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Friday, March 12, 2010

Ice Time: Pens vs. Devils

In a semi-"must win" game tonight, the Pens visited the Devils for a Friday evening division battle.  For the fifth straight time this season, the Devils came up with the victory and have now outscored the Pens 16-3.  The worst part of it was the two points they get for the win pulls them within two points of first place.  With only 17 games left, it is going to be a fight to the finish.

Crosby scored the only Pens goal and is now 1 ahead of Ovechkin in their battle for the Rocket Trophy.  I am getting a bit concerned about Malkin though.  After watching two games in a row he seems to be getting into one of his lethargic slumps.  It is almost like since the Olympics, he hasn't been the same.  Maybe I am just looking for something to complain about.  Yeah, that's it.  I hope. 

I am not going to get into the blatant goalie interference on the third Devils goal.  It was a blown call by the refs and unfortunately the Pens weren't able to counter punch.  The other unfortunate fact is that goalie interference calls, whether blatant or not, are not reviewable.  Maybe they will change that rule next year too.

The one thing I can say for this game was it was penalty filled.  Craig Adams received a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for a charging penalty that the Pens were able to kill.  After that, it was chaos.  There were 49 minutes spent in the Sin Bin.  Kovalchuk even had a penalty shot after Letang drug him to the ice in what would have been a breakaway.

The fight of the night had to be when Jamie Langenbrunner grabbed Chris Kunitz by the Pens bench and they stumbled into the bench area and continued to battle.  I thought someone would have definitely started throwing punches but it wasn't in the cards.

These guys square off again in New Jersey next Wednesday and it is going to be another classic.  Hopefully the Pens can pull one out for the first and last time this year.

In other news, the Lightning shocked the world!!!  They beat the Caps 3-2.  Shocking because it is only their second win in 9 games.  Shocking because they beat the Capitals, the best team in hockey.  Shocking because they held Ovie to 1 shot on goal.  

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ice Time Pregame: Pens vs. Canes

The Pens begin their lengthy road trip tonight against the Hurricanes in Carolina.  Pittsburgh is in a tight battle with the Devils for the division lead that is most assuredly going to come down to the final week.  With the Canes fighting for thier playoff lives, they are not going to easily roll over and die.  If they lose this one, they are likely playing golf real soon.  They are in for a fight, as most Pens/Canes games have become over the last few years. 

You know what would be fun?   A drinking game.  For anyone that has the ability to watch the game, here are the rules.

1)  Everytime someone references Crosby's equipment being stolen...take a drink.

2)  Everytime someone references the Staal brothers, or the fact that they are brothers, or the fact that there is a third brother...take a drink.

3)  Everytime there is a conversation about "headshots" or Matt Cooke not being suspended...take a drink.

4)  Everytime someone reference Crosby as the "Gold Medal Winning" or "Olympic Champion"...take two drinks.

5)  Everytime they show Mario Lemieux in his luxury suite...take a drink.

6)  Everytime they mention Bill Cowher being a Carolina fan...take a drink and then throw your glass at the TV.

7)  Everytime they mention all the coaches that used to be Penguins (there are 4, I think)...take a drink.

My prediction is that sticking to these rules will most assuredly get you drunk before the first intermission and possibly cause black outs by the end of the second period.  Have 911 on standby if this game makes it to overtime.

Cards From the Night Owl (Part 4)

Enough commentary on these already...geez!  More Bucs from the nocturnal one.

Two things here:  1) Wally Backman looks like he is trying to escape from the confines of the box Topps bordered around him, and 2) Why is Dave LaPoint so happy?

Look there...another team card.  Lovely, isn't it?

I'm not sure if there is a whole team set here but I bet it is close.

Owl inadvertently helped me with my Series I set with three cards and a ToppsTown card.  I'm not complaining.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cards From the Night Owl (Part 3)

(Somehow I inadvertently posted part 4 before part 3 last night.  That's what lack of sleep gets you I guess.)

Finally, we are onto the baseball portion of our show.  I am really starting to get fired up over putting together this Pirates collection.  I am especially enjoying the older stuff that I used to have as a kid, circa 1984-1989.  Plus they are really looking good in the binder I have for them and it makes it easier for my son to look through them since he is now intrigued by the thought of collecting.

I got a little long winded on the last two parts of this trade post so I am going to keep it brief here and showcase the cards.  They speak for themselves.  I am still going to have to split this into two posts since the picture content is going to be enormous.

Thanks to Night Owl for all the great cards and the awesome Steeler schedule.  I think my Bucco's collection has doubled, if not tripled, in size.

A slough of A&G cards as well as a few OPC baseball from last year.  I never liked the A&G but that was because I didn't own any.  No I do, and now I like them.  Go figure.

A nice mix here highlighted by the center square.

A few Topps Heritage that didn't really do it for me when I saw them on other blogs, but now that I own them, it's a different story.

Gotta love the Madlock Diamond King and I really like the airbrushed helmet on Barry's head in that Post card.  John Smiley is the 3 of clubs...I figured him more for an ACE (**comical drum hits ensue**)

Some oldies but goodies.  I though that Ken Brett might have been my oldest Pirate but I forgot that my brother found my old stuff including my 1954 Dick Groat card.  I'll show that some other time.

80s Cheese with a 90s card on the'd that get on this page?

Finally some Reuss-age, and Omar Moreno, and a team card.  Does it get any better than team cards?

The long lost Ebay purchase

So have you ever bought something on one of the auction sites and through no fault of your own, forgot?  That was the case with a couple cards from a fellow I purchased from about a month and a half ago.  You see, I was caught up in a whirlwind of buying online and in stores and trades that I forgot about this last group I picked up.

After about three weeks, I noticed the button was still active that I needed to leave feedback.  I couldn't remember why or what for so I clicked it and realized that there were still two cards that I had yet to receive.  So I sent an email to the seller, thinking he must have also forgot about it.  Within an hour, I had a confirmation number in my hands and a delivery confirmed notice...?

WHAT?  Are you serious?  I never, ever, received anything.  I know sometimes my wife hides my packages because she gets some kind of primordial enjoyment out of making me squirm but not this time.  They were sent a day after I sent payment so where could they be?  Maybe my mailman decided he wanted to keep them.  Maybe the neighborhood kids finally caught on as to what was in all those bubble mailers.  Maybe they were abducted by alien mutant space ninjas.

I inquired to the post office to no avail.  They simply confirmed they received them and then sent them out for delivery.  Since no signature was required, they could neither confirm or deny if they made it to their final destination, although I knew they didn't.  I finally gave up hope and sent the seller an email letting him know they were AWOL but it wasn't his fault and I didn't want a refund but wanted to bid on some replacements.  He, of course, thanked me, apologized, and then told me he had nothing else available for auction at this time.  Oh well.  Such is life.

FAST FORWARD TO YESTERDAY.  I get home and there on the counter is a small bubble mailer with a big green sticker on it.  The sticker reads "we are sorry the delivery of your package was delayed" continued, "there are many reasons why parcels are sometimes held up in shipping" goes on to list several...yadda, yadda, yadda....Love, the US Post Office.  So you are telling me that you temporarily lost my package but told the shipper they were delivered and told me the same thing only to turn around and miraculously produce it out from the crack between some sorting machine and the 3:30-11 shift supervisor's lunch pail?  I say...

Thank you.

Here is what I was waiting for.  Something tells me there are a couple people out there that would like me to try and lose them again by shipping 'em to their collections. 

2009-10 SPx Winning Materials Brian Campbell WM-BC

2009-10 SPx Winning Materials Patrick Sharp WM-PS (2-color)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Everything I learned...I learned from cards

My son is 6 years old and one of his new fascinations (and there are many of them) is to watch as I sort through cards for countless numbers of hours.  A few months or so ago, I decided to try and get him involved a little bit by having him help me put cards into binders.  As he was loading them into their respective pages, I would ask him questions about the different things he saw on the cards.  It's amazing to see some of the things that younger eyes tend to find.  This brought me back to when I was a kid and started collecting.

A couple weeks later, I tried his hand at busting packs.  While he isn't the most coordinated at 6 years old yet, he got the hang of it after a few mishaps.  Luckily they were only 1997-98 Pinnacle hockey and I was only really looking for hits since I completed the set already.  Overall, though, he had a blast doing it.  Especially since he got to keep a handful of the cards that he really liked for himself. 

Between watching all the football games last year on the Red Zone channel (as well as any Steeler game being televised) and hockey games on TV this year, he has become a little sports fan.  I am always finding him playing back previous games on the On Demand feature from Comcast.  He then gets all excited when players score TDs or goals as he watches, eventhough we already know the outcome.  I can't tell you how many times he has watched the Super Bowl and Winter Classic.  But, I'm not complaining. 

The other night while watching the hockey game, we sat down with a stack of goalie cards and started to play a game where I would give him a stat and he would try to find who was the winner.  We went through, height, weight, wins, shut outs, etc.  We even pulled out a map of the world and started placing flags in the countries where the players were born. 

So not only is he becoming a sports fan, he is become a card collecting fan.  Two birds with one stone I guess.  At least it isn't those god awful Pokemon or Bakugan or DragonBallZ cards like most of the kids his age collect.  As I tell my wife...he is working on his reading skills with the narratives on the card backs, math with all the statistical data, and geography with the map game we play.  In other words, who needs school when everything you need to know you can learn by collecting cards.

Cards From The Night Owl (Part 2)

Continuing with the cards I received from Night Owl over the weekend, I bring you the second of three sports featured in the  I know what you are thinking by now.  First hockey cards, and now football.  Is this the same Night Owl?  There must be two different people using the same name, right?  What's next?  Non-Sport cards?  Well, I assure you, my friends, it is the real nocturnal avian.

1993 Classic 4-Sport Jerome Bettis

First was a 1993 Classic 4-Sport Jerome Bettis card, featuring Jerome during his Notre Dame days running over Northwestern's Willie Lindsey.  I suppose this was a preview of things to come since he would spend the next 12 years running over guys in the NFL.  I already had this one.  In fact I think I have a few of these but I always welcome Bettis cards regardless of whether I have them or not.  Which brings me to the next card...

1993 Classic Jerome Bettis #10
Another 1993 Classic Bettis only this one comes from the main Draft set.  Another one that I thought I had but it turns out, it was no where to be found in my Steeler album.  I guess I can't say that anymore.  Upon closer review, it looks like Classic took another shot of the same game against Northwestern as in the 4-Sport card.  The only difference is, this time, Jerome is busting through some tackles.

1990 Pro Set Super Bowl Set Terry Bradshaw
Ok, I know everyone has 1990 Pro Set cards.  I know everyone has tons of 1990 Pro Set cards.  It doesn't matter if they are football or hockey, everyone, everywhere, has 1990 Pro Set cards.  Again, I thought I had this one too.  Guess what?  I didn't.  I have two other Bradshaw cards from this set but this one is different.  This set came out to celebrate Super Bowl XXV by showcasing teams and players of the past Super Bowls.  As you can see by the top, Pro Set is the Official NFL card.  

1996 Pittsburgh Steelers Team Schedule
This has to be the best piece in the whole lot.  A 1996 Steelers team schedule pocket fold-out that is in perfect condition.  I sort of collect team pocket schedules and anytime I can get my hands on Pittsburgh ones, I jump at the chance.  I actually have all but three from the 90's.  I might showcase them on here someday.  I know there a lot of people out there that collect schedules and there is a big market for these out there.  I actually started keeping them for their advertising and since I am somewhat of a pack rat, they have accumulated ever since.

Just think, I haven't even got to the baseball stuff yet.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My take on the Cooke hit

It's all over the interwebs. It's all over sports tv and radio. Frankly, I'm tired of hearing about it. If you haven't seen it yet...Here it is. You can make your own decision regarding whether it was a cheap shot or not.

Everyone is up in arms about this hit by Matt Cooke to Marc Savard. Was it a head shot? Was it deliberate? Was it cheap? Yes would probably answer all three questions but that is beside the point. Would everyone be having this conversation on here in the world if it was a hit on Crosby? Hell no!! The discussion of head shots would still take place and the perpetrator would be suspended or fined or both, but the rest of the hockey fandom would all be applauding and cheering (even if not out loud) because their perceived "Golden Boy" went down. If you want to be a Pens hater, that's fine with me. The difference is not a question of team loyalty. It's a question of what is right or wrong.

The problem is that the NHL has not clearly defined the rule. In fact, there really isn't a rule.  There is too much subjectivity and debate as to head shot plays. Regardless of where you stand though, it is not good for hockey.  Especially after the whole world just watched a great hockey tournament in the Olympics without much checking or other rough stuff (except for the Ovie hit on Jagr, that was brutal).  If the NHL is ever going to win back fans and become a viable commercial draw, let's face it, like it or not it is going to have to clean up it's image.

The 2010 GM meetings started today in Florida and the head shot argument is set to take center stage. The league has a duty to put on paper a clear cut plain language rule that eliminates blindside hits or head shots. They can't in good faith eliminate any shoulder to head hits that occur or open ice collisions that result in injury but they need to focus on the "defenseless" nature of a player's positioning when determining the rule. They also need to clearly spell out what the punishment is going to be and have the officials on the ice enforce it rather than ignore it and let the league dole out a fine or suspension.

In this case, Savard had the puck and was shooting toward the net.  Cooke clearly had his sites set on wiping Savard out and preventing the play.  The puck had left his stick before Cooke got there.  Savard's momentum from the shot pulled his head forward to a prone position.  Cooke finished off his intended path and knocked Savard's block off.  Problem is, he led with his forearm/elbow and you can't do that.  Everyone is comparing this one to the Mike Richards hit on David Booth.  Richards went full speed with his shoulder and because of how Booth twisted, he got clobbered in the head.  Again, Booth had the puck.  Richards saw him, set his sites on taking him away from the puck, and finished him off.  The only difference here is the positioning and the follow through.  Booth had the puck and was hit with a body check.  Savard didn't have the puck and was hit with a somewhat outstretched forearm. 

I know the players ultimately are not stupid.  They will most definitely find ways around any rule that may come of this to try and draw penalty minutes just as they do with the blind hits from behind.  The thing is, I don't think they are dumb enough to put their careers and lives in danger when it comes to having their head knocked off by an open ice hit just for an extra man advantage.   

Let me be clear on this.  I am a Pens fan.  I have always liked Matt Cooke's style of agressive play and I hardly think he is one of those annoying goon-ish players that sets their sets day in and day out on ending someone's career.  Does that mean I condone what happened?  No.  Is he a repeat offender?  Yes.  Does that make him a horrible player and a criminal?  No.  I think the officials dropped the ball by not calling at least an elbowing penalty and maybe a roughing penalty.  The league will make their decision on any suspension or fine.  Just remember, Richards got nothing for his hit.  If intent is punishable, this case might be different. 

If The Season Ended Today - Eastern Conference Prediction

Normally I hate doing these "what if..." scenarios but frankly, I was too intrigued by the matchups as they currently stand.  So, that being said...

If the season ended today, we would have some really tough battles in the Eastern Conference.  I may do the Western Conference too but I'm more of an Eastern Conference kind of guy.  We'll see.

First, runaway winners Washington would face off against the Bruins.  This is not a guaranteed win for the Capitals despite the obvious learning curve between the two teams.  Boston has played some very uninspired hockey this season but anything short of a Cup in Boston is considered a losing season.  The Caps are the favorite to go to the finals this year and with good reason.  Their 96 points leads the league and they have shown that they can score with any line on the ice.  Plus, Boston is a little banged up and I don't think that all their players returning from the Olympics came back healthy.  That and the age factor of their team and you have a potential recipe for disaster.  The Caps have taken the previous meetings with Boston this year and lead the series 2-0.  My prediction:  CAPITALS IN 5

The defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins would face off against the Montreal Canadians.  In the season series, Pittsburgh has outscored the Habs, 15-9 and has a 3-1 series lead.  Unfortunately, too many times the Penguins sacrifice defense for offense and this could pose a major problem against a Canadians team that won't roll over.  They have been on a bit of a win streak as of late and would be a scary competitor.  I don't think Canada would cheer for Crosby anymore.  The firepower of the Pens offense coupled with the inconsistent play of Price and the confidence level of Halak would eventually do the Habs in.  My prediction:  PENGUINS IN 6

Buffalo would be matched up against the Flyers.  Buffalo leads the season series 3-1 but only by wins.  The Sabres have scored 12 goals to Philly's 11, making this a very even offensive battle.  Unfortunately for Buffalo, their offense as of late has not been the stuff you build championships on.  They are too inconsistent with thier play around the net and just don't get the pucks on goal the way they should.  The Flyers have a tight defense and Michael Leighton has been showing some great goal tending.  My prediction:   FLYERS IN 7

An underrated Senators team would take the ice against the New Jersey Devils.  The Senators have quietly made their mark in the league this year by staying right in the mix.  They won 14 of 16 prior to the Olympic break but have stumbled a bit since.  The additions of Alex Kovalev and Matt Cullen have finally given them some scoring options that they haven't had in years.  Their only issue at the moment is the inexperience in goal.  The Devils, on the other hand, have arguably the best goal tender in NHL history playing behind a fairly weak offense (they were shutout by Edmonton...Edmonton!?).  Plus they haven't been very good on the road this year (on in Canada for that matter) My prediction:  SENATORS IN 6


CAPS vs. SENS with the Capitals winning in 4 games
PENS vs. FLYERS with the Pens winning in 6 games

CAPS vs. PENS...7 game series decided by 3 overtime games.  Pens win.

Of course, that is only if the playoffs started today.  And, this is only my biased opinion.  Tomorrow, this could all change.  So really this was just a pointless rambling that wasted the last 4 1/2 minutes of your life.  Sorry, no refunds.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cards from the Night Owl (Part 1)

I received a nice size box in the mail the other day from none other than everyone's favorite nocturnal resident, Night Owl.  I haven't been able to find many traders yet but I am getting there.  Night Owl, as most people know, is a Dodger collector and since I have been out of baseball for so long, my selection is sub par at best.  After searching one day through trade lists, I actually happened upon some stuff on his list.  So I am guessing this was my payment.  And what a payment it was.  I am going to break it down into separate sections since there is so much to display.

On top of the box was a note that said that there wasn't a whole lot of non baseball, which was fine with me considering what he did decide to include.  Since my focus is on Pittsburgh sports, he stayed with the theme and greeted me  

first with this:
1991-92 Upper Deck 50/50 Club (Lemieux, Gretzky, Hull)

I didn't even know Night Owl had hockey cards let alone these beauties.  I will say that I already have the 50/50 card (in fact I probably have about a dozen or so) but it is one of my favorite sketch cards, ever.  It features three members of the 50 goals in 50 games club members.  For those non-hockey fans, I would say this is the rare hockey equivalent of the 40/40 club in baseball.  Very hard to achieve. 

The 50 games criteria is actually 50 team games, not player games.  At the time the card was printed, these were the three active players that were part of the club.  It features Mario Lemieux who scored his in 88-89; Wayne Gretzky who tallied his contribution three times in 81-82, 83-84, and 84-85; and Brett Hull who is a two time member with back to back years in 90-91 and 91-92.  The other members of this elite club include Rocket Richard and Mike Bossy.  Lemieux also missed the club three other times, mainly due to injuries, in 92-93 (50 in 48 but team 78), 95-96 (50 in 50 but team 59), and 87-88 (50 in 51).

Then with this...
1991 Foodland Penguins Jaromir Jagr

The second card is one that has eluded me for many, many years.  I have always tried to get my hands on the Foodland cards of the early 90s but other than a few singles, I have not been very successful.  I have bid on these sets hundreds, literally hundreds of times on Ebay to no avail.  At least now I am one card closer.  

Those unfamiliar with these sets should know this one is from the 1991 Penguins Foodland Safety set.  It was a regionally produced set that was distrubuted by the grocery store Foodland in conjunction with the "Take A Bite Out Of Crime" crime and safety promotion campaign.  There are 15 cards in the set, this one being number 11.  I don't normally scan the backs of cards but this one had to be shared.  As we see here, we are reminded that Hockey is an international sport and everyone needs to learn English to play it.  We also learn that stereotyping is bad.

This is actually Jagr's Foodland rookie card since it was the first one that was produced for him in any of these sets.  I have the Lemieux, the Randy Hillier, and John Cullen from this set already.  I know I used to have the Zarley Zalapski and Tony Tanti cards from this one too but I have no idea what happened to them.  1996 was the last year that Foodland put these sets out.

And then this gem...

2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Gold Sidney Crosby

I wish there was a better way to scan shiny cards.  This shot really doesn't do this one justice.  The Gold Parallel versions of the OPC set look exactly like the regular issue but are glossy and have a metallic coating that make them look almost like refractors without all the prism-y things.  What better card to have from this parallel set than this one.  World Junior Gold Medalist, Art Ross winner, Pearson Award winner, Hart Trophy winner, Olympic Gold Medalist, and Stanley Cup Champion.  I think he won a couple ESPY Awards too.  Regardless of what you think of this guy, who wouldn't want that resume?

More to come on this awesome box from Night Owl...