Sunday, 20 May 2018

The End Of The Beginning

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Winnipeg Jets today: the score stood two to one, with but one period more to play. Everything the Jets threw at Marc-Andre Fleury, save for one Josh Morrissey shot, had been turned away. And, in Vegas, fans are cheering, and, in Winnipeg, fans will pout, because there is no joy for the WhiteOut — the mighty Jets are now out.

In a 4-1 series win, the hottest goaltender in these playoffs in Fleury took his team to new heights once more as Vegas joined the Toronto Arenas and the St. Louis Blues as the only expansion teams to reach the Stanley Cup Final in their first seasons. Jonathan Marchessault, a 27 year-old winger who had been cast aside by Columbus, Tampa Bay, and Florida, was outstanding in this series win over the Jets, and linemate Reilly Smith, who was part of the Tyler Seguin-to-Dallas deal and was sent to Florida for Jimmy Hayes, had himself one heckuva series as well.

In the end, those three players were the darkness that swallowed the WhiteOut's enthusiasm as they continually deflated the sails of the Jets who, at times, seemed like the better team for large chunks of games. It didn't matter if the Jets scored, though, as one of Marchessault or Smith would respond moments later with a goal, a turnover to cause a goal, or a pass to setup a goal. On the other end, Fleury continued to come up big for Vegas as he turned away Jets chances time and time again.

Make no mistake that this Vegas Golden Knights team is a collective bundle of energy who bring intense pressure on the forecheck, forces turnovers in the neutral zone, and plays in-your-face in the defensive zone with little regard for their own bodies and safety when it comes to blocking shots and throwing hits. They're fast, aggressive, and they roll four lines as well as anyone as the Jets found out. Having a three-time Stanley Cup champion between the pipes behind this group of players with a singular focus only makes them that much harder to defeat.

The series-winning goal came off the stick of one-time Manitoba Moose defender Luca Sbisa - a defender who was roundly considered one of the worst defenders fans had seen in his time with the Moose - and was deflected past Connor Hellebuyck by Winnipeg-born Ryan Reaves - a physical specimen traded for by the Penguins to defend their stars only to be traded to Vegas when a salary cap crunch was presented upon the Penguins' acquisition of Derrick Brassard. The Winnipeg connection on the series-winning goal was not lost on me, and I want to give credit to Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant who found the positives in the games of two players who were thought to be nothing more than bottom-of-the-lineup players.

Look, it wasn't all Vegas in this series either. Connor Hellebuyck lost the battle between the two goaltenders, but I'm pretty sure that Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones - two goalies who had outstanding seasons and playoff series - lost that battle too. Hellebuyck was good enough to win at least two of the games that Winnipeg lost, but the problem was that Marc-Andre Fleury was just that much better in keeping the Jets from providing their netminder the goals he needed.

The duo of Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler was outstanding for the entire playoffs, and they needed just a little more from rookie Kyle Connor to take their play to the next level. Connor was great at times, but not consistently great throughout the playoffs. The maturity, experience, and knowledge Connor gained throughout these playoffs will benefit him for the remainder of his career.

Paul Stastny, as has been said on many sites, was the absolute gem of the trade deadline as he made the Laine-Ehlers combo that much better. His 13 points came at vital times, but, like the rest of the Jets, he found himself against a very stout Golden Knights defence that wouldn't allow him to set up shop in front of Fleury as easily as he had in previous series. Stastny should be in-line for a solid pay day as his performance in these playoffs was the most inspired I had seen him play in several seasons.

While people lamented on the lack of goal-scoring between Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers - five goals combined, all off the stick of Laine - these are two young players experiencing their first NHL playoffs. Defences tighten up, room to maneuver is less, and there aren't a lot of openings one can take without being hit or defended. They'll learn how to score goals in these spots, but their 14 combined assists show that they're weren't AWOL in the Jets' lineup. They made good plays and found players who were in prime scoring spots, and that's a huge positive for these two young players.

Trouba, Morrissey, Byfuglien, Tanev, Copp, Lowry, and Perreault all showed their worth in the Jets' lineup as well while players like Joe Morrow, Ben Chiarot, and Jack Roslovic should all be given shots at cracking the roster full-time next season. This Jets team is deep and talented, and that bodes well for the future.

If there's a silver lining on today's dark cloud over Winnipeg, there should be some review of history. The Chicago Blackhawks, whose model which upon these Jets were built, lost in five games to Detroit in 2009 before starting their three-Cups-in-six-years run in 2010. There is absolutely zero guarantee that Winnipeg will do the same thing, but the youth and experience that this Jets team possesses would make it seem like they're an automatic favorite for next season already.

It was one heckuva run for a team that most figured would just make the playoffs this season, let alone be second-overall in the NHL and a Western Conference finalist. Take nothing away from what the Jets accomplished - they played their tails off and deserve a pile of credit for the efforts given and results attained. The success of this team made the WhiteOut and the street parties a ton of fun, and there's real hope and confidence this will be an annual event now.

In the end, a well-coached team with an incredible system and an amazing goaltender ended the season for the Jets. There's a line in hockey that one must first learn how to lose before one learns how to win. The Jets will learn from this series loss, and they'll hopefully be able to take steps forward from it. If they do, next season could prove even bigger for the fans in Winnipeg!

For now, the summer is for making improvements, adjustments, and fixes that the Jets need to take that next step. There will be difficult decisions to make, but that's why GM Kevin Cheveldayoff makes the big bucks. It all starts again in October, Jets fans. Today marks the end of the beginning of the era of the Winnipeg Jets. Reset this summer, and let's get ready for another incredible season of Jets hockey!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Social Media Day Off

There are many people breaking free from social media sites for a variety of reasons. Facebook has its many problems that have recently been exposed. Twitter can often be a rather bleak place due to a number of factors. And, for a number of people, all social media just eats up time that people are now using towards other things. The last reason is my reason for going social media-free for at least one day per week, and I have to say that it's actually pretty incredible how much I haven't missed it on days where I put my phone down and forget about it. For as being as digital as I am, going old-school has been nothing short of tech vacation that I'm finding I was missing.

A few people who I've told about this plan have expressed some worry about not carrying a phone for obvious reasons. If there is an emergency, what would I do? If one of my friends or family members has an emergency, how would he or she reach me? What if there's an important phone call that I miss?

All of these are valid reasons not to carry my phone, so I have made a couple of adjustments to my pledge of having a social media-free day. I will carry my phone, but I will not look at it unless a phone call is coming in or I need to make a phone call. There are no exceptions to this rule - no social media, emails, texts, etc. My smartphone becomes simply a telephone on days where I step away.

Instead, today was a day of work around HBIC Headquarters. I planted both my vegetable and flower gardens. I applied more sand to my interlocking sidewalk and parking area, and it looks amazing! I moved the lawn, I pulled weeds, and I barbecued on a gorgeous, sunny day. In other words, I used my day productively while ignoring the buzzing of my phone!

In what might be more of a surprise, I actually feel way more happy and accomplished than when I'm a slave to my phone. I haven't made this public, but I've been doing this now for a few months. It's actually a huge relief and a sense of freedom that I've never felt before. Yes, those are first-world problems that I shouldn't be exalting, but less time on social media means more time for important things. And apparently it's not just me who feels this freedom.

I realize that as a blogger and a radio host that I can't entirely walk away from social media. I use it for networking and booking interviews, so it plays a vital role in my hobbies that I simply can't abandon. I'll still use it and I'll still be active on it, but I'm finding out as I get older that the adage of "less is more" holds true to hundreds, if not thousands, of things in life - social media included.

Please don't think this is a plea or cry fro help to ask you to do the same. It's not, and I'd never ask that of anyone. To each their own, and your usage and activities on them are yours and yours alone. Do what makes you happy, and if that requires any number of social media interactions, have at it.

In the end, I'll be doing less social media interaction, specifically on the weekends. As I sat watching sports highlights into this evening, it occurred to me that I missed Canada lose to Switzerland, the US lose to Sweden, the Capitals lose to Tampa Bay, and a number of other sports results. It also occurred to me that I didn't miss the commentary and hyperbolic outrage and severely-dramatic reactions to any of this found on social media.

For an entire Saturday, I felt free of all of that nonsense, and I pledged I'll do it again next weekend.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 18 May 2018

IIHF Brings The Technology

It's always impressive to me when sports introduces new technology that could potentially change how the game is played and broadcast. Soccer has been using GPS tracking to show how fast players run, their field coverage, and, with the assistance of tracking chips, their fitness levels and heart rates during the game. It's rather amazing to see these statistics tracked and posted in real-time, and it seems that the IIHF is getting in on the technology wave as they introduced new technology at this year's IIHF World Championships in Denmark!

Now the video that the IIHF posted between Latvia and Sweden offers no audio, so it's a little difficult to pick up exactly what is being tracked at any point in the video below. According to the IIHF, though, they're measuring "puck speed, player position, shots on goal," and any other relevant stat they can pull off the video. Watch below as Sweden spends a lot of time in Latvia's zone.

Again, it's hard to actually see any of these stats in action when there isn't a screen showing you what is being tracked. I like that there's a potential for isolation so one can see one player's immediate statistics, but there needs to be some more elaboration to see exactly what is being tracked. Nevertheless, this new technology could potentially give coaches and management new tools that they can use to improve systems and the play of their teams on the ice.

They tagged this video with "The future is coming", but it looks a lot closer than they make it sound. If soccer is doing it, hockey may not be far behind. While hockey is far more violent in terms of physical play compared to soccer, the idea of tracking players on the ice is one that people have been manually doing for a while. Having chips and GPS units tracking this rather than players with pens and paper will certainly move the game forward.

How long does it take for the NHL to adopt this? I would say it might be part of the on-ice technology within a few years if it works at the IIHF level!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 295

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back with four more exit interviews from Survivor: NHL Playoffs tonight! Honestly, these should be good ones as Teebz and Beans close out Round Two with Nashville and Ryan, San Jose and Jeff, Boston and Jared, and Pittsburgh and Tom all being evicted from the island tonight! Let's get this rolling!

Here are the remaining entrants in Survivor: NHL Playoffs brought to you by Lays and their Show Your Emotions contest!

After we dismiss Ryan, Jeff, Jared, and Tom from Survivor: NHL Playoffs, we'll chat about McDavid and Team Canada against Russia in the World Championships, more notable player movement from across the globe, Team Manitoba women winning the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship for the second consecutive year, the loss of Clare Drake, the Steinbach Pistons at the RBC Cup, and the longest game in AHL history. If we're lucky, we might even get a special guest on the phone for an update from the RBC Cup because we have correspondents everywhere! Ok, not really, but we'll try to get an update on how the Pistons are doing from someone who is there cheering them on! It's another busy edition of The Hockey Show, so make sure you tune in at 5:30pm CT!

How can I tune in, you ask? The easiest way is for you to download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's literally the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows! Of course, you can do the radio thing at 101.5 on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Teebz and Beans eliminate four more contestants, chat about a number of tournaments, discuss a pile of hockey things, and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: May 17, 2018: Episode 295

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Baseball Goes Caps

I'm still not a fan of these Washington Capitals Winter Classic jerseys, but to each their own, right? The Capitals donned these jerseys in 2015 during their Winter Classic appearance at Nationals Park against the Chicago Blackhawks. With my interest in the Winter Classic events waning, I had to hit the internet to remind me that the Capitals won 3-2 over the Blackhawks as Troy Browuer scored the game-winning goal on the power-play with 13 seconds to play. I don't remember this game standing out for any reason, but one baseball team wants to honour the event and team with their crossover promotional jersey.

The Class-A Carolina League Frederick Keys baseball team decided to don jerseys inspired by the Washington Capitals' Winter Classic look as they play the Myrtle Beach Pelicans on Friday night. Dubbed their "Summer Classic" jerseys, the Keys are the Class-A affiliation of the Baltimore Orioles and are based in Frederick, Maryland, some 50 miles away from Washington, DC which is home to the Capitals. With the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it appears that the minor-league ball team is throwing their support behind their NHL neighbours.

Normally, I'm entirely against crossover promotions between sports because it dilutes the logo and importance of one of the two teams. This one, however, might work despite the Keys using the design of the Capitals. The Keys are named for Star-Spangled Banner poet Francis Scott Key, a native of Frederick County. The Star-Spangled Banner is, of course, the US National Anthem, and the capital of the United States is Washington, DC. It all ties together, so this is one of those promotions that works on a good level for the Keys.

Does it really need Washington's Winter Classic look? No, not really. The red-white-and-blue works for the promotion, but the Keys really could have used any other design. The fact that the Capitals are in the Eastern Conference Final is merely coincidental, so the Keys may not have even had this opportunity had the Capitals fell short once again.

Either way, the Keys will have former Washington Capital Mike Knuble at the stadium to throw out the first pitch on Friday as they celebrate the success of the Capitals. Where this promotion deserves some kudos is in the charity department. As per the Keys, the team auction off the jerseys following the game with proceeds benefiting Play4TheCure, a charity "dedicated to raising funds for the National Foundation for Cancer Research through competitive sports featuring recreational sports clubs, middle schools, high schools and collegiate sporting events." There is absolutely zero problem with that, and kudos to the Frederick Keys for teaming up with Play4TheCure.

Washington could go up 3-1 in tomorrow's game in Tampa Bay, so Friday could be a big night for the Keys. We'll see what happens in both tomorrow's Capitals-Lightning game and Friday's Keys-Pelicans game as both teams look for wins!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!