Archive for September, 2009

Looch in Action

September 28, 2009

I was away for the weekend and missed some good preseason action, the highlight of which, for this particular knuckledragger anyway, being Milan Lucic vs. Chris Neil in the B’s – Sens game on Friday night.

Take a gander.

Like the announcer says, sometimes you just bite off more than you can chew. Now, I’m no fan of Neil and he and Gino have danced before but I still give the guy credit for not waving the white flag after he was blasted like that and cut so badly.

Great scrap. Bring on the regular season, boys.

Advertisements

NHL 10 PS3 Review

September 23, 2009

It’s a $60 roster update for NHL 09.

I could leave my review at that if I wanted to and it wouldn’t be that unfair. However, I am of the opinion that you, the loyal HGW readership, deserve far more from us here. Insight, depth, detailed research and the occasional bit of salty language. These are the things you’ve come to expect from us and I’ll be damned if this is where I start letting you down.

So you’ve guessed from that opening line that NHL 10 is not exactly a dramatic leap forward from last year’s version. In fact, this is both good and bad and, ultimately, the games fatal flaw. Allow me to explain.

I had a sense of dramatic disappointment mere minutes into opening box and slipping the disc into the slot on my PS3. The look of it, the opening animations, the crowd graphics, the stadium animations, are all identical to what we saw in NHL 09. Essentially, in those respects and others, they have completely recycled that game with only very minor changes. Most of it is pixel for pixel identical. The roster change interface, the line editing, the Be A Pro mode, all of it.

Now, not all of those feature needed to be changed. They were aspects of what made the game so good. But to not even throw us a bone with some new pregame shots…? That’s just lazy, folks. Sure, bring back the features that made NHL 09 a pretty solid gameplay experience but you’ve also got to improve because it certainly was not a perfect game (we’ll get to that in a moment).

There are a few new additions, don’t get me wrong, but they’re extremely minor. The first person fighting, for example, is fun but it’s nothing you can’t experience with that generic boxing game for the Wii. There is also (thank god) the return of the much missed Season Mode. Both of those are good things. But again, not mind blowing.

However.

The fatal flaw, and it’s one annoying enough to consider a total betrayal of EA Sports and their NHL game series, of which I have owned every release since 1993, by jumping to the 2K franchise. It all has to do with control. Once again, just like 09, the programmers have made a glaring error in their control design. The default controls, while not overly complex or difficult, simply do not jive with those of us so used to using x’s and o’s to get out business done. Those of us for whom shooting a puck with a directional joystick just seems unnatural.

You folks know who you are. You are my brothers.

So, what do you do if those default controls, which force you to use the fucking R2 button to pass the puck fer chrissakes, just don’t float? You switch to Classic Controls, right? Well, one problem. For the second straight year, those of us using Classic do not have the simple ability to change lines. I say, to change lines. To allow this sort of oversight to exist in two straight years is utterly moronic. And, of course, even though there is a listing in the controller setting that says “Custom”, we all know damn well that there is no way to customize those controls.

So we get screwed. Again.

Sorry, EA, but this sort of thing is just sloppy. And it really does say you just don’t give a shit, that you’ve just made up some new cover art with a new player (bet you didn’t know Patrick Kane would appear on a police blotter before your game box, did you?) and the NHL 10 logo, make a few token updates, and slap that thing on the shelves for the hopeful masses to consume.

Feel shame, EA. Feel shame.

So, to summarize, NHL 10 is not a bad game, in the same sense NHL 09 was not a bad game, it’s just not great because it remains flawed by some annoying, near infuriating glitches that no self respcting game company should ever allow. Not when the customer base for a release is one of the most loyal that has ever existed, like we fans of their NHL series. Now you’ve hurt us.

Question is, will we come back next year?

For the very first time, for me, that is in doubt.

The Kessel Run

September 18, 2009

Phil Kessel

Salary dump or great deal? The debate will go on for a while but the news that many have been expecting has finally arrived.

Phil Kessel is a Maple Leaf.

The Boston Bruins have traded their leading goal scorer from a year ago, a season that saw him an important part of a team that finished first overall in the Eastern Conference, to Toronto for a pair of first round picks and a second. The Leafs have immediately signed him to a five year, $27 millon dollar contract, something the B’s had been unwilling or unable to do all summer. Having already signed David Krejci to a new 3-year $11.25 million dollar deal, there was little space for Kessel’s hefty paycheck, forcing them to make a difficult talent vs. salary decision between the two youngsters.

It would seem that David Krejci won out.

Critics of the move will likely want some serious answers to their doubts and questions. How can you trade away potential bonafide sniper at age 21? How can you not get a decent, proven prospect in return? Why did you spend $3.3 million dollars on Derek Morris when that’s a role Matt Hunwick is chomping at the bit to fill and has the ready skill to do it? Why resign 74 year old Mark Recchi? Refrain from either of those moves and you’re damn close to being able to swing Kessel.

Just saying, 36 goals in the NHL when you’re barely out of your teens in not too shabby. He’s improved every year. If I said he was going to score 45 at some point before he hits 25, you wouldn’t accuse me of being back on the pipe, would you?

Maybe the Bruins think he’s Joe Juneau. Maybe he’s Brad Boyes, though. A genuine goal-scorer and those are still pretty hard to find in this league.

We shall see.

Chaos in Calgary

September 18, 2009

This was rather interesting.

A lot of emotions for a preseason game. Then again, the youngster was removed on a stretcher and Phaneuf did seem to leave his feet a bit for the hit. Thankfully, Okposo has only suffered a mild concussion from the incident.

It should be noted that the NHL has taken no action against Phaneuf but has suspended Pascal Morency, who many might say did exactly what he should have in that situation; defend a fallen teammate.

I mean, this is Western Canada, is it not?

Agree or disagree?

Discuss.

Arrival

September 18, 2009

It’s here.

Commence drooling.

NHL 10

Review to follow.

Many, many hours from now.

Scrappin’ in Toronto

September 17, 2009

Game two of the Bruin’s preseason in Toronto showed us a little bit, maybe a lot, more of the feistiness we here at HGW like to see and might bode well for more of the same between these two division foes during the regular season.

Highlights:

Steve Begin (6′ 192), showing more guts than brains perhaps, throws down with big Andre Deveaux (6’4″ 232) for the B’s first scrap of the preseason. Credit Begin for showing some old school moxie to his new teammates. He would later score a power play goal as well. Welcome to Boston, son.

There were four others, including: Byron Bitz vs. Jay Rosehill, Guillaume Lefebvre vs. Phil Oreskovic, Bitz and Deveaux (roughing even though the gloves were dropped) and then big Adam McQuaid vs. Phil Oreskovic.

See video on all but the roughing right here.

By all accounts, an entertaining game. Exceptional performance from Patrice Bergeron, who excelled in the faceoff circle and had two assists. Good signs all.

The game also featured the full action debut of Derek Morris in a B’s uniform who, by game’s end, was showing some of the puck moving abilities he was brought onboard to provide. On the Toronto side, former Bruin Jason Allison chugged alang in his comeback bid. Always skilled but a slow-motion skater, it remains to be seen if he’ll be successful.

Next up, the Rangers again, this time at the Garden on Saturday.

Fred Cusick 1918-2009

September 16, 2009

Fred Cusick

The voice that brought hockey to life for me in my youth has fallen silent.

Fred Cusick, aged 90, passed away yesterday on Cape Cod. Though it had been years since he had retired from the broadcasting job he held for 45 years with the Boston Bruins, there is not the slightest doubt that the news evoked pangs of deep, sincere sadness within the hearts of the team and it’s longtime fans, most of whom consider Fred the most admired, beloved announcer in the organization’s history.

No one that I have ever heard, including modern masters of the art of hockey play-by-play, could ever equal his enthusiasm, his pacing of the call, his ability to highlight dramatic moments and illustrate the action with such perfect timing and innate knowledge of the game. He was, quite simply, the best I’ve ever heard, period.

He started calling games in 1952 and throughout his career was an innovator in the way games were broadcast on television, suggesting camera angles, helping tailor the coverage to what would best suit the fan watching at home. He was there through the Bobby Orr era and the days of the Big Bad Bruins, one member of which, Derek Sanderson, would become his color man in the eighties, forming my own personal favorite team of broadcasters in any sport that I have ever watched. They brought the game to life in a way that was so infectious, so entertaining, so well done that it enhanced my love for the team and the game exponentially.

Those are the days that I remember so fondly even now, for so many reasons. Ray Bourque, an obvious Cusick favorite, starring on defense, Cam Neely scoring goals and scrapping. Terry O’Reilly as a player and coach. The Cup runs of ’88 and ’90.

The Last Hurrah for the Boston Garden.

“I’ve seen Shore and Orr and you can’t ask for much more than that.”

So many fond memories and, in my mind, I hear the voice of Fred Cusick as an accompaniment to them all. He is embedded in my psyche as an essential part of the nostalgia I feel for those bygone eras, as he should be.

He was a Bruin, through and through.

He will be missed.

Preseason Opener in NY

September 15, 2009

The first game of the Boston Bruins preseason is in the books and it’s a win. The B’s beat the New York Rangers 2-1 at Madison Square Garden on goals from Max “Don’t Cal Me Rico” Suave and blue-chip hopeful Zach Hamill who centered the top line with Marco Sturm and Blake Wheeler.

Items of note:

Tukka Rask was the best player on the ice, stopping 31 out of 32 shots. Not much doubt about his spot as Tim Thomas’ back-up this season.

Johnny Boychuck was paired with Zdeno Chara , a sign that the team may consider him a dark horse candidate to make the leap from the AHL to a contributing position on the team this year. Boychuck landed four hits in the defensive zone, tied with Milan Lucic for most in the game. Not too shabby.

Matt Hunwick is back and healthy. Good news for him and the team who are looking to him as a key element on defense this season as a puck mover.

Gleefully noted, and it’s not often I give props to New York fans, a lot of people in the stands were lustfully booing new Ranger Donald Brashear, rightly unwilling to forget his disgusting cheap shot on Blair Betts in the first round of last year’s playoffs. Certainly, we remember what sort of goon Huggy Bear is. Don’t let him off the hook, Blueshirt fans.

Other than that, not too much of interest in this one. Bruins head up to Toronto tomorrow to play their second game in two nights, hopefully with more scraps to report back on.

Sure is a good feeling to get things rolling, though.

Back In Beantown

September 14, 2009

I have returned.

“And you are?” I imagine you saying.

Rightly so. It has been a prolonged absence, I admit, and inexcusable. Though the hockey events of the summer have not been that dramatic or compelling, there is still a gap in coverage from the HGW perspective that has no doubt left a gaping hole in the hearts and minds of thousands of readers hungry for the blood and guts approach that is the hallmark of our coverage of the game.

For that, dear friends, I apologize.

Bear in mind however that the way my beloved Bruins fell to the Carolina Fucking Hurricanes on a game seven overtime goal by Scott Fucking Walker caused the sort of emotional trauma and mental instability that only an extended period of time on a secluded tropical island surrounded by topless native girls can truly soothe.

Healing, folks. It was what I needed.

So now we’re back, with a vengeance. Training camp is under way and the pre-season is not far off. The 2009-10 season is in motion and the enthusiasm and hope begins to burn once again.

There will be much to discuss, of course. The Phil Kessel situation. The Dany Heatley trade. The assemblage of rosters and the ever entertaining pre-season fight card.

The motherhumpin’ Winter Classic at Fenway Park, for chrissakes. Oh, yeah.

We’ll dive right in to it all, I assure you.

So forgive our hiatus, if you will, true believers and I promise you we will serve you faithfully once again here, with regularity and a furious enthusiasm sure to frighten the faint of heart or anyone from Montreal.

Bring it on, bitches!