Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sens 2, Leafs 1 (SO): The Burke Era Begins As Swimingly As One Would Expect

Photograph by : Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen

Yes, I realize I had promised to post this yesterday. But in order to give my title any kind of credence, I had to wait for the Conclave to finally release the white smoke from the chimneys of the ACC. Anybody else fairly certain that Richard Peddie goes commando under those cardinal's robes?

The Highs:
  • Holy crap! So THAT's how it works: It's been so long since we've seen it that I had completely forgotten the fact that, through what I'm sure is some crazy oversight by the Rules Committee, it is technically possible for the Ottawa Senators to garner a second point by way of the shootout. Something else that had slipped my mind: It's only a gimmick if you lose.
  • Maybe we'll hold off on the boots and hand bag idea: Something SALE said to me in the live blog gave me pause. "Oh SLC, I'm glad you have something good to say about Smith again." Now, I'll admit, perhaps my expectations were rather high following the Smith signing. But what I hadn't expected (nor have I enjoyed) were the six weeks of relative invisibility to start the season. So when I see glimpses of the Gator I thought we were getting, I definitely feel the need to point them out here. If only for Meaghan's sake.
  • Gerber WHO?: I have no idea how long he'll be able to pull it off (mostly because he's never managed it before), but The Auldinator reminds us what it's like to have a money goalie protecting a one goal lead. I found the lack of anxiety induced heart palpitations, normally associated with every opposing forward's rush up ice from the middle of the second period on, rather comforting.
  • Well, at least it wasn't a backup: I'd be remiss if I didn't give a brief, albeit extremely grudging, shout out to Vesa Toskala. Without him, this game is over by the end of the second and our live blog is dead in the water as Leafs Nation stampedes for the exits. But if I could ask one small favour Toska...the next time you want to follow six weeks of suck by channelling the spirit of Johnny Bower, would you mind not doing it against us?
The Low:
  • This should never be seen in print anywhere, ever again: From the Citizen's game story..."Just 59 seconds later, Mikhail Grabovski outmuscled Chris Phillips, skated out on the right side of the Ottawa net and passed across the crease to Kulemin, who was heading toward the left post. He had no problem. Room service." 'Nuff said.
The Creamy Middle:

Say it with me, kids. Every. Point. Counts. So there's that.

I don't know if it was the lack of animosity between two rivals on the ice (Roto Ruutu's welcomed efforts to the contrary notwithstanding), the fact that I've been more concerned with our own team's problems than I have been with poking a detestable arch-enemy in the eye, or if the surprising level of civility in a live blog involving both Sens and Leaf fans caught me off guard, but I wasn't as emotional about this chapter of the Battle of Ontario as I normally would be. Seriously. I didn't get to swing the Ban Hammer even once during the entire game. Where's the fun in that? C'mon Laffers. You can do better. See you on the 9th.

Pithy Observation of Some As Yet Undetermined Importance:

This has nothing to do with this game in particular, but everything to do with those of us who are passionate about The Game in general. It seems Wrap Around Curl, damn fine writer and friend of FFS, is having some difficulties with the pencil necked corporate cockroaches who run the Spokane Chiefs, defending Memorial Cup champs and the object of WAC's delightfully obsessive affection.

Putting aside the usual and extremely tedious "MSM vs. Blog/Internet/New Media" cock fight, I ask the question: why on God's green earth would a junior hockey team play the heavy and wave the lawyer card in the name of "image control" at a blog that gives that same team more exposure to more people across the entire continent, and no cost to them I should add, than a thousand marketing monkeys could ever hope to do in a thousand years? And more important, what happens to sites like hers, or mine, or any of the thousands of fan-generated blogs across all sports should the Chiefs get away with it? I feel a Sunday Soapbox coming on.

Up Next:

Once again, our travelling circus of panic and frustration takes us to Long Island for a date with the Islanders. Television coverage? Zippo. Nothing. Not a sausage...Bugger all. Am I at all disappointed with this? Considering the way we've played against them so far this year, not in the absolute fucking slightest.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

And The Earth Takes One Small Step Toward Axial Equilibrium -- Sens 2, Laffs 1 (SO)

Holy crap that sucked. Holy crap that was sweet. Live blogging is hard. Brian Burke is now officially second guessing himself. And who's the bag of dicks who told Toskala he's a real goalie?!?!

Creamy Middle to follow tomorrow. For now, let us just revel in the sweet, sweet taste of no longer being the worst team in the Northeast.

I Can See No Possible Way In Which This Can End Badly

Just a reminder bloggin' the Battle of Ontario!

Please join us for an evening of enlightened discourse as members of the OBC and charter members of the Barilkosphere debate the relative merits of their chosen hockey teams in the spirit of mutual respect. Revel in the gracefully civilized point-counterpoint of well reasoned argument. And all this in real time!

God Save The Queen at 7:15. Puck drop at 7:30. First "Fuck the Leafs! Cock!" at 7:32

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TSN Bravely Refuses To Believe Burke's Soul Still For Sale

I'm sorry, did I miss something?

The last time I looked (or had Pierre McGuire yell at me about it), MLSE's latest foray into the land of Cantankerous Irishmen Not Named Pat Quinn has yet to yield any real results. But fear not stout, albeit delusional, blue and white clad yeomen, a quick perusal of TSN's home page assures you all is well:
  • OTR brings us Bobby Clarke, waxing rhapsodic with "words of praise for Brian Burke...admitting he was a fan of his work as a general manager. But while he thought Burke would do a good job for the Maple Leafs, he expressed some concerns". My guess is those "concerns" centre largely around no longer being the biggest egomaniacal blowhard in the Eastern Conference.
  • And finally, Bob McKenzie sets aside his onion belt as he struggles to remember that dusty old saw about actually confirming something before reporting it as fact (sooooo 1985!) and offers us, in his usual gripping fashion, that "The Brian Burke-Toronto Maple Leafs saga is close to reaching its logical conclusion." Settle down there, Bob.
For those keeping score at home, that's three items on the main page of Canada's self proclaimed sports leader about a story that hasn't even happened yet. And they wonder why the rest of the country presumes that the "T" in "TSN" stands for "Toronto".

For the record, my guess as to why Burke hasn't yet surrendered to the Dark Side signed with MLSE? Neither camp can agree on who has to water Cliff Fletcher twice a week.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sens 4, Rangers 1: Ontario Hydro Assures Me The First Half Was Quite Entertaining

At ten minutes of three o'clock, I was all set. The chores had been finished. The groceries packed away. The dog suitably distracted by his Darcy Tucker chew toy. And with my first wobbly-pop of the day freshly opened, I settled in for some live-bloggy goodness and the Great Cash Grab Unveiling of 2008. Then everything...blacked out. And this time, it wasn't the booze. My house was a dark and powerless as an MLSE board room.

Three minutes spent flicking the light switches on and off (useless, I know, but it's encoded into my male DNA. I also push the up button multiple times on the off chance that this time it will work and the elevator will get there faster) followed by a panicked scramble to the basement...nope, the breaker panel looked fine. At two minutes before puck drop, I called the Ontario Hydro (sorry...Hydro One!) emergency hot line whereupon a friendly, and not a little un-sexy computerized voice informed me that "a power outage has already been reported in your area. Service should be restored by...four...forty...five...p.m." Gimme that chew toy, dog.

The Highs (or at least those I actually saw):
  • It's official. Bring on the Apocalypse!: One of the few things that actually made it into my notepad reads thusly: "19...hard in the corners?!?!". Mine eyes did not deceive me, for our boy Giggles did indeed battle along the boards, with two particularly memorable occasions late in the second where, on the same shift, he physically separated the D-man from the puck on the forecheck. Sure, it was Wade Redden...but still! Fantastic job, Jason! Now let's see you do it against a real defenceman.
  • Long Sault is erecting a statue as we speak: Most rookies get their first few goals on the cheap. A weird bounce, an empty net, a seeing-eye shot from the beer stand...whatever. Not our boy Jesse. He busts his ass straight down the middle with somebody hanging off his back and lifts a one-handed backhander over the goalie's shoulder for his second goal of his career. If you drink enough, and squint a little while watching the replay, you'd swear it was that other number 18.
  • My pants are erecting a statue as we speak: Imagine how distracted the Rangers would have been had Jarks actually done something illegal. If anyone needs a reminder why we're paying Roto Ruutu...well, let's just say no one on a vanquished opponent ever said this about Vaclav Varada (glove tap to Al at Hockeyshlock for capturing the sweet bitterness). Take it away, Mr. Mara!
So, we can’t let guys take liberties on our teammate like that and he did and he didn’t answer the bell. …it’s something I had to do for the team. It’s too bad that they did score the power play goal and got us in a hole. I guess he won the battle, because they did score on the power play.
The only Low I want to talk about:

So, how many is that now, Roy? Eight? Nine? I'm pretty sure it's nine. We've been in the League for 16 years, and we've had nine different jerseys. Look, I understand how you want to milk us for everything we have...after all, "fan" is short for "fanatic" and those skull waxes ain't going to pay for themselves. But could you at least pretend you're putting a little effort into it? Your latest bit of marketing "genius", following hard on the footsteps of our friend Spartacus and (blech) "A Force United!" looks like it was cobbled together by very enthusiastic yet slightly delayed preschoolers.

Upon setting eyes on your new creation for the first time, non-hockey fan Beloved asked me "Sens? Isn't 'Sens' just a nickname? Why is it on the sweater?" And there's the rub. You don't see any other Canadian team producing lame-ass third jerseys festooned with colloquialisms, do you? Can you, in your wildest delusion fueled dreams envision Montreal coming out with "Habs" emblazoned on their chest, or Toronto's big blue leaf replaced by "Perpetually Hopeless"? Of course you can't.

We had the chance. We once had a logo that would have stood the test of time and become as iconic as the "CH" and the Winged Wheel. It was this one. But you couldn't leave well enough alone, could you? You had to let the marketing "experts" slither and crawl their way into your consciousness, like cockroaches after breadcrumbs, with meaningless MBA created buzzwords like "rebranding" and "revenue streams" and "synergy".

So here's the thing, Roy. Buzzwords are the sign of uncreative minds and even weaker intellects. And so is your jersey. We aren't some desparate franchise looking to get noticed in a crowded non-hockey market. We are the Ottawa Fucking Senators. And it will be a cold, cold day in Hell before I buy something that tells people otherwise.

Pithy Observation Of Questionable Importance:

Here's what I wrote following the (first) loss against the Islanders:
Joe ("Joe"? Really? "JOE?") MacDonald. Michael Leighton. Mike Smith. Jonas Hiller. Craig Anderson. Brent Johnson. Patrick Lalime (Jesus wept...). What do these names have in common? They're all backup goaltenders. They're all backup goaltenders who have started against the Senators this year. Sixteen games played; seven backups have started against us. And the first five listed herein? Totally kicked our ass. Make of this information what you will.
This is from Ottawa Citizen sports dude Wayne Scanlan:
It has more to do with circumstance than any lack of respect, but the opposition continues to pitch backup goaltenders at Ottawa. Washington started Brent Johnson in place of José Theodore, Florida used Craig Anderson instead of Tomas Vokoun, Anaheim went with Jonas Hiller (the Ducks saved J.S. Giguère for a game in Montreal the next night), Buffalo went with Patrick Lalime (a former Senator) and not Ryan Miller and the Islanders started Joey MacDonald with Rick DiPietro out injured. Philadelphia came in here with Antero Niittymaki and not starter Martin Biron. And yesterday, the Rangers rested their ace goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who stoned the Senators on Monday, in favour of Steve Valiquette.
Want to know why newspapers are dying? I wrote mine a week ago. Wayne wrote his last night. And he got paid for it.

Creamy Middle:

Holy crap! We actually won the game! I have no idea what to do with this information.

Up Next:

Mark your calendar kids. Not only do the aforementioned Perpetually Hopeless roll into the Bank on Thursday night (no word on whether they'll be hauling a vaguely Burke shaped duffel bag with them), but it will also mark the Ottawa Blogger Collective's second foray into the wild and wooley world of the Live Blog (7:30 p.m., SportsNet East). Expletive filled hilarity will no doubt ensue.

Behind Enemy Lines:

As much as it pains me to admit it, the Laffs are blessed with (if quite undeserving of) one of the best fan blogger bases in the entire League. Second only to ours of course, and possibly the Habs. Today's featured Barilkospheric (TM-PPP) contributor is Loser Domi, and her Wonderful World. Come to our Live Blog, LD! We'll have such fun. And bring the LOLeafs.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Habs 3, Sens 2 (SO) -- I Too Have Been Violated By The Cold Cold Finger Of Injustice

Seriously, Don. Would it have killed you to use just a little? The chafing is killing me.

The Highs:
  • You shall know him by Stereolepis gigas. And you shall fear him: And that is why we love you, Cody. An absolute animal on the boards, drawing penalties, and no matter what anyone tells you, Begin got lucky. If you don't fall down in that fight, little Stevie is still picking up his teeth out of the ice. Keep it up and not only will you stick with the big club, but someone, someday, may come along and produce extremely stylish, yet highly practical collectible day wear in your honour.
  • B-I-N-G-O! B-I-N-G-O! B-I-N-G-O! And BINGO's where they played-OH!: I can't decide if the fact that Bass-Foligno-Zubov for the most part out-performed everybody else (including Heatzzasson...a little energy, if you please gentlemen) is a sign that perhaps Mucks didn't rape and pillage our farm system to the extent that I had previously thought, and that the future is indeed bright, or if it's a relative indication of how brutally craptacular the rest of the team has been. Little Nicky's goal leaves me further conflicted, and not a little bit vexed. I need help.
  • Excuse me, but I'd like to see more of that team, if you don't mind: The first fifteen minutes of this game were pretty sweet. White jerseys flying every which way, left, right and through the air, as they scrambled around in their own end, beaten to every puck, unsure or unwilling to deal with the hornets' nest buzzing around them while shots rained down upon them from all directions as if hurled from the finger tips of an angry god. Holy crap, I miss last November.
The Lows (easy...I'll get to it in a minute):
  • did that team go?: From the fifteen minute mark of the first, it was as if somebody had flipped the switch to "off". The hustle disappeared, the forecheck evaporated, and all of a sudden, we were sending one man in deep while everyone else stood still at the blue line. Had it been any other opponent (i.e.: not a team playing as putridly as our own), we would have been out of it by the end of the second. Now, whomever could have orchestrated that? Who, when things were going so well, could have persuaded the boys to adopt such a defensive posture with a scant one goal lead? I haven't a clue! But whoever it was Craig, he had better pull his head out of his ass and make sure the team learns something. Namely, you don't EVER get off the gas.
  • We have now officially "lost" the Meszaros trade: Between Filip Kuba's repeated one hundred foot passes through the neutral zone to the guys in the different coloured sweaters and Alex Picard's baffling inability to be in anything like the proper position to defend anything, it will truly be a wonder if my television survives the season.
  • And now...the moment you've all been waiting for: In the NFL, if the officials blow a call that changes the outcome of a game, Emperor Goodell will at the very least apologize to the team so affected. Somehow that makes things a little easier to bear for the mutinous fan base. It doesn't change the result or the fact that they were outright robbed, but it does provide a small salve to the outraged multitude. The League knows it fucked up and will try to get it right the next time. Not so in Gary's brave new NHL. No, all we get are platitudes about how "quick the game is" or "we leave it up to the discretion of the referee". Or worse, not a fucking word. So in light of that, I'd like to offer an apology. I'm sorry Don. I've misspoken. Please allow me to amend my comments from last night:
If it were up to me Don, you would be waking up in your hotel room, roughly four hours hence, with a rabid porcupine ripping your, shrunken pus filled ballsack to pieces with its bloody, slavering teeth. And if we miss the playoffs by a point, I will make it my mission in life to ensure that actually happens while you are simultaneously being violated by an engorged elk.
I hate drunken enraged shoddy composition.

Creamy Middle:

Any coach looking to maintain his salary will tell you that an official can't affect the outcome of a game. If a call goes against you, the logic goes, than it's up to you, as professionals, to overcome it and make sure that it becomes a non-factor in the final result. To which I say BULLSHIT! If A-Train's goal counts, as everyone but the most myopic Sens hater and a certain incompetent, pride filled fuckstick agrees it should have, then we go up by two goals with a little over a period left to play. The Montreal D would have had no choice but to cheat in an effort to generate more offence, leaving them open to the odd-man rush going the other way. God knows we Sens fans have seen that scenario often enough.

You don't think, given how desperate both teams were for the win, we wouldn't have been able to score the insurance marker? Or at the very least, would have more easily kept the pressure in the Habs' end instead of ours, therefore rendering their second and "tying goal" moot? Setting aside the bloody "non-visible" injury that should have given us a four minute power play going into the five minute overtime, the verdict is as clear as the guilt and embarrassment in Don Van Massenhoven's conscience. We were royally fucked.

Up Next:

And the hits just keep on comin'. The New York Rangers roll into the Bank tomorrow afternoon for a matinee. And we all know how well we do in those. Not sure who gets the start between the pipes for this one. Then again, I'm no longer sure it matters. On the "upside" (if you're a marketing cockroach type) the team is unveiling it's newest cash mean third jersey. Please God, don't let it be this one.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Special Message To Don Van Massenhoven

What...the...FUCK! Were you sick the day they taught you the Possession Rule on delayed penalties? Or were you too distracted, stroking that porn-stache while reminiscing on your days as an alter boy? JESUS. JUMPED. UP. CHRIST!!

There are bad calls. They happen all the time. There are even bad calls that cost goals. Scrambles around the crease, or maybe a close off sides that gets missed. I can understand that. But THAT?!? That was a fucking embarrassment.


UPDATE: We lose 3-2 in a shootout. Of course, this game should never have gone to overtime, let alone a shootout, isn't that right Don? Yes. That's right. And it wasn't just the A-Train GOAL was it? No, it wasn't. We should have started the OT with a four minute powerplay instead of two. But apparently, to you, you incompetent bag of scrotum sweat, "blood" does not equal "visible sign of injury".

If it were up to me Don, you would be waking up in your hotel room, roughly four hours from now, with a rabid porcupine ripping out your ballsack with its bloody, slavering teeth. And if we miss the playoffs by a point, I will make it my mission that that actually happens.

Creamy Middle to follow tomorrow. I need to calm down.

Geez...I Thought WE Were A Tough Crowd

The Montreal Canadiens are 10-5-2. The prohibitive favourite to win the Northeast Division, and touted as one of the teams to come out of the East and go to the Finals. Their goaltender, despite an alarming lack of facial hair (or puberty, for that matter) shows all the signs of being the real deal. And they have three forward lines fast enough to make me (and our defence) break out into a cold sweat.

But they have hit a bit of a rough patch, of late, winning only one in their last four. So what to do? The answer is obvious. This is November. The playoffs are a scant five months away. You pull up your socks. You work harder. You get back to the things that made you great!

Or...just fire the coach.

The wheels, they wobble and there's blood in the water. This pleases me. I always mangle my metaphors when I'm happy.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Huzzah! The wayward and prodigal son of the OBC makes his triumphant return to Capital City! Happiness and shirty hilarity ensues! Cody "I'm prettier than Georges Laraques" Bass has been called up from Bingo. Playing the part of the fatted calf...Martin Gerber.

H/T to the boys at Sens Army for the clue in.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rangers 2, Sens 1(SO) -- Maybe That Nice British Feller Was On To Something

Photo: Ottawa's own, the incomparable Yousuf Karsh, 1941

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning -- Sir Winston Churchill

The Highs:
  • My CPU is a neural net processor, a learning computer. The more contact I have with humans, the more I learn: He is coldly efficient. He is emotionless. He is implacable. While not flawless, the search for those flaws will drive mortal men mad. He has been sent from Cold Lake, Alberta a strange and distant place to save us. He is...The Auldinator.
  • Reunited and it feels sucky: Kudos to Coach Craig for finally coming to grips with a reality that had forever eluded John Paddock. Namely, no matter how much you might wish it weren't so, sometimes putting all of your eggs in one big, bad-ass basket, isn't so bad after all. At the very least, putting the Big Line back together might allow we fans to actually cheer a goal every once in a while.
  • Not bad, Brendan. Now go stand over there and don't touch anything: I have to say, based on what I saw in training camp, I had zero confidence in your ability to do anything but totally crater an already abysmal defence. Now, I'm man enough to admit when I've made a mistake, so I'll state it here, and for the record: I was only half-wrong. Keep not screwing anything up too badly, and maybe figure out how to get a pass onto a stick blade rather than into somebody's skates or five feet wide, and we can reassess. Oh, and #9? Really? Well, I'll give you points for your ambition, if not for your self-awareness.
  • So...any chance you've figured it out yet?: Easily the hardest we've seen you boys work since the second game of the season. That funny tingling sensation you may be feeling this morning is called "an epiphany". Embrace it. Do what it tells you to do. Follow it unto death, for it will lead you to the Promised Land. In other words, and I reiterate for those of you who may have some difficulty with subtlety...WORK YOUR ASSES OFF! Not sure if you've grasped this little factoid, but it's the only way we're making the playoffs.
The Lows:
  • Dammit! What did I just say?: Seven minutes, by my count. They took seven minutes off in the third. During those seven minutes, the Rangers beat us to every loose puck, drilled everything in white, and pretty much set up a camp site in our zone, complete with binder twine kitchen, Kum-Bay-Ya and a latrine. The result was as inevitable as it was lexically impossible...Sjostrom's tying goal. Here's hoping his grateful teammates thought to give him that missing vowel.
  • So, Coach. About that shootout...: Giggles. Roto Ruutu. Verms. Jarks, I can almost understand. He's surprisingly good at this kind of thing. But Jason? The same Jason whose last goal came before a black man was elected President? Or Antoine, who, you may have noticed, had already been stoned on a breakaway not twenty minutes before? Just a thought, but you might want to try somebody else in such circumstances. Here's a hint. He wears #11.
Creamy Middle:

That single point was well and truly earned. But more important were the small...incredibly small signs of hope. The hard work (those Nixonian missing seven minutes notwithstanding). The passes that actually went tape-to-tape instead of tape-to-zamboni driver. And if Coach can resist the itch to over engineer the lines and keeps HeatZzaSson together, the second and third lines may actually build on the infinitesimal iota of chemistry they've started to create (I'm looking at you numbers 20, 22 and 18). As my fellow OBC and co-Scarlett Ice scribbler DHS posits, there may indeed be a dim light at the end of the tunnel. If we're lucky, it isn't an oncoming train.

Pithy Observation of Questionable Importance:

As Gary Galley reminded us (early and often), it's tradition for a player, when facing a former team for the first time, to "pin some cash to the bulletin board" to serve as some kind of reminder to his teammates that this particular game is of special importance. Putting aside how cute Gary looks in his onion festooned belt, I couldn't help but wonder how Reds' fellow Rangers felt as Tom Renney stapled Wade's lazy, stick-checking ass to the bench for most of the third period. My cash-on-the-bulletin-board says it was something like "Holy crap. No wonder they didn't try to re-sign him."

Up Next:

Maxim "Ow! My pretty, pretty face!" Lapierre and his fellow (and suddenly shaky...2-1 Canes final as I type this) Montreal Canadiens roll into the Bank two nights hence, attempting, as is their wont, to exact perverse revenge on Roto Ruutu's elbow (7:30pm, SportsNet East). Far be it for me to tell The Bryan how to do his job, but with Fish and Neiler both doubtful, and Carbo's minions no doubt feeling a tad ornery, it might be a good time to call up a certain Mr. Bass. Seriously Bryan. Do it. If not for me, then for shirtless children all over the Third World.

Behind Enemy Lines:

FHF for the game thread (...oh, HF29, why can't I quit you?!?) and stripper pics (of course), but I'd also like to introduce you to The Notwithstanding Clause, a relatively new and totally worthy addition to the Habs corner of the interwebs. Anyone who consistently calls out the troglodytes who troll the message boards, is definitely a friend of mine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rangers 2, Sens 1 (SO) -- I Know What I Hate. And I Didn't Hate This

Well, at least we didn't suck...the first eight minutes of the third notwithstanding.

Alex needs a new nickname (Alex The Great? The Auldinator? Help me out folks). Reds owes his coach an apology...and his teammates a crapload of cash. A few words on Kitty-Bar-the-door. Craig? About that shootout line up...

Creamy Middle to follow. See you tomorrow kids. And remember, you can only take one shot on a shootout, so play nice.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Isles 3, Sens 2 -- We Now Pause For A Dash Of Much Needed Perspective (Even For Me)

Coming off yet another embarrassing loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the Senators saw their record drop to four games below .500. Sitting dead last in the Northeast division for the first time since expansion, the Ottawa media pulled out all the stops and gleefully fanned the flames of a growing fan revolt.

"FIRE THE COACH!!", everyone screamed. "BUNCH A NO GOOD BUMS!", came the cry. "TRADE ALFIE!" "LYNCH SPEZZA!" And, most oft heard of all..."WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS TEAM?!?"

They couldn't buy a goal. The second and third lines had pretty much vanished. The defence was too old, too slow and absolutely, unequivocally, brutally soft in their own end. To top it off, both goalies were sucking the hair off of giant moose testicles.

Yes, there was revolution in the air, and metaphorical blood in the streets. Clearly, the panic stricken hordes would tell anyone who would listen, the time had come to just blow the whole damn thing up and start over. We weren't going to win a damn thing with this lazy, clueless, underachieving, uncaring bunch of losers and their new Head Coach who obviously didn't have a clue what he was doing.

The Sens record at the time? 6-10-1. The date? November 17th, 2006.
The Sens record today? 6-9-1. The date? November 16th, 2008.

Kinda freaky, huh? If memory serves, that season ended pretty well.

In other words...Lighten up Francis.

Up Next:

Tomorrow night, on the road, against the New York Rangers (7:00pm, SportsNet East). So here's the plan, Fish. Get to the blueline, fire it deep, and go after it as if your ass is on fire. It's not like you have to worry about this guy going into the corner with you.

Behind Enemy Lines:

One thing you quickly realize while touring the Rangers' corner of the hockeysphere, is that a frightening majority of Rangers' blogs take themselves very, very seriously. Not so with our guest, Scotty Hockey. Insight? Check. Analysis? Check. Solid? Check and check. "Everything I say is important" pomposity? Not a trace. I like that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Isles 3, Sens 1 -- It's Getting A Little Pitchforky In Here

Please form an orderly line at the registration desk. Note, torches will only be issued upon presentation of valid Standard First Aid and Level C CPR Certification. Also, punch and pie will be served following the burning. Thank you, FFS Management.

The High:
  • Please remain on the line. We'll get to you when we're damn good and ready: As I settled into the Man Room and flipped on the tee-vee, I discovered something rather unsettling. Apparently, ExpressVu's satellite had taken it upon itself to scramble my subscription package such that half of my regular channels were either red and locked out (Bell-speak for "You want this channel? Give us more money, bitch!") or, as was the case with three of the four SportsNet channels, had evaporated completely. After thirty-five minutes on hold and another fifteen spent with a very helpful (and LOCAL!!) if somewhat frazzled techie (please, for "Alex"'s sake and the sake of her sanity...switch out your Smart Cards people!), we were back in business. The upshot being, by that point I had missed the first twelve minutes of the first period and therefore remained blissfully ignorant of the general crapitude taking place on the ice.
The Lows (Royal Sampler Edition):
  • Whew! Good thing we got rid of that Euro-Soft D-man, eh?: Mister Kuba, I watched Mister Meszaros. I swore at Mister Meszaros. And you sir, with your paltry +3 despite your 15 points and the way Trent Hunter beat you like a dead hooker while a foot away from your own crease to score the winner, are exactly like Mister Meszaros.
  • How dost thou kill me? Let me count the ways: Now The Bryan tells us that we pick on Giggles because it's "fashionable". Let me give you a run down on a few other things which, in some circles, are considered "fashionable". Not making a blind back pass from behind the offensive red line into the slot, when your only supporting player is standing two feet away...also behind the net. Not attempting, while on the power play, to make a pass from behind the offensive red line to the far point...through four defensive sticks. Not taking a hooking call in a tie game, because, as usual, you were caught flat footed by an onrushing forward. But above all, it is most certainly not considered "fashionable" to allow yourself to be beaten to a loose puck, deep in your own zone, when your goalie has been pulled and you have a 6-on-freaking-3 man advantage! In fact, in some circles, that's considered grounds for a public stoning.
  • Not sure about you guys, but I'd be getting mighty offended: Joe ("Joe"? Really? "JOE?") MacDonald. Michael Leighton. Mike Smith. Jonas Hiller. Craig Anderson. Brent Johnson. Patrick Lalime (Jesus wept...). What do these names have in common? They're all backup goaltenders. They're all backup goaltenders who have started against the Senators this year. Sixteen games played; seven backups have started against us. And the first five listed herein? Totally kicked our ass. Make of this information what you will.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, the role of Icarus will be played this evening by...: Ryan Shannon. I feel genuinely sorry for Ryan. Brought up from Bingo, his first assignment with the Big Club consisted of trying to decipher the alchemic stylings of that swirling, unpredictable beast known as Danon Heatzza. Only Danon Heatzza is at war with itself and last night, was in no mood to truck with the naive aspirations of a minor leaguer. Then to top it off, Icarus got smoked.
  • Whew! Good thing we have Cody to...I'm sorry. WHAT??: Other than the inability to score a goal, the butter soft defence and the general fucknuttery that has characterized this train wreck of a season thus far, the one thing that has stood out is our continued, and baffling, habit of having our collective asses handed to us when the going gets dirty. So how does The Bryan address this now that he has a new hole to fill due to Young Master Ryan's unfortunate condition? He calls up...Illya Zubov. Somewhere in the wilds of upstate New York, Cody Bass chews the heads off live trout.
Pithy Observation of Questionable Importance:
  • You don't know what you got, 'till the Second Assistant To The Third Associate Producer pushes the wrong button: Just as I was reconnected to civilization, that nifty little graphic bar at the top of the screen disappeared for about five minutes. It was just...gone. Over the years, it's become such a natural part of my sports viewing experience that I've long taken it for granted, like screaming at Dan Marouelli or surfing for porn between periods. Its complete absence left me totally discombobulated. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know anything. What's the score?!? How much time is left in the period?!? Where's the out of town scoreboard?!?! For the love of God, SOMEBODY TELL ME WHO IS SPONSORING THE PENALTY KILL?!?!
The Creamy Middle:

I am at a complete and utter loss. Just out of curiosity, if we lose to the worst professional hockey team on the face of not only Mother Earth, but also thirty-seven percent of all theoretical planets orbiting Alpha Centauri does that make us?

Up Next:

For the first time in recorded history, I'm thankful for HNIC's monopolization of Saturday nights. Tomorrow night, we're off on the road to Rhode Long Island for Suck Bowl II, but thankfully, there is no local television for this one. Beloved will be happy to hear that. I may have frightened her a tad last night, you see.

Who knew you could chew straight through a mattress, box spring, carpet and most of a floorboard and never wake up once?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Habs 4, Wankers 0 -- Seriously. WTF Was That??

Ten games. That's how long I've managed to hold on to my vow of being a kinder, gentler, pink and squishy, "Oh the boys are young and need positive reinforcement instead of nasty words" kind of blogger. Ten games. Then you go and cock it all up by letting Chris Higgins (CHRIS HIGGINS!!) make you his prison bitch. Ten. Fucking. Games.

The One, Infinitesimal High:
  • Of lipstick wearing pigs: In a shocking turn of events, never before seen in Ottawa, our boys actually turned the usual platitudes ("We just have to work hard!", "We have to be accountable!", "No one is happy about the way we played!", "I LIKE SOUP!") into honest to God results on the ice. Personally, I was astounded. My astonishment would have turned to outright flabbergast had it lasted for more than the middle ten minutes of the first period.
The Lows:
  • Speaking of which: Hell of a start you got off to, there Jason. Yep, one hell of a start. Nice to see Coach Craig calling you out in public could have an effect. Hard in the corners, threw some hits...even took a run at Koivu. Nice. So tell me, Jason. Did your testicles shrink, or did you just figure you had fulfilled your Man-Up quota for the evening and shut it down for the last two periods? Just curious.
  • You will feel shame. You will feel shame and beg his forgiveness: Alex Auld played his balls off. Alex Auld single handedly kept this game from becoming an even bigger embarrassment than it eventually was. So maybe, just maybe, you guys can help him out a bit. By that, I mean, your assistance would be appreciated. To further illustrate my point, I shall restate it thusly: GETTING TORCHED ON FEWER THAN FOUR BREAKAWAYS WOULD BE OF SOME FUCKING ASSISTANCE!!
  • Bus to Binghamton, now departing Gate 1: When that alcohol induced aneurysm, which I have no doubt lies buried deep within my cerebral cortex finally pops like an ass pimple some time around the 21st of February (hey look, we're playing the Habs!), and I droop dead where I sit, the coroner will have no choice but to enter "Alexandre Picard" under Cause Of Death.
  • If only we had a trio of offensively gifted forwards with which to spark some hope!: Ten minutes to go in the game, down by three. CASH line nowhere to be found. You picked one hell of a game to make a point, Coach.
  • Somebody needs to stick a cock in his mouth: Shut up, McGuire. Really. Just shut the fuck up. Yes, Jarkko throwing the elbow was dirty. Yes, it was dirty, even though it was on Maxim Lapierre, who ranks just above Darcy Tucker on the International Scale of People Who Should Be Sodomized With A Buick. And, yes, it was deserving of a suspension (which was duly administered). But spending the next five minutes screaming as if we had just witnessed Roto Ruutu tearing the heads from live kittens at centre ice, just makes me want to slam your skull into the glass until the noise stops. So quit it.
  • The Captain cries because you suck: You made Alfie do this. If I were the rest of you, I'd be thankful it was a pane of plexiglass, and not my neck.
Creamy Middle:

Everything you need to know about this game, is perfectly encapsulated in the following:
I heard the names Spezza, Heatley, Alfie, Fisher, and Neil last night. I may have heard "Winchester" once, and Foligno was mentioned when he fell down on the third goal. That's seven forwards. Most teams dress 12. It's not a good sign when almost half of your attackers are invisible. I think Spezza and Fisher each played 45 minutes last night.
The authors of such perfect insight? Four Habs Fans. You know...the opponent.

Up Next:

Tomorrow night, the first in a home-and-home set against the Islanders (7:30pm, SportsNet East). How far have we fallen? Both Gord Miller and his loyal sidekick, Zippy Wondernuts attempted to put our mind at ease by assuring us that the Isles would provide "a more evenly matched test". C'mon guys. That's just mean.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sens vs. Habs: The Safety Word Is "Banana"

This may not end well.

Remember the good old days...and by "good old days" I mean "almost exactly a year ago"...when the boys would roll into Montreal and the air would be filled with carefully scripted sound bites emanating from the Hab locker room about how they were "looking forward to the challenge"? Or Guy Carbonneau endlessly repeating how the Sens "were a good measuring stick" and "it'll be interesting to see how we stack up against them"? Remember those days? Yeah...good times.

Not sure if you've noticed, days are gone. Montreal, reigning Miss Eastern Conference (as elected in the MSM), are coming off a brutal and embarassing loss to *cough* the Laffs and spent the last three days being publically flogged by their own coach. In short, they are not happy campers.

So yeah...buckle up boys.

On the upside, for the first time this season, I once again get to darken the game thread at Four Habs Fans, those purveyors of all that is great and wonderful in the world of pole dancing/hockey fan goodness. Join me, won't you?

No, really. Join me. Please? I get lonely amidst the gloating hordes of conquering opponents.

Thank You

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

I Could Have Sworn I Left It Right Here...HEY! ANYBODY SEE A GOALIE COACH??

Find the coach, win a prize.

As I watched Friday's "game" in Carolina three things sprang to mind. Well, more than three, but only three that don't involve the copious use of the words "fucking" and "Corvo".

First, I realized that there would be no Creamy Middle. My natural loquacity aside, there are only so many ways one can use the word "BLECH!", or describe the sight of two Senators forwards colliding at centre ice before it gets repetitive.

Secondly, if the League truly wants to drive away casual fans in markets it has no business being in anyway, having both teams play the previous night is a hell of way to do it. Bonus points to the schedule makers for making sure both the Sens (at home, over the Flyers) and the home town Whaleicanes (road loss in Washington) had to fly into Raleigh during the wee hours. Remember those roughly 812 Ottawa-Hartford exhibition games, circa 1994? Yeah, this game was just like those...only less exciting.

And the third thought that occurred to me was this: Where in blue fuck is Eli Wilson?

You remember Eli, right? He was named as our goalie coach in August 2007, the summer after the Cup run. Not because we needed a goalie coach. You see, we already had one of those. His name was Ron Low. No, the reason Ron was given an assistant coaching position (and subsequently swept up in the Great Teflon Massacre of 2008) and Eli Wilson was named as his replacement was strictly due to placate one Ray-Ray Emery (the gift that keeps on giving), who insisted that his hand picked, off-season swami be brought on staff full-time. And as we know, that turned out swimmingly.

So as I watched Gerber on Friday night, that question popped into my head over and over again; where's Eli? And the reason this popped into my head over and over again, was because I watched Pastry make the same mistakes over and over again.

And they're the same mistakes he's been making over and over again for the last three years. He's too deep in his crease. He drops to his knees on every goddamned play (both Carolina goals went high-glove, you'll notice). It takes him a ridiculous amount of time to even react after a shot hits him, let alone to track the rebound. He constantly slides out of position when moving laterally. And most important, his confidence is absolutely shot.

The result is plain to see. The players get tentative and fearful of making a mistake, because they don't trust him to make the stop if a risk blows up in their faces. And when the five guys up front are constantly keeping one eye on the goalie, you lose hockey games.

If I can see it, if the twenty thousand people in the stands can see it, if everybody watching the game on television can see it, or if guys like Wayne Scanlan or Bruce Garrioch can see it, yet choose, for whatever reason to ignore it, and it's been going on for years, then it raises the question:

Just where in blue fuck is Eli Wilson?

Monday, November 10, 2008

How To Make Shootouts More Interesting: Decapitation!

In most sporting events, convention dictates that he (or she) who first demonstrates a new technique in sanctioned competition, is bestowed the honour of having that technique named for him (or her). To wit: Alois Lutz enjoys some fabulously sequined props for having invented the figure skating jump that bears his name while high jumpers have Dick Fosbury to thank for his Flop (little known fact: in a suspiciously close decision, the IAAF voted to dub this the "Fosbury Flop" rather than uphold Great Britain's motion, "The Floppy Dick")

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...The Schubie Doo.

Optional skull crushing will add .05 to the degree of difficulty.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sens 4, Flyers 1: Only Then Will You Be A Man, My Son

There's nothing like the first time, is there? The years spent dreaming about it. Those sleepless sweaty nights all alone imagining what that moment will be like. The mounting excitement of the chase, the end goal so close you can almost taste it, and then, finally, everything falls together perfectly and you experience that climactic bliss for the first time. And it is magnificent! Nope, there is nothing like the first time. ...*sigh* Hmm? Wazzat?

I'm talking about scoring your first NHL goal. What the hell did you think I was talking about? Perv.

The Highs:
  • But wait, Jesse! There's more!: So here's what you do, Coach. Write down the numbers 11, 12 and 18 on a piece of paper. In ink. Then have that piece of paper laminated. Next, take it down to the corner of Rideau and Dalhousie. Finally, enter one of the many fine (and totally hygenic) boutiques along that stretch of street and hand that piece of laminated paper to the large, colourful man behind the counter and ask him to tattoo that fucker on your forehead. Backwards. That way, everytime you look in the mirror, you'll be able to fight the temptation to take Jesse off this line. The boy has earned it.
  • In which A-Train unveils The Testes of Steel Defence to a grateful nation: Not content with simply doubling his career high for goals scored in a season, or shooting hard, high and often enough to make Antero Niittymaki dribble a few superfluous "i"'s from his peehole, our intrepid hero revealed the newest arrow in his shot-blocking quiver early in the third period: facing the shooter, flat on his ass...legs spread wide open. Picked up the block too. Ladies and gentlemen, I can only sit uncomfortably in awe of that kind of courage...while making a funny hissing noise between my teeth.
  • Of leopards, spots and Spezzas: Fine, Jason. Have it your way. We give up. Three times (by my count) you made passes through the middle of the offensive zone, that by rights, should have have ended up 200 feet away in our own net. Three times you connected with an open man. And three times Dean Brown exposed himself for the stat-spewing homer he is by ejaculating all over Gary Galley while extolling your "unreal vision". If I add that to the ridiculous pass through the Flyer crease to set up Heater and the fact that you chose the safe play and dumped it rather than trying to beat a 1-on-3 at the blueline (HE CAN BE TAUGHT!), I can live with the occasional brain fart. I said occasional.
The Lows:
  • One of these things is not like the other: Maybe it was because the rest of the D has shown a rather marked improvement over the dreck we witnessed in the first five games, or perhaps it has to do with his tender years, but it may be time for Young Master Picard to take a confidence boosting tour of Greater Binghamton. I fear he may be feeling a touch of the vertigo.
  • You play. To win. The game.: There's a saying amongst we football fanatics, one that doesn't involve "Aw c'mon Ref!" and "Of course I want that seventeenth beer, honey. It's Sunday!" and it goes something like this...The only thing a prevent defence does is prevent you from winning. Pretty clever, non? Yeah, I thought so too. And I'll leave you to ponder that the next time you see Coach Craig pull the trap trigger when we're up by two.
Pithy Observations of Questionable Importance:
  • Don't worry Anton. A few more and they'll get it right: As I've mentioned before I love the crowd shouting out the last name of an Ottawa goal scorer. Now I love it even more. After A-Train scored, they tried their best, God love 'em. I can only attribute the resulting ANTON SPLXRTXZ..OV! to their stunned disbelief at having witnessed his second marker of the year.
  • Well, that was...interesting: And the season's first nominee for Most Hilarious Breakaway of the Year goes too...Schubie Doo! While coming to a dead stop while the puck sits uselessly between your own feet while standing in the crease is a novel approach, allowing yourself to be subsequently pile driven into the cross bar may have been a bit much.
Up Next:

Down to SWEEEET CAROLINE! WAH! WHA! WHA! to face the Hartolina Whaleicans, with whom we are currently tied for the last playoff spot in the East. I think. I'm too lazy to look it up. Swiss Pastry with the start, so that shouldn't last long. On the upside...good luck getting the song out of your head. You're welcome. (7:00 p.m., SportsNet East)
Behind Enemy Lines:

A big, mint julep-y Mah word! to WufPirate and Carolina on Ice. Well written, informative, pretty to look at and quite often hilarious. Yeah, I'm not sure Peter Kormanos deserves it either.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sens 2, Caps 1 (OT): YES WE CAN!

Hello, Ottawa.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that ScotiaBank Place is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of Cyril Leeder, Bruce Firestone and SpartaCat is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our hard work and perseverance, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told to panicky fans and unscrupulous media in numbers this city has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours just for the chance to be heard on the call-in shows, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

We are, and always will be, the Ottawa Senators.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by Don Brennan so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of our stick blade and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this game at this defining moment, change has come to Ottawa.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you.

This is your victory.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our season -- laziness, blowing a damn-near full two minutes of five-on-three powerplay time, worst defensive crisis in a decade...Martin Gerber.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without Fish, The Captain, Heater and Auld, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Tonight, I think about all that we've seen throughout our 16 years in the NHL -- the heartache and the hope; Joe Fucking Neuwendyck; the heartache; the struggle and the progress; the heartache; the Finals; the heartache; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that Hockey Country creed: Yes we can.

At a time when the fans' voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, we lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the rafters. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the upper bowl and depression across the beer concessions, we saw a city conquer fear itself with a new coach, new players, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the pucks fell on our crease and Ovechkin threatened the net, we were there to witness a goaltender rise to greatness and a game was saved. Yes we can.

And this year, in this game, Mike Fisher touched his finger to a puck, and cast his shot, because, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, he knows how he can change.

Yes we can.

Ottawa, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next post-season, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

Yes we can.

Five For Smiting would like to take a moment, on behalf of a grateful planet, to thank the American people for not cocking it up three times in a row. Congratulations (and apologies), Mr. President-Elect! And for your people's sake, I hope you can get that Stupid-White-Guy smell out of the upholstery.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Notepad Chicken Scratch: Sens 2, Caps 1 (OT) -- FISH!

It was sloppy. It was ugly. It was always in doubt. And it was entirely well deserved.

Holy crap, we finally beat the Caps.

Tomorrow night...sweeping tales of redemption, bad ice, the incredibly fucking scary Alex Ovechkin and how one man will unite us all. No, not him. Him.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Slap Shot Welcomes Us Anew With Open, If Slightly Apprehensive, Arms

The Gray Lady has once again thrown open her intertube gates to the great unwashed of the blogosphere, plucking from obscurity mere plebeians, such as myself, and elevating us to hither to unknown heights of slighly less obscurity! And for that, I am grateful.

Here's our first go around, a whirlwind tour of the Northeast Division.

Three things you may want to note. First, you really should visit all of the participating blogs. They're very, very good (insert So why did they pick you? joke here).

Secondly, I've taken the rare risk of throwing off my carefully constructed cloak of anonymity. Why, you may ask? For the same reason any fine, upstanding man with a wonderful home life and a solid job would. To show off to my mom.

And three? PPP and Chemmy. Man, I can't get hide from you guys anywhere, can I?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

If A Slump Falls In The Floridas, And Nobody Sees It, Do We Still Get The Points?

There are two things you can count on during the Senators' annual early season two-game swing through the Sunshine State. The first being the Emperor's Luncheon, in which Eugene The Fantastically Magnificent descends from on high and deigns to host a team meal at whatever giant mansion happened to catch his fancy that week (funny how the team always seems to win the game immediately before this little bread breaking, no?).

The second? I will never actually see the games. It always screws with my mojo. Just like the players, we basement dwelling blogging types need a few games to get properly acclimatized to the ebb and flow of the regular season, if for no other reason than to properly adjust our undergarments and convince mom to bake another plate of cookies. So when that two game vaccuum comes around every October, I always find myself blinking in a bewildered fashion and scrambling to throw something, anything up in this space just to reassure myself that I am still, in fact, capable of forming a coherent sentence. Not only that, but it forces me to come up with something original.

And as you can plainly see...I hate that.

Oh yeah, almost forgot...we lost the game in a shootout.

Up Next:

Well, it was fun while it lasted. Alex Ovechkin and his Sens-killing cohorts roll into the Bank on Tuesday night. You remember them, right? On the upside, I'm told someone has invented a device capable of carrying images of live sporting events through space using nothing but vaccuum tubes and rubber bands so that we may enjoy these events in the comfort of our own homes. My stars, what an age we live in! (7:30 p.m., SportsNet East).

Behind Enemy Lines:

If it's the first Capitals game of the year, it has to be one of the Founding Fathers of the hockey blogosphere, Japer's Rink (seriously, when JP first appeared on the Tubes, I was still looking for the "any" key). And I couldn't be prouder (stupid internal grammar Nazi) more proud than to number among the 1,677 sites listed in the blogroll.