Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The return of things I like! 

Two things, specifically: Lost and the NHL. Both are back as of this evening. Sweet.

Needless to say, I'm excited about the whole new set of stories that are likely to unfold with "the others," now that some of our heroes are prisoners. Also hopeful that Michael and Walt actually left the island for good. As I said a few months ago, it would just make the season 2 finale that much better and have that much more weight if those characters actually did make their final appearance on the show and those couple storylines from the first two seasons were closed.

Because Project Runway is airing one of those stupid reunion specials tonight (enjoyed by sycophants and mouth-breathers, exclusively), I believe that I'll give The Nine a shot. I have no idea what to think of that show other than it seems like a one-season mystery show that'll have to reboot come next year.

Couple shows I saw last night: Friday Night Lights and Veronica Mars. Wasn't planning on watching FNL, but the reviews were extremely good. Most of the same people, including Peter Berg, are on board behind the scenes. The pilot felt like a Cliff's Notes version of the film's first act... only with moderately happier ending (broken neck aside). Well done, but I'm not sold just yet.

As for the Mars, man, that new title sequence is just awful. It's as if the producers felt pressure to blend in with all the other CW drek. And what was with those aereola girls blabbing to each other about the show during commercial breaks? Is that supposed to be interesting??? Anyway, the show itself was fine, nothing particularly special. Some funny moments for sure, but already, Keith has the far more interesting storyline. I'm intrigued by the prospect of Dick becoming a complete character. There's a slight implication that he's responsible for Mac's roommate's new hairdo -- which of course means that he has nothing to do with it.

Okay, onward to the National Hockey League. I have to admit, this coming season literally snuck up on me. Like, I didn't fully realize that the first puck dropped tonight until a few days ago. Predicting the outcome of an NHL season is sort of like guessing where lighting strike on a desert plain; there's seemingly no science to it. And I think that that is a credit to not only the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the construct of the game. To a degree, the baseball postseason is very similar. All depends on who is hot and who is healthy at the right time.

As many of you know, I'm an LA Kings fan 'til the end. This year, our prospects look very poor indeed. I'm talking 'one of the bottom three teams in the Western Conference' poor. After enduring the most painful second half of the season collapse in living memory (LA plummeted from 2nd in the conference to out of the playoffs entirely), the team has had a near complete overhaul, including new GM, coach, and tons of players. Trading away Pavol Demitra to Minnesota makes me want to tear my hair out. Losing Joe Corvo to Ottawa hurts a ton and even Nathan Dempsey's departure weakens the defense. Coming in: An old Rob Blake, some role players, and the goalie who had prevented Vancouver from being a real Stanley Cup threat the last few seasons, Dan Cloutier. Yeah, you could say that I don't believe in Cloutier. Our new coach, Marc Crawford, is great, but he's got his work cut out for him. We're going to need Conroy, Frolov, and Visnovsky to stay healthy all season long.

Expect all the usual suspects to be in the mix, again -- Detroit, Philadelphia, Dallas, Colorado, New Jersey. Carolina figures to defend their title well. Calgary will be a force. Vancouver is a team on the rise, now that they have Roberto Luongo in net. San Jose will be potent with Joe Thornton playing a full season there. The Rangers could be a big letdown after the way they sputtered out last season. All depends on Jagr's health. One of the league's best, already, Aleksander Ovechkin, will probably endure another long year in Washington. Sidney Crosby is joined by the next NHL rookie sensantion, Evgeni Malkin, but the Penguins probably still don't have the defense to make a run in the East, let alone make the playoffs. If anyone, Atlanta is the team in that conference who will surprise. Edmonton will struggle, just as they did last season, to return to the playoffs.

Does Ottawa finally have what it takes to win it all? They always seem to find a way to disappoint, but they're soooooo damn good. Key acquisitions this year make them look even better. But do they have that toughness that was clearly absent when they were easily brushed aside by Buffalo in the playoffs last season? That's the big question.

But the best team -- and I was a bit stunned to find that Barry Melrose agrees with me -- regrettably, looks like Anaheim. The Ducks (they dropped the "Mighty," thankfully) are STACKED from top-to-bottom. Best goalie duo in the league (Giguere, Bryzgalov), they'll have at least one of either Neidermayer or Pronger (if not both) on the blue line at all times, loads of young, skilled forwards like Joffrey Lupul and Dustin Penner. And, of course, Teemu Selanne. GM Brian Burke has put together a hell of a team entering just his second season in charge.

Just for laughs:

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
1. New Jersey x
2. Philadelphia x
3. Pittsburgh x
4. NY Rangers
5. NY Islanders

Northeast Division
1. Ottawa x
2. Buffalo x
3. Montreal
4. Toronto
5. Boston

Southeast Division
1. Carolina x
2. Atlanta x
3. Tampa Bay x
4. Florida
5. Washington

Western Conference
Central Division
1. Detroit x
2. Nashville x
3. Columbus
4. Chicago
5. St. Louis (still the league's worst team)

Northwest Division
1. Calgary x
2. Vancouver x
3. Colorado x
4. Edmonton
5. Minnesota

Pacific Division
1. Anaheim x
2. San Jose x
3. Dallas x
4. Phoenix
5. Los Angeles (D'oh!)

Eastern Conference Finals: New Jersey over Ottawa
Western Conference Finals: Anaheim over Detroit
Stanley Cup Finals: Anaheim over New Jersey in a rematch of 2003.

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