Does Belinda Curse Magna?

First it was revealed that Magna Corp was not the winning bidder in the Chrysler deal (contrary to many reports). The latest slight against the Stronachs (and that Russian billionaire who bought into the company) is the loss of the X3.

Specifically, Magna Steyr (who, you may remember, is building the KTM X-Bow) has lost the production contract for the BMW X3 SAV (which is Bayerische-speak for SUV).

Now here's my take on all this. Now that Magna has allll this extra production space (though, does anybody buy X3's? You see 5 X5's for every 1 X3 ... but I digress), and since KTM has given them the XBow contract, I predict increased XBow production!

I read somewhere that there was a limited number of XBows that could be assembled yearly, due to the production capabilities of Magna Steyr's Austrian facility. Now that we have more space, we can have more XBows! The only downer (for KTM fans, not for Magna) is that the BMW contract extends until 2010 ... so if my predictions prove correct (which they rarely do), you can buy an XBow instead of Olympic tickets ($60,000 = 1 men's hockey ticket).


General Motors shenanigans du jour

So I'm not sure if I ever actually wrote about it in this blog, but if you're aware of the Gwen Stefani song "The Sweet Escape" (and really, who isn't?!?), you may also be aware of the music video for said song. In the video, Gwen and Akon are rocking out a Chevrolet SUV (Tahoe I believe?) in the most blatant of ways. Honestly, the entire video appears to be nothing more than an extended Chev commercial (instead of playing a snippet of a song, they play the whole thing).

Well, GM has gone and done it again. Though the product placement is not as blatant in the 50 Cent video for "Amusement Park", it's far more improbable. Once upon a time, the only GM cars that rappers would roll in were '64 Impalas. Now we have Fiddy and friends posing with ... the Pontiac G6 GXP and to-be-released G8. Oh dear!

Though only enjoying 4 seconds of screen time (although I'm sure GM paid dearly for those 4 seconds), these cars have no business ... anywhere.

To be perfectly fair, I'm not a big fan of the Pontiac division of GM, so my opinions may be somewhat biased.


Olivier Jacques + Kawasaki = no France for you!

Well, the post title is kind of cryptic. But I'll break it down like this: Olivier Jacques (who was hired by Kawasaki to save their image in MotoGP) has crashed in a fire-y blaze (not really ... no flames involved), and won't be able to race at his "home" Grand Prix in France.

Jacques crashed during Free Practice prior to the Chinese GP, and has been having issues with the arm injury he sustained. An infection has led to a lack of mobility in his throttle arm, though he wasn't really fast anyways, so who needs a throttle? (just kidding)

While I'm not questioning the 33 year old's desire ... I just have to bring up the infamous ClusterFuck '06, in which a whole bunch of riders went down with various injuries. You may remember Rossi riding with a broken throttle hand and brake foot? Or Sete riding with ... whatever the hell was wrong with Sete? Regardless ... I'm pretty sure a broken hand is much worse than an infection that you JUST noticed. Suck it up Olivier!

Poor Belinda ...

Well, as you probably (maybe?) know, Chrysler has been sold. The disappointing part of that news is that Belinda will not be the new Queen of Chrysler. No, allegedly the reports that Magna Corp was the #1 prospect were mistaken (or false).

Instead, ze Germans have sold Chrysler to Cerberus. "Hmmm" you're thinking. "I've never heard of a Cerberus-made car. Perhaps they, like Magna, make parts?"

You're mistaken ... Cerberus makes neither cars NOR parts. They make money. Cerberus Capital Management is a New York-based private equity firm that likes to buy stuff (including National/Alamo car rentals, Blue Bird buses, 51% of GM's finance firm, Remington guns, etc).

Buzz Hargrove was all uppity, worrying that the sale would lead to job cutting, but Cerberus has signed a written agreement stating that no jobs would be lost. Impressive!

Honestly, Chrysler was on a downhill slope anyways. This can't really do anything bad to the company.


New Google Analytics Layout

... I'm not sure how I feel about it. It has a more "pretty" feel (graphically appealing, I suppose), but it seems slightly bigger and bulkier (and I don't mean that in a good way) than the old version.


Keaton Ellerby Blogs His Way to '07 Draft

I wrote previously about the '07 NHL entry draft, and named a few individuals whom I found to be interesting, given their BC connections. One of these players, Keaton Ellerby, has been given the opportunity, by NHL.com, to blog about his experiences leading up to the draft. There's only one post up thus far (you can find it here), and I'm not sure if the blog is going to be updated daily, or weekly, or not at all.

While not the best written material (he's a hockey player ... cut him some slack), it's definitely an interesting read. I love that the Blogosblogs have given us a way to peer into the minds of individuals who are in situations in which we will never find ourselves.


Oh snap! I missed game 1

So I kind of forgot that the Eastern Conference Final was played in the eastern time zone. So as I was at Save-On grocery shopping this afternoon (early evening, I suppose), I thought "oh snap! I'm missing the game". Once back in the car, I quickly switched to Team 1040am, just as they were wrapping up the broadcast.

So, while I have no personal insight into the game, I can comment on the results:
- Ottawa's top players were their best players. If that makes sense. Their #1 line did it's job (getting points), whereas the #1 line of Buffalo was non-existent
- Daniel Alfredsson for the Conn Smythe trophy. 'nuff said.
- "Sugar Ray" Emery probably isn't liked much in Buffalo. He needs to prove to them (and me) that he can be a #1 goalie
- Ottawa out shot, and generally outplayed the Sabres. I'm sure the rest of the series won't be so one-sided.


Casey Stoner, eh?

I admit that this post is about 2 days too late, but I felt it was still relevant to comment on last weekend's MotoGP race in China. After an amazing qualifying run, Rossi just didn't have what it took to beat the raw power of the Ducati GP7, ridden by Stoner.

The "wonder from down under" finished the race with a solid 3 second lead on Rossi, who just couldn't keep up. Rossi was constantly battling, and gave Stoner an excellent run, but a late-braking mistake with 7 laps remaining caused Rossi to fall significantly back, a loss he could not recoup.

John Hopkins performed amazingly in China as well (3rd place), which must make the Rizla Suzuki team happy as pigs in mud (especially when you consider teammate Chris Vermeulen's 7th position finish). The Suzuki team finally seems to be coming into its own, and could be a force to reckon with in subsequent races.

The elder Ducati rider, Loris Capirossi ended the race in 6th position, a full 26 seconds back of Stoner. I'm not sure what's up with Capirex this season, but it appears as though his age is finally starting to show. After an exceptional year last season, and the incredible gift of a bike Ducati has presented him with, I definitely pictured him near the top of the point standings at this point in MotoGP season.

Also notable in China was the 12th place finish of Honda rider (and current #1 plaque-holder) Nicky Hayden. This is another wretched season that cannot be blamed on the bikes, given the success of Hayden's teammate, Dani Pedrosa. It seems as though "The Kentucky Kid" just can't handle the heat of being #1.

Final standings (Top 5) in Shanghai:
1. Casey Stoner (DUC) - 44'12.891
2. Valentino Rossi (YAM) - 44'15.927
3. John Hopkins (SUZ) - 44'19.554
4. Dani Pedrosa (HON) - 44'26.981
5. Marco Melandri (HON) - 44'30.167

Current World Standings (Top 5):
Casey Stoner (DUC) - 86
Valentino Rossi (YAM) - 71
Dani Pedrosa (HON) - 49
Marco Melandri (HON) - 41
John Hopkins (SUZ) - 39


Rossi is Awesome; Claims Pole

After a fairly disappointing race a couple of weeks ago, Valentino Rossi is back on top of his game in China. He put in a spectacular lap in the last quarter of the qualifying session, and will start tomorrow's race in the #1 spot.

Beside Rossi (1'58.424), in the #2 position, is John Hopkins (1'59.315), who was first after yesterday's FP2. Hopkins and Suzuki are obviously looking to make themselves contenders in the premier class of motorcycle racing, and seem to be doing well in that regard. Of note, however, Hopkin's best qualifying lap was nearly a full second slower than that of Rossi. Rounding up the front row is Rossi's Fiat-Yamaha teammate, Colin Edwards (1'59.406).

Casey Stoner, who currently leads the individual points championship, will be starting in 4th position (1'59.516) after having some mechanical issues with his number one GP7 Ducati, and then qualifying on his back-up cycle.

Other riders of note: De Puniet - 7th (1'59.985); Hayden - 9th (2'00.087); Capirossi - 14th (2'00.369)

Full results can be found at the MotoGP website.


David W.K. Acheson Appointed Head of Food Safety

Announced today by the FDA, David W.K. Acheson has been named the "Food safety czar". Acheson, the author of such books as "Safe Eating: Protect Yourself and Your Family Against Deadly Bacteria", is currently acting as the chief medical officer of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and will work in his new position alongside FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach to ensure the safety of food products for Americans.

While this is a significant step forward for food safety in the USA, I wonder if a similar position should be created in Canada. Here in the great white north we have issues very similar to those found in the States. For instance, the same spinach imported to the USA that contained E. coli also came to us in Canada. Canada has also had a number of outbreaks that have not affected our southern neighbours.

After hearing a speaker today from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, I've realized how drastically understaffed our food protection groups are. There are so many issues on national and regional levels that simply cannot be addressed by the few employees that are able. As well, the huge reams of paperwork associated with typical food packaging/processing inspections are inhibitory to quick, effective action.

The government of Canada needs to follow the lead of the Americans on more than just half-assed environmental policy, and implement an equivalent qualified and educated individual to oversee food safety.


Belinda to Spearhead Chrysler?

Everybody who's anybody in the world of cars knows that the DCX board wants to get rid of its Chrysler division (specifically because it "cheapens" the image of the other brands), and that a number of potential suitors have been named.

Now, there's really no need for those of us who don't own Daimler-Chrysler stocks to really care about any of this, but as a Canadian, and one who tends to follow federal politics, I'm liking the Belinda spin on this story.

Ms. Stronach decided to leave federal politics, in order to return to the company founded by her father, Frank Stronach. She will act as executive-vice chairperson, and I'm sure she has the potential to move up the ladder (there's no glass ceiling when your father's the company founder). You can read all about that story here.

Magna is, according to News WLNS, the current leader in the race to own Chrysler, and is apparently also the take-over bidder most supported by the various unions of Chrysler. This could be one of the leading reasons Ms. Stronach decided to leave politics, and go back to the autoparts giant. Why deal with sexism and being called a dog, when you can own Dodge?

In other Magna news, the previously mentioned X-Bow is being assembled by Magna-Steyr, the Austrian subsidiary of Magna (which also assembles Chrysler products).

KTM X-BOW up to 600+ Units Production

I've been a fan of the Austrian company KTM for quite a while. When I was a young gaffer, a family friend had a 500cc KTM dirtbike of which I was completely enamoured. I'm still a huge fan of their dirtbikes, and even the SuperDuke. When KTM announced the possible production of the RC8, their V-twin superbike, the combination of bright orange paint and a 990cc, 2-cylinder engine was enough to make me forget what the probable price-point would be.

KTM has now ventured away from the 2-wheeled realm, and into pure, unadulterated 4-wheel bliss. The X-BOW (or maybe X-Bow?) pictured above is a carbon-fibre-bodied, open-wheeled coupe which is most likely destined for not much more than rain-free track days. I picture a glorious world in which I have one of these parked in my garage, where I can select it for the daily commute. This dream of mine has come closer to reality, according to a recent article in Business Week. While the original production run was supposed to be no more than 100 units, KTM has received such support for the vehicle that they have firm orders for 600 cars, and plans to expand production to 1000 per annum.

The original price mentioned for the 100 units was around USD$55,000 (40,000 Euros), though actual MSRP is expected to be lower, given the higher number of units being produced. I can't think of any better way to spend $61,295CAD (as of today's dollar) than on this 300hp package of pure sex. There are more practical vehicles you could buy for that cost ... but who ever said practicality was a good thing?

image courtesy of Autoblog


OTT v. NJD, Game 3 Discussion

Martin Brodeur is simply too good. He made 32 saves tonight in a losing effort, as the Sens took a 2-1 lead in the series. Realistically, that number should've been 33 saves. Don't get me wrong, I'm probably the biggest Senators fan on the blogosblogs, but that goal probably should've been disallowed. Brodeur was clearly interfered with, and had no chance to recover prior to Preissing's shot/goal.

That being said, I thought the Ottawa shot that went in after the whistle (Heatly, period 2, I believe) should've counted, since Sutherland (or maybe it was Watson) blew the whistle a bit quickly. So I guess it all comes out in the wash.

I really don't know how Ottawa is going to win this series if Brodeur continues to play so well. They've got to keep throwing shots at the net, and hope Emery can continue to play at the top of his game.

Different Words for Different Colors

This is a bit of a departure from the regular sports/auto-related content found within this blog, but there's no need to be pigeon-holed.

An article found today on Nature indicates that the language you speak (and specifically, the vocabulary contained within said language) could change how you perceive colors.

American linguist Benjamin Whorf predicted (in the 1930's) that our language decides how we categorize things in our lives. The Nature article describes an experiment performed in which English and Russian-speaking test subjects were shown pictures of 3 blue blocks, 2 of which were identical. The Russians, who have different words for light and dark blue ("goluboy" and "siniy", respectively), had an easier time separating the different colored block from the two identical ones, especially as the difference between the shades was lessened.

Once the Russian-speakers were asked to recite numbers as they picked the colors (thus negating the language part of the experiment), their advantage was eliminated.

Angela Brown, a color-perception researcher (really?) at OSU has stated a case for a more physiological reason behind these results. She states that the cultures which have languages that separate "dark" and "light blue" are found at more northern climates. Apparently many tropical cultures cannot distinguish between blue and green, due to the retinal damage sustained from increased sun exposure (hypothetically). So, as you move further away from these tropical climates (and therefore have less exposure to the sun), there may be an increased ability to distinguish between blue and green. There was no rebuttal to the decreased abilities of the Russian-speakers when their linguistics were negated.

Regardless of whether the Russian-speakers were better able to distinguish between the colors due to language or due to physiology, it's incredibly interesting information. I'd like to see if an individual who spoke Russian as a second (or 3rd) language were better able to differentiate the blue colors. I believe this would determine whether the effects were linguistic or physiological.


The BMW Travesty

It was announced somewhat recently that BMW would be bringing the 1-series to North America as an '08 model. As both a fan of BMW's, and a fan of small cars, this excited me immensely. The 1-series, in it's hatchback form, is the perfect entry-level Bimmer. With a wide selection of engine options available (including the VW-killing 2.0L diesel) and (IMHO) beautiful body styling, it was a BMW that the young professional could purchase early in her/his career, and manage to feel sporty, classy and environmentally friendly all at once (plus still having room to carry her/his bike/groceries/hockey equipment/etc).

But then it all came crumbling down. The latest rumours around the proverbial water cooler have mentioned that us unworthy North Americans won't be getting a chance to purchase the 1-series hatchback. Originally, I hoped (but doubted) the diesel option would be available here. BMW currently doesn't have any diesel offerings, and Brian Jessel has mentioned that the company would be pursuing economical diesel engines instead of hybrids. A new car to the market would be the perfect opportunity to introduce a "new" engine technology in a USDM BMW.

To be perfectly honest, I see the 1-series, if offered in its current form, to be a niche vehicle. The BMW owners that I "know" either scrimp and save their middle-management wages to buy a 3-series (so they can appear more wealthy and important than they really are), or have enough money that they're buying higher-end vehicles (5's, 6's, 7's and M's). The 3-series consumer would see the 1 as a "step down" (i.e. they wouldn't look as "good" in it), whereas the high-end customer would have no reason to spend mid-$30's on a car.

Perhaps that's why BMW has decided to throw the 1-series into the market as a coupe/cabrio (see left). This car is being touted as a "pure driver's car", which means it will likely be stripped void of all options that I found enticing in the European-only 1-hatch (i.e. i-Drive). It's also been rumoured that the 1-coupe will receive no 4-cylinder engine options, but higher-performance V6's only (including the bi-turbo 3.5L mill which currently serves the 535i, and ever-so-sexy 335i). So essentially, BMW is taking away everything I love about the 1-series (styling, options, environmental appeal), and replacing it with a more "palatable" version for the semi-retarded North American (specifically USA) population. The same customers who complained that the M5 only came with DSG (with no option for a standard-shifting 6-speed), and then complained again when the 6-speed had traction issues (which is why it was never offered in the first place!!)

So what does this mean for the BMW consumer (current and potential)? Probably not much. Given my basic understanding of economics and price points, I predict the 1-coupe to be priced somewhere around the 320 (given the bigger engine, etc.) That being said, however ... it will be difficult for a salesperson to convince a customer that her/his moneys are better spent on a "lower number" car. Regardless ... price prediction (by me) is around the $40,000 mark (CDN). Given this, I'd (personally) rather spend a bit more and get a better looking (again, in my opinion) 328ci or 335ci. But: if the 1-series were priced properly (under $40k properly), I'd definitely consider purchasing one, simply for an entry to the "pure driving experience".

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Roberto Luongo is a disgrace to the game of hockey. He's flopping around like a landed-bass trying to get a goaltender-interference call, when nobody's touching him.

The unsportsmanlike conduct call for diving needs to be extended to envelope goaltenders who flop to the ice anytime somebody comes near them.

David v. Goliath: Game 5 UPDATED

Things aren't looking promising for the underdog Prince George Cougars. After their stunning come-from-behind series win against the CHL's #1 ranked team, the Everett Silvertips, I expected their momentum to propel them deeply into their next series. Sadly, this hasn't been the case. Vancouver has been all over the Cougars (like crap on a blanket, as my grandpa would say), and Prince George has been able to muster only one win in 4 games.

Game five is currently in the 2nd period, with Vancouver leading 4-0. To be fair, it appears as if PG is throwing everything they have at Tyson Sexsmith, just trying to get a puck in the net, but to no avail. Shots, at press time, are 28-10 in favour of the Cougars. With that kind of effort, I suppose there's a chance they could get back into the game ... but it seems unlikely. They seem to be giving the Giants a few too many powerplay opportunities (VAN is 2/5 so far in the game), which is something you want to avoid when your head is on the chopping block.

I'll update at the end of the game. In other WHL news, the Medicine Hat/Calgary game has just entered overtime in a 3-3 tie. That series stands at 3-1 in favour of MH, and chances are they'll put it away tonight.

Update #1: Medicine Hat's Tyler Ennis scored the winning goal at 5:13 of OT to give the Tigers the series win
Update #2: PG managed to get 1 goal, but VAN got another one as well. Final score, 5-1. Series over. Also, I was mis-reading the scoresheet: final shots in the game were 46-10 for the Giants (not vice-versa). Ouch.


NHL Draft 07: All Things Intriguing

It's that time of year again. Central scouting has put forth their list of the predicted top picks in this year's NHL entry draft, and a few things have stuck out to me. Or at least stuck out enough for me to want to write about them.

Chicago has the #1 pick this year, thanks to the good ol' lottery, and CSN has listed Kyle Turris as the #1 choice. Turris (whom I've personally watched play in Burnaby, for the Express) is a high-scoring forward (66 goals in the BCHL this season), which fits perfectly in with what is required in Chicago. He will allegedly be playing next season with NCAA powerhouse Wisconsin, but I expect him to make a quick jump into the show (a la Jack Johnson). This is interesting to me for a couple reasons: firstly, as previously mentioned, is the fact that Turris is playing this season in Bby. Secondly, and more importantly to the rest of the hockey world, is the fact that Jonathan Toews (you may know him from previous WJC national teams) is also going to Chicago. Meaning that both of these young centers will end up in Blackhawks uniforms, which could be the answer to the woes of the windy city.

Phoenix, with pick #3, is allegedly looking to Keaton Ellerby to fill their gap in defense. Ellerby is currently playing with the Blazers (though he apparently wasn't good enough to help them get by PG), and has proved to be a physical presence in the WHL. He also happens to be a cousin of the captain of the Coyotes, Shane Doan. The downside of Keaton Ellerby is his size: he's a lanky 6'4", 185lbs. However, once Phoenix gets him onto a decent workout plan, he might help the Coyotes defend their ever-open net.

Lastly, Kamloops Minor Hockey product Casey Pierro-Zabotel has been listed as the #75 North American player (#87 overall), and has been officially invited to the NHL combine (the actual draft event, in Columbus). He's had a stellar year with the Merritt Centennials (yes, you read that right: he plays for Merritt), with 116 points in 55 games (3rd overall in the BCHL). Pierro-Zabotel has signed a letter of intent to play with Michigan Tech in the WCHA against my beloved Golden Gophers. Regardless of that fact, however, it's impressive to see a young player from Kamloops (who chose to play his junior hockey close to home) succeed.


Yamaha Falls off Earth: Ducati Takes Advantage

The weekend started out so promising for the Fiat Yamaha team. Solid results after FP2; good positions on the starting grid after qualification. And then ... tragedy. Rossi had tyre issues; Edwards had Colin Edwards issues; the team ended up earning a combined six (6) points. Ouch.

As mentioned in a previous post, I felt Ducati would have a solid weekend. Which is kind of a no-brainer. It's like predicting the Canucks will lose to Anaheim in the next round. The bookies aren't going to give you very good odds on that kind of gamble. But still, for Stoner and Capirossi to both be on the podium has to make the owners in Bologna happy. Stoner has been absolutely amazing this year, and I'm sure Ducati is enthralled that they have him under contract. He's a young rider, and will serve as an excellent franchise rider once Capirex retires. It saddens me that Sete has disappeared, but all good things must come to an end.

Nicky Hayden, still rocking out that #1 plate (you'd think that he'd be superstitious enough to get rid of that by now) finished in 7th position, earning him 9 points. He now sits in 7th position in the World standings, a full 35 back of Stoner. It's still too early to make any comments about the World Championship, but Ducati must like their chances with Stoner.

PG is Shut-Out: Season Looks Over

EDIT: Apparently I'm a bit of a gimp, and didn't realize that when I was writing this the game was not yet over. Real final score was VAN4 PG1. Better reporting next time, I promise
Well, that was a bit of a bust. I was thinking that since the game was going being played in Prince George, the Cougars might have the home team advantage. And perhaps they did, but it was a fairly weak game. Only 16 shots per team, only 2 goals total, and only 1 powerplay for the Giants (unlike last night's other Vancouver game). Prince George had 6 powerplays, and apparently managed very few shots on these. Vancouver started a steady parade to the box at 2:08 of the first (with 4 unanswered penalties to follow), yet still managed to out-shoot the home team 9-7 in the period.

Prince George obviously didn't bring their "A" game tonight. Referees Chris Savage and Pat Smith tried to give them a chance, but they just wouldn't take the bait! I'd say this series is pretty much over ... if you can't win at home, with that many powerplay opportunities, you're sunk.

Game stats here


I have to be in full agreeance with TD. That was the most poorly called game in the history of professional sports. Giving Vancouver 11 powerplays is bad enough (honestly, giving any team 11 powerplays is questionable), but when you're just pulling our phantom calls for the sake of blowing your whistle, it gets kind of irritating for the fan.

Game 7's are the last game of the season for a team. These are the games in which the teams are playing their hardest, trying to pull out the win. The team who plays the best, who brings the most to the rink on that night, should be the team rewarded with the win. The officiating should be a non-factor. It's like overtime: you have to be a real asshole of a ref to call anything but a complete rape in overtime.

I feel that in this game, the win did not belong to Vancouver. It was not earned on the backs of players such as Luongo, or The Purse ... it was handed to them on a silver platter by an overzealous official.


Game Seven Haiku

A low scoring game
Dallas got the needed win
I'm stoked for Monday

Grand Prix of Turkey - Qualifying

After FP2, I felt that the Ducati team would have a solid race. And it appeared as though the Fiat Yamaha had some work to do. Apparently, the bike set-up team of Yamaha did their job well, since Rossi and Edwards finished 1-2 in qualifying. Also surprising was the rise of Dani Pedrosa to the #3 position to finish off the front row. Fellow Repsol Honda rider, and returning champion Nicky Hayden could only muster 6th position (though considering his ~14th place after FP2, that's fairly impressive).

The 2 Ducati bikes start the race in positions 4 and 5 (Stoner/Capirossi), while Hopkins, De Puniet and Vermeulin make up the 3rd row. One has to be impressed with the work of the Suzuki team to get 2 riders in the top 10 after qualifying in this the 3rd race of the season.

I feel that Rossi/Edwards should both have decent races (maybe not a 1-2 finish, but it could happen), and that the speed of the GP7 Ducatis will be enough to keep them Stoner in the top 5.

Updates to follow.

Who loves Turkey?

It's kind of a trick question ... because everybody loves Turkey ... both the poultry and the country. Specifically, I'm referring to the Grand Prix of Turkey that's taking place this Sunday in Istanbul.

Hopefull this weekend will be filled with GP updates, since this is the first race in 26 days (or somewhere in that range). Here are a few things to look for in Constantinople Istanbul.

- Casey Stoner on the Ducati GP7 finished FP2 in 1st position (.779 seconds quicker than fellow Ducatisti Capirex). I feel Ducati will have a good race and end up with at least 1 bike on the podium. Lest we forget Qatar '07.

- John Hopkins finishes FP2 in 3rd. Suzuki is trying hard to make a name for themselves in GP this year, and there's really no reason that they shouldn't be able to. But if I know JH, he'll have a break down and kick his bike (literally).

- The Fiat Yamaha lads finish 4th and 15th (Rossi/Edwards, respectively). Come race time, look for a hard fighting Rossi (probable podium) and Edwards around 6th spot.

- Nicky Hayden a wicked great 14th position. pfft. He has to do something sooner or later, but I'm not sure that it will be this race. Fellow Honda rider Dani Pedrosa finishes in 9th.

- Olivier Jacque in the top 10 (6th position) after FP2. Promising for Kawasaki, but they still have a way to go before they can be fully competitive (see: Suzuki).


ARod ... what?

Am I the only one who's surprised at Rodriguez' performance this year? After an incredibly dismal performance at the plate in '05-'06, I thought the gentle citizens of New York were about to lash him 20 times with a wet noodle.
But now, with another 2 dingers against the Bo Sox tonight, ARod is on pace for ... 130HR. He has a hit in each and every of the NYY's first 15 games. Could it be that he's actually earning his astronomic wages? I wouldn't get that carried away. Maybe it's the fact that he's been wearing his socks hauled up around his knees, all Chipper Jones style. Maybe it was the razzing he received after last season. Maybe it just took him a year or so to get comfortable in the Big Apple. Who knows.

With his 2 HR tonight, Rodriguez tied a 1976 record for the quickest to a dozen (15 games). Of his 23 hits in the first 15 games, 18 of them are of the extra-base variety. His worst AB against Schilling tonight was a 380ft shot to the warning track (which was caught by the center-fielder). He was simply on fire tonight, and indeed has been so this entire season.

So where will it end? The Major League record for home runs in April is 14, set by Albert Pujols in '06 in 67 at-bats. The American League record is 13, by Griffey Jr in 1997, in 76AB. So far, Rodriguez has been to bat only 62 times (as of the end of tonight's game). The Yankees still have 9 games this month, and given Rodriguez's start, it's safe to say he'll probably hit a couple of dingers in those 9 games.

I have to admit, I'm kind of a fan of ARod. In my prime of baseball watching, when I had access to Fox Sports Northwest, I could watch every Mariners game ... and did. That was when Seattle was a veritable dream team of Griffey Jr, Rodriguez, Ken Cloude, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez ... the list goes on. Now, they seem to be a bit of a 1-trick pony with Ichiro. But that's for a different post.

Here's hoping ARod can silence the critics (self included), and go on to have an incredible rest of the season.

WHL Western Final - Game 1 Recap

As mentioned in previous posts, I'm fully pro-Prince George in this series. It's nothing against the Vancouver Giants, the city of Vancouver, or any of the team personnel ... I just prefer to cheer for the underdog. And there's no dog more under than the Cougars. During the regular season, the Giants finished with 26 more points than the Cougars ... so there's an obvious favourite here.

The Giants started the game with some heavy-duty forechecking, which led to a Lance Bouma goal just over 4 minute in. Vancouver continued the pressure throughout the opening frame, lodging 19 shots against Real Cyr, while Prince George managed only 7. Ouch.

It took until almost halfway through the 2nd period before Prince George managed to get on the board, and tie up the game. Ty Wishart took a pass from Nick Drazenovic, and fired a shot towards the net, which was deflected past Giant's goalie Tyson Sexsmith by Evan Fuller.
Sadly, this tie lasted a brief 55 seconds before Kenndal McArdle put the Giants back into the lead with a tip-in of his own. Then, about 6 minutes later, a wonderful display of passing by the Vancouver team resulted in a Michal Repik goal. 3-1 Giants lead. Shots in the 2nd period were 12-7 in the Giant's favour.

The third period didn't go much better for PG, though they did get a solid PPG with about 3.5 minutes left in the game. This was too little, too late, however. The Cougs did managed to keep Vancouver off the scoreboard in the 3rd period, and the Giants managed only 6 shots in the last 20 minutes (it should be noted that Prince George only fired 7 shots at Sexsmith).

Final score: VAN 3 - PG 2

Prince George really didn't come to play this game. When you're outshot 37-21, you really don't have a choice. Sexsmith is a decent enough goalie that PG has to fire a lot more rubber his way if they want to have any chance in this series. Hopefully we can just chalk this one up to experience, and hope for a Cougar's win tomorrow night at the rink on Renfrew.


Like Hank Williams, the Sens are "Moving On"

Well, my predictions were slightly off as to the final score of this game, but not horribly so. Ottawa kept rolling throughout the 2nd and 3rd periods, and the Pens really stood no chance. As great as the game, and really the series, was for the Senators, I can't help but feel that they'll somehow manage to choke before they get too far into the playoffs.

Speaking of choking ... VAN/DAL was the single-most boring game this year. I was just glad it ended early (and with a Dallas win). There's no way I could've handled 3 overtimes worth of the neutral-zone trap. Incidentally, the 'nucks are now 0-5 when the have the opportunity to eliminate a playoff opponent.
updated prediction: Dallas in 7

OTT vs PTS - 1st period ponderings

After a dismal start, Ottawa finally seems to have their shit in gear. They've been moving the puck well, and generally getting a lot of decent chances.
I think Pittsburgh would be completely screwed without Fleury this evening. He's made a tonne of big saves that have kept the score close. The PTS defense are doing some shot blocking action which is helping out Fleury a lot too.

Prediction: 4-1 OTT win


Prince George: city bad, Cougars good

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Ever since the 1st round ass-kicking the Blazers received, I've been cheering equally for the Vancouver Giants and the Prince George Cougars. Now is the time where I have to choose ... and I choose PG.

I suppose it's the whole "cheer for the underdog" theory. Plus, the Giants already have a berth in the Memorial Cup as the host team, and it will make me feel better if the team who knocked off the Blazers goes all the way.

I didn't think PG had any chance against Everett (the #1 team in the CHL), but they proved their worthiness with a decisive 8-2 trouncing of the Silvertips. PG took a stunning 6-0 lead against the champs, and held on for the win. Irving started the game in net for Everett, and was chased out at 11:14 of the 1st, after allowing 2 goals in just 5 shots. His replacement, Reekie, faced only 17 shots, and allowed 6 goals. So either Everett's goaltending choked hugely, or PG was on fire. I like the thought of the latter.

Prince George is in Vancouver for game 1 on Friday, and I'd love to catch a couple of those games. I personally feel that Prince George can win this series, and eventually go on to the Memorial Cup (where they'll be smoked, no doubt).


Canucks Lose, Giants Win

I guess at this point it's kind of old news, but I felt that I should comment on the games nevertheless.

After the 4-OT marathon Game 1, the Canucks were apparently too "tired" to do anything in Game 2 (even though Dallas didn't seem to be as affected). Vancouver couldn't buy a goal (probably because they spent too much on Luongo), and Dallas went on to win 2-0.
Updated prediction: Same as before ... Dallas in 6

In pro-Vancouver news, the Giants had a great game against Seattle, and took Game 5 in that series to move on. The Giants will face the winner of the Prince George/Everett series, which is currently tied at 2-2.

Ottawa, after 40 minutes, up 2-1 on the Pens.


Ottawa Dominant, Vancouver Lucky, P.G. Surprising

Yesterday was a great day for hockey, to paraphrase Badger Bob Johnson. The start of the NHL playoffs (as well as the continuation of the WHL playoffs) led to me spending a large portion evening parked in front of a TV. Brief recaps/analysis to follow.

Game 1: OTT 6 vs. PTS 3
The Sens came out strong, and jumped to a solid 6-1 lead, before deciding to sit back and let the Pens gain some self-esteem. Ottawa, in a solid team effort, had no players who scored >1 goal, and 3 who notched 2 assists. Pittsburgh saw goals from Recchi, Staal and Crosby, in an effort that can only be described as "lackluster".
While I'd love the rest of the series to go this way, there's no way I can expect Ottawa (who's known for choking in the playoffs) to keep up that kind of a pace against the Pens. Pittsburgh and Ottawa were dead even throughout the entire regular season, and I expect this series to be a long one.
Initial prediction: Ottawa in 7.

Game 2: VAN 5 vs. DLS 4 (4OT)
Jesus. What a way to end my night. Well, and start my night. Puck drop was 7pm(PST), and Sedin1 scored the winner at about 12:40am. Nearly 6 hours of Canucks hockey. Honestly, that could last me an entire season.
Vancouver was outplayed for most of the game, and really didn't deserve to win. They had a solid 2 goal lead, which they squandered, and only managed a victory thanks to Luongo's 72 saves throughout the night.
I believe that Dallas just needs to figure out a way to beat Luongo, and they've got this one in the bag. And break the knees of Sedin1 and Sedin2.
Initial prediction: Dallas in 6.

WHL Game 1: VAN 3 vs. SEA 1
Now here's something rare: Casey cheering for a Vancouver hockey club. Not to go all the way, or anything. I personally would love to see PG in the Memorial Cup. But in this specific series, I'm a Giants fan. Don Hay seems like a good guy, and the team works hard every night ... can't fault that.
Seattle jumped to an early lead in this one, scoring at 0:31 of the 1st period, but Vancouver kept working hard and scored 2 plus an empty netter to take the win. Well, maybe they didn't actually work hard. Yeomans only had to make 14 saves (well, he should've made a couple more, maybe), while Sexsmith was fairly amazing for the Giants. Regardless, the Giants picked up the win in game 4, and look to take the series tomorrow night at the Rink on Renfrew.
Initial prediction: Vancouver in 5

WHL Game 2: PG 4 vs. EVT 3 (OT)
Man, what a surprise this series is turning out to be. I knew that the Cougars had some heart, based on their playoff run of a couple seasons ago. But Everett is the #1 team in the CHL currently. And PG? Wellll ... let's just say they're not in the top 10.
But, as a Minnesota Golden Gophers fan, I'm the first to admit that rankings mean absolutely nothing when it comes to playoff hockey. Prince George is a tough team, that's willing to work hard, and aren't afraid to face up to the #1 team in junior hockey. Every game in this series has been won by a single goal, with the exception of the 5-1 spanking Prince George administered to Everett a couple nights ago.
Initial prediction: PG in 7


Frozen Four spites me

Given my current luck with sports teams, it makes sense that the NCAA men's hockey final would feature Boston College and Michigan State, 2 teams about which I could not care less. Oh, I'm sure that both teams have decent followings in their respective communities ... but not here. After Boston College beat North Dakota 6-4 in the semi-final, I stopped paying attention to the tournament. Well, to be honest, I stopped paying attention after Minnesota was sent to play golf. So really, all that needs to be said is that Michigan State beat B.C. 3-1 in the final, to take the national championship (though to be fair, it sounded like a thriller of a game, with the GWG coming at 19:41 of the final frame).

In other NCAA hockey news, North Dakota's Ryan Duncan won the Hobey Baker award as the top college hockey player in the U.S. and A. Duncan (a good Canadian boy, from Calgary) finished up the season with 31 goals/26 assists for the Fighting Sioux, thanks to a stellar line-mate in co-Canadian phenom Jonathan Toews. Duncan is only the 2nd N.D. player to have ever one the award, following Tony Hrkac who grabbed it in '87. As we all know, Hrkac went on to a completely forgettable career with St. Louis, Quebec, San Jose, Chicago, Dallas, Edmonton, Long Island and Anaheim (not to mention many stops at various AHL teams along the way). Now those are some big shoes to fill ...


It's the Freakin' Weekend

With a wonderful 4 days off, and +25'C weather all across the province (or at least the cities I'll be in), I predict few posts until Tuesday.

That being said, it's Frozen Four time, and I'm a sucker for college hockey. So there will probably be a few updates as long as I'm in range of non-dial-up innertubes.

Michigan State played the Maine Black Bears today, and pulled off a 4-2 win to make it to the finals. Maine came out hard, and took a VERY quick 2 goal lead (how's 3:24 into the first suit you?), but then apparently sat back and turned on the cruise control. It took until the 17 minute mark of the 2nd for State to tie it up, and 2 goals before the halfway point of the third put them in a good position for the win. Maine pulled Ben Bishop for the final minute and a half, but to no avail.

Both goalies made 29 saves on the night, which leads me to believe that Maine's Bishop didn't perform when they needed him to. That being said, I never watched the game, and I never saw highlights ... so all the goals may have been impossible to save.

North Dakota is just taking the ice against Boston College currently (8pm EST start). I'm looking for a ND win, both in this game, and in the final.


Everybody loses, except for the team that should

So the Canucks came back from a 2-0 deficit to win 4-2. I'm not too happy about that. Plus, the Senators lost in overtime to Jersey. Double unhappy about that, since I hate Lou. But Pittsburgh lost too, so there's no overall change in the 4th place race in the East.

While there's an epic race for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern conference, a race that matters to millions of hockey fans, all the Vancouver media can talk about is the "mathematical possibility" that Vancouver will win the West (they need to win all 4 of their games, and have Detroit lose all 4). This is such a Canuck-centric city ... I really find it hard to handle. Though, without being in any other city, I can't tell if that's the norm or not.

So, in summation: Vancouver wins, nobody cares
Montreal/Toronto both win, no changes in rank there
Ottawa/Pittsburgh both lose, no changes in rank there

What a boring night in hockey


Claude Julien canned for no apparent reason

So here we stand, in the twilight of the 2006/07 NHL season. Many teams are happy with their performance, eager to start the playoffs, and prove themselves worthy contenders for Lord Stanley's cup. Other teams see that they have work to do. Some off-season conditioning, perhaps the addition of some key players or personnel to make their team a contender next year (like bringing Smyth back to Edmonton). One team, however, has combined both of those elements into one bass-ackwards attempt at spurring their team to the cup finals.

After an exceptional season (thanks in no small part to Martin Brodeur's career performance between the pipes), New Jersey Devils' GM Lou Lamoriello has decided to fire Claude Julien. The Devils currently sit 1st in their division, and 2nd overall in the east with 102 points (5 back of 1st place Buffalo). What could possibly be the reason for this move?

Forbes is reporting that Lamoriello didn't feel the team was ready to make a competitive run for the cup, and that there needed to be "better focus going forward". Lamoriello also lamented "you don't always judge by wins and losses as far as where you are at". Apparently.

This is not the first time Lou has decided that he'd be a better choice behind the bench going into the playoffs. He also fired, and replaced Larry Robinson in December of the 2005/06 season, and Robbie Ftorek with 8 games remaining in the 1999/00 season.

My personal feeling is that Lamoriello is making a huge gamble. You have a team that's playing exceptionally well, and has a solid chance at making a run for the cup. Their scorers are just starting to get into full swing, and put the puck into the net, and everybody knows how good the defense/goaltending of the Devils can be. I think it's probably difficult to watch from the press box every night, and have a clear understanding of how "focused" the team is "going forward". Maybe if you hit the playoffs, and lose your 1st 3 games straight, you make a change. But not after a season of building chemistry, and putting your heart and soul into a team. Nonsense.

I hope this move comes back and bites Lamoriello in the ass. I'm not sure who the Devils will be playing first round, but I know who I'll be cheering against ... Lou.


The Curse of Smyth

The Edmonton Oilers have entered an unprecedented realm of suck since trading Ryan Smyth to the NYI. I mean, they're really bad. 1 win in 17 games bad. Tonight they lost 2-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks (who are equally as bad), which puts them squarely in 25th position in the NHL (based on points). Granted, they're not as bad as Philly yet ... and probably won't be by the end of the season. But one has to wonder if Smyth will be coming back to the City of Champions next season.

Kevin Lowe's reasons for trading Ryan Smyth are ... confusing, at best. While they got a couple of decent draft picks out of the deal, pissing this season into the wind really couldn't have been worth it. It Lowe were smart (and I'm assuming he is), he'd make whatever deals necessary to get Smyth back into the line-up, stat. Chalk it up to experience, learn your lesson, don't trade a franchise player ever again.


Ottawa pwns Habs; Casey fears Leaf playoff run

In one of the very few instances you'll see me rooting for a team playing against the Senators, les Habitants came up extremely short against our capital's team tonight. While Ottawa has locked up a playoff spot, and is in a fairly meaningless race for 4th spot in the East, it's far more important for Montreal to get the points necessary to beat the Leafs to the playoffs.

Thanks to Dany Heatley's 47th goal, and 3 points each by Mikes Fisher and Comrie, the Senators took a 2-0 lead within 6 minutes of the puck drop, and never looked back, en route to a 5-2 spanking.

So now, with 4 games remaining, Montreal sits at 86 points, in 8th place. The Canadiens are only 1 point ahead of the Make Beliefs, who have a game in hand. Adding to that, Montreal faces Buffalo (#1 in the East) tomorrow night, which probably won't end well.

The race for the final playoff spot in the competitive division of the NHL (the West is a joke) is a race I'm going to be following closely. With Tampa Bay sitting at 88 points (thanks to a 4-2 win over the Cup-defending Hurricanes), the NYR with 87 points, Montreal with 86, TO with 83, and 2 teams with 84 points (NYI/Hurricanes), it's still anybody's season.

Personally, I'm gunning for Montreal. It's gotta be a Canadian team, and I can't rightfully, as a Sens fan, support the Leafs ... so that only leaves one logical choice.

The playoffs have nothing on the final games of the regular season.

Chilliwack forgets to show up; Vancouver takes series

In "Gong Show of the day" news, the Vancouver Giants beat the Chilliwack Bruins 3-1 in game 5 of the best-of-7 series to move on to the next round. Based on the cockamamie scheme that the WHL has developed for the playoffs this season, I have no idea who the Giants will face next. Apparently the second round of the playoffs has the 1st/4th and 2nd/3rd place teams from each conference playing one another. Though I'm not sure how that works if one of those teams loses in the 1st round of the playoffs. So I'll let the people in the know figure it out, and I'll just come along for the ride.

In tonights game, Pat Smith and Derek Zalaski handed out a total of 114 minutes in penalties, for 17 total powerplay opportunities. Yet the only special teams goal was a shorthanded marker at 13:15 of the 1st, which tied the game up for Chilliwack, just over a minute after Vancouver opened scoring. The end of the game featured a bit of a brou-ha-ha, by the looks of the scoresheet, with 72 minutes in penalties (4 fighting majors, 2 game misconducts, 2 10-minute misconducts and an instigator minor) being handed out at the 20:00 minute mark of the 3rd. Now that's a classy way to leave the season behind, Chilliwack. Way to cap off a great inaugural season.

3 stars of the night:
1: Kendall McArdie (VAN) --> 1G, 1A, 2P, 2PIM
2: Mario Bliznak (VAN) --> 0G, 2A, 2P, 0PIM
3: Josh Aspenlind (CWK) --> 1G, 0A, 1P, 2PIM


Sitting, Waiting, Wishing - Jack Johnson Makes NHL Debut

Oh, the West. I'll admit, it's an incredibly intense division in the NHL, with regards to competition. Tonight featured a match-up of the irritatingly competent Cansucks against the basement-dwelling-40-points-out-of-first-place L.A. Kings (with former castrati Vancouver coach Crawford at the helm). Canucks pulled out 2 points (no surprise there, really), Luongo played again (I really need him to get hurt in game 1 of the playoffs), and the ginger twins combined for 6 points. Yawn. The story I, personally was interested in, was the big-league debut of Jack Johnson. No, not the Curious George-serenading beach bum, but the former NCAA star and US National team phenom. After the University of Michigan's loss to North Dakota in round 1 of the NCAA playoffs last Saturday, Johnson (who incidentally played high school stick-puck with sophomore sell-out Sidney Crosby) signed a multi-year deal with the Kings. It's kind of a weird story, because Carolina (who drafted him 3rd overall in 2005) offered him multiple NHL deals, which were consistently turned down. Johnson quoted a firm desire to play college hockey, rather than jumping right into the show, which is fine. But he's now given up his NCAA eligibility to play for a team who sucks -18 points more than the one that previously owned his rights.

So how did this whipper-snapper do in his first game playing in front of Sean Burke? I give him a solid "meh". Lots of ice time (23 shifts for 18:45 play time), but a -1 overall, with no shots on net. Give him time, and I'm sure he'll turn out to be one hell of a defenseman. But it won't be this season. With only 5 games left for the Kings, and no chance of a playoff run there's not sufficient time for Johnson to build his skill level up to pro caliber. It's a big jump from NCAA to NHL, and I think that's going to be reflected in his stats for a while still.

In other "irritating Casey" news, the Penguins beat Boston 4-2 (thanks to the aforementioned Crosby's 3 assists), putting them 2 points ahead of Ottawa in the east. However, Ottawa has a game in hand, so it'll be a tight race for that meaningless 4th place. Also of note in the PTS/BOS game was former Golden Gopher Phil Kessel, who was named the #2 star, thanks to a 1-1-2 night.


It's the End of the World as We Know It.

Well, my WHL-following year is over. The Blazers succumbed to the Prince George Cougars in a well-fought game four tonight. They kept it together, but ended up losing in overtime in the city. Hopefully a few more people showed up to game 4 than were in the stands in game 3. Watching highlights was like being at a Burnaby Express game ... the hockey's good, but where are the fans? I expected a lot more out of the city of PG than 6 twelve year old boys scattered throughout the front row. At least Kamloops would have the senior-citizens clapping along to "Takin' Care of Business".

It's a good thing the Senators are still doing relatively well, or my hockey season would be over. Right now I'm interested in seeing who the Canadian team of the year will be. Last year, the country got behind Edmonton. Year before that, everybody was a Flames fan. If it's the Canucks, I swear to god I'll snap. 1.3million fanboys are bad enough ... can you imagine an entire country of people on the Luongo-bandwagon? If that's the way the playoffs are going to be, I'm hitting the golf course.


My Hockey Luck is Shite

So first it's UMN. They break my heart and go out in not-so-blazing not-so-glory before they even reach the Frozen Four. Then Ottawa decides to lose to ex-pat Zdeno Chara and the Bruins. Which is fine (Ottawa and Pittsburgh are still tied for 4th in the East ... I'm fine with that). And now I read the Blazers lost, again, to PG? Another 1 goal game, another loss by Kamloops. They're now down 3 games in a best of seven, and I don't seem them crawling out of this hole easily. Kamloops had a one goal lead going into the 3rd, when the Cougars pulled out 2 unanswered goals to take the W. Game 4 is tomorrow in PG at 7pm (PST), and you can expect the rabid Cougar fans to show up in droves. Prince George has a great fan base, and Kamloops is definitely going to be hard up to get a win, and try to drag themselves back into the series.

In other WHL news, the Vancouver Giants showed their #1 rank against the Chilliwack team, shutting out the team from the valley 4-0 and regaining the series lead, 2 games to 1.


Slow News Day; Still No Anna Nicole News

The scene is set for the Frozen Four, the WHL has tonight off, and nothing really exciting happened in the NHL. Well, the Canucks lost to the Avalanche (thanks to a great performance by Burnaby Joe), but Canucks news is played out in this town. When they win, they're awesome. When they lose, blame Naslund. Not to say I'm anti-Naslund blame ... I think he's an overpaid waste of ice-time ... but I love how the media (I'm looking at YOU Neil McRae) is the first to dive off the band-wagon. And people wonder why the Vancouver fans are so fair-weather.

I'm not a big fan of the MotoGP scheduling. They tease me with two races in the beginning of the season, and now I have to wait 4 weeks until the Grand Prix of Turkey. It's hard to keep interested in testing and engineering when the races are so sporadic. That being said, I feel obligated to report on ... post-race testing in Jerez. All teams stayed an extra day in the wonderful Spanish heat to tweak the settings in preparation of Turkey. Quickest times in day 1 testing? Why it was the 2 Kwaks, of course! I wonder how this team would be if they signed a solid, young rider. The engineering ability is there, they just seem to be lacking some key factor.


Rossi is Awesome, Hayden Sucks in Jerez

It's been 5 races since Valentino Rossi won a race. Which is his longest span ever. So you have to imagine there was some pressure on him, both internally, and from the Fiat Yamaha team. I mean, they're paying him a big chunk of change to be the greatest rider in the field, so when you combine 5 races without a win, with his 2nd place finish in the championship last season to Nicky Hayden, I can imagine some angry Yamaha race execs.

Luckily, winning wasn't really an issue in Jerez on Sunday. It took about a half lap for Rossi to get in front, and he never looked back. Dani Pedrosa, racing in front of his home crowd, stayed close until about the 14th lap, when Rossi stretched the lead to a full second. At that point, it was all over and Rossi cruised comfortably to the checkered flag.

Ever gracious, Rossi credited his team, his tyres and his bike for giving him the win, saying "they did a fantastic job for me this weekend, and they all deserve this win". Rossi is now 1st in the championship series, 9 points ahead of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.

The top 5 in Jerez were as follows:
Valentino Rossi - 45:53:340
Dani Pedrosa - 45:54:586
Colin Edwards - 45:56:041
Toni Elias - 45:57:691
Casey Stoner - 45:58:333

Hayden was notably in 7th, with a time of 46:07:486, putting him at 6th in season standings.

Frozen Four Set. Casey Disappointed.

It's a sad day for hockey. Not for North Dakota fans, I suppose ... but I don't fit into that category. Perhaps UMN, as the #1 seed was a bit too cocky. Maybe they were just outplayed and out worked. Regardless, Chris Porter jammed a puck into the net to give the Fighting Sioux an overtime win, and sending North Dakota to the show, where they'll face Boston College (who shutout Miami 4-0 to advance). This means that none of the top 4 seeds are in the Frozen Four. As for the national polls, the top team to make it is BC (ranked #4 at the end of the season). In fact, the Frozen Four will see the nationally ranked #6 team (UND) facing #4, and #14 (Maine) against #10 (Michigan State). Yawn.

NCAA Frozen Four Taking Form

The first match-up has Michigan State facing Maine, thanks to Michigan's unprecedented upset of the Fighting Irish. What to look for in this game? Maine's a perennial contender, with a Frozen Four appearance last year. As such, you can expect them to come out hard, and put on a good show. They finished the season with a very respectable 21-14-2 record, thanks to strong goaltending by Ben Bishop. In fact, Bishop has to be considered one of the reasons (the "Maine" reasons?) the Black Bears are even here, given the 36 shots he faced against UMass.

As long as Michigan State isn't coasting after their win against the Irish, they can easily put up a good fight. The Spartans are a hard working team, and pretty much flew under the radar the entire season. Even though they finished 2nd in the CCHA (behind Notre Dame), they were ranked 10th nationally at the end of the regular season, and didn't really help themselves by losing to Bowling Green in the regular season finale.

To put it concisely, it will be the Spartans who beat the Spartans on April 5th. Or it will be Ben Bishop. Or a combination of the two. Ok ... it's anybody's game.


Blazers Choke Hard in Game 1

I've been pleasantly surprised with the way Kamloops has been playing this season. After attending nearly every home game over the past couple of years (thanks to the generosity of a boss with season tix), I was used to seeing the unenthusiastic play typical of a club with a fan base born in the Depression era. But this season, the seemed to have a new fire (no pun intended). Nobody on the team is outstanding as an individual (there's no Iginla, Tucker or Nash), but as a team, they seem to click. So, after going .597 during the regular season, and finishing 2nd in the BC Division (behind the powerhouse Vancouver Giants), I expected big things in the playoffs. Maybe that will still happen, but they managed to lose game one to the "meh" Prince George Cougars by a 3-2 overtime margin.

Game 2 goes tonight at 7pm PST, and I'll be watching (not literally ... it's not televised) for a strong effort by a team that has the ability to bring some pride back to the Kamloops hockey scene.

Alright ... another game, another OT loss by the Blazers. The games are close enough ... as was the regular season. So I'm sure the Blaze will come up cherries in no time. To be fair, Chilliwack beat Vancouver by 2 this evening. Upset central.

#2 - Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Coming off an amazing year in the CCHA (how's a .817 winning percentage sound?), Notre Dame is easily a favourite to do well in the tournament, according to 70% of the same ESPN experts previously quoted. However, as with all tournaments, the possibility for upsets exists. For instance, ND required overtime (2x overtime, even) to beat Alabama-Huntsville in the first round. Currently ND is facing Michigan State (who holds a respectable 23-14-2 record), and it's all tied up at zeroes at the start of the 2nd. So what to look for in this tournament from the Fighting Irish? Solid, defensive play, mostly. The CCHA, as a league, is all about a solid defense and Notre Dame, as the league's #1, represents that fully.

Well, my predictions are pretty weak ... as are those of 70% of ESPN's experts. Notre Dame ended up losing 2-1 to Michigan State, sending Michigan to the final four, facing the Maine Black Bears, who beat UMass 3-1 in their 2nd round playoff.

UMN Already Better Than Last Year

It wasn't pretty, but Minnesota got the job done against Air Force today with a 4-3 win. Air Force took a 1 goal lead into the 3rd period, and expanded upon that quickly with a Brett Nylander goal at the 5 minute mark. As time elapsed, it looked like Minnesota was bound to repeat last year's dismal tournament performance, and reduce themselves to Canuck-like playoff contenders. But a powerplay goal by Ryan Stoa at 11:50 of the 3rd brought the game back within reach, and put the momentum fully behind MN. Just over 2 minutes later, UMN tied it up after Erik Johnson's slapshot bounced off freshman Jim O'Brien and into the net. And then, less than a minute and half later, Mike Carman knocked his own rebound out of the air and into the net, securing the game for the #1 seed, and ensuring that this season would be longer than the last.

Overall, UMN was out worked and out played, but not out shot. Their persistence payed off, thanks to a "never die" attitude that will hopefully be carried into Sunday's game against the winner of the North Dakota/Michigan game currently taking place (North Dakota is up 7-5, late in the 2nd).

Stay tuned ... this tourny is going to be a barn burner.


#1 - University of Minnesota Golden Gophers

I guess the best way to do this is by rank. So, #1 is Minnesota. Coming off an amazing (and slightly surprising) WCHA league win, thanks to an amazing, diving, one-handed, overtime goal by Blake Wheeler (seen here, thanks to GooTube), Don Lucia's team has to have high hopes for the tournament, and so they should. But surprisingly, only 4 of 10 ESPN "experts" are picking the Gophers to be in the Frozen Four. ESPN didn't really say why the experts picked the way they did, but we'll assume they had their reasons/inside sources, etc. Granted, UMN was also the #1 seed last year, and ended up losing to Holy Cross in the 1st round ... but Holy Cross was the Atlantic champion. Oh wait. Air Force is ... the Atlantic champion this year. I'm getting nervous here.

Countdown to the Frozen Four

While some people are all stoked on the NCAA basketball that's taking place (and by some people, I really mean "most people"), I'm more a hockey guy myself. Sure, I'd throw in my money, and pick my teams for the pools back in the high school day, but that was mostly to try and win a few bucks from simple flukes (I assure you, it never worked out).

They're currently in the 1st round of regional play-offs, with Minnesota going in as the #1 seed. Which makes me happy, since I'm a big MN fan. They face Air Force tomorrow at 3:30 (EST), while #2 seed, Notre Dame, has already defeated Alabama-Huntsville in round 1 play. By a surprisingly close, overtime-needing 3-2 margin. Alabama. With a dismal record of 13-19-3 ... compared to Notre Dame's incredible 31-6-3. Just goes to show ... anything can happen ... it's playoff time.

Over the next while, I'll take a look at some of the big-name teams, and give a run-down of what to watch for (in my incredibly expert opinion)


New look, same great ... content?

So people might be surprised at the things I can find to do when I'm avoiding the cornucopia (with a Newfie accent, as per the McDick's commercial) of homework I have. Like updating the colors/fonts/etc of the page. yay. The people rejoice.

All things bright and beautiful ...

This is beauty, mechanified. With BMW's upcoming release of the new M3 (based on the E92 3-series coupe) comes a new engine. A beautiful, V8-style engine. With 420hp and 295ft-lbs of torque, at an extremely rev-happy 8300rpm.

Alright ... honestly, I'll never be able to afford one ... family/friend discount or no. But I guess it's more achievable than the M6.

Folding at Home:
So a while back, somebody from Sony mentioned that nobody would ever be able to take full advantage of the PS3's capabilities (reference missing). I'm happy to see that molecular biologists are at least giving it the college try (pun intended). Stanford University's protein folding research team is utilizing PS3's to create computer models of the 3D modeling of proteins, which is absolutely brilliant. Since folding is, essentially, responsible for a good portion of the protein's ability to do it's job, knowledge of the act is great for all things molecular bio.

Eat that, Penguins!
Well, that was actually uncalled for. I tend to cheer for the Penguins, resulting from many childhood years of being a Lemieux fan, and the whole "underdog" thing. Plus, if all of their young superstars mature into decent journeymen players, it's best to be on the bandwagon early, so you don't look too foolish when they're rocking their way through the 2010-style NHL.
Fact is, the Penguins and Senators are in a dead heat for 4th in the East (yeah, it's not a do-or-die, but it's a good race). And I'm all for the Sens, who tonight beat up, solidly, on the Panthers (I wonder if Belfour had a chance to go all Ron Hextal on anybody before he was pulled in the 2nd?). Combine that with a Penguins loss to the Isle, and we have Ottawa up by 2 points, while Pittsburgh has the game in hand.
And on another hockey note ... why all the press about Bertuzzi coming back? He's a 2nd rate player (at best), who happened to have a decent season. It was a fluke. It won't happen EVER again. For once, I'll actually commend Nonis for doing something intelligent. It won't happen again, I promise.


Don't believe the hype

'k ... I'm not buying it. Literally and metaphorically. $299USD for the Apple TV, eh? And what awesomeness do I get for 3 times a C-note? Oh ... the ability to watch things from my computer on my tv ... but wait ... my computer has TV-out ... and I can buy a remote control for it. For a lot less than 300 quid. There's gonna be some people feeling stupid in about 6 weeks. Probably the same people who feel stupid, currently, for buying a PS3.

Speaking of PS3, how is it that you still can't buy a Wii, if you wanted to? I'll admit, they're fun, easy to lose a few hours in ... but my personal issue is the lack of games that really take advantage of the Wiimote. I can only play so much Wii Sports and Wii Play before I get bored. I guess it's a new technology, and good things are on the horizon (see: EA's "Fight Night", and Mario Party 8), but aren't we putting the cart before the horse here?

Audi, German engineering, diesels ... I love 'em all equally. Due to some issues the ALMS (American LeMans Series, for all you non-motorheads) has with Audi winning ... well, everything ... they've put in new "rules" to limit the abilities of the uber-great R10, including such ridiculousness as not allowing them to carry as much fuel (yeah! ... penalize them for good fuel economy!). So now Audi is talking about just pulling out of the series altogether, which would be a great loss.

I'm anti-Canadian politics right now. Well, anti "big 2". Firstly, Stephane Dion kicks poor Joe Comuzzi out of the caucus because he refuses to vote along party lines on a budge that's really not that bad (I mean, c'mon ... it's no worse than any other budget). Then, Stephen Harper says the Liberals are more concerned about Taliban prisoners than Canadian soldiers. It seems the real issues are being lost in the wash. But I guess that's politics for ya.

And, on a sad note, the Canucks beat the NHL's #1 team tonight. And Luongo got a shut-out. Making him the winningest goalie in the league. At least Naslund didn't score. And the twins were held of the scoresheet. (Hey TD ... the purse picked up another assist ... that's 22 points). I've taken to cheering against Edmonton. Not that I've anything against the Oil ... not at all. I just thought it was silly of them to trade Smyth ... and I think it's funny that they've not won since (it's the curse of Bambino, all over again)


New run route

Which actually was pretty nice. Fairly short (1.8km, each way), flat, wooded ... with the pungent stench of skunk cabbage to keep you moving.

Casey says "Seal hunt must happen"

Forbes (here) is reporting the seal hunt in the Canadian arctic might not happen this year, due to "higher-than-normal mortality rates of seal pups and poor ice conditions". And I'm not sure what to think about this. I suppose global climate change could very well be leading to the conditions mentioned ... but what's causing the death of seal pups, if not a well-fashioned oak club? Probably those Coca-Cola drinking polar bears.

What the hell is with the A&E show "King of Cars"? That "Chop" Towbin fellow seems awfully white for the way he acts. But maybe I shouldn't racially profile him. Who's to say how white people should act? Certainly not me.

Does anybody actually expect Kawasaki to perform well in MotoGP? They're a great manufacturer, and always seem to compete well in AMA Superbike or Supersport, or whatever Americanized version of racing Roger Hayden participates in ... but they've never been able to perform at the top level. Even when I heard they had signed de Puniet, I didn't expect much. But then, I don't expect much out of Suzuki either. It's a 3 horse race, in my mind (well, 4 if you count KR ... but he's running a Honda engine ... so I lump him in with the "Honda" crowd). I'm excited to see if the Yamaha team can do enough engine tweaking to allow the M1 to compete along the straights with the Ducati GP7 ... Rossi had no chance against Stoner in Qatar, and I fully expect the entire season to end in such a fashion.

Only 4.5 days until Jerez ...

Is it June yet?

I am so not liking this semester so far. All 2 days of it. Seems to be a whole bunch of stuff that I care nothing about jammed into multiple hours, exams, presentations and reports. I suppose the good thing is that it's only 9 weeks. And after a couple week in Princeton this summer, I'll be wishing that I were back in "Human Relations" class learning how to not be a racist.

The news of the day (well, the news that I found interesting) is that Infinity has been told to cease and desist using the "M" moniker on their cars. I can only imagine they had good intentions with the M35/M45 badging ... but selling an "M6" package for the G35? That just reeks of a BMW rip-off. The cars are kind of similar in shape as it is ... I guess it gives people a way to pretend their $50,000 car is actually a $150,000 car. Might as well just re-badge that 318ti as a 335xi and call it a day.


Last day of vacation

Well, it's come down to this: the final day of vacation, lazing around in my housecoat, wishing time would slow down. Though, it'll be nice to have some structure in my days after a couple weeks of doing absolutely nothing. The fact that I'm sitting on the couch watching lawnmower racing says a lot about what I'll do for mindless entertainment.

Just read that the Oilers picked up Petr Nedved on waivers. I was hoping he'd go to Ottawa, as rumours suggested, but it wasn't to be. Not sure how Nedved fits into the Oiler's needs, but then I'm completely ignorant with respect to the Oilers and their needs ... so my opinion doesn't count for much.

Canucks play the Flames (again) tonight ... I look forward to cheering for Calgary. Currently, I'm loving the fact that while the Canucks have won a couple of consecutive games (3, I think?), Naslund still hasn't scored in 14(?) games. Well worth his $6.5M, no?