Author Archives: Joshua

NHL Playoffs 2014 – The Quest For The Cup!

NHL Playoffs Banner
The Playoffs Are Coming!

That’s right, in less than 48 hours the puck will drop in Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Anaheim to start the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs… and I’m excited.

I know that many/most Canadian hockey fans are dealing with feelings of disappointment and sadness as their teams are not in the post-season tournament, but as a Habs fan, I’m hyped for more hockey.

To kick off the playoffs I’ve drafted my good friend and great hockey fan Sean to give us his picks for the first round and some thoughts on what we might see.

So, have a look at our picks, agree or disagree as you will (please don’t make too much fun of us) and share your picks for the first round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs!

2014 NHL PLayoff Bracket

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins (1) vs Detroit Red Wings (4)

Sean: Original six foes who haven’t had a playoff matchup in three generations. Grand Rapids – sorry, Detroit – took the season series and will make it closer than it ought to be. But I can’t pick against the President’s Trophy winners, and Jarome Iginla’s surprising season.
Boston wins 4-2

Josh: As much as I hate the Bruins, and I really really do (except for Jarome Iginla) I don’t see a way that the undermanned, banged up, skin of their teeth Red Wings can knock off Boston in this series. Look for 5 games.
Boston wins 4-1

Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs Montreal Canadiens (3)

Sean: Three of the four games between these teams were decided by a single goal in overtime or a shootout., which means this series is all about the goaltending – Tampa losing starter Ben Bishop last week, while Carey Price has seemingly been doing everything right this year.
Mnn… mnh… Montreal wins 4-3 (as a Leafs’ fan, that really, really hurt to say)

Josh: This is a tight match-up with these teams finishing the regular season very similarly. The difference for me right now is goaltending. If Ben Bishop can’t compete for the Lightning the edge definitely goes to Gold Medal winning Carey Price and the Habs. 6 games here.
Montreal wins 4-2

Pittsburgh Penguins (1) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (4)

Sean: The Penguins might be missing Evgeni Malkin, but Columbus is definitely without Nathan Horton. Pittsburgh’s goaltending is always the playoff question mark. However, Pittsburgh had Columbus’ number all season long. That, and the best player in the world, tell me the Pens go through.
Pittsburgh wins 4-1

Josh: Before the season I wouldn’t have picked Columbus to make the playoffs. And now that they’re here I won’t be picking them to beat the Penguins in the first round. As long Fleury can stop a puck the Pens win.
Pittsburgh wins 4-1

New York Rangers (2) vs Philadelphia Flyers (3)

Sean: Patrick Division represent – two very, very evenly-matched teams should mean a close series. Home ice will mean a lot – the home team won each game between these two this season, and Philly has been snakebit in New York for the last few years. Martin St. Louis will be motivated to validate his trade-deadline pickup, and not many teams have found a way to put him on ice.
New York wins 4-3

Josh: I don’t know enough about these teams to be quite honest. But I hate the Flyers and I think that Alain Vigneault can coach the Rangers past Philly in the opening round.
New York wins 4-3

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche (1) vs Minnesota Wild (4)

Sean: Colorado was the huge surprise of the regular season, bouncing back from a horrible run with a very young team. Meanwhile, if the Wild were an ice cream, they’d be vanilla – I have no line on them, beyond that playoff decision tree that’s floating around telling me they should be my team now. The Avs had the upper hand in a close season series.
Colorado wins 4-2

Josh: The Avs have been a great surprise this season with Patrick Roy leading the young team from behind the bench. The Wild have been a great story and can’t be upset with their season, but I’m looking at the young stars from the Rockies to win here.
Colorado wins 4-3

St. Louis Blues (2) vs Chicago Blackhawks (3)

Sean: Both teams have been bit by the injury bug in recent weeks, putting a late blemish on St. Louis’ amazing year. Chicago looks like it’ll be healthier more quickly, and as the defending champion, have to be taken very seriously. It feels like the Hawks are just too stacked, but Ryan Miller is going to have a lot to prove here and could put the Blues on his back long enough for them to heal up a bit.
St. Louis wins 4-3

Josh: The Blues have had a fantastic season and bringing in Ryan Miller was HUGE for them. But they’re sliding right now and the Blackhawks should be getting Kane and Toews back which gives them scoring, defense and leadership.
Chicago wins 4-3

Anaheim Ducks (1) vs Dallas Stars (4)

Sean: The Ducks have a lot to prove after an untimely exit in last year’s playoffs, and a lengthy swoon just after mid-season. Meanwhile, Tyler Seguin seems poised to continue this season’s coming-out party and be a difference-maker. Every first round needs a big upset, and this one feels like the most likely choice to be it.
Dallas wins 4-2

Josh: The Ducks have been lights out for most of the season with a balanced attack and Teemu Selanne who we all love. I think this team is going to try to make a run and the Stars are the first ones to fall along the way.
Anaheim wins 4-1

San Jose Sharks (2) vs Los Angeles Kings (3)

Sean: San Jose has their own bad playoff mojo to overcome, but comes armed with strong team defense and a core group of forwards in Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton who’ll be hard to handle. On the other hand – Jonathan Quick? Drew Doughty? The team with a Cup in their recent history brings world-class defense and goaltending.
LA wins 4-3

Josh: The Kings have a ring, the Sharks don’t. And while I don’t think that this is the year Joe Thornton gets to raise the Stanley Cup, I do think that they knock off their California rivals in round 1.
San Jose wins 4-2

There you have it. Round 1 picks in the books!

Stay tuned for more playoff coverage as we make our way towards Lord Stanley’s Cup!

Friday Night Lights – A Final Look

Friday Night Lights Cast
After binge watching for a few weeks I have finally finished the 5 seasons of critically acclaimed and super freaking awesome TV series Friday Night Lights.

In the middle of season 3 I wrote a review that got into characters and loving the show and why I was hooked at that point. I was loving the show a lot. That didn’t change through seasons 4 and 5.

Today though I’m not going to write another 3000 word review of the show. Instead I’m going to give away some awards and ask some unanswered questions that the show left me with after the Taylors made their big move to the east coast.

*SPOILER ALERT* This show ended 3 years ago, and I just threw 1 spoiler at you, a lot more are coming.

Friday Night Questions

What happened to Santiago?
Santiago Friday Night LightsRemember, the kid that Lyla rescued from juvie and Buddy took in and got on the football team. Well he disappeared when Buddy’s ex-wife took the 2 small kids to Cali and Lyla moved in over the summer between season 2 and 3. With no parents around to take care of him, an uncle who hasn’t been around in almost a year, and friends who don’t know a life other than gang activity, I’m worried that this young man didn’t have a good life after his short stint with the Panthers. Here’s hoping that I’m wrong and he didn’t end up back in jail or worse thanks to the gang life that he was so used to living.

Who caught the damn ball?
Hastings Ruckle East Dillon Lions
I have no beef with how season 5 and the series ended. The transition shot from the final play of the State Championship to the Coach’s new team’s practice in Philly was beautifully done. But I do want to know how that play ended. We know a Lion caught the pass because Jess, the boys and coach Taylor all have new rings. My best guess is that Hastings Ruckle pulled down that 63 yard pass. As a football player he was built for that Hail Mary play. Hell, he called for the jump ball in his first game on the team.
Final Score: East Dillon Lions 28 – Hudgins Hawks 26.

Why not Luke?
Luke Cafferty East Dillon LionsCoach Taylor was able to get Tim Riggins a scholarship offer to San Antonio State after a high school career that included a State Championship – and a host of disciplinary action and life mishaps. BUT, clean-cut 2-way stud player Luke Cafferty who has 1 dust-up on his record (that fight with Vince that he took the blame for) and a State Championship of his own, only got 1 division 3 offer. There is a chance that Luke played ball for Army at college, but maybe he needed a highlight reel like Riggins had.

Did Julie Drop Out?
Julie Taylor Friday Night LightsIn the final scenes of the series we see Julie and Matt together in the Chicago apartment, engaged and happy shacking up. But Julie promised her parents that she would finish school. So did she transfer? Is this scene a week before classes start and she goes back to school? Did she break another promise to her parents and drop out? I’m leaning to transfer since Matty is pretty much the best guy ever and wouldn’t be okay with her dropping out of school and sacrificing her future. It’s fair to say that Matt Saracen is the best thing that ever happened to Julie… whether she wanted to admit it or not.

Did Tim and Tyra make it work?
I really hope the answer to this question is yes. More on that coming up.

Friday Night Awards

Most Valuable Player
Vince Howard East Dillon LionsMatt Saracen Dillon PanthersEast Dillon Lions: Vince Howard
Dillon Panthers: Matt Saracen
Vince put up the numbers, is a better athlete and ended the series on the fast track to another run at a State Championship and division 1 scholarship… but Matty Saracen was the heart of the Dillon Panthers and showed true leadership and the ability to make the most out of an opportunity that landed at his feet. That boy took lemons and made lemonade when the cards were stacked against him.

Most Likely to Succeed
Matt Saracen Dillon PanthersLandry Clarke Dillon PanthersTie – Matt Saracen & Landry Clarke
We know that Matty has his job at the art gallery in Chicago and has already received a couple promotions. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, loves Julie with all his heart and has the ability to persevere. The only concern is Julie’s immaturity and the bumps in the road that could come in that relationship. Meanwhile, Landry is smart, articulate, talented and headed to a great education at Rice. He has a supportive family and if he ever finds a girl that loves him as much as he loves her, he’ll be all set.

Most Likely to be drafted to the NFL
Vince Howard East Dillon LionsVince Howard
Vince’s physical talents are unparalleled on Friday Night Lights. He sets up really well as the new breed of QB we see in the pro game. He has also started to learn how to be a leader and hard worker which will help him grow through his college career and land him on draft boards across the league when his draft year comes up. Think Cam Newton with the added, “He didn’t even start playing organized football until his sophomore year of high school.” storyline thrown in for TV announcers.

The Joey and Pacey Award for Favourite Couple
Tim and TyraTim Riggins & Tyra Collette
In the 3rd episode of season 1, when Tim skips the pancake supper and Tyra finds him hitting beer cans with a golf club I looked at the 2 of them arguing and her challenging him and thought to myself, “these 2 are my new Pacey and Joey”. And while Tim had Lyla and Tyra had Landry – there was always going to be Tim and Tyra in some way. So when brunette Tyra showed back up in season 5 I was excited. And when he kissed her I was more excited. And when this exchange happened I had the same kind of feeling I had when the camera panned left to right to show Pacey on the couch with Joey.

Tyra: Tim, I’ve been in love with you since I was five years old. And being here with you… is the greatest feeling I’ve had in a really long time.
Tim: Me too.
Tyra: It scares the hell outta me. I have dreams Tim.
Tim: I know you do. I have dreams too. I’m gonna build a house exactly where we’re sittin’. I will get a job. And I’m never gonna do anything illegal for the rest of my life. Guaranteed. Maybe one day our dreams can merge together.

We know that Tim has started building his house when the series ends, and Tyra is at school. And while we don’t know if they end up together for the long haul, I sure hope they do.

Tim and Tyra Kiss 1
Tim and Tyra Kiss 2
Tim and Tyra Kiss 3
It’s fair to say that Friday Night Lights was a great television show. The writing, acting and action were all above average. The football always looked real. The feelings that the show was able to develop with their fans were real. And the stories that they told were able to connect with teens and parents and everyone in between.

Someday I know I’ll go back and watch FNL again. But for now I’m just happy that I didn’t miss it forever just because I missed it the first time around.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!

20 Half- Assed Predictions For The 2013-14 NHL Season – The Review

2013-14 NHL Banner

On the first day of the NHL season I wrote a list of predictions… many of them were pretty ridiculous. Some of them were based in real opinion and expectation. And now that we’re inches away from the end of the regular season I’ve run them all down to see just how accurate I was for the season.

Also, if your team isn’t going to the playoffs this season, I feel for you. Here’s hoping you can still enjoy the hockey that is left to be played.

Here we go.

1. I will win my fantasy pool.
Lost in quarter-finals. I’ll get ‘em next year.

2. Jarome Iginla will lead the Boston Bruins in scoring.
With 4 games left on the schedule Iginla leads the Bruins with 30 goals and is 2nd in points. This prediction was never supposed to come true and it’s way closer than I ever thought it would be.

3. George Parros will log the most fighting majors of any Montreal Canadiens player in 20 years.
Well that didn’t pan out as planned now did it… especially after opening night.

4. Phil Kessel will play up to the level of his new ($8 million per year) contract. David Clarkson will not.
It’s always debatable as to whether a player is worth $8 million… but it’s not debatable that David Clarkson has not played as well as expected, or up to the standard that his $5.25 million demands with his play this season.

5. The Edmonton Oilers will make the playoffs on the last day of the season.
Hopes were way too high on this one. And with 4 games left the Oilers are 24 points out of the playoffs in the Western Conference.

6. Roberto Luongo will win 42 games in the regular season.
In another weird year for Luongo there are only 23 wins on his stat line. Here’s hoping next season is better for him in Florida.

7. Cory Schneider will win 16 games in the regular season.
With 4 games left in the regular season Schneider has exactly 4 wins…

8. Steven Stamkos will not lead the NHL in goals.
Listen, I’ve been a little worried that I jinxed Stamkos with this prediction. That injury sucked! But still, another correct prediction has been made.

9. Both the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks will make the playoffs with their new coaches.
The Rangers look good to make the playoffs with 3 games left, another win should wrap it up for them. But the Canucks need to win out and to get help. It looks like I was only half right on this one.

10. Jay Feaster will not be fired in Calgary. Until the Olympic break that is.
So the firing came 2 months sooner than I thought it would. Is anyone surprised?

11. Daniel Alfredsson will have 3 goals and 6 assists vs the Ottawa Senators this season.
Alfie only came through with 1 goal and 2 assists vs the Sens this season… he was also a +3 and looks like he’ll be in the playoffs.

12. The Leafs and Habs will meet in the playoffs. 6 games. Montreal wins 4-2.
Unfortunately the Maple Leafs will not be joining les Canadiens in the playoffs this year, so this prediction is a bust.

13. Tim Thomas will make politically insensitive comments and be suspended by the league.
Probably for the best that I was wrong about this one.

14. Jason Spezza will play 76 games and assist on 24 Bobby Ryan goals for Ottawa.
Spezza won’t get to 76 games… and Bobby Ryan only has 23 goals… the math adds up to me being wrong.

15. Danny Briere will score 24 goals for Les Canadiens.
With 3 regular season games left, Briere has 13 goals. So wrong again.

16. The Chicago Blackhawks will make it to the Western Conference Finals. And lose.
We’ll have to wait and see on this one!

17. Ryan Miller will play the entire depressing season in Buffalo.
Thank goodness for Miller that I was wrong here. That Blues team looks like it could be the one to knock off the Blackhawks in the conference finals.

18. Alexander Ovechkin will finish the season with 87 points. Sidney Crosby will have 99.
Ovie has 74 points with 4 games left in the season and Sid has 102 points with 4 games left as well.

19. The Phoenix Coyotes will make the playoffs. The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators will not.
As I write this Dallas sits in 8th, Phoenix in 9th and Nashville is 10th with a few games left before it’s all said and done. I could end up right here.

20. Patrick Roy will prove to be a great coach for his young team. But the Colorado Avalanche will finish 9th in the West.
Saint Patrick has done a great job coaching his young team… and they will be in the playoffs. I’m glad to be wrong.

Enjoy the end of the season and the playoffs.

It should be awesome!

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose – I Love Friday Night Lights

Dillon Panthers Team Photo

A little while ago I started watching a show on Netflix that I didn’t watch a single episode of during its original 5 season run. And when people found out that I hadn’t watched it my Twitter stream filled up with messages telling me how much I would love it and how great it was and that they were excited for me and jealous that I got to experience it fresh from the start.

This show has sports and teen drama and small town life and everything that I fall for when it comes to a story.

I didn’t watch Friday Night Lights when it was on the air.

But I sure am glad that I’m watching it now.

Dillon Panthers Helmet Logo Friday Night LightsLet me admit this, I have an addictive personality and a penchant for being overly empathetic and sensitive when it comes to fictional characters and their stories. I’m a sucker for well written and crafted personalities and the progression that takes them from beginning to end. I fall hard when there’s a reason. I get chills in the big moments of fake football games. I feel sad when characters are in trouble. I get mad when people are assholes and innocents are impacted by their selfishness.

I feel all of these things for a  TV show.

I also need to disclose the fact that I haven’t yet finished the series. I am currently cued up to watch episode 10 of season 3. And while that means I still have 2 and a half seasons to go, I had to start writing.

I was never QB1 when I was a kid. We didn’t even have a football team. But I was a teenager in a town where everyone knew everyone. Every student and teacher and mother and father had access to all the information and gossip they could want. And I lived a pretty visible life in that small town. That was my reality. And Friday Night Light’s Dillon, Texas reminds me of that.

I’m finding that when I feel connected or emotional about the characters or the storyline, that I also feel conflicted. When I step back from the screen I realize that I’m closer in age to Coach Taylor than I am to Matt Saracen or Tim Riggins. I know that I’m past my own childhood and whatever it was that I went through or dealt with. I’m a grown man.

Matt Saracen and Grandma Friday Night LightsBut when I see Matt Saracen dealing with his grandmother as she struggles with dementia I am reminded of my own life and my ex-girlfriend’s grandmother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when we were dating in my early 20s. I watched a strong family agonize over the medications and appointments and best steps for her care. I saw her on good days and on bad days and held my breath in wonder when she remembered to call me on my birthday and held back tears when she forgot her granddaughter’s name. I can not imagine trying to deal with that on my own at the age of 17 or 18.

I lived with my gran and gramp when I was 18 and 19 and I thank God that (while they weren’t the picture of health) they didn’t need me like that and I didn’t have that responsibility.

When Brian “Smash” Williams came back from his knee injury, humbled and scared and unsure of what he was going to do, I wanted to see him succeed. When the dude from the Alamo Freeze offered Smash the regional manager’s position I remembered being at Wendy’s in my early 20s with no plan, no money, and feeling like there was a chance I could just keep working there and moving up the ladder. I knew it wasn’t my future. I knew I had to do something bigger with my life. So did he.

And when that boy told his mother that he got into college and I saw the look on her face I was reminded of the way it felt telling my mom I was going to college and how proud she was of me. To this day one of the best feelings in my world is knowing that my mom is proud of me.

And Landry Clark. Damn. If you tell me that you watched season 1 of Friday Night Lights and said to yourself at any time, “I bet Landry becomes a really important piece of this show and joins the football team and actually gets Tyra Collette.” I would probably tell you that you’re lying. I find myself identifying with different characters at different times in this show. And when I look at Landry and his high school love life, I am reminded of being the guy that always wondered why he didn’t get the girl.

Tim Riggins Friday Night LightsThen there’s Tim Riggins.

The screw-up football player who doesn’t have parents to raise him or guide him, just his less-than-perfect older brother. The teenager who drinks too much beer. Likes too many girls. Skips too many classes. Makes too many mistakes. But loves his friends with all of his heart and shows signs of wanting to be better.

I am hooked on this character and wanting him to succeed. I shake my head when he does something absolutely stupid like getting drunk and skipping meetings with college recruiters. I root for him when he tries to do the right thing like talk his best friend out of sketchy stem cell surgery in Mexico. I feel bad for him when he’s dragged down by people he loves like when Billy recruits him to steal a ton of copper wire. I’m scared for him when he’s in a tough spot like when he’s feeding ferrets for a meth dealer. And I cheer for him every single time he steps on to the football field.

Tyra Collette Friday Night LightsBack to Tyra. The writers and producers and everyone involved nailed that one. She is another character who has gone further than I ever would have imagined. Her arc has taken her from white trash girlfriend of a screw-up football player to sexual assault victim to teenager full of potential and everywhere in between. And when she cries, it breaks my heart.

Combining her with Julie Taylor and Lyla Garrity gives this show a great range of female characters that have to deal with their relationships with their parents (3 girls, 3 different family dynamics) and love lives (what a teenage mess) and futures (I still don’t know, don’t spoil it for me) in their small town lives. I probably don’t identify with these 3 characters as much as I do with Saracen, Riggins, Smash, Jason Street or Landry because I’m not a woman. But I do feel for them in their moments of hardship and cheer for them in their moments of triumph.

Side note: I LOVED watching Tyra play volleyball. I love that sport and played it a lot in high school.

I’m over 1000 words into this post and I haven’t even talked about Coach and Mrs. Taylor. So here we go.

Coach and Mrs TaylorThe relationship between Eric and Tami Taylor is strong but intense. It has ups and downs. It has arguments and misunderstandings and making up and making each other better. It is fictional and scripted and made for TV, but it’s not all smiles and fake and unbelievable. And I love it for that.

I also love that they are the kind of people and the kind of parents that I would like to think that I can be some day. Whether it’s dealing with their own daughter or helping a kid who is stranded hours away or mentoring young men who are desperate to figure out their future – they do it with dedication and concern and love.

These people love the kids in their lives, regardless of their last name, past, mistakes or parents. But they aren’t soft. I appreciate the way Coach Taylor holds his players responsible through extra work and stiff guidelines and an expectation of commitment, responsibility and team as family.

For years I’ve thought about coaching baseball some day. And while it wouldn’t be the same as high school football in Texas, I do hope that I could be the kind of leader and mentor that Coach Taylor is for his Panthers.

I love all of these characters and they way they have been developed. I love this show and the stories that it has told and how it has handled them.

And as a football fan I have to give some love to the production team in charge of filming the practices and games. It does not look like TV football in a cheesy way. It just looks like football.

It’s safe to say that within the next week or so I am going to finish watching the last 2+ seasons of Friday Night Lights. That’s the pace that I’m on. And I’m sure that when I do I will be sad that it’s over while also looking back at a great job done capturing my imagination and attention telling these stories with the background of football.

If you’ve seen the show and know what I’m talking about with this praise, let me know.

But PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t leave comments or send me tweets talking about the show if there’s a chance you’re talking about something I haven’t seen yet.

I know it’s been a long time since the show ended and spoiler rules shouldn’t apply. But I’m asking nicely.

Thank you.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!

Friday Night Lights Cast Photo

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