Edmonton at Toronto 5:00 pm MST, TV: CBC, Radio: 630 CHED
Here it is, the big day I've had marked on my calendar for weeks - Edmonton vs Toronto.
In a rare alignment of moons, planets and hockey conferences, the two opposing forces of my own life -- the cool, haute-urbane Toronto Yin against the beer-swilling, good ol' boy, shit-pants of my Edmonton Yang -- square off in the ultimate battle of East versus West.
Originally my plan was to buy tickets marked-up 200-300% from a scalper, but a couple things occurred to me: a) part of the curse in reaching the Stanley Cup Finals is that a once benignly-obscure team suddenly becomes a hot ticket, especially in a city full of ex-pats, making it even harder justify the inflated cost, and b) I have to work Saturdays, anyway. (Work is pictured above, right: I sometimes run laps around the cubicles to stay alert).
So here I am, in my office, 100 yards away from the Air Canada Centre on Bay Street -- where I can practically smell Charlie Huddy's breath -- and I'm unable to watch the game. Life is a great cosmic joke, is it not? Then again, I can't think of a more fitting end to the season's hopes than by having the Toronto Maple Leafs, of all teams, bang home the final nail of the Oilers' coffin. The Oil are still a mere six points away from the playoff pack, which, on the face of it, shouldn't be an insurmountable lead with 24 games left -- and yet, as been discussed before, there's nothing that gives any reasonable fan much belief that the Oilers are a better team than Calgary, Vancouver or Minnesota (Colorado, we should beat).
Making matters worse, teams I hate the most and thought would be at the bottom rung of the ladder are doing much better than expected. Vancouver's defence has held up well: Mattias Ohlund is great, and plays the way we hoped Eric Brewer would have turned out, Sami Salo and Willie Mitchell are underrated and Lukas Krajicek makes the Luongo/Bertuzzi deal look even more like a farce. Although the 'Nucks have only one scoring line, with Markus Naslund having lost a step, Roberto ".922 SVP" Luongo basically steals a goal every couple of games that lesser goalies would let in -- remarkable savings for a team on a limited Goals For budget (indeed, they are tied with Anaheim as fourth best team in Goals Against).
The "vaunted" Oilers, meanwhile, only have eight more Goals For than the Canucks, but are about middle of the league in Goals Against. Scoring is a real problem, and the reason why the Oilers will miss the playoffs. Despite this, and as much as I want to blame everything on Lupul, I still blame the team's defence and their offence-killing bad passes and chips along the boards. But that's pretty much old news in February, isn't it?
Another team I hate, the Toronto Maple Leafs, are doing pretty damn well. With the lineup dotted with names like Bates Battaglia, Matt Stajan, Ian White, Johnny Pohl, and hell, even Mike Peca, this team had all the markings of a bottom-feeder in September. Turns out, Mats Sundin, Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe and a smooth powerplay can do wonders for a team's offence; and players that I never expected to outscore Raffi Torres and Joffrey Lupul, players like Jeff O'Neill and Alexei Ponikarovsky, make an Oilers fan realize just how far some of the young Oil have taken a step back. Thankfully, Toronto's team defence is not that of a playoff team, and their goalie Andrew Raycroft is merely average, so I'm still looking forward to an early 1st round exit if they make the playoffs. (Darcy Tucker, by the way, is a human piece of overrated garbage: he's a team worst minus 13, 13 of his 19 goals are on the PP, and he's a horrible person). Enjoy that 40th anniversary celebration of winning the Cup tonight, you fools!
So yeah, the Oil stink and teams that I loathe are winning again. I guess that was my point.
At least some of the Oilogosphere contingent will be representing: Mudcrutch and Black Dog are at the ACC tonight (the absurdity of referring to two other men as "Mudcrutch" and "Black Dog" has only hit me just now), and hopefully will have some first-hand accounts on their blogs after they stagger home from a night's worth of $16 beers.
My only first-hand account will be this: on the walk in to work, I saw some autograph dweebs run up to a familiar-looking dude standing next to me at a street corner outside the ACC. He had the nose of a scrapper and the face of a petulant child: familiar yet not quite recognizable -- only after I checked the Leafs site did I realize that it was that gutless puke and recent acquisition, Travis Green, presumably heading back to the Westin for a nap. As far as celebrity-spotting goes, IT DOESN'T GET MUCH MORE EXCITING THAN THAT!