Saturday, April 30, 2011

Stanley Cup, Round Two

Full disclosure: I'm writing this after three of the conference semifinal series have already played their first game, but it's not changing any of the picks.

It was an amazing first round of the playoffs, and I picked six of the eight series correctly. The two I missed were Chicago over Vancouver, which went to overtime in Game Seven, and Buffalo over Philadelphia, which also went to Game Seven after Buffalo was only a few minutes away from wrapping up the series in Game Six. So I'm telling myself that I was very close to picking a clean sweep.

The main object at this point, of course, is figuring out who can stop Satan's team, the Vancouver Canucks. They nearly gagged away the first series, taking a 3-0 lead over Chicago before losing three straight, and having the Blackhawks force OT in Game Seven before the Canucks stumbled into a win.

Unfortunately, I don't think the Nashville Predators are the ones to get the job done. As I said earlier this month, I admire the Nashville organization, and the Mike Fisher/Carrie Underwood connection (see post below) makes we want something good to happen to this team. But as they showed in their Game One 1-0 loss at Vancouver, they're going to have a tough time dealing with Vancouver's speed. Let's say Canucks in five games.

The other Western Conference semifinal has San Jose facing Detroit, and San Jose took a 2-1 win in Game One Friday night. I still think Detroit will win this, however. They are well-rested after a four-game sweep of Phoenix, and everyone appears to be back from injury. My biggest concern was how goalie Jimmy Howard would play in his first big series, but he was terrific against the Coyotes, and also in the loss Friday night. It will take six games, but I think Detroit wins.

In the East, my pick to win it all - the Boston Bruins - had to go OT in Game Seven to beat Montreal in an incredible series. Montreal won the first two games in Boston and looked in control, but the Bruins won two in Montreal to even the series, before going on to win. It's too bad this was a first-round matchup, because if this had been a Stanley Cup Final series, someone would have written a book about it. As it is, no one outside of the two cities will remember it a month from now.

The win gives Boston a rematch with Philadelphia, who overcame a 3-0 deficit last year to beat the Bruins in seven games. That won't happen again. The same shaky Philly goaltending that I talked about at the start of the playoffs almost cost them the Buffalo series, and it will hurt them again here. Bruins in six.

Finally, the Capitals face Tampa Bay, and the Lightning sprung a surprise in Game One, grabbing a 4-2 win in Washington. I think that was probably the wake-up call the Capitals needed, and they should take this series in six games. Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and the boys just have too much talent, and Dwayne Roloson is giving Tampa great goaltending (a 36-save shutout in Game Seven against Pittsburgh), but he's 41 years old and the playoffs are a real grind. He has a reputation as a fitness and training fanatic, but let's see how he holds up.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A wonderful moment in Nashville

I don't know much about music, but I know what I like. From pretty much the time I was a four- or five-year-old kid, I loved the hymn "How Great Thou Art." It was always one of my dad's favorites, and he'd even sing a verse or two in the car on long trips, which is probably why it became ingrained in me so early. To this day, I can hardly sing the first lines of the last verse, "When Christ shall come, with shouts of acclamation..." without choking up a bit. Whether my funeral is next week, or 40 years from now, I hope it gets sung again then.

But I never before heard it sung like you'll hear it in this video from Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill during a recent Academy of Country Music event. It was televised Good Friday on CBS, and you can now see it everywhere, with over three million hits on YouTube alone. It's an incredible performance, and one of the real testaments to its power is the way her fellow artists in the audience react. They know they are hearing something special. It made me cry, and I hope you enjoy it.

(Side note: And there's a hockey connection as well. Carrie is married to Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators, who last week celebrated the first playoff series win in franchise history, with Fisher leading the team in scoring in a six-game win over Anaheim. Every time he'd score, they'd show her cheering in the audience.)

Are the "birthers" happy?

I've always felt the questions about the president's birthplace were silly and misguided. Had I been in his shoes, however, I probably would have played it the same way, holding back the evidence in order to let the folks on the other side make fools of themselves. I'm certain that was the White House goal.

Now that the document has been produced, we can move on to more serious problems with Obama, such as:

His lack of seriousness about entitlement reform
The gangstas running the Justice Department
His energy policies, which are designed to drive up gas prices
His fiscal policies, which are bankrupting the country
His administration's continued belief in the myth of "global warming"

and his so many other shortcomings.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting his wish

If you're looking to the Obama Administration for help with lowering gas prices, you may be in for a long wait. It turns out that $7 gas is one of the goals of a member of the Cabinet.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu - before he was chosen by Obama for that post - told the Wall Street Journal in September of 2008 that "somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe."

Keep in mind that at that time, the European price averaged about $7 a gallon, while U.S. consumers were paying about $2.25. Well. Chu and Obama are well on their way to getting their wish, as we are roaring towards a nationwide average of $4 a gallon, and likely are on the way to $5 by summer.

At the same time, as you can read here, the Obama Administration has forced Shell Oil to back away from a drilling project in Alaska where 27 BILLION barrels of oil are estimated to be available. Obama's folks shut down the project by denying a permit, citing potential air quality issues in a village of 245 people that is 70 miles away from the drilling area.

Just more "hope and change" for you.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Great moments in economic ignorance

I stumbled into this video, thanks to the great guys over at Powerline ( It was shot in Palo Alto, CA last week as the President dropped into Facebook headquarters to raise money from Facebook executives. Scroll ahead to the 2:15 mark, when the interviewer asks some of the gathered folks if they understand that the government borrows $167,000,000 every HOUR. The final woman to answer the question has an amazing response that demonstrates that incredible economic ignorance that affects to many Americans. And yes, she "will" vote for Obama again.

It's also interesting that Facebook sends the cops out with this message: Let Obama people stay, but tell anyone protesting that they have to leave our private property. Makes me wonder if I really want to remain a Facebook user.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why you HAVE to love hockey players

This isn't the first example of a hockey player rebounding from a brutal hit, and it won't be the last, but it gives you a little insight into what playing for the Stanley Cup will bring out in a man.

Detroit's Johan Franzen took this hit in Saturday's game against Phoenix. It's a clean hit, but he appears to slip just as he's being hit, and he flies into the boards face-first. You'll see the hit from several angles in this video...

Franzen wasn't on the bench for the start of the second period, and the NBC announcers were speculating (as did the CBC guys in the video) that he was probably undergoing the new mandatory concussion testing, in which you spend 15 minutes in a "quiet room" and are then examined by doctors for concussions symptoms.

Not the case. Moments into the second period, Franzen came out the tunnel and onto the Detroit bench, drawing a double-take from coach Mike Babcock. Turns out that all Franzen was doing was having 23 stitches put in his face so that he could get back in the game. In NBC's coverage, you could see Babcock asking the trainer if he could put a face shield on Franzen's helmet to protect the fresh stitches. The trainer tells Babcock that Franzen didn't want one.

So back on the ice he went, looking like this:

and had nine minutes of ice time through the last two periods. Monday night he had 18:02 of ice time and scored a goal in Game Three. And we get another example of why hockey players are the toughest athletes in the world.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I wasn't the only one...

It was nice to learn today that I wasn't the only one who found Obama's budget speech, with its call for a $1 trillion tax hike, ridiculous. (See below post). Here's a sampling of some other reaction:

Mark Steyn - "There’s something sad about a man so carelessly revealing himself as entirely inadequate to the moment."

Yuval Levin - "President Obama’s speech really brought home how confused and disoriented liberalism is today."

Mitt Romney - "The president went from being wrong to being deceptive and intellectually dishonest."

Charles Krauthammer - "I rarely heard a speech by a president so shallow, so hyper-partisan and so intellectually dishonest."

Wall St. Journal editorial - "The speech he chose to deliver was dishonest even by modern political standards."

The themes of "dishonest" and "inadequate" seem to be the consensus. Not quite the same as "hope" and "change," are they?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama says YOUR money is HIS money

A breathtakingly bold statement was made by the President today when he claimed that, in effect, all of your earnings belong to the government, and that the government is "spending" money when it lets you keep part of your earnings.

He didn't put it in those words, exactly, but he said that we should "reform the individual tax code" by - and here are the key words - "reducing tax expenditures so that there is enough savings to both lower rates and lower the deficits."

Confused? He wants you to be. When he says "tax expenditures" he means "letting you keep your own money," and that act of letting you keep your money needs to be reduced. He honestly believes that every dollar you DON'T pay in taxes is you spending the government's money. For example:

Let's say you own a house, and you have a mortgage. Each month you make a mortgage payment that includes a healthy chunk of interest, and at the end of the year your mortgage company sends you a statement that says you paid, oh, let's say, $7,500 in interest.

Now let's say you have a taxable income of $40,000 a year. That puts a married couple in the 15% tax rate bracket, so your federal income tax would be $6,000 a year ($40K times 15%). But when you deduct that $7,500 in mortgage interest you paid, your taxable income would become $32,500, and the 15% income tax would be $4,875. It means you pay $1,125 less in taxes.

In Obama's mind, that $1,125 you save is considered SPENDING BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. That's right, when he says "spending from the tax code," THAT'S what he's talking about.

Such deductions, in the Obama/liberal mindset, are "tax expenditures." They think that they have first claim on your earnings, and then they are "spending money" when they let you keep some of it.

That's how he can propose "reform" - which means limiting deductions and increasing the taxes you pay - and call it "reduced spending." He said today that he is going to propose a new budget - because the one he proposed just two months ago has been trashed - and that the new budget will call for "tax reform to cut about $1 trillion in spending from the tax code."

Read that again: "Cut about $1 trillion in spending from the tax code."

What that means in plain English, as spoken by non-liberal, non-Washington types: "I want a $1 trillion tax increase."

Only a Washington liberal can believe that increasing taxes $1 trillion equals a "reduction in spending," and today's shameful budget speech shows what a fundamentally dishonest person Obama is.

Stanley Cup Playoff Time

The greatest tournament in all of sports, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, start tonight. When you win the Cup, you've really earned something. You have to win 16 games, over the course of about eight weeks. It's a grueling, punishing trek that requires determination, perseverance and a bit of good luck. One key injury, one bad goal allowed at the wrong time, one poor coaching decision and it can call go up in smoke.

Each conference has a showcase series right off the bat. In the East, Boston vs. Montreal should hold a lot of drama. There are 50 years of bad blood between these two franchises, and their games this season were very physical, culminating in the Bruins' Zdeno Chara checking Montreal's Max Pacioretty into the glass in Montreal, breaking a vertebrae in Pacioretty's neck. Here's the video:

In the West, the Chicago Blackhawks face the #1 seed Vancouver Canucks, who have had an amazing regular season, winning the President's Trophy for the league's best record. The Blackhawks are not a normal #8 seed, however. They are the defending Stanley Cup Champions, who struggled early on because of a large number of injuries, and sneaked into the playoffs only because the Wild beat Dallas on the season's final day. Perhaps most important, they have knocked Vancouver out of the playoffs in each of the last two years, and are certainly the team the Canucks least wanted to see.

So, predictions, made more with my heart than with my head:

Washington over New York Rangers, six games. Watching Gaborik and Ovechkin light it up should be fun.

Buffalo over Philadelphia, six games. Philly is hurting, and has suspect goaltending. I like the Sabres' shot at an upset.

Boston over Montreal, seven games. Goalies matter a ton in the playoffs, and Tim Thomas is better than Carey Price.

Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh, five games. Too many injuries for the Penguins, and they're a tired team after a regular season full of too much drama.


Blackhawks over Canucks, six games. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville just knows how to beat these guys.

San Jose over the L.A. Kings, five games. The Sharks have been great over the past six weeks, but the franchise has a long history of playoff failure. But a big lack of playoff experience holds L.A. back.

Detroit over Phoenix, five games. Without Zetterberg, the Red Wings aren't quite the same team, but there's still a ton of playoff experience on the roster. One caveat: If Jimmy Howard is shaky in goal for Detroit, Bryzgalov could steal this series for Phoenix.

Nashville over Anaheim, six games. I admit to a soft spot in my heart for the Nashville franchise. I know one of their scouts, and my son attended goalie camp for several years with their goalie coach. They've not yet won a playoff series in their 11 years, but I think it's their time against a not-very-good Ducks squad.

We'll look at the second round later, but at last weekend's NCAA Frozen Four, I told everyone I saw who was wearing Bruins colors that "This is their year." We'll see.

Let the fun begin!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Another nice night at the X

The Wild finished out the regular season tonight with a nice win over the Dallas Stars. It was particularly sweet because the Stars needed to win or be eliminated from the post-season, and the Wild broke their hearts by coming from behind twice to earn the victory. And a great fan behind the Dallas bench gave them a nice send-off after Antti Miettinen scored the game-winner:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Great moment at the X

Wonderful evening at the X tonight, as one of my alma maters, the University of Minnesota-Duluth, won its first NCAA hockey championship, knocking off Michigan 3-2 in overtime.

UMD has a marvelous hockey tradition, observing its 50th season as a Division I program. It's produced a number of hockey greats, including Chico Resch, a goalie who was part of the New York Islanders dynasty of the '70s, and even contributed two players - Mark Pavelich and John Harrington - to the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team that won Olympic gold. But until tonight, they had never won a national championship, and with a building full of Bulldog fans, it was pretty special.

I knew it would be a special night when my friend Gary Harker - former player, coach, member of the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame and now scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs - showed up in his famous camel sportcoat. A classic look.

(And yes, I know it's not technically an "alma mater" if you don't graduate. But I did two years at UMD before transferring to the U of M, so I count it anyway.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The scum who run AARP

I mentioned in the recent post about Cong. Paul Ryan that liberals have been getting elected for the past 25 years by crying wolf over any attempt to reform Social Security and Medicare, and I predicted that their reaction to Ryan's budget proposal would follow the same lines.

Well, it didn't take long to come true.

I just got an e-mail from AARP, an active arm of the Democratic Party that helps in scaring senior citizens. The subject line of the email: URGENT: Medicare on the chopping block

And the opening paragraph: Right now, Congress is preparing to vote on a budget proposal that would effectively end Medicare as we know it – and put the health of millions of older Americans at risk.

It's a bald-faced lie, of course. If AARP really wanted to help seniors, the message would be: Listen, if we don't fix Medicare and Social Security now, they are not going to exist for your children and grandchildren. Most of us have collected far more in retirement benefits than we ever paid in, and we need a modest fix right now, in order to save Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

But AARP would never say that, because their only concern is getting old people to pay for an AARP membership by convincing them that AARP is looking out for them. In fact, the cruelest thing we can do to seniors is leave the current program alone, because that ensures its eventual collapse.

AARP is scummy.

Why he has to go.

Despite Obama's many shortcomings, I've never been one of those who thought he would easily be defeated in 2012. For one thing, the media will continue to be his main cheerleader, and second, it's just tough to beat an incumbent in any office, particularly a sitting President.

But now I'm beginning to believe we've found his Achilles heel: Gas prices and arrogance.

Almost nothing ticks off voters like high gas prices, and politicians that don't seem to care. Right now, we've got that daily double at work in the Obama administration.

Wednesday Obama told a group in Pennsylvania that “I’m just going to be honest with you. There’s not much we can do next week or two weeks from now.....They’re (gas prices) going to still fluctuate until we can start making these broader changes, and that’s going to take a couple of years to have serious effect." Read the full story here.

True enough. But he's only telling half the story. The truth is, he HAD the chance to do something about gas prices and energy independence when he took office. Remember the gas price spike of 2007-08? Gas hit $3.50 here in the Midwest, and people hated it. Soon there was growing momentum for more domestic oil production. "Drill, baby, drill" was Sarah Palin's mantra, and people loved it.

But as soon as Obama took office, his people began throwing up roadblocks to domestic oil production. As the global economy slowed, oil prices fell, and that provided them cover for doing the bidding of the environmental extremists, who never saw an oil well they liked, and think Europe's $9-a-gallon gas prices are just fine.

(Side note: In 2007, liberals told me with a straight face, "Of course oil prices are high. Bush is pushing them higher to pay off his buddies in the oil business." Funny, I don't hear them making that same argument about the current White House occupant.)

Now we're paying the price for Obama's obstruction of domestic oil production, and when gas hits $4.50 a gallon this summer and stays that high into 2012 - bringing the weak economic recovery to a screeching halt - he's likely to become a 21st-century Jimmy Carter.

The second part of the argument: He's even copying Carter's arrogance and condescension. Again, from Wednesday's AP story:

"Obama needled one questioner who asked about gas prices, now averaging close to $3.70 a gallon nationwide, and suggested that the gentleman consider getting rid of his gas-guzzling vehicle. “If you’re complaining about the price of gas and you’re only getting 8 miles a gallon, you know,” Obama said laughingly. “You might want to think about a trade-in.”

Yes, that's the way to get re-elected. Taunting a voter who doesn't like paying $3.70 for a gallon gas, while you travel the country in a 747 aircraft and gas-sucking limo. I'm finally beginning to think we'll beat this guy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A fellow you need to know about

You're seeing, and will continue to see, a lot of headlines in the coming days and weeks about the federal budget, deficits, a possible government shutdown, etc. And if you're like most people, your eyes will begin to glaze over and you'll look for something more entertaining to read about.

But people, this is serious. It's not hyperbole to say that the future of the country is at stake.

If you haven't yet heard of Paul Ryan, you will. He's a congressman from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee. He knows as much or more about the federal budget than anyone, and he's one of the few politicians willing to tell you the truth about the budget. Here's the core message: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security need to be fixed, and they need to be fixed now, or they will drive the country to ruin.

You'll hear this referred to as "entitlement reform," another term that makes you want to read something else. What entitlement reform means is simply this: We have to stop spending so much money on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

As congressman Ryan explains in this video, these three drivers of the federal budget are about to overwhelm us, creating a sea of debt that will drown our economy.

What's disturbing is that we've known this for 30 years or more, but we've never had a generation of politicians with the nerve to tell us. Anytime someone talked about controlling Medicare or Social Security spending, the other side - usually Democrats - would scream about "throwing grandma out in the street," or "cold, heartless, draconian cuts." Running AGAINST Social Security reform has been a Democrat campaign staple for a quarter century.

And it worked. People saw attack ads from Democrats, warning about some Republican's "plan to slash Social Security" and they voted for the Democrat. It was great if you were a congressional Democrat, but it wasn't so good for the country.

Social Security was built on a series of assumptions, including life expectancy, that are no longer true. In 1940, there were 140 workers (paying in to the Social Security system) for every retiree. Now, that ratio is down to three workers for every retiree, and the system is just a few years away from insolvency. If we make a few modest changes now, the system can be saved. If we put if off five or 10 years, the system collapses.

Congressman Ryan and his colleagues are trying to push through a budget that will bring this system under control. As they do that over the coming weeks, you're going to hear Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the usual gang cry about the "cruel effort to destroy Social Security." If we let them get away with it, then the coming problems are our own fault. But if enough people stand up to say "this has to be done," then the country can have a bright, prosperous future.

Enjoy this video from Congressman Ryan.