable here.  There's no way Miami should have even been this bad.

And really, when you look at it a little closely, they weren't entirely bad. LeBron and Wade were good.  Chris Bosh didn't have his best game, especially his shooting percentage, but that shouldn't have been so difficult to overcome.  And the role players were about as good as you can expect.

So I guess what this comes down to is defense.

In addition to being "almost there" in regards to offense (likely the product of Bosh's 4-for-12 night; a couple more of those go down and the game is closer by far), they were not great on defense.  Indiana scored 30 in the first and 28 in the third; given how they routinely performed against Atlanta and Washington, this cannot continue.

Also, all five of Indiana's starters scored in double figures, including Roy Hibbert, who had 19.  I don't know if that's a fluke or the inability of Miami to guard him.  He had tremendous problems scoring consistently in the two previous series, though, so I don't expect that to be a constant.

Miami is the two-time defending champion, though, and they're up against a team who wants to usurp their position at the top of the Eastern conference. So one would think that a better effort would be forthcoming in Game 2.  Let's hope they don't wait until they get back to Miami to pull out the big guns.

Indiana leads 1-0.  Game 2 is Tuesday.

Later today, Game 1 in San Antonio.  Should be interesting to see who sets the tone, and how.  And how!

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 32

The third round began in the (mid?) west yesterday.  So let's get to it!

Game 1: Los Angeles vs. Chicago.

The conference final got off to a roaring start, though the result and the way it got there might be a bit unexpected.

Before the series started, I thought it could turn on the battle between Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford.  I think the best of those two will see their team to victory.

Since it was 3-1 and no empty-netters were scored, it's obvious that Crawford got the better of the first matchup.

Of course, the Kings didn't make it easy on Crawford.  In the second period alone, Crawford faced 17 shots.  He stopped 16 of them.

Duncan Keith scored in the second period as well.  That goal gave the Blackhawks a lead they did not relinquish.

Part of the problem for the Kings in the third period was that they didn't generate many good chances.  They only had four shots on goal and failed to make anything of the power play that they started the period with or the one they got about three minutes in.

Tyler Toffoli, who scored in the second, had an excellent chance on a breakaway, but the puck went off the post.  And that was that, pretty much.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews received a pass from Johnny Oduya late in the third and put it home for the 3-1 lead.  It was a masterful play led by Hossa, who streaked toward the left circle before dropping the puck to Oduya, who made an excellent pass.

I fully expect Quick and the Kings' defense to be tougher next time out.  That said, it's not like the Blackhawks had it too easy; shots on goal and good chances weren't exactly easy to come by.  It was a breakdown in Chicago's end that allowed the third goal.

At any rate, both teams now get a couple of days off.  Adjustments are sure to be made.

Chicago leads 1-0.  Game 2 is Wednesday.

Later today, Game 2 in Montreal.  Should be tougher this time out, right?

Either that, or the Rangers will put up 9.

May 18, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 31

The third round began in earnest yesterday in the east.  Surprisingly, it was a beatdown.  Certainly not the result I expected.

Game 1: NY Rangers vs. Montreal.

Another surprising fact about this series?  Montreal has home-ice.  I should have known that since I've been following the NHL all season.

And yet, here we are.

The Rangers put up seven goals in an offensive explosion.  The first four were scored on Carey Price, who was pulled for Peter Budaj.  Another surprise? Budaj didn't fare much better than Price.  In fact, considering that he only saved five of eight shots on goal, he may well have been worse.

Over the last couple of days, it has been made mention again how Price is an "elite" goaltender, or some such.  The fact is that he continues to be overrated and a game like this reveals the truth quite harshly.

Hell, I barely even need to say anything.  Four goals and pulled?  That pretty much says it all.

Henrik Lundqvist, on the other hand, continues to be spectacular.  Two goals given up and another 20 saves for what has to be the best remaining goaltender in the playoffs.  Some may argue for Quick and his record in elimination games, especially in 2014.  It's worthy either way, but I'll go with Lundqvist.

Ryan McDonagh was the star for the Rangers, putting up a goal and three assists.  Martin St. Louis put up a goal, as did Rick Nash.  It's important for all three to continue to play well.

One problem might be if Derick Brassard misses time.  He left the game early and his status for Game 2 is yet to be determined.  Considering how much he, Pouliot, and Zuccarello were owning the Pens in Games 5-7, it's probably important to the Rangers to keep that line intact if at all possible.

Obviously, the result of this one pleases me greatly.  However, I don't expect this to be a cakewalk.  I'm sure Montreal will come out stronger in the next game; they might have lost home-ice already, but they sure as hell don't want to go down 0-2, especially if the Rangers' offense is clicking.

Given that seven different guys scored for the Rangers, it seems likely that their offense is on track.  But hey, who knows what could happen in Game 2, even?

NY Rangers lead 1-0.  Game 2 is Monday.

Later today, the third round begins in Chicago.  Another afternoon game.

May 17, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 30

Just one game to go in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  It was a Game 7 involving the LA Kings.  Yup, you can see where this is going already, huh?

Game 7: Los Angeles vs. Anaheim.

The only playoff game on the slate for Friday was this one.

To say it lacked drama would be an understatement.  The Kings put up three goals in the first period on John Gibson (four total).  Obviously, not the best game from the Anaheim goaltender, but I doubt it'll have much impact on his growth and further development.

He was eventually pulled and Jonas Hiller was inserted in net.  Hiller gave up two more goals to complete a rather unmemorable playoff run.

One good thing about the game is that it wasn't a shutout.  The Ducks scored one in the second and one in the third, but the deficit was too large and really, the Ducks weren't in the game after the first period.

After Game 7 against the Sharks went so comfortably to the Kings, I figured that this one would be no different.  And it wasn't.

Still, Anaheim had a fairly good season.  They won the Pacific division and flirted with the President's Trophy for much of it.  But their problems in goal, stemming from Hiller's lost confidence in March and April, really seemed to sink them.  Not even the neophyte John Gibson could fully save them.

As for the next round, I'm not sure who'll win but I think both teams could have trouble scoring.

Los Angeles wins the series 4-3.  They move on to the next round.

Later today, the third round begins in Montreal.

May 16, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 27

The second round concluded in what might be considered unsurprising fashion.

Only four more teams are left to slug it out for the NBA title.

First, Indiana vs. Washington.

Hard to call Washington's loss anything but disappointing.

They even took the lead in the 4th quarter, no matter how briefly.  And yes, it was very brief.  Other than that, they didn't look all that great.

So Indiana looked like a complete pile of cow dung in Game 5 and somehow managed to pull it together in the 4th after going down a couple points. Much of that has to do with the overrated Paul George, and David West.  I call Paul George "overrated" mostly as a result of the media rushing to anoint him a "superstar" in the NBA.  He's not, but then again, there are times when the media can't tell their behinds from a hole in the ground.

At any rate, Washington was rather poor last night.  Indiana, while maintaining at best half of their effectiveness from earlier this season when they looked legitimately great, was able to take advantage easily.

Somehow, Indiana is headed to the conference finals.  My hope is that Miami will sweep them...but I doubt that'll happen.

Indiana wins the series 4-2.  They move on to the next round.

Last, Oklahoma City vs. Los Angeles.

After the first quarter, it was easy to sit here and think, "well, OKC is waiting for Game 7 to shut it down".

Then they outscored the Clippers in the next three quarters, turning a 14-point deficit into a six-point margin of victory.


Steven Adams had a double-double and Reggie Jackson scored 14 off the bench.  As usual, Durant and Westbrook poured in the points, but were inefficient shooting the ball (especially Westbrook).

Also, Ibaka went out with an injury, playing only 26 minutes.

I'm still not sure how the Thunder won this one.  But they did and they'll face San Antonio in the next round, which could be lopsided or quite tight, depending on the efficiency of Durant and Westbrook.  Then again, they might just run over the Spurs like they did a couple years ago anyway, no matter how inefficient they can be.

Oklahoma City wins the series 4-2.  They move on to the next round.

Later today...there are no games.  Now I really have no idea what to watch.

May 15, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 26

Two teams came in leading their series 3-1 and had a great chance to move on.  Spoiler alert: they both moved on.

First, Brooklyn vs. Miami.

It got a bit dicey, but then Ray Allen showed up.  He hit a dagger three from the corner and had a couple of free throws late to seal the win for Miami.

Then there was some nice defense played on the final possession.  After a couple of false starts, Joe Johnson had the ball for Brooklyn and went into the lane, where he was met by one defender (Allen again, I think) and LeBron, who slapped the ball away.

It wasn't the dominant performance I was expecting.  But they got the job done.

Now it remains to be seen when and who they'll be playing.

Miami wins the series 4-1.  They advance to the next round.

Last, Portland vs. San Antonio.

It was close after the first quarter.  And then the Spurs got a lot better.

Of course, they were aided and abetted by the Blazers turning the ball over a bunch of times.  Those turnovers often led to Kawhi Leonard running the fast break and slamming it home.

Speaking of which, Kawhi Leonard is really developing nicely.  I've made mention of this before, but it bears repeating: I think he'll be a great player, and he's really just scratching the surface of how good he can be.

Also, if Tony Parker is out for any period of time, Patty Mills is ready to step up and take his place, it seems.  We'll see for sure in the next round, if Parker isn't ready to start Game 1.

Another good sign for the Spurs was that Danny Green came alive.  He was hitting shots all over the floor and picked up nine rebounds to boot.

San Antonio wins the series 4-1.  They advance to the next round.

Later today, Game 6 in Washington and Los Angeles.  With a win, Indiana and Oklahoma City can advance to the next round.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 29

One series ends while another goes to Game 7.  It seems like the pull of Game 7 is inescapable in 2014.

First, Montreal vs. Boston.

The Bruins were up 3-2, failed to show up in Game 6, and weren't much better in Game 7.  They scored their only goal on the power play while allowing three to a Montreal team that was lacking in offensive firepower before acquiring Thomas Vanek and wasn't that great afterward.

The biggest problem, as I can see it, is that Tuukka Rask was inconsistent. He had a couple good games wherein he held the Canadiens down, but he allowed a bunch of goals in 6&7, and when the rest of the team couldn't score to pick him up, well, that was that.

It's a disappointing end to the season for the President's Trophy winner.  I figured they'd be on their way to the Stanley Cup Final again, because they honestly should not have had this much trouble getting through the second round.  And I think they would have coasted against an inconsistent Rangers team.

Of course, now that the Bruins are out, I'm rooting for the Rangers to sweep.

Montreal wins the series 4-3.  They advance to the next round to play the NY Rangers.

Last, Anaheim vs. Los Angeles.

Another disappointing result as the Ducks only managed one goal on Jonathan Quick while John Gibson gave up a mere two.

So now that this series is going to a seventh game...well, I find it hard to believe that the Kings will lose it.  Just like in the previous round, when they went to Game 7 and had the advantage, I think they'll have the advantage again.

To be fair, John Gibson has turned the Ducks' greatest disadvantage into something of a strength.  But then Getzlaf and Perry got shutdown in Game 6 and the rest of the team couldn't compensate.

Los Angeles hasn't gotten production from many of their best players, but with Quick stopping damn near everything and Marian Gaborik going crazy, it hasn't really been a problem.  Gaborik had an assist last night, but didn't score.

I'm guessing Game 7 will be much like this one.  Unless Anaheim craters. Then it could get uglier.

The series is tied 3-3.  Game 7 is Friday.

Later today...there are no games.  I guess I'll be watching basketball, then!

May 14, 2014

Bleach 580 - The Light

Another week, another Bleach chapter.  You know what that means!

(no, not another cliff...oh, wait)

Spoilers after the cut.

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 25

A beatdown in the east and another narrow victory out west.

Goodness, can someone hold a lead?  Oh, wait.  I think someone finally did!

First, Washington vs. Indiana.

There's not a whole lot to say about this one.

John Wall and Marcin Gortat went crazy; Gortat in particular was masterful, as he missed two shots the entire game, putting up 31 points and 16 rebounds.

The Pacers had a chance to close out the series, yet they looked woefully unprepared, especially in the third quarter when Washington really put it to them.  They lost by 23, but that's only because the fourth quarter didn't matter to Washington.  Had Washington really wanted to extend their lead, who knows how high it might have gotten.

When the series started I thought the Wizards would win in 5.  Then when the Pacers went up 3-1 I thought they would win in 5.

Now?  I have no clue.

Indiana leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Thursday.

Last, Los Angeles vs. Oklahoma City.

The Clippers were up by 13 with roughly four minutes left in the game.

Boy, did things unravel from there.

Kevin Durant finally started to hit some shots.  Chris Paul had several bad plays, including an inexplicable foul on Westbrook as Westbrook threw up a prayer behind the three-point line.

And of course, the refs got involved.

The play that most people will point to was a turnover that led to a fast-break by Reggie Jackson.  Despite having a three-on-one, he took the ball inside himself and was promptly fouled by Matt Barnes.

Except...there was no foul called, and the ball sailed out of bounds.

The refs went to look at it in replay and determined that the ball belonged to OKC.  Cue up Westbrook's prayer, which resulted in three free throws and a 105-104 lead for the Thunder.

Then Chris Paul took the ball into the lane with seconds remaining...and inexplicably lost the ball while being guarded by Serge Ibaka on the switch. I think Reggie Jackson might have slapped at the ball, dislodging it just enough for Ibaka to pick it up, but that's not a good look.

Predictably, Clippers coach Doc Rivers was upset about the way the game ended.  He made the point that the team basically gave up the game and it shouldn't be about the out of bounds call, but he also stated that the call was crap.

Honestly, I agree with him.  I've been rooting for the Thunder to win, but I would much rather see them win straight up than how it went down last night.

Oklahoma City leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Thursday.

Later today, Game 5 in Miami and San Antonio.  With a win, Miami and San Antonio move on to the next round.