DemocraThree: 28 March 2014

by J.R.

demo210

Every Friday bloggers from around The Heptarchy will update us on the news and notes from their teams (with that fancy header image courtesy of Mike D; like democracy itself, it’s a perpetual work-in-progress). Yes, we ripped this off from TRH’s Pacific War Room; no, we don’t care. And since we ripped it off, we’ll follow their lead and go in standings order.

St. Louis Blues
St. Louis Game Time‘s Tyler Atwood
@kingdonuti

When we last heard from the Conference III leaders and (at the time) Conference III Crown of [Fecal Matter] Wearers, the Blues were on the road thanks to the NCAA Basketball Tournament (I hear Wichita State is officially no longer good and stuff), Ryan Miller had gotten a sweet new lid and the boys were headed over to Pennsylvania. The Leastern Conference? Fun, right? Well, maybe not.

I say that because they started Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. Now, seeing Steve Mason in goal on the other end should have been a sign of good things to come, and Mason DID allow a bit of a laugher to Jaden Schwartz in the form of a shorthanded goal, but that’s all he gave. Once a month, Mason does this and causes Paul Holmgren to say “SEE? THAT’S WHY I SIGNED HIM FOR BIG MONEY, GUYS!” . . . well, you enjoy that, Paul, when another of your goalies bursts into flames. The Blues lost 4-1 and got out of Dodge as quickly as possible.

Next stop? Pittsburgh! Sidney Crosby, if you didn’t know, has never scored a goal against the Blues in his career. And since Brian Elliott, forced into spot duty on the rear end of a back-to-back, stopped everything that came at him in this contest, Sid STILL hasn’t scored on the Blues. A David Backes power-play-but-not-really-power-play goal in the third gave the Blues all they’d need to vanquish the Penguins, giving the Note a hard-fought 1-0 win.

And so they moved on to Toronto for the final game of the road trip, ironically enough on my birthday. And they played as if they knew it was my birthday. They fired 80 total shots (49 on goal) at a returning-from-injury Jonathan Bernier, but because the Maple Leafs seem to thrive when everything goes against them this season, the game was still in doubt until the end . . . and then was put out of doubt by a David Backes empty net goal from center ice to wrap up his second career hat trick. The Blues won 5-3, the Maple Leafs continued their tailspin and all of Toronto started freaking out . . . AGAIN.

With that done, the Blues returned home for the first of a long home stand, which began with the Minnesota Wild(s). The Fightin’ Adjectives played the night before at home and sure looked the part in this one, never really getting going at any point (of course, when you’re playing the Blues, that tends to happen anyway). Another hat trick, this time by American Hero© T.J. Oshie, paced the Blues to a 5-1 win in which the road team basically didn’t act like they cared enough to care. If that’s a playoff preview, I’m soiling myself if I’m a Wild(s) fan. That, and they need that soil to add to the poophat, since thanks to the result of THAT game, their team has the loathed Crown.

A bunch of home games await the Blues this week, starting with Dallas Saturday night, a rematch with Philly Tuesday night (APRIL FOOL’S! No, they’re actually playing them, sorry.) and Miller’s first game against Buffalo Thursday night. It’s a pretty good time to be a Blues fan, I guess.

Chicago Blackhawks
Cheer The Anthem‘s Mike Devine
@brightblack76

That Was the Hawks’ Week That Was began with a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. I don’t remember a single second of it. I think the Hawks won even,though.. ummm.. one of the Carolina players scored and their goalie, whatever his name is, did well, and there were some guys who play for the Canes who did more stuff and… yeah. Forgettable. The Canes are the Bashful of the NHL, in that everyone forgets about them if they’re not looking right at them (ask someone to name the Seven Dwarfs from the Disney Movie.. nine times out of ten, if they can’t think of one, it’ll be Bashful)

They followed this Memorable Win by going and getting shutout by the Preds. Two seasons ago the Hawks struggled to beat Nashville in the Regular Season and it seems that this year is a repeat of that. The difference being that the Perds were good two years ago and are rubbish this year.  The Hawks’ less-than-glorious record against Conference III opposition continues. However, we didn’t pay too much attention to all of this as #Teuvowatch was in full, frothing, swing by then. Sure enough, the Boy Wonder made his debut against Dallas on Tuesday and received one of the biggest ovations heard at the UC this year as he hit the ice for his first shift. Narrative dictates that either he scored a hat trick or was a disaster.. in fact he was perfectly fine. The kid clearly has a remarkable Hockey brain and great vision.. he was stronger than expected on Defence and, surprisingly, went 6-0 at the dot. There was nothing to suggest that he’s overawed or outmanned in this league, save for the standard Rookie tendency to pass to a more experienced team mate (Grizzled veterans Brandon Saad & Ben Smith) rather than take the shot himself. We like him. He can stay.

The good feeling engendered by that debut (and beating the ever-prickly Stars) lasted only up till Thursday night when the Hawks returned to the scene of their Stanley Cup triumph in Game 6 of last year’s Final, only to (nearly) re-enact Game 3 instead; getting shutout for the second time in five days, going down to the Bruins 0-3.  These are uneasy times in the Hawks camp, as the Avs won last night and the battle for 2nd is very much alive. Unlike the Senators, who the Hawks are playing tonight.

Picture: How not to pronounce ‘Teuvo Teräväinen’ (although Pat Foley did far better than expected..)

PRONOUNCE

Colorado Avalanche
The Internet’s Anthrax Jones
@anthraxjones

The Colorado Avalanche took four of a potential six points out of a week that saw them back within one point of the Chicago Blackhawks for 2nd place (and important home ice advantage in the playoffs) in #ConferenceIII. This week, I’m not going to analyze the games or even reference them specifically other than providing the score. I’m going to tell you how the games made me feel.

BOSTON 2, COLORADO 0

I thought a lot about bears eating snow. Not just polar bears, mind you, but grizzlies, black bears, brown bears, baloos, what have you. When teams pick names that are pretty much just snow, and they play a team named after bears, that kinda looks bad. I wonder how many bears have frozen to death though, and end up covered in snow? Also, if you’re a bear, you should be eating something more rugged than snow, you have powerful and slavering jaws, use them on stuff like elk and moose. Anyway, this game made me feel resigned.

COLORADO 5, NASHVILLE 4

Nashville’s jersey numbers have a guitar string pattern running through them and piano keys in the neckline. The St Louis Blues’ jersey logo is a musical note. A Blues/Preds game is a concert Why do I not see more cowboy hats in the crowd at Preds games? (Ed. note: Nashvillians don’t actually wear cowboy hats; when you see cowboy hats it means either Dallas [or possibly Calgary] is in town wearing their natural gear or visiting fans have gone and bought cowboy hats on Lower Broad. – J) This game made me feel good.

COLORADO 3, VANCOUVER 2

Until 2011, when people set their own city on fire like idiot toddlers, I always imagined Vancouver looking like the verdant green hills Julie Andrews sang on in “The Sound Of Music”. This was dumb. If Vancouver actually was “The Sound Of Music”, they would’ve won a championship long before now, obviously being the first team to win by Von Trapping its way to the Stanley Cup. This game made me feel happy.

Minnesota Wild
Hockey Wilderness‘s Ger Devine
@gerdevine

The Wild went into a weekend back-to-back against the Detroit Red Wings needing to some points to take the pressure off Mike Yeo. Things started poorly with a 3-2 loss at home. The result, along with Yeo’s baffling time on ice distribution culminated in a day of mass panic among Wild fans. There was heated debate about whether or not Yeo is the right man to lead the Wild to success.

Some of the panic subsided the following day with a 4-3 OT win at the Joe Louis Arena (Matt Moulson scoring the decisive goal after receiving some criticism for his recent performances). This game also marked the return of Jonathon Blum from AHL exile. In case you don’t know, Blum is an ex-Nashville Predator and has spent 100% of his NHL career with Conference III teams. He played well too so he could be around for a long time, especially in light of Clayton Stoner being shut down for the season.

After a few days off, the Wild made a disastrous return to the Xcel Energy Center against the Vancouver Canucks. I didn’t see it live as I was in Dublin for a concert, but I followed it on Twitter and it was pretty obvious that things were going terribly wrong. The Wild lost 5-2 much to the annoyance of the already antsy local fans. Nino Niederreiter caused some controversy with a high hit on the highly lovableDany Alex Burrows. He received no punishment from the Department Of Player Safety and they demonstrated, using fancy screen grabs on Twitter, how it was a legal hit. Nino adds “being able to stay just on the right side of legality when hitting” to his impressive skillset.

What was turning into a mess of a week for the Wild ended with a trip to St.Louis to face their bogey team. After a fast start , the Wild capitulated and lost 5-1. Dany Heatley was terrible yet again and the pressure on Mike Yeo to scratch him is now huge with Justin Fontaine sitting in the press box. The Wild’s goaltending seems to be returning to Earth rapidly and this team looks like it could miss the playoffs with some tough games on the horizon. My piece next week could be in all caps so be warned.

Dallas Stars
Defending Big D‘s David Wilson
@daveyssuitcase

The Stars played three games this week, winning the two they were meant to win, against the Senators and Jets at home, and losing the one they were meant to lose, against the Blackhawks in Chicago. Why then does it feel like it was a bad week?

Because of those poxing yappy dogs from Phoenix, that’s why. Granted, they weren’t completely lights out, going 2-1-1 this week, but their one regulation loss came on a late goal by Eastern Conference toppers Boston, and they took 5 points on a 3-game road-trip, including a win on the second night of a back-to-back, in Pittsburgh, and without starting goaltender Mike Smith. If the team that you’re chasing in the wildcard race don’t lose when they should by all accounts get trounced, what are you gonna do?

On a related note, that Premier League football player masquerading as an NHL goaltender Mike Smith went down with an oh-so agonizing injury in the game against the Rangers. And while no kind, caring, compassionate hockey fan would ever celebrate an opponent’s injury, I defy you to find a Stars’ fan who didn’t hear that news and feel just the tiniest surge of happiness. Of course, because it’s Mike Smith, that near certain amputation of his leg that we had all feared based on his reaction won’t be necessary.

Oh the absolute agony of a… mild sprain?

Not that anyone should be surprised.

I know, I know. This is a Conference III report! Why so much about Phoenix? And the answer is that if Phoenix doesn’t stop this shameful run of good play, the Pacific Division might actually end up with four teams qualifying for the playoffs. And we all know if that happens it will just open up the door for people to make the claim that the Pacific Division is as good as the Central. I personally find this unacceptable, as should all truly loyal Conference III-ans, so if Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Nashville could all do their part and beat the Coyotes in the next two weeks, that would be great. And it would also be helpful if St. Louis and Nashville lost their upcoming matches to the Stars.

I say this from a completely disinterested perspective. Entirely devoid of hidden motivation. It’s solely for the good of Conference III!

Nashville Predators
III Communication‘s J.R. Lind
@jrlind

This week, the Nashville Predators welcomed up Calle Jarnkrok, the Swedish center acquired in the David Legwand trade. Playing against type a bit, Barry Trotz actually put him on a line with decent wingers — speedy forechecking enthusiast Gabby Bourque and the Preds’ leading scorer Craig Smith. The trio has played well together and deserves a nickname, which I’ve decided should be either Bro Gabba Abba or Iron Chef America.

In any case, Jarnkrok has rewarded Trotz’s trust with a goal and three assists in his four games — four games this week in which the Predators played darn good hockey.

First up was a Friday night in Calgary, where the Preds were trying to repeat a bit of the success from an earlier match-up but without the messy bits (like inexplicably losing). Mission accomplished, as the two moribund offenses combined for 11 goals (yes, you read that correctly). Victor Bartley, who wears 64, scored his first NHL goal in his 64th game, because numerology is neat and because Victor Bartley’s shot is best described as “deceptively slow.” Shea Weber had two goals, too, but the big night came from four points via Matt Cullen, Civil War general:

S/t Adam

S/t Adam

Then it was off to Chicago for a Belt match and, wouldn’t you know it, not only did the Preds beat Chicago and win the Belt for the third time, but Nashville clinched the season series against Chicago, which is beyond bizarre. And, oh hey, Pekka Rinne got his first shutout in more than a year and the Preds first shutout since…Marek Mazanec (?) had a couple back in the fall. The bad news is that Seth Jones got crunched and is out with what his awesome dad described as “concussion-like syndrome.” The two at-fault Blackhawks are being held in Guantanamo Bay.

Belt runs haven’t been long in recent weeks and Nashville’s was no exception. The Preds coughed up a couple of leads Tuesday against the Avs and lost in the shootout to drop the Belt and give the Avs their first title reign. The game was fun anyway, because there were nine goals scored between the two teams and as things wrapped up, three players — Roman Josi and Matt Cullen for Nashville and Gabe Landeskog for Colorado — had a chance to get a hat trick. None did, but it was fun to watch nonetheless.

Then came a visit from Buffalo and their improbably named goalies. Who is Matt Hackett?

Who is Nathan Lieuwen?

 

For that matter, who is Henrik Tallinder?

 

Anyway, it was Oprah Night in Nashville. “You get a first NHL goal and you get a first NHL goal.” All 12 Nashville forwards got on the sheet (even Rich Clune had a pair of assists). Everybody scored!

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Anyway, winning is more fun than losing and since it’s a shallow draft with relatively little chance Nashville gets a top pick, I’ll take a 3-0-1 week. A trip to Dallas for the Chambers Pot tonight, a visit from the Caps Sunday and four days off await the Preds this week.

Winnipeg Jets
JetsNation‘s Ross Smith
@EBHeater

gwyneth

This week’s update is provided by guest columnist, Gwyneth Paltrow.

Vs. Carolina: L 2-3

@ Dallas: L 1-2

@ San Jose: W 4-3

Hi, everybody, Namaste and thanks for letting me offer my take on your hockeying for this week. As you can imagine, it’s been a tough one for me but I think I can relate to the Winnipeg Jets as they now consciously uncouple from their playoff hopes.

The thing is you have to be constructive. Whether you’re making a guacamole out of local, organic avocados and Uzbekistani truffle oil (really, if you’re using French truffle oil, you’re a nauseating fraud) or you’re building a 19th century-inspired villa in the Corsican islands, you’re bound to face some challenges: Acidity levels or inauthentic moulding selections, for example. You can choose to deport your personal chef or fire your architect or you can simply find that GoopTM inside your heart that has been fostered by a loving, nurturing universe and is waiting to gush out onto all your frustrating moments and fill those imperfections with your stickiest better self.

If I can struggle through the pressures of Hollywood and white privilege, then I know that the Jets can finish out the season with dignity if not exactly hope. The future is bright, fellows. Just ask the Edmonton Oilers who have been living in the bright light of the future for over a decade now. Coincidentally, I once met Ben Scrivens’ wife at some banquet honoring David Fincher’s music video career and she told me that being a hockey wife is much harder than being a rock star’s wife. I asked her why she assumed so. She said the only choruses fans sing at a goalie are boos when they’re losing. I reminded her passion cuts both ways and any expression of it comes from a place of love. She said Coldplay sucked pig dump milkshakes through a Measles-ridden bendy straw. I didn’t invite her to the Iron Man 3 opening.

Anyway, I’m fairly familiar with sports. You wouldn’t know it to look at me but I’m quite the “Soccer Mom” I believe the Americans call it. (In London they call soccer by its correct name “football”.) My boy Moses plays a non-contact, non-competitive football game with his private school chums (mostly Saudi princes whose names are far too complicated to pronounce so I just call them all “Kevin”) that really highlights to me the fundamental irony of sports. Why do we all play to win when there can only be one winner? It makes you think about how we define success, right? For some Jets, like Keaton Ellerby, just being paid to be a professional athlete has to be a huge moral victory, don’t you think? It’s no different from how I look at my galvanic separation from Christopher not as a failed marriage but instead as a LifesperimentTM that yielded unexpected results including two wonderful children and that harpy Amy Adams taking up all the plum thirty-something roles from me while I was stuck binging and purging my fish and chips into the Thames every day.

Regardless, I look forward to this new phase of my life and I trust the Jets will look forward to a new, GoopyTM season in 2015.

See, even as I write this, Ross tells me Winnipeg won against the San Jose Sharks! Why Sharks? They’re inland. It doesn’t matter, see your Jets still fighting for that playoff… oh… 9 points back with 8 games left and 4 teams to climb over? Hmmm… I was in that math movie, Proof, and I can tell you that doesn’t sound very good to me.

Shake it off, Jets fans! Come with me to a marvelous yoga retreat at my private Bikram studio in Costa Rica – my treat! (Minus hotel and airfare.) With flexibility of body comes flexibility of spirit and the ability to recontextualize any bad part of your life into a great one. I’ll show you: Even if you finish 12th in the conference, you haven’t finished 13th. See how easy that is? You sports people are a real hoot!

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