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Thoughts on the upcoming season from twin #2

September 22, 2011

In the big scheme of things, I am technically the “younger” of the two twins. Will’s birthday is on February 5th, whereas I decided to show up fashionably late to life on the outside and didn’t make my appearance until February 14th. With that said, I, Stephanie Muraro, is twin #2.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can dive right into what I am here to talk about: the upcoming NHL season. I just got done watching the Maple Leafs win 4-2 over the Flyers (yes, you read that right, the Maple Leafs won, that wasn’t a typo), and I’m not going to lie. I got a little giddy. Don’t get me wrong, I love summer. Flip flops, Brewers baseball, and the fact I don’t have to spend 20 minutes each morning scraping 4 inches of ice off my car is great.  But the thought getting back into the Bradley Center and watching the Admirals play and the fact that I can turn on channels 751-760 every single night and watch NHL hockey through the second week of April is enough to get off the couch and do a few cartwheels.

In between setting up my draft line up for fantasy hockey (draft is this Friday people! Here’s to Hull & Oates taking first place in the Infamous Whiskey Delta!), I’ve been diligently reading my Hockey News, as well as keeping up on my favorite hockey websites. I thought I’d post a couple of my opinions on the things I’ve read about:

1. Sidney Crosby will play this season  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Sidney Crosby. I don’t want to get into the whole story about how I have loved the Penguins since I was a kid and that my prized possession is an unopened jar of Jaromir Jagr peanut butter that expired in the mid-nineties, but take my word for it that I adore the black and gold. Since Mario Lemieux was my favorite player growing up, I naturally became a Sid fan. My time on press row is about 60-40; 40% of the time I am covering the Admirals. The other 60% of the time I am defending Crosby from the row of Ovechkin fans behind me.

With that said, I think Crosby will play this season. However, I am pretty damn sure we won’t see him til after the all star break. And as much as it pains me to say this, I didn’t even put him on the list of players I want in the draft. When he comes back, he probably won’t look the same. Take former Admiral Kris Beech. He took a puck to the face and broke his jaw. He got it wired up and was out for a while, but when he returned to the ice, he played like he was horrified of getting hit by another puck. I have a feeling we’ll see a similar reaction from Crosby when he gets back into playing in games. And if he doesn’t, I’m sure coach Bylsma is going to. He’ll likely play less minutes this season, and I’m not real confident that he’s going to put up awesome numbers in the games he does play. He’ll be back, I just think it’s not going to be until next season that he’s clicking on all cylinders.

2. Ovechkin will have his best season yet  OUCH, that even hurt to say, moreso, because Will is the worlds biggest Caps fan. I read several places that Ovechkin has rocked it this offseason and is in the best shape of his hockey career. Ovechkin took the Caps early exit from the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs pretty hard, and I think he realized he had to step it up. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tallies 60 goals by the end of the regular season.

3. The Lightning will play in the Stanley Cup Finals  I know, it’s a little premature for a Cup prediction, but I am pretty confident in Tampa. Steve Yzerman and company have really put together something special with this team, and the fact that you’ve got Stammer, St. Louis and ol’ Vinny still with the team, a pretty solid defensive core in Hedman, Ohlund and Kubina. They’ve still got Roloson in net (yes, i know, he’s on the cusp of 42, but I’ve been a big fan since he was in Minnesota and I think another great season in him, if not more) and Guy Boucher behind the bench. I’m pumped to see how this team performs this season, because I think Stammer is going to go 60+ goals in the regular season alone…

4. Vancouver will not see success anywhere near what they saw last season  Last but certainly not least, I’ve got to say a couple words about the ‘Nucks. Since I’m already up to almost 800 words, I’ll keep this brief. Luongo will carry his failures from the finals into this season, I guarantee it. Ryan Kesler is an injury concern, as he just had hip surgery in early August. Christian Erhoff signed with Buffalo, so that’s a hit to the defensive core. The Sedin twins will probably bounce back from a dismal performance in the finals (well of course I can’t say anything back about them, as they are hockey twins just like Will and I!). I just don’t see 2012 as being their year, unless what goal they are shooting for is being over .500.

So that’s all for now. I could probably write another 1,000 words about this season to be quite honest with you, but those were some of my main thoughts about 2011-12. I should also mention that I think the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be pretty decent this year, and that Pekka Rinne will win the Vezina.

Oh, and I also predict that I will beat Will in fantasy hockey again this year. Just sayin’

Stephanie

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It’s Just a Game

September 15, 2011

We’ve all heard it before. Usually as some consolation for over-achievers or those who spend a grossly over-proportional level of attention and passion on a sport.  Maybe we yelled too loud at the TV.  Maybe we’re still mad at ourselves over the missed open net (or missed save) from last night; that persistent “I should have had that” feeling.

For those of us who have initiated this response from someone, we know that they will just never understand. It’s in our blood, we feel it, and we will never change.

The day when we first heard of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team, I was scheduled to play with a local St. Petersburg adult team.  Like everyone, I was just shocked and couldn’t find the words, nor did I know what to say to my Russian hockey guys.  Could I even say anything?  It’s not a NHL team, I’m out of my jurisdiction.  Could I even understand their pain?

I texted Sergei: “sad day for russian hockey … are we playing tonight?”

I skate with some players that are/were in the KHL junior league and even one who played on the local KHL team last year.  So I knew that some or most of our guys would know some of those who went down on the plane.

His answer was perfect: “we will meet trouble together … we’ll play”

I showed up to the rink, did the normal hand shakes and hellos, just quieter.  Not much quieter, you could barely just tell.  The guys were still joking, smiling … there was just a slower movement to everything.  We got there earlier than normal, we took our time getting dressed.

Usually the earlier dressers head out to the bench and wait for the zam to finish.  Not this time, they sat in their seats.  I didn’t really notice this until I sensed that we were all waiting for something.  Conversations died down, the locker room got quiet.  Sergei stood up, had his smart phone in his hand, and read out the list of the Lokomotiv team and staff that died earlier that day.  One name after the other.  No long funeral-like procession, no rushed grocery list.  Just a reading of the names of people who lived for this game.  When he read the last name, I think the coach, there was no official moment of silence … just a collective sigh, and we took the ice.

It was probably the most intense adult hockey game I’ve experienced in years.  There was no hatred or rivalry, only competition.  We hustled to the corners harder, we looked over our shoulder to check who we were covering more frequently, we didn’t take those long lazy turns.  Maybe that was our tribute, to play as perfect a game as possible for the guys who exemplified perfection.

I don’t know Russian, I can’t talk to most of these guys … but we came to the bench each shift breathing harder, draining the water bottle more.  We looked at each other, and many times just smiled at each other as if to say “I don’t know why we’re trying so hard tonight, but its so much fun!”

After the game, we were slower to change and shower but that was only because we were completely exhausted.  Neither the team nor the disaster was mentioned, we shook hands, said goodnight, and went home.

It’s almost 2:00 AM here in  Russia, and I chose to forgo some sleep to catch the Capitals vs Flyers Rookie game broadcasted online.  This Saturday night I’ll attend the first home game for the KHL SKA St. Petersburg team.  It’s the beginning of yet another season.

Our lives are not full of endless next seasons.  We have our beginning and end.  We don’t get to start with a fresh sheet of ice too often.  This tragedy in Russia does help give some perspective to the role of a sport when compared to other things in life.  Family, friends, love, success … they are all more important than a sport in the big scheme of things.  But as we know, everything in life is temporary.  No one lives forever.  Except the game.

The game is always there.  Somewhere in the world, there is a zamboni driver closing the boards and inviting another group of skaters onto a clean sheet of ice.  There are hundreds of languages in the world, and I know only a handful of words and phrases to use in this country.  But it is the game that breaks down this barrier.  It is the game that lets us pay our deepest respects to those players and coaches without saying a word.

To many, it’s just a game.  To us, just sometimes, the game is all we need.

Looking forward to returning from the Motherland in November!  Go Caps!

-Will

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Strazvoiche!

July 11, 2011

Hello from St. Petersburg, Russia!  So much has happened in the NHL that I can’t even begin to address, so I will start with a story about my first couple days here.

I am here working for a company looking to expand to the U.S.  I traveled with the owner to visit some local competitors’ stores for comparisons.  One store was in a mall, across from the hall was a hockey store, like a pro-shop just in a mall.

I walk over to check it out, in the glass displays are mannequins donning a Team Russia and another a Team Canada sweater, not bad.  Walk inside and there’s the local KHL team, SKA, sweater hanging on the wall.  I walk around the cash register counter and what do I see … Penguins practice sweaters.  No joke.  Ugh, this is almost as bad as the time in 2009 when I saw a Penguins jersey at an amusement park in France the day after that awful game 7 loss in DC.

Also, while taking a walk around town and exploring the city, I came across the great Square where the Headquarters, Admiralty, Winter Palace, etc. are located and saw a pickup roller hockey game.  Warning: I’m not the best photographer.

http://travel.webshots.com/video/3069096190100979470qTthmm

Once I heard the Caps traded Varlamov to Colorado, I was half torn because I’d love to see him start some KHL games over here before I head back to the States in November.  But good for him, he’ll get a starting spot and I just hope he can stay healthy and prove he’s got what it takes.  We’ll miss him in DC and wish him the best of luck to stay healthy.  If he can do that, he’ll be fine; he already has the talent.

If you have any fun hockey stories from travels abroad, comment and tell us your story!

 

-Will

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Don’t Bash the Mason-Dixon Line …

June 24, 2011

First off, I apologize for the delay in our posts.  I just accepted the job which will take me to St. Petersburg, Russia, for about 5 months so have been getting ready to pack up my life in ten days.  It’s been a mentally exhausting week but I’m excited to get out and see some new sights.  I will definitely be updating the blog with some small fun traveling stories from Russia.

I began this post the day after Boston won the Cup, and the title referenced a comment Stephanie made about hockey below the Mason-Dixon line …

Yes, the drunken hooligans were out in full force.  I watched a few Youtube videos on the matter, and it looked pretty … um, inspiring?  I guess that’s what they were going for? Well either way, I’m sure the hangover doesn’t mix too well with shame.  Too bad Boston didn’t have a huge crowd there too, could have ended up like one of those soccer street fights I saw in Europe!

At least though, in the middle of all the violence and chaos … there was some time for a little romance

There are some rumors that she was hurt and he was helping, but I’m going to cling to the heart strings and go with my romance story.  And it makes me feel less guilty that I can see over half of her ass.

This Stanley Cup Final series definitely had it’s full share of stories.  As Mark pointed out, the biting incident and the Horton injury definitely rubbed fans the wrong way, and gave Boston even more motivation, as if they really needed it.

So here we are a week after the championship, and maybe we’re watching baseball a little bit more than usual.  I know, for me,  golf and tennis have somehow become more interesting.  I can’t explain it.

The dreaded Flyers, however, did seem to bring my attention back to hockey after a fairly predictable awards show.  Moving Carter and Richards, and then signing Bryzgalov … wow.   Looks like that puts Boucher and Leighton on the market soon, so I’d be happy to hear any prediction about their futures.

On the Caps side, I was surprised to hear that Olie Kolzig is returning as an assistant goalie coach.  I didn’t know you needed an ASSISTANT goalie coach … but eh, he’s been a popular player for lots of Caps fans and heck, he only spent 25 years in D.C.  I was never a huge Olie fan but, aside from having a 5-hole I can drive my truck through, he’s a good guy.

Would love to hear some feedback, predictions, questions, etc.  I’ll get back to packing and making the rest of my to-do list for the next ten days!

-Will

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You Stay Classy, Vancouver

June 17, 2011

Before I attempt to delve into the WTF that is Vancouver Canucks fans, I’ve got to put a disclaimer out there that I am reporting to you live from my iPhone. Yes, I’m typing this on my iPhone. Thanks app store for making a wordpress application for times like this when my computer is apparently on the fritz. If there are spelling errors and mumbo jumbo, blame either a) auto text, or b) a severe finger cramp.

Will had a hockey game last night, a game which I guarantee was 100x more interesting then the one I took in last night aka game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Who needs sleeping pills when you can just watch the replay of that 2 and a half hour snoozefest.

I could talk about Marchand and Bergerons 2-goal nights. I could even talk about the goaltending and the fact that I think all Chuck Norris jokes will
be replaced with Tim Thomas’ name. But why talk about that when you can chat about overturned trucks, fires blazing just feet from the arena doors, manakins going through glass store fronts, and a man allegedly jumping from a bridge. Did I mention riot police were brought in and that the downtown was shut down till almost 3am?

Refresh my memory. Aren’t we just over a year out from the Winter olympics that were held in the very city that almost embarrassed themselves right out of Canada last night? And isn’t the Olympics a celebration of good competition, brotherhood and good sportsmanship? Did the city of Vancouver have a hard time remembering what those were and replace them with no competition, sore loser-hood and bad sportsmanship? Yikes…

I understand your upset that the Sedin twins failed you miserable in the finals, and that Luongo fell apart faster than a house of cards on a windy day, but for cryin’ out loud, there’s no need to take it out on your fair city. Sure Canada hasn’t won a cup in 18 years, and yes, Mike Emrick was halfway done planning the Bruins cup celebration at the midway point of the second period. But that is no excuse for such a show of poor sportsmanship. Shame on you, Vancouver. Shame. On. You.

I shouldn’t cast judgement on the entire city, in fact, I want to take this opportunity to commend the 422 people who “liked” the Vancouver Cleanup page on Facebook as of 9am this morning. But it’s going to take a lot more than a little trash collecting and soot sweeping to wipe this black mark off the city…

Why do I have an odd feeling that Gary Bettman will use this situation as leverage to put another team south of the Mason Dixon line… Yeesh…

-Stephanie

PS – In case you are wondering, yes, yes my finger is cramping.

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Just 20 minutes to go!

June 16, 2011

Its the second intermission of game 7… hard to believe there is just 20 minutes left until the offseason. For the record, I’ll be wearing all black tomorrow to mourn the passing of another season…

Will did such a nice job introducing himself, so I’ll follow suit with my own mini intro. My name is Stephanie, and I am the younger of the twins (by 9 days actually…) I reside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and work as a sportswriter for the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. I’ve worked as a locker room reporter, hosted Center Ice Radio on 1250 WSSP for 2 seasons, and now that I’ve joined the 40-hour working world, I write about the Admirals from my perch on press row. I’ve written for Slam Sports Canada, Sports Bubbler, Hockeywriters.com and currently work for Examiner, as well as write my own blog at the soon to be launched HockeyGalMilwaukee.com, so I guess you can say I kind of like hockey (just a little, right?)

It was almost 15 years ago that Will and I became friends, and it was our love of hockey that brought us together in the first place. Since then, we’ve spent countless days and nights talking hockey, whether it be on the phone, email, on facebook, AIM, I think we might have done the ICQ thing for a while but can’t remember, and  letters (you know, those things that are pieces of paper that are hand written on and then sent in by USPS?). Hell, i think there was one time a few years back we actually used smoke signals… But no matter where in the world we’ve been, we always had each other to do “hockey talk” with. Our conversations sometimes get pretty heated, especially since I’m a Pens fan who loves Sidney and he’s a Caps fan that hates Cindy. But at the end of the day, we hug it out and pick on the Phoenix Coyotes.

We have some pretty hilarious/deep/intriguing/comical/random hockey conversations, so we thought we’d put them all online for you to, not only enjoy, but put your two cents in on. We don’t expect you to finish our sentences like we do, but we look forward to seeing what you think on the topics we fight, I mean, talk about. Just imagine this is your local hockey bar and you see 2 best friends taking in a hockey game over a couple cold brews. Pull up a chair, we’ll share our pitcher if you share your thoughts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish the last 10:00 of the 2010-2011 season. Mike Emrick, please stop talking about what you think the Bruins players are going to do their day with the cup. Let’s at least pretend this isn’t a complete blow out and one of the most boring games I’ve ever watched…

-Stephanie

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The Beginning of the End

June 14, 2011

We’ll kick off this blog one day before the Stanley Cup will be hoisted by either Boston or Vancouver.  For some, it will be the beginning of a long road towards October.  For many, their eyes have been on next season for two weeks through two months already.

We initially thought an off-season blog would be a good way to start.  A clean sheet, looking forward to next season in this greatest sport of all.

Most of you already know Stephanie through her Hockey Gal Milwaukee blog and will get to know me.

Briefly, my name is Will Durkee, originally from Maryland and a die hard Capitals fan.  You won’t see me wearing an Ovechkin jersey though, #12 Bondra all the way.  I’ve bounced around from Maryland to Virginia to Taiwan to England to France and now to Florida and next stop Russia before returning home to Maryland. I like to travel.

This will be my first blog so I will always be open to criticism and opinions.

I imagined this off-season as an open ended list of teams, players, games, issues, rules, theories, and questions to talk about.  A surprising and exciting season is soon coming to its finale and we’ll talk about big games and big events that happened this season.  We’ll also have fun talking about the draft, free agents, potential trades, rookie camps, training camps, and all the fun that comes with our impatient foot-tapping until October.

But honestly, it’s all up to you, the reader.  Stephanie and I talk to each other every day, so this won’t be anything new for us.  What will be new is the feedback we get from you and the input you’ll contribute to the blog.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to a great beginning of the end!

-Will