Archive for June, 2009

A Short Story – Outward Bound

imagesSitting on the warm, sunlit rock, Eddie hugged his knees. Still shivering and still dripping, he looked into the flat green current of the river as it sped past. Everything seemed so peaceful, the surprising near silence of the rapidly passing river, the lazy desert heat of the late morning, the opening in the canyon walls that let the sun pour down on him.

He knew David was safe. He had caught sight of him perched among the low rocks just below the last set of rapids. Upriver, in the muted colors of the shaded canyon, David’s bright orange life jacket had signaled his presence. The raft would be coming downstream any minute now, stopping along the way to pick up each of the seven swimmers who had jumped into the rushing water just minutes ago. Eddie was distracted by the sensation of his feet cooling under the wet straps of his new sandals. Another vanity, only the best. The high-end tech gear he wore was performing as promised, rapidly drip drying, while he sat trying to make sense of what had just happened to him in those last – what – ten, maybe fifteen minutes.

Neoprene O-rings. They had come in a little zip-lock bag along with the sandals. Cautionary copy offered step-by-step instructions for installing the rings over the velcro closings of the sandals. “Jumping feet first into deep water or fast moving currents, without properly checking your O-rings…” warned that you could lose your new sandals, and suggested implicitly that you might then compromise the safety of the entire expedition. “Yeah right,” Eddie had thought. “Me and Tenzing Norkay” He had been much amused at prosperous suburban types like himself having to have only the best in authentic outdoor gear. He thought of the sleeping bags certified to forty degrees below zero. Looking again at the O-rings, he felt a tiny shudder. He was back in that first set of rapids feeling the force of the moving water, a force beyond appeal, a force that came close to sucking these same sandals from off his feet.

Turning his head upriver, at the approach of the raft, he could see David standing near the front. David was not smiling. Eddie knew he now had acquired a story to dine out on for a season or two. But he also knew he would probably never tell the whole story. Continue reading ‘A Short Story – Outward Bound’

Some Thoughts On The Cup Finals

pittsburgh-penguins-stanley-cup-2009This year’s Stanley Cup finals went to a game seven, defining a razor’s edge difference between the winner and the loser. Only an overtime win could have shaved the outcome finer.

In the days since Crosby and Company hoisted the Cup for their Pittsburgh Penguins, I’ve been trying to understand why what appeared to be a superior hockey team, the Detroit Red Wings, hadn’t been able to do a reprise of the previous season’s series. I use the term “superior” in regard to the Wings because throughout the series, it seemed that in basic execution – breakout plays, passing, puck possession, puck protection – the Wings had the Pens scrambling. And yet…

The Pens pretty consistently out-shot the Wings, but most of those shots were low-percentage tries. The five-year average age gap between the two teams was cited with statements that the Detroit players looked tired. They never looked all that tired to me. And with the exception of the Wings 5-0 blowout of the Pens in Game Five, the series was marked by low-scoring, relatively close games. Over the series, Detroit actually outscored Pittsburgh 17-14.

Here’s what I think happened. In Games One, Two and Five, Detroit was able to play their Cup-winning system, effectively shutting down the Pens. Pittsburgh was out-skated, out-passed, smothered in the neutral zone and continually bottled-up in their own defensive zone. But in Games Three, Four, Six and Seven, Detroit’s allocation of resources, matching both Lidstrom and Zetterberg against Crosby, began to appear counterproductive. While Crosby was kept to a single goal in the series, Maxime Talbot was able to score three times, accounting for over twenty percent of Pittsburgh’s total scoring. For the series, less than half of Pittsburgh’s goals came from the starring triumvirate of Crosby, Malkin and Stall. It might be that Babcock’s emphasis on Crosby was what allowed journeyman players like Letang, Fedetenko and Kennedy to get under the Wing’s radar and score. It also might be argued that the Wings commitment to what had proven to be a winning system left them at a disadvantage against the more nimble and opportunistic Penguins.

Finally, goaltending – Chris Osgood is a competent NHL goaltender. That’s to say, he is a superb and gifted athlete, but his success as a Cup winner might have had more to do with the defensive skills of his teammates, and to the Mike Babcock defensive system, than to his being a true money goalie. Osgood made big saves, but he didn’t have to perform throughout the series at the same dazzling level required of Mark Andre Fleury.

It seems to me that on the whole, the Detroit Red Wings were a more accomplished and possibly a better hockey team than the Pittsburgh Penguins, but as two-time Cup winner Bill Clement once put it, the nature of the game is that a lesser team can beat a better team if they are willing to pay the price. The series certainly could have gone either way, but from what I saw, the entire Pittsburgh Penguins team stepped up and paid in full for their Stanley cup win.

A Credible Creationism