Saturday, February 18, 2006
One of my study breaks tonight involved watching most of the NBA's All-Star Saturday from Houston, which of course means it was a much-too-long break. A few hours later, I check our handy-dandy SiteMeter (as opposed to "notebook") and lo and behold if I don't see that we had an hour where we got 114 hits (rare for us), which must mean something's up. Turns out we got a boatload of hits for a Nate Robinson photo that Jeremy posted for last year's Pac-10 tournament final thread.
Well, above is a new one since the diminutive former Husky and former Rainier Beach Viking won the slam dunk competition (though there was sketchy voting on the final dunk) tonight in Houston over another Pac-10 dude, Andre Iguodala, whose dunk from behind the backboard (horrible description) was just absolutely wrong.
Anyway, three cheers for Nate, who captivated the Northwest region last winter and let the whole world know what was up tonight.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
[let me preface this by saying I had no idea where this was going other than that it had to do with baseball]
Baseball. I played organized baseball for eleven years. The earliest memory probably relates to my mom not being able to wash the grass stains out of my pants (1990 Warren Avenue tee-ball represent!). The final memory involves me driving my car around the west side of Bremerton with no real destination after my final game and crying, still in uniform, realizing it was all over. No, I don't care if you call me a wuss for that. I cried more because I wasn't just done playing a sport; this was an 11-year relationship that had just ended for me that late summer in 2000.
Back when I was sixteen, my junior Legion season had just ended, and I attended a baseball camp. A coach there that year by the name of Byron Tait had my group out to the fields in mid-morning after our warmup exercises, and we were ready to practice catches against the outfield wall. Byron picked up a pine tar rag and passed it to the guy next to him, telling us all to basically catch a whiff of it; a smell of baseball, if you will. It seemed cheesy at the time, but his motive was dead on. Baseball is quite sensory.
How is baseball sensory? It is probably so in a billion ways, but I'll just rattle some off, and I'll just keep it to my personal experience to keep it a bit simplified.
I would see the four-wheeler dragging the infield dirt, the chalk machine lining the fields (also the batters box template), the little PVC elbow pipe they had at our field behind the plate so that we'd get our foul balls back into play, the sun that would be in a rightfielder's face since all our high school games started at 3:30, simple games of catch, batting practice, etc. The sounds are ingrained in the culture of our nation. Everyone knows about the crack of the bat (okay, all my organized ball was played with metal bats, but I did park one at Warren Avenue in a sandlot game with a wooden softball bat when I was 18 -- best sound in the world). One can't forget the ball hitting the mitt. There's also the chatter among the dugouts, the encouragement from the coaches, the calls from the umpires, the reactions from the crowd (thank goodness I could filter out individual voices in the crowd when on deck or at the plate), etc. For the sense of touch -- the seams of the baseball, the feeling of a broken-in mitt, the feeling of the bat in your hands, the feeling of just pounding the ball (wish I had that one more), the uncomfortable feeling of sitting on a bucket of balls that had no lid at the time, the feeling of hustling back to the dugout knowing you were due up to bat, the feeling of your spikes hitting pavement out of the field of play and the dugouts, the feeling of the throwing shoulder being sore after the first couple practices of the season, etc. Smells include the aforementioned pine tar as well as that grass/mud smell that comes from trying to hold the first few practices of the season way early and hoping the field wasn't too wet. There's also the freshly cut grass, the smell of hot dogs that would leak over to the dugout, the smell of dirt when the infield was first being dragged (quick and forced exhale afterward), the smell of grass stains on the knees after you just slid for a ball in the outfield, etc. This leaves taste, which I guess can go for anything we had while in the field or the dugout -- sunflower seeds, bubble gum, Gatorade/All Sport/Powerade, beef jerky, and the like (I didn't do chaw, and you can thank the late Bill Tuttle for that).
As I sit here typing this, pitchers and catchers of the Seattle Mariners are mere hours away from reporting to Peoria, Arizona, for spring training. For a single guy that's spent a huge majority of Valentine's days without a significant other, February 14th to me has always signified that "pitchers and catchers report" was coming around the bend. As for where we left off, I've been over here in Virginia for the entire offseason, and I did completely miss the last two games of the 2005 season, though I know I didn't miss much. I'll be back in Hawaii (barring unforeseen circumstances) when the 2006 regular season starts, sure, but just the phrase "pitchers and catchers report" just reminds me of one thing -- I'm only a month and a half away from having the greatest addiction on earth almost every night for the span of six months or more. The game is there every night. Even when I was busy playing in games of my own, the first thing that happened in the car before we got going was that the Mariners were dialed in to the radio.
Baseball. An old friend returns. Granted, the month and a half of fluff pieces is less than desired, but eventually the season comes, the bunting comes out, the national anthem is sung, ESPN shows its Opening Day septuple-header, and the season is underway.
You've reached the end of the post if you've gotten this far. Congratulate yourself and give yourself a pat on the back, because I just got on a roll with the keyboard, and I wasn't going to stop. All I know is that I needed to post this. That's the whole blogging thing -- it's therapeutic, you know.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Canucks 3, Wild 2 (OT)
[posted in full Sat 8 Jul ~5:30p]
Hopefully the Canucks could motivate themselves for one more win to cap off an enigmatic first half of the season before the Olympic break. After experiencing a half-season whose only consistent trait has been inconsistency (sans the Sedins and Anson Carter), perhaps the Canucks could take this break in the season, recharge their batteries, step back, and come back on the same page and have more things click. For this game, though, a win against a key division rival who hates your guts (the fans certainly do) should be motivation enough.
The Canucks shook a bad habit of late by getting off to a high-effort and nice fast start. Inside the first minute of play, Markus Naslund held a clearing attempt in the offensive zone and Jarkko Ruutu moved down the slot to put a shot on Manny Fernandez as well as a shot attempt on his own rebound, but Fernandez held strong. Just past five minutes in, Alexandre Burrows had an outlet pass from his own zone picked off by Todd White, at the right point, who centered to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who tipped the puck on goal but Alex Auld made the quick save. Later, Ryan Kesler took the puck across center and dished to Matt Cooke on the left side. Cooke centered for Todd Bertuzzi, who was knocked over by Wes Walz but got a stick on the puck, shoving it mid-slot where Kesler backhanded it through on Fernandez.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, Ryan Kesler 7 (Todd Bertuzzi, Matt Cooke) 7:56
»» CANUCKS 1, WILD 0
Just past the halfway point, Daniel Sedin centered to Carter, whose shot was deflected by a skate. Just after that shot, Mattias Ohlund delivered a big hit on Brent Burns along the left-wing boards. Just outside the final minute of play off a faceoff, Daniel Sedin on the right side passed to Henrik Sedin, who had a shot stopped in the slot. Carter couldn't quite put back the rebound from the left side. Of course, the fact that the Canucks had all but dominated the period meant little to the Wild. Seconds later, Stephane Veilleux brought the puck up the right side and tried to center, but had the puck go off of Ohlund's skate. The puck knuckled over to Walz, who picked up the puck at the right hash and skated over to the slot to beat Alex Auld on the stick side.
»» 2, MINNESOTA, Wes Walz 11 (Stephane Veilleux, Filip Kuba) 19:17
»» WILD 1, CANUCKS 1
Vancouver outshot the Wild 11-3 in the period. Both teams were 0-for-1 on the power play.
Just over five minutes into the period, Cooke took a pass from Richard Park and moved toward the net from the right side. He decided against putting a shot on the net and instead went behind the net and out the other side to the corner, where he passed toward the left point. Waiting there was Bryan Allen, who one-timed a slowish slapshot through Fernandez.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, Bryan Allen 6 (Cooke, Richard Park) 5:28
»» CANUCKS 2, WILD 1
Seconds after the Allen goal, the Wild got a tip-in attempt on which Auld had to make a nifty save. Later, Bouchard passed from the left-wing boards out to Kurtis Foster at the blueline. Foster wristed one to the slot, where it was deflected and stopped through traffic by Auld. The Canucks outshot the Wild 7-6 in the period (18-9 overall). Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play (0-for-3).
With just under five minutes elapsed, Walz brought the puck up on the right side and passed to Pascal Dupuis skating beside him. Dupuis passed back to him, and Walz centered to Filip Kuba down low, who swiped at the puck but was stopped. The rebound ended up on the stick of Dupuis in the slot, who wristed it through traffic and through Auld.
»» 4, MINNESOTA, Pascal Dupuis 9 (Walz, Kuba) 4:46
»» WILD 2, CANUCKS 2
On the waning seconds of a Vancouver power play, Cooke stole the puck behind the Minnesota net and nearly tucked one through from behind. Kesler tried another wraparound that was stopped, but Cooke stuffed in the rebound. However, the officials suggested the play had been whistled dead. With just over four minutes remaining, the Sedin line had a good shift. Daniel Sedin put up a shot from the left side that was stopped, then the puck worked around to him again from the right circle, where his shot was stopped again. The Canucks outshot Minnesota 11-7 in the period (29-16 overall). The Wild were 0-for-4 on the power play (0-for-7) while the Canucks were 0-for-2 (0-for-5).
Henrik Sedin passed to Daniel Sedin, who took the puck into the Minnesota zone. He skated to the left circle and a bit toward the slot before passing back to Henrik closer to the boards on the left side. Henrik passed right back to Daniel in the high slot, who beat Fernandez high to the glove side on a brilliant goal.
»» 5, VANCOUVER, Daniel Sedin 16 (Henrik Sedin, Allen) 1:26
»» CANUCKS 3, WILD 2
The Canucks outshot the Wild in overtime by providing the only shot (30-16 overall). There were no power plays in the period, so the Wild finished 0-for-7 and the Canucks finished 0-for-5. Auld stopped 14 shots in the game.
Three stars -- (1) Cooke, (2) Minnesota's Wes Walz, (3) D Sedin
D Sedin 1-0-1
H Sedin 0-1-1
Well, that's a way to take some good momentum into the Olympic break. Vancouver's next game on the schedule is on the final day of February in Calgary.
The Canucks were 28-for-56 (50%) in the faceoff circle in the game. Brendan Morrison was 8-for-14, Alexandre Burrows was 2-for-4, Trevor Linden was 4-for-7, Ryan Kesler was 5-for-12, Henrik Seidn was 5-for-10, and Todd Bertuzzi was 3-for-6. It was pretty much a team-wide distribution of half-and-half faceoff numbers for the team. Daniel Sedin led the team with five shots. Mattias Ohlund had four shots, while Bryan Allen and Kesler had a trio of shots apiece. Jarkko Ruutu led the team with four hits and Matt Cooke dished out three. Allen and Sami Salo blocked three shots apiece.
Plus-skating Canucks included Allen, Kesler, Cooke, and Kevin Bieksa at plus-2 as well as Bertuzzi and Tomas Mojzis at plus-1. Minus-skating Canucks were Morrison, Linden, Steve McCarthy, Anson Carter at minus-1 along with Salo as the lone minus-2. All other Canuck skaters were even.
On the same night, the Colorado Avalanche had a 3-2 lead in Detroit before the Red Wings scored the next four goals and won. Thus, Vancouver's win put them back into second place in the Northwest Division going into the Olympic break. After 59 games, the Canucks are 33-21-5 (2-3 shootout, two overtime losses) with 71 points, a single point ahead of Colorado, and three points ahead of Edmonton. They are two points behind Calgary, who has played two less games. Detroit and Dallas lead the Western Conference with 83 and 79 points, respectively.