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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Box Break - - 2010-11 Pinnacle Hockey

I'm back online with the scanner, people!!  I finally figured out what the major hang up was with Windows 7 and the scanning software.  The drivers were not compatible with my scanner so I had to use trial and error to figure out which model drivers would actually work and still get me the results I wanted.  Mission accomplished.

I thought I would celebrate with a box break.  So I'm doing a big picture laden review.  In today's installment, I am taking a look at the newest edition to the Panini brand stable that has been resurrected from the dead.  Pinnacle was always a brand (manufactured by Score at the time) that bordered on the edge of a premium product but never quite made it.  I remember the Pinnacle brand (at least in hockey) would always be just slightly higher priced than their Score counter parts and they would always be a little more edgy and "quirky", for lack of a better word, with their photos.  Panini's newest incarnation of the product is no different.

The base cards, at first glance, look quite similar to Panini's earlier Donruss release.  The cards feature mostly a full bleed photo with a semi-transparent white border that houses the brand logo, team name, and player name, number and position.  The difference, as I already mentioned, is that Pinnacle brings a quirky element to many of their photos.  For example, above is picture of Geno Malkin with his teammates...errr...miniature versions of his teammates.  There are also photos like Marc Savard wearing a Santa hat and lugging a big red bag over his shoulder, Lucic and his puck collection, and a great new haircut for Dustin Brown (among others).

The set also features Ice Breakers which consist of 50 rookies including parallels with autographs, artist proofs, and Rink Collection versions.  There is also an updated version of the Tough Times inserts that are seeded either as regular base cards or as auto.  Fans of the Game are in here as well.  Team Pinnacle is back as a 12 card insert set as well as 6 rookies and the other autos are featured as Pinnacle Pencraft or Chemistry on Canvas insert sets.  City Lights is an interesting insert set that features the memorabilia and can be found in the jersey variety, patch variety, and auto variety.

Here are some of the other highlights of my box.

 Here are my Ice Breaker rookie cards.  I pulled a Jeff Skinner which I was quite happy about since he is almost a shoe in as the Calder winner.  I also got the Jacob Josefson which is an Artist Proof, as you can see in the top left corner.  I am not sure on the collation of these, nor does, Panini mention what it may be.  I will just assume they are somewhat short printed since there was only 1 in the box.

There was also only 1 from the set called "Saving Face".  I pulled this Carey Price.  As you can see, it is laser etched into a solid piece of silver that is about 3/4 inch thick.  The blocker pad is diamond crusted and most of his helmet is laced with pearl.  Don't believe me?  Good, because I was lying.  It is actually that holo foil stuff that Upper Deck uses on Black Diamond.  Still, you can't tell from the scan, but the card looks cool.

I pulled two Tough Times inserts, neither of which were autographs.  As you can see, the design is basically meant for an auto as the bottom portion of the card is left blank, except for a transparent image of the team logo.  Here I have Bobby Schmautz and former Penguin pictured as a Red Wing, Bugsy Watson. 

There is apparently a "Threads" set which I was unaware of prior to opening the product.  Here is a Brayden Schenn which was cool at first glance, until I turned it over.  It's numbered out of 499 but the real downer is the fact that a gray stripe adorns the bottom with the dreaded words "Event-Worn Swatch".  At this point in the season for a late release, you can't find a game used jersey?  Really?  REALLY?

As I mentioned earlier, most of the memorabilia comes from a City Lights set.  The cards feature a cut out of the player, superimposed over a city scape of the team they play for.  Here we have Chris Pronger with a black jersey swatch and a "PRIME" jersey patch of Milan Hejduk.  The Pronger is numbered out of 499 and the Prime patches are out of 25.  The backs of the cards feature a weirdly placed fact about the city featured in the background, not the player. 

And what box would be complete without an autograph?  Again, the City Lights set is the home for the regular autograph cards and I pulled this Zach Hamill of the Boston Bruins.  Zach is a prospect in the Bruins organization and plays much of his time in Providence.  He has played in only a few NHL games thus far and may end up being a full time minor leaguer unless he gets an opportunity next year.  I am still trying to figure out how we get Zach or Hamill out of that signature.  I guess I see the "Z" and possibly the "ill".  But that's it.  It almost looks like he was trying to draw a picture instead of sign.  Either way, it is still a sticker auto as you can see by the reflective "Panini" watermarked clear label. 

So that's it for this break.  Make a decision on your own as to whether you might think it is worth it or not.  I still haven't decided whether or not to pick up another box but I will most likely put the base set together and possibly try to collect the Tough Times set.  I haven't sorted my base cards yet so I'm not sure what I might need.  They will be up on my set needs page soon.

Oh, and I hate the Lightning but will root for them throughout the rest of the playoffs because the Capitals, Flyers and Bruins all anger me senseless.  Tampa's firepower and ridiculously surprising goaltending was simply too much for the injury riddled Penguins.  It was an intense season and I am anxiously awaiting what might be in store for next year.  Fleury for MVP!!  Go Bolts!!

Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

PS...Did I fail to mention that there are no stats on the backs of these cards.  As in, no stats...AT ALL.  Discuss amongst yourselves.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's It Going To Take?

Well the answer to that is a Game 7.  The Penguins couldn't close out the Lightning again tonight.  With a 3-1 lead going into Saturday, they were shellacked into submission by a 6 goal deficit.  It wasn't quite as bad tonight but they walk away from Tampa with their tails between their legs once again. 

There really isn't much to talk about on this one.  After pulling out to a 1-0 lead on a very nicely setup play from Max Talbot to Pascal Dupuis, there weren't many highlights. 

Probably the best chance the Pens had to make something happen was when Chris Conner was breaking to the net all alone and was tripped, calling for the enigmatic penalty shot.  There have only been 6 penalty shots in playoff history, one of which came last night and another by former Penguin Evgeni Malkin (I only say former because he might as well be at this point) back in 2008.  At any rate, Conner starts out with a ton of speed as he raced straight to the net.  As he nears the goal mouth, he does a spin-o-rama while simultaneously flipping the puck up in the air and then slaps it into the net like hitting a baseball off a tee.  Or at least, that's what was supposed to happen...

Instead, as he drove up about 10 feet from the net he forgot something...the puck!!  As he skated back and to the left to position himself for a shot, it was too late.  Roloson had already gotten himself in between the net and Conner's extremely obvious shot angle.  I must say, it was by far and away the most embarrassing one-on-one shot attempt by a player I have ever seen in my natural born life.  It was worse than when a player falls down.  It was worse than when a player fans on the puck.  Even worse than when a player shoots it so unbelievable wide it almost hits a taxi parked in front of the stadium.  Dan Bylsma consoled his dejected player on the bench but you could tell that he was never...EVER...going to live that down.

Oh and by the way...Teddy Purcell needs to go away, Steve Downie needs to die, Ryan Malone needs to be run over by a semi without the interior tires on the rims, Dominic Moore should go back to whatever rock he lives under, and Nate Thompson, wait a minute...Nate who?  It isn't Stamkos or Lecavalier that are killing the Pens.  It's the role players.  With the exception of St. Louis who has single-handedly taken this team onto it's back, it's all the role playing guys that are making a difference in this series.  I just wish they were wearing the Vegas Gold and Black.   

In other news, I still don't have my scanner working.  Windows 7 is great but obviously not for scanners.  It has caused my "TBS" pile to become almost a fire hazard on my desk.  Plus, I have been unable to get things into my system for posting on Ebay or other various sites.  Never fear, though.  I will figure this out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NFL Schedule Announcement - Predictions

I would be remiss if I at least didn't mention the fact that that NFL announced their 2011 schedule.  I mean, this could be one of only few football posts all year if we have to go without a 2011 season.  But before I get ahead of myself and my doomsday predictions, I will take a few moments and comment on my boys in Black N' Yellow.  (you all knew I was going to do that)

The Steelers overall statistically have one of the easiest schedules.  For this fact, and this fact alone, I have low expectations for the seasons.  I know it's a bit of a trend to predict low performance coming off a Super Bowl appearance year but the Steelers seem to always play their best football against the best teams.  With a balanced schedule, I'd at least have hope that would swing toward another great season.  Their perceived ease doesn't give me hope that they will field their best performances week in and week out.  Simply my opinion, and I hope I am wrong.

That being said, the Steelers open the season at the Ravens in Baltimore.  Not the most confidence boosting opponent by any means but I wouldn't want it any other way.  Why wouldn't you want to face your biggest rival in the opening game?  Super Bowl hangover?  There is no time for that.  Not with the Ravens.  These games are always highly contested defensive match-ups that result in some of the best football of all time.  As much as I hate the Ravens, I love that they exist.  Who else would battle it out as the rival team, the Browns?  Please...

Up until last year, I actually didn't know how they picked some of the yearly opponents.  Everyone knows you play two games against your divisional foes, one home/one away.  That takes care of 6.  Another 4 are against another division in your conference, two home/two away.  This years division is the AFC South so back come the Colts, Titans, Texans, and Jaguars...all of which, the Steelers do not traditionally play well against.  That makes 10 games.  Another 4 games are played against another division in the opposite conference, two home/two away.  This year is the NFC West so we get the 49ers, the Seahawks in a rematch of SB XL, the Cardinals in a rematch of SB XLIII, and the Rams in a rematch of SB XIV (is it really a rematch if it takes place over 30 years later?).

Now we are down to 2 games left (remember there is still a bye week...I can do math sometimes).  These were always the ones that I really didn't get.  They always seemed completely random and I figured there was no rhyme or reason to scheduling them.  If I paid a little attention, I could have probably figured it out.  Apparently, the final two games are are played (one home/one away) against the two teams in the conference that finished the previous year in the same place in the standings of their division.  Therefore, by process of elimination, we face the Chefs, I mean Chiefs and everyone's favorite cheaters, the New England Patriots.

If anyone wants access to a PDF version of the schedule, you can click here.  For the rest of you, I will break this down a bit.  The Steelers get Baltimore in Maryland, home vs. Seattle, at the Colts, and at the Texans.  First four games will probably yield 2 wins so 2-2 to start the season.  Next we get the Titans and Jags at home followed by a trip to Arizona and then back to Pittsburgh for the Patriots and Ravens again.  I'm going out on a limb here and going to say we get 4 out of five of these games, 6-3.  The Bengals are up next before the bye week so going in, I'm predicting a modest 7-3. 

Here is where I think it will begin to crack.  The remaining 6 games feature the Bengals again, the Browns twice, the 49ers, Rams, and Chiefs.  Considering how the Browns are never to be taken lightly, I can see these splitting.  The Rams have a long way to go but show moments of greatness and I think they will when they play in Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve.  No question the Chiefs will be taken a little too lightly and will probably come away with one.  The 49ers can go either way so I will give the Steelers the benefit of the doubt here but I don't think they will beat the Bengals twice.  So to close it out, they go 2-4 and finish with a 9-7 record.  I'm saying they back into the playoffs in week 17 but get tossed in the first round.

Now of course we all know I have no idea what I am talking about and this is all conjecture but I'd much rather plan for the worst and hope for the best.  At least I will get the opportunity to watch a couple games on TV in my market (Chicago).  We get three games on Sunday Night in America on NBC, a Monday Night Football game on ESPN, a Thursday Night Football game that should be on NFL Network, and probably the Christmas Eve game on Fox (that's a Saturday).  I can live with that considering there is a chance of at least 2-3 more being games of the week on CBS.

Now get this financial crap handled and get out there and prove my predictions wrong.

PS...I can't go without a hockey comment...I don't think the Canucks realized they still had one more game to win in this series.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Playoff Update: Pens 3, Lightning 2 (Pens lead 2-1)

Well, once again there was another Pens game that wasn't on TV and I couldn't have been happier with the result.  I didn't get to catch any of the game live since I was at work until almost 9PM but I did see most of the game on fast forward from a recording.  I just wanted to make a few comments about the game.

First, what happened to the famed penalty kill?  The Penguins were near tops in the league when it came to the penalty kill for the year but since the playoffs began, they have gone into hibernation.  The Pens gave up 2 more power play goals in tonight's game, both of which to Marty St. Louis by the way.  I don't think anyone can stay on that guy because he can just skate under you or around you.  He's like a little leprechaun dodging and ducking under toadstools as he travels to the end of the rainbow.  He is certainly good luck for the Bolts so far this post-season.

Second comment...I can't wait for all the negative press regarding the questionable "hits" in tonights game.

The first was Steve Downie launching himself like a missile.  His target, Ben Lovejoy, with his back to the play behind the net.  Luckily, Lovejoy turned around in time to get pulverized into the boards.  The great thing about the play was that it left the Pens on an odd man rush to the other end which immediately led to a goal by Max Talbot.  But at what cost.  Lovejoy got back up and skated off the ice, Downie was headed to the box if not for the score by Maxie.  Suspension worthy?  I don't know.  I don't care.  It looked brutal.  Would I suspend him?  Probably because I am a Pens fan.  I think Ben is fine so whatever.  Plus, after the Raffi Torres debacle, I hardly think Colin Cambell is going to get it right either way. 

Second hit wasn't really a hit.  More of an elbow.  Chris Kunitz, a normally mild mannered, well adjusted player took out some pent up aggression, obviously built up from the Downie hit, and put an elbow right into the back of Simon Gagne's head.  Clearly a dick move by Kunitz, it drew him a penalty and I'm not so sure he is going to get by with just the 2 minutes.  Again, I'm done commenting on this crap because that's what it is...CRAP!  There is no winning an argument because someone is always going to play the victim so I'm done talking about it.  If Kuny sits, fine by me.  If not, still, fine by me.

So despite the potential controversy and water cooler talk (at least in Canada because no one talks hockey around these parts, especially with the Blackhawks riding a train out of playoff town) there was a somewhat decent game that was played tonight.

Fleury, once again, stopped 25 shots, despite seemingly being under pressure way more than in the 5-1 game the other night.  As I said earlier, Talbot got on the board with a rush into the Tampa Bay zone mid 1st period after Downie destroyed Lovejoy.  45 seconds later, Arron Asham made it 2-0.  Tyler Kennedy put Pittsburgh over the top with the game winner just 31 seconds after Tampa tied it in the third.  The Pens take a 2-1 lead in the series as it stays in Tampa for game 4 on Wednesday.

Going forward, if there is any hope whatsoever for the Pens to hang onto this series, they are going to have to fix special teams.  They need to get their mojo back for the penalty kill and for pete's sake, stay out of the stinkin' sin bin.  If you don't give the Bolts the opportunity to screw you with their freakish speed with a man up, you will be much better off when playing at full strength.  As for the power play, or lack thereof, the Pens are now 0 for 15 in the series.  I really don't know what the problem is, other than the obvious absence of Crosby and Malkin.  If that is the only thing keeping them from being at least an average PP team then I guess there is nothing they can do about it.  But something tells me that a re-shuffling of a few lines during the power play could give them the boost they need.

In other news, for all you hockey card prospectors that have been hoarding these for a couple years, Stamkos finally got his first playoff points of his career with an assist on St. Louis first goal.  Also, it was brought to my attention that no one ever got better at hockey by bowling.

Oh, and for the biggest Penguin fan (other than myself) that I know...if you ever read this; Whatever the heck is wrong with you, other than the obvious mental deficiencies I have always claimed you possess, get well soon, little bro'.  Tonight's win was for you (if I was a player, that would have more of an impact I think).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Playoff Update: Pens 1, Lightning 5

Well apparently the mojo has moseyed on down the road.  Let's just hope it's temporary.

Last night, Game 2 of the playoff matchup between the Pens and Lightning was a far cry from what we witnessed in Game 1.

It's almost better for me when these games are not nationally televised because at least I can wake up the next morning knowing that most of America probably didn't see the performance I unfortunately witnessed by Pittsburgh.  The Lightning came out swinging, putting up a 3 goal first period.  I think I have mentioned it before that the Lightning offense is scary good and they wasted no time getting back into peak form.

Despite missing a few teeth from an accidental stick to the face in Game 1 by Zbynek Michalek, Martin St. Louis led the charge with a goal and an assist but his bigger role was team leader.  Marty has such a passion for the game that it becomes infectious for the rest of his teammates and it's almost like they instantly are fitted with turbo boosters.  Let's just say I knew Game 1 was a fluke and all they needed was time to shake off the playoff rust.

The Pens just looked flat all night.  They were missing routine passes, seeming playing from their own end the entire night, tripping over themselves on defense, and could barely get the puck through the neutral zone.  The only goal came from Craig Adams as the rest of the role players seemed to have lost their way.  The Power Play was non existent once again as they went 0 for 7 and are now 0 for 13 in the series.  But the biggest problem of the night was my playoff x-factor, Marc-Andre Fleury. 

When he is on, he is brilliant like in Game 1.  He has some of the quickest reflexes and most flexibility of any goaltender in the NHL.  The problem is that when he faces situations where there are routine type saves to be made, I think he tries to get too cute.  I'm not placing all the blame here on MAF because his defense certainly left him out to dry on a few of those goals but the first goal of the game...come on!  That, to me, was a pretty soft goal.  He should have been able to stop that in his sleep.  After that one went in, I knew things were not going to bode well for the rest of the evening and I was right.

Two days rest and off to Florida.  Here's every goal from Friday night while we wait.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Playoff Update: Pens 3, Lightning 0

It's Playoff Time!!!

This is my favorite time of year.  Forget the NFL playoffs.  Forget March Madness.  I'll take April/May/June Madness any day of the week.  So, yeah.  I was a little psyched about today.  I figured I would do a bit of a game recap in case anyone didn't get to see this defensive battle.

The Penguins, despite losing half their team at one point or another during the season, losing their best scoring threat in Evgeni Malkin, and losing their captain, Sidney Crosby, they were still in the mix.  In fact, they went on a run at the end of the season that put them tied in points for the division lead and essentially half a point out of 2nd place in the conference.  Because of second and third tier scoring, they ended second in the division behind Philadelphia and fourth in the conference.  That gave them home ice advantage, at least for the first round.

And that's where it began tonight.  Consol Energy Center played host in it's first of many playoff games against the always scary Tampa Bay Lightning.  I will admit, I didn't think the Pens matched up well with a healthy Tampa Bay team.  The Bolts are fast, very good on the power play, and have that ridiculous 1-3-1 formation that always seems to confuse Pittsburgh.  In order to win this series, the Pens are going to have to rely on what they did best all season...kill penalties with precision and play defense as if the Cosacks are storming the Kremlin.

Tonight was a good warm up.  Fleury was a beast in goal.  It's not often that I will give the guy the credit he deserves but tonight he stood on his head.  Spectacular save after spectacular save kept the game's lack of scoring an afterthought.  He shut down everything that was thrown at him for his fifth playoff shutout.  Not to be outdone, Dwayne Roloson stopped 37 shots from the Penguins as they unloaded on net every chance they had.  But I'm not here to talk about Lightning players that should or shouldn't have retired 5 years ago.

Fleury stopped Ryan Malone early on in the first period during a mad scramble in front of the net.  About 8 minutes later, Brett Clark blasted a shot from the point that was deflected by Dominic Moore.  Fleury twisted in an inhuman fashion, stopping the puck.  Moore was already celebrating the goal before he realized it didn't go in.  A couple seconds later, Fleury was behind the play, turned around backwards and did a pinwheel roll through the crease to stop Malone again.  It was completely insane.  The CEC crowd when crazy and the "Fleury" chants began.

A few seconds into the second, Stamkos blasted a shot from the point which Fleury stopped again but the rebound came off right to Vinny Lecavalier.  In typical fashion he razzle-dazzled a pass between his legs to himself that Fleury somehow stopped again with his blocker hand.  In all, MAF stopped 32 shots in a brilliant effort.  But that's the kind of play they have been getting from him over the second half of the season.  As much as I hate to give these to a goalie, he is by far and away the team MVP. 

As for the offense, Kovalev made good on his trade deadline signing by scoring the first playoff goal.  He got dumped in the corner by Pavel Kubina and was on his knees as the crowd was desperate for a penalty call.  None came but James Neal broke up a play by the Lightning, feeding the stranded Kovalev with a laser pass that was subsequently put into the back of the net.  Less than twenty seconds later, Arron Asham took off down the ice, faked a shot, cut around the back of the goal, and dumped one on a wrap around.  He was stuffed by the post but the rebound came back to him and he put it in behind Roloson who was still trying to get back to the crease after being burned by the wrap around attempt.  The final goal was an empty net tally by Chris Kunitz.

So far, so good.  I was impressed with the Pens defensive play and their surprisingly restrained physical play.  It seems like when they focus on protecting their own zone and forcing play to center ice, they get the opportunities they need to allow some of their role players to get shots on goal.  If they can keep that kind of play consistent, this series may be over quickly.  Once it goes back to Tampa, though, I think the superstars on the Bolts will wake up in front of the home crowd.  Until then, it's good to be a Penguin fan. 

Here are some highlights, if they actually work...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Topps Actually Came Through...So Far

We have all had our problems with redemption cards.  I think if you added up all the lost, missing, or unfulfilled card requests that have been talked about across the blogosphere, you would have enough to circumference the globe 7 times.  I have not been pervious to such issues either when a while back I received an interesting email from Topps.  Remember?  I posted about it before.  Of course you don't.

At any rate, a surprise awaited me when I arrived home from work.  Three little yellow shipping envelopes that we have all come to know and love.  Only these were different.  They were smaller, heavily taped, and addressed from a "Fulfillment Center".  This could only mean one thing...Upper Deck finally sent their redemption. 


It was Topps!!  Yes, that Topps.  The same company that said they were sorry they couldn't get to it in a timely fashion and that I should probably pick something else.  Why they were shipped in three separate envelopes was beyond me but, I digress.  They were finally shipping the redemption cards from the Gridiron Giveaway Rookie Of The Week promotion that was distributed through LCS's across the country.  If you didn't get in on any of these, you missed out.  Every week through the 2010 NFL season, shop owners could give out redemption cards for that week's star rookie with the purchase of any Topps product.  At least, that was the idea.

So here they are for your viewing pleasure.  The first three Rookies Of The Week redemption cards by Topps.

Week 1

 Week 2

Week 3

It looks like a bunch of people have already got them up on Ebay and there are a few closed auctions with prices all over the board.  It looks like the Sam Bradford is the big winner but the rest seem to be pulling a couple bucks or so. 

More to come later...if they decide to send them.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Apparently, I'm A Winner

With my disabled scanner, I'm hard pressed for content these days.  But, in my daily perusing of the interblogs, it was brought to my attention that I am a winner.  Now I always knew I was a winner.  My mom told me as much.  Today it has been confirmed.

The guys over at Community Gum held a contest for the auto hits out of their Crown Royale break sponsored by Panini.  All one had to do was simply list their favorite movie having to do with royalty, appoint a fictional king or queen of something, and explain the pseudo-psychological meaning behind the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme.  Simple, right?

I want to thank Jon, Andy, and anyone else that makes Community Gum a fun blog to follow, read, and participate in.  Oh, and by the way.  Here's my trophy. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sporadic Behavior

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't been posting lately.  Others of you could probably care less because you have better things to do.

I was using an old eMachines computer that I picked up on clearance about 5 years ago when I worked for a office supply store.  The computer was a beast at the time and for the money I paid, it was a steal.  Well, it ran it's course.

Now, the only options for a new computer include Windows 7.  My wife's laptop has it.  I use it at work.  I like it.  But here's the problem.  With the exception of the generic drivers included within the OS, there is no support for my AIO.  That means, no scanning function.

I have a ton of stuff to get on here but no way to do it.  I contacted HP but to no avail.  The cool thing about Windows 7 is that it does much of it's own troubleshooting.  Unfortunately, it can't seem to troubleshoot this.  I'll keep working at it, though.

Right now though...back to watching the Bruins give away their game to the Rangers.  Oh, wait.  That happened already.  How about the Sharks game, where they are thus far, destroying the Kings.  Maybe Jumbo Joe will get his 1000th point.

In the meantime, check this out...

NHL Logo Mashups