Monday, June 29, 2015

It's been nine (plus) years!

These things happened in 2006, nine years ago:

  • Twelve coal miners died in the Sago Mine Disaster near Buckhannon, West Virginia
  • A stampede during the Stoning of the devil ritual on the last day at the Hajj in Mina, Saudi Arabia, killed 362 Muslim pilgrims.
  • Several European newspapers reprinted controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, sparking outrage and rioting
  • Saddam Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging
  • Zacarias Moussaoui was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans as part of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
  • Over 160 people were killed on July 11th by seven bombs on the train network in Mumbai India
  • President Bush acknowledged secret CIA prisons around the world outside of US legal jurisdiction.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series
  • Italy won the World Cup in Germany defeating France
  • The Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl
  • Somebody won the NBA Championship. Probably either the Lakers or the Celtics. Who cares?
  • And on June 18th, I posted the first entry in this very blog
Somehow, I forgot my 9th anniversary 11 days ago. Nine years. NINE YEARS!! I have been posting what I call Ridiculously Inconsistent blog entries on a fairly regular basis over some 3,285 days (give or take, however the various Leap Years have impacted that). As I often tell people who listen to me talk about it, that's approximately eight years, 11 months and two weeks longer than most blogs last. The world was a very different place back then. For instance, purple was illegal and one usually had to resort to the black market to get it, making the production of this blog a very risky endeavor.
"Psst, whaddya got in a nice Amethyst?"

Point being, I've been doing this a long time. This is the Bowhead Whale of blogs! Do I deserve some kind of longevity award? I don't know. Probably?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Now, it's just Marriage

So as you're probably aware by now, this happened earlier today...
Supreme Court Affirms Constitutionality of Gay Marriage

This means, well, lots of things to lots of people...

  • For starters, as always, my shingle remains hung"THIS IS NOT A JOKE! As an officially ordained minister, I am qualified to legally marry the living daylights out of you and your spouse (Current record: 1-0). Seriously, I will marry you so hard, you won't walk right for a week. If you're straight, gay, lesbian or any other combination I'm not immediately aware of, it doesn't matter. It's all good! I don't care! I can commit weddings of ALL kinds. You find somebody you love who loves you back? Beautiful! We're in business. I'll make sure the necessary paperwork is taken care of and I'll perform the service. I'll even write the vows or incorporate yours into the ceremony, if you're writing your own (which I think you should because that's a really sweet and thoughtful thing to do). And here's what may be the best part: I work cheap! Check it out: All I require is an invitation to your wedding reception, seated at a table with one of the more morally casual bridesmaids."
  • For my friend, the very funny Jeff Rey, it means this: "Jokes done. I'm a comic before I'm an American, but I'm still an American, and I'm very proud of my country. 'the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were,' I hope all straight people can understand how healing it is for gay people to read this. I wish I could have heard this as a child, but then I wouldn't be funny. There were no models for healthy relationships for me growing up. That has been changing and this solidifies it. There will still be bigotry, hatred, and ridicule, but now it won't be justified. Future generations can know for a fact that their capacity for intimacy is not some deviation or deformity. It's the same human need. We don't have to relegate ourselves solely to bars, or debate if it's appropriate if a child sees us holding hands. We ain't Mr. Slaves anymore. We're your neighbors. I feel so much better than I would have thought. My reaction to this is one of psychic cleansing. I feel healthier. Good work guys. Now put a shirt on and go to work like everyone else faggots. All this contention. Now it's done. It's settled. Let us never speak of if again. Kinda like the Civil War."
  • For my "Spike on the Mic Show" castmate PW Fenton, it means: "Nice way to wrap up the week. Thank you, Supremes!"
  • My friend Hope Chanel echoes the TGIF sentiment: "Happy Friday indeed. One for the history books (even if WAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY overdue) and time to celebrate. I can't imagine not being able to demonstrate my love for my soulmate in every way anyone else can, and its hard to think that there was a time when George Carter and I wouldn't have been allowed either {Hope is white and her husband George is black}. The ignorance will not immediately die with legalization but it is a step in the right direction and it's about damn time!" PS: Hope and her husband operate a venue here in Tampa that would be great for weddings and/or wedding receptions.
  • The Onion sees it like this: Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Most Buck-Wild Pride Parade Nation’s Ever Seen   "Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor...agreed that the right to 'an uninterrupted three-day batshit insane rager' was mandated by the U.S. Constitution." (God bless The Onion)
  • And to this dink in Texas, it means he feels he needs to go all Lucille Bluth on the matter:
Have a great weekend, everybody. Celebrate something that doesn't happen very often: the fact that the world (at least this chunk of it) is measurably less shitty now than it was when we went to bed last night. 

Unless you're some dink in Texas, in which case, nobody cares what kind of weekend you have, you dink.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The summer jam of 2015 has arrived!

Members of the groups Uncle Kracker, Better Than Ezra and Sugar Ray, bands that you have loved... well, maybe not loved... bands that you have known to have existed at some point have come together to form a SUPER GROUP
The most appropriate illustration for 'super' in this context

called Uncle Ezra Ray! And if you think they used up all their creativity in coming up with the SUPER GROUP's name, oh boy, just wait until you experience the lyrics to what is sure to be the jammiest summer jam of summer '15! It's called "B.H.Y.B.", which stands for "Bring Your Hot Body" and it goes a little somethin' like this...

This song may sound familiar to you if you have ever loaded a handful of dog turds into a CD player and pressed play (no judgment here; who among us hasn't made regrettable decisions while huffing turpentine?).

SUPER GROUP Uncle Ezra Kracker are going to tour this summer, and wouldn't it just be fantastic if they did so with Smash Mouth?!?

Because it's not a food/music festival until somebody in a crowd of people throwing free bread yells "KICK HIS ASS, SEA BASS!". Can you even imagine the meta-ironic amazeballs-ness of being smashed in the mouth by the lead singer of Smash Mouth? Beats having a toad shoved into your wet sprocket, at least.

Basically, what I'm saying is these two things are SPECTACULAR and they need to happen TOGETHER at a fairgrounds nearby all summer long!!

God have mercy on our souls.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Customer reviews on the internet are completely over

In 2010, my hero Prince was ridiculed for making the following decree:
"The internet is completely over"
He was speaking specifically about the internet as it pertains to services like iTunes as platforms for artists to release new music and be compensated fairly, and he was right. He wasn't talking about the actual, entire internet and everything on it, but another area he could have been talking about, because he would have been right again, is customer reviews.

Customer reviews on the internet are completely over.

There was a time when these were some of the very best things about the internet. A new restaurant opens in town. Is it any good? Did the newspaper review it? Do I trust their opinion? Do I know anybody who has actually been there? Do I want to just take a chance and find out on my own? Too many questions. Ta-DA! Customer reviews from the internet to the rescue!
That was a handy resource for a little while. You could turn to nice, normal people with good intentions who wanted to share their honest experiences and informed opinions and help you make a decision. Then something changed. Now all review pages look like this (for a Mexican restaurant down the street from where I live):
That's because people who post reviews have become self-aware and realize that they actually wield a measure of influence, that there were people out there paying attention to what they had to say. This teeny, tiny bit of power feels good, but it isn't enough. It's never enough. They want, desire and crave more of it. And since there's nothing to be gained by playing right down the middle and it's impossible to type louder than somebody else, they have resorted to extremes in order to continue to draw attention. Things that are good have become "amazing!" or "awesome!" or simply "the best". Things that aren't as good "suck" or are simply "the worst". Many of these people are of the mindset that their praise can turn a struggling enterprise into a goldmine while their condemnation can turn that same enterprise into a smoking crater.
Misguided belief in outdated idiom that The Customer is Always Right + Anonymity = Internet reviewer
And sometimes, lots of times, if there are enough of them, that turns out to be true. But what about the poor, prospective customer seeking nothing more than a pleasant evening out eating some decent Mexican food? Now that sucker has to decide to weigh the risk/reward factor. Will I have a gastrointestinal experience that borders on multi-orgasmic or the culinary equivalent of being raped and then buried alive in an unmarked grave? Of course the two extremes cancel each other out and we remain at square 1. Sure, we could do some research on the background of the individual reviewers, see which ones are credible, which ones are cranks and/or if their tastes are similar to ours and base our choices on that data. But at that point, it becomes a project and who has time to take on another project?
Sweet Christ, all I want is to eat some good this.
So what happens? Well, what generally happens is we pathetic shmucks resort to what's worked for us in the past: Did the newspaper review it? Do I trust their opinion? Do I know anybody who has actually been there? I guess I'll just take a chance and find out on my own.

Friday, June 19, 2015

I'm back. And I have something to plug: a second chance!

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who came and saw me do stand-up at Side Splitters back on May 17th and those who said they wish they could have but just couldn't make it for one reason or another (I'm aware there might be other kinds of people in the world but for the sake of this bit we're not talking to or about them or even acknowledging their existence. Sorry, other people in the world. It's not that you don't matter, but, well, kinda.). Well, just like the ghost of Waring Hudsucker, I am here to offer BOTH of those groups a second chance because I'm going back on Sunday, August 9th!
If you went last time and had fun, there's no reason this time won't be at least as much fun. If you weren't able to go and have fun last time, you can go and have fun this time. Everybody is a winner! Unless the club happens to be infested by hornets that night. There's no reason to think that will happen but it might and if it does, that will almost certainly cut down considerably on the fun factor. But barring infestation by flying sting-y insects, it should be a pretty good time.

Mark your calendars, update your mobile telephone computing device, re-calibrate your sun dial. Whatever it takes, DO IT!!

Me, doing stand-up comedy
Sunday August 9, 2015
Side Splitters Comedy Club
12938 N. Dale Mabry
Tampa FL
This is what I looked like last time. What will I look like this time? There's only one way to find out!
(I'll probably look very similar)

More information about Side Splitters is available here
More information about flying, sting-y insects is available here 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I'm back. And I need a vacation.

The NHL playoffs are over, the right team didn't win (although we came very, very close) and my life can now return to a manageable level, including the regular maintenance of this ol' blog. The last nine weeks has been wonderfully terrible. As a sportswriter and in the performance of my "regular" job I experienced extreme highs and severe lows. I wanted it to end differently but I'm glad it's all over, even though I already can't wait to go through it all again soon.

One thing I won't miss for a while is my playoff beard, as show here:
I didn't shave between April 12th and June 15th. It got really uncomfortable, and I don't even mean how hot and itchy it got. I'm pretty sure that at some point, it became a sentient, evil being and it was sneaking out at night and murdering hitchhikers. If there are dead bodies under my house, I'm going to know exactly why and it's going to be very hard to explain. But it's gone now. I cut it all off after the Lightning lost Game 6 and donated it to Locks of Loathing, a charitable organization that puts hair in nice people's food so they can learn to hate things. I feel good about that.

The other thing is I need a break. Because I'm exhausted. After all, the reason I wasn't here is because I was doing stuff elsewhere, generally putting myself through a meat grinder. Long days filled with hard work and extreme emotional swings. I am beat. I need to get away for, like, a three-day weekend and just relax. Ideally, to a place with a pool. Not too far away. And cheap. As in, free. Basically, who out there has a house with a pool where I can stay for three days? Hit me up.

Between now and then, yep, I'm back here and will resume pumping out new material, starting now-ish.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final Game 6 recap: Lightning shut out 2-0 to end season

Originally published at on Monday, June 15th

The Tampa Bay Lightning's incredible season comes to an end in Chicago where they lost to the Blackhawks 2-0, ending the 2015 Stanley Cup Final losing four games to two.

The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in Chicago Monday night to finish off the 2015 Stanley Cup Final four games to two.

This is not an obituary of the 2014-15 Tampa Bay Lightning. There will be time for that in the days ahead. This is merely a recap of the game that happened to end that season.

If it's possible for two teams to play absolutely great and yet for one of them to just not be quite good enough, that was the Tampa Bay Lightning in this game and this series. They had plenty of opportunities to score, win this game and even the series for a Game 7 back in Tampa but were simply unable to convert when it was necessary. Again, that's the story of the series as well as the game, a series whose games were all tightly contested with a razor thin margin separating success from failure.

The first goal, and eventual game winner came at 17:13 of the second, courtesy of Duncan Keith, who redefined the term "iron man" throughout the postseason, with assists going to Patrick Kane and Brad Richards.

The dagger came at 5:14 of the third when Kane scored with help from Richards and Brandon Saad.

The beleaguered Ben Bishop started in net for the Lightning and gave it a valiant try, stopping 30 of 32 shots, coming up absolutely huge more than once to keep things close.

What to make of this series? It could have been over in four, to either side. It could have also easily gone seven. And it could be said that whoever the loser was when it was all over would be able to proclaim that they deserved a better fate and they would have been right. That's not the way championships work though. So be it. Congratulations to the Blackhawks and the city of Chicago and wait 'til next year (which should be awesome), Bolts fans.

Okay, maybe this was kind of an obituary.

Game notes:

  • This was the only game of the series decided by more than one goal.
  • The Lightning finish on a three-game losing streak, their first time losing three in a row since March 6-10 of the 2013-14 season.
  • Prior to tonight, the Lightning hadn't been shut out since Game 5 against the Detroit Red Wings.
  • Almost 17,000 were estimated to be in attendance at a watch party inside Amalie Arena.

Monday, June 15, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 5 recap: Bolts enter must-win territory after dropping 2-1 squeaker

Originally published at on Saturday, June 13th

Yet another 2-1 decision in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final and a blooper reel goal given up by the Lightning is the difference as they head into Game 6 down three games to two, facing elimination.

The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Gme 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena in Tampa Saturday night.

Once again, it's another one-goal decision in what has been an incredibly tight series. This time, the Lightning find themselves on the wrong end and face possible elimination when they face the Blackhawks again in Chicago for Game 6.

The Blackhawks scored first at 6:11 of the first on a goal that is a contender for the worst one given up by the Lightning all season long. Ben Bishop, getting the start after sitting out Game 4, came way out of his net to play the puck and collided with Victor Hedman, leaving the puck all alone for Patrick Sharp to pick up and score on an uncontested slam dunk. Teuvo Teravainen and Jonathan Toews were credited with assists on the play.

The Lightning were dealt a blow when Nikita Kucherov suffered an injury after slamming into the Chicago goal post. He left the game having logged only 1:17 of ice time.

The 1-0 Chicago lead held into the first intermission.

The Lightning tied the game at 10:53 on a goal from Valtteri Filppula with help from Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman.

At the end of two, the teams were tied at one and there was a sense that the next goal would be the decider.

That goal came early in the third, from Chicago's Antoine Vermette scoring at the two minute mark. He was assisted by Kris Versteeg on the play.

There was plenty of time but the Lightning were unable to solve Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.

The Lightning will now have to win Game 6 in Chicago on Monday to stay alive and bring a Game 7 back to Amalie Arena.

Game notes:

  • All five games of the series have been decided by a single goal.
  • Including regular season meetings, ten of the last 12 games between Chicago and Tampa Bay have been decided by one goal.
  • The Lightning are now 1-3 in Game 5's during this postseason.
  • The Lightning honored Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn as the 54th Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's Stanley Cup Final Game 5 contest against the Chicago Blackhawks. Buckhorn, who received a $100,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to friends of Tampa Parks & Recreation for expanding summer initiatives and for community policing within inner city neighborhoods. Buckhorn is a longtime advocate and supporter of the Tampa Bay community. He was an aide to former Mayor Freedman and in 1995 he was elected Tampa City Council. After working several years in public affairs, Buckhorn ran for public office and was sworn in as the 58th mayor of the City of Tampa on April 1, 2011. Buckhorn, working with Hillsborough County and throughout the seven county Bay area, has helped create $2 Billion in new permitted projects. He has also been diligent in creating partnerships to ensure a safer Tampa Bay which has reduced crime in the community by over 20 percent. Buckhorn has helped facilitate the creation of new parks including a crown jewel for the city, the Tampa Riverwalk. As Mayor Buckhorn works tirelessly with and on behalf of the people of Tampa, he hopes to cultivate a true feeling of teamwork amongst the entire Tampa Bay community.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Final: What's REALLY going on with Ben Bishop? Our guess is as bad as yours.

Originally published at on Monday, June 8th

Nobody outside of the Lightning locker room knows why Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop left Game 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Nobody knows if he's going to start tonight or even play again this season. That's not going to stop us (me) from telling you exactly what's happening (unless I'm totally wrong).

In re-capping Saturday night's 4-3 win by the Lightning in Game 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, I said this about Ben Bishop leaving the game and being replaced by Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period...

"Okay then. The matter is now open to baseless speculation, but that's really not what we do here at Raw Charge so we're going to leave that alone for now. Make no mistake, it's the story for the Lightning as the series moves forward until the team issues official communication that renders it not."

What the hell was I thinking? This is the Stanley Cup Final! We only get here, what, every 11 years or so? This is the ultimate prime-time! We have to provide pages to view, links to link to, clicks to bait (alternate headline for this article: "When Bishop did this, I couldn't believe what Vasilevskiy did next!!!").

With that in mind, here are several possible theories I'm throwing mindlessly against the wall, in no particular order, with the hope that one of them sticks, allowing me to claim the title of Genius, unless they're all hooey allowing me to retain the title of Boob. Either way, I absolutely guarantee that one of these theories could possibly be completely rock-solid 100% accurate. Maybe.

1. Bishop was injured, specifically his knee - This one would seem to be dispelled by the fact that he participated in the morning skate in Chicago today, where he took shots. Also, by this tweet yesterday:

If Bishop is going all Good Samaritan on the media one day and taking shots in practice the next, he probably didn't sustain a serious knee injury.

2. Bishop was dehydrated - John covered this, along with other reasonable (aka not  what we're doing here) speculation in this article published earlier. It's a good theory in that dehydration is a nasty condition and is definitely serious enough to cause someone to leave a game and not come back. It's not like he could chug a bottle of one of many popular sports drinks and spring back into action, like in the commercials for the many popular sports drinks. That's being thirsty. Dehydration requires medical attention and may be treated with intavenous therapy (IV) and/or pickle juice.

3. Bishop had, um, digestive distress - This is the one that the wacky morning radio shows are running (oh God, I'm so sorry) with. "OMG, Bishop had diarrhea! Hee hee, ha ha! (Insert utterly horrible Darren Puppa joke and wildly tasteless-yet-appropriate sound effect here)". Jason Garrison was asked about this Saturday night and replied that wasn't the case, which I'm guessing is not something Jason Garrison will consider a career highlight.

4. Lightning coach Jon Cooper was trolling Joel Quenneville -

COOPER: "Hey Andrei, go out there and take Ben's spot for a bit."
VASILEVSKIY: "You got it, coach."
BISHOP: "Say coach, what gives?"
COOPER: "You'll see. Get back out there."
BISHOP: "All right."
COOPER: "Okay, Andrei. Get back out there again."
VASILEVSKIY: "Okey dokey, coach!"
QUENNEVILLE: "Hey! What are you guys doing over there?"
COOPER: "Sorry, I can't tell you that."
QUENNEVILLE: "Can't? Or won't?"
COOPER: "Both."

(Admittedly, this exact theory is a stretch in that it requires you to believe that Andrei Vasilevskiy speaks conversational American English complete with colloquialisms and that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who has won two Stanley Cups is as easily befuddled as Homer Simpson. But parts of it could be sorta true.)

5. Ben Bishop is involved somehow with the Kardashian family - There is no basis whatsoever to this one. None. Completely baseless, irresponsible and empty-headed supposition, rooted in nothing remotely factual. But there's a lot going on with that family and remember what I said about links and page views and click bait? Before you dismiss this outright, please know that I actually did put a lot of thought into this one, and it is literally the stupidest thing I could think of.

Monday, June 08, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 2 recap: Lightning tie series with 4-3 win

Originally published at on Saturday, June 6th

After fighting off an early case of deja vu (getting a 1-0 lead before finding themselves down 2-1), the Tampa Bay Lightning go on to a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in a thrilling back-and-forth Game 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, tying the best-of-seven series at a game apiece.

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Saturday night, to tie the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at a game each.

Up and down, back and forth, two conference champions challenged each other all night long with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming out on top this time.

There were quite a few similarities between this one and Game 1 on Wednesday. From the start, the Lightning came out strong and established the pace and tempo. This time, however, the Blackhawks were not overwhelmed and stayed with the Lightning, as evidenced by the fact that the shot differential was a mere 12-11 edge for the Lightning, heading into the first intermission.

The Bolts got good looks in flurries around the net, generating more scoring chances early in the first period than they did all of Game 1. Blackhawks netminder Cory Crawford was the difference early on, denying the Lightning any good second chances.

The Lightning got the much-coveted first goal of the game when Cedric Paquette scored at 12:56. The goal was originally credited as unassisted but helpers were later assigned to Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman.

Just like Game 1, the period ended with the Lightning up 1-0.

Deja vu set in early in the second when Chicago tied the game at 3:04 on a goal by Andrew Shaw. At the time assists were credited to Andrew Desjardins and Johnny Oduya, but Oduya's was later credited to Marcus Kruger.

A little over two minutes later, very similar to what happened in the third period in Game 1, the Blackhawks took the lead on a goal from Teuvo Teravainen at 5:20. Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp chipped in with help. Unlike Game 1, however, there was lots of time remaining.

Opting not to waste any of that time, Nikita Kucherov answered on behalf of the Lightning less than two minutes later, scoring at 6:52. Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn offered assistance on the play.

Tyler Johnson scored at 13:58 to retake the lead for the Lightning. He was assisted by Kucherov.

Once again, just like Game 1, the Lightning took a one-goal lead into the final period, this time up 3-2.

During the first period the two teams shared a 50% success rate in faceoffs, but in the second and third periods, Chicago owned a decisive edge, winning 74% in the second and 71% in the third. This, combined with Chicago pressing resulted in the Lightning mustering only two shots in the third.

At 3:38 of the third, Brent Seabrook tied the game for the Blackhawks, receiving the benefit of what certainly looked like could have easily been called goalie interference on Marian Hossa. It wasn't and Patrick Sharp and David Rundblad picked up assists on the play.

Around the nine minute mark, Lightning starting goaltender Ben Bishop left the game and was replaced by Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The Lightning, on the second of back-to-back power plays, took the lead again at 8:49, with Jason Garrison netting the eventual game winner with helpers coming from Hedman and Callahan.

Afterward, Bishop returned to the game briefly, only to leave again, Vasilevskiy would pick up the win, turning away all five shots he faced in 9:31 total combined ice time. For his part, Bishop stopped 21 of the 24 shots that came his way in the other 50:31.

For those wondering what was/is going on with Bishop, unfortunately there is no news available at this time. He wasn't available to the media post game because he was "receiving treatment" and coach Cooper refused to even address the matter.

"All right, before we get going, and I hate to be that guy, and I know I talk way too much when I'm up here, I will not answer questions about the goaltending and what happened tonight. I apologize for that." - Cooper's opening remark at his post game press conference,

Okay then. The matter is now open to baseless speculation, but that's really not what we do here at Raw Charge so we're going to leave that alone for now. Make no mistake, it's the story for the Lightning as the series moves forward until the team issues official communication that renders it not.

Going back to what happened on the ice Saturday night, the Blackhawks pulled their goalie for an extra attacker with about 2:00 remaining but were unable to score the equalizer.

The series is now tied at one apiece and will move to Chicago for Games 3 and 4, with Game 3 scheduled for Monday night.

Game notes:

  • Jonathan Drouin made his first appearance in the 2015 NHL Final. Vladislav Namestnikov was scratched.
  • Vasilevskiy is the first goalie to win his first postseason game in relief in a Stanley Cup Final game since 1928.
  • Johnson now holds sole possession of the Lightning franchise record for goals scored during a postseason. He breaks a tie that he held with former Bolts Ruslan Fedotenko and Brad Richards
  • This was the tenth game the Lightning have won when scoring first in this postseason, in which they are now 10-1 under those circumstances.
  • The Lightning are now 4-0 in Game 2's during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
  • Tampa Bay's power play has now scored in eight of their last 13 games, going 15 for 43 (35%) over that stretch.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Phil Esposito as the 53rd Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game. Esposito, who received a $100,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Wounded Warrior Project and youth and amateur hockey programming in the Tampa Bay region. The Lightning legacy can be traced back to Esposito, one of the NHL's most prolific goal-scorers and NHL Hall of Famer, who 23 years ago believed that hockey could succeed in the city of Tampa. His efforts as co-founder helped Tampa win the vote of a permanent franchise by the National Hockey League's Board of Governors on December 20, 1991, which is the beginning era of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It is because of the seed Esposito planted that the Tampa Bay Lightning organization continues to embody and have a significant impact on the city of Tampa by bringing fans together, giving back to the community, stimulating economic activity in the Tampa Bay region, and soon undertaking a major urban development.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Late-breaking, last minute gratuitous stand-up comedy plug!

I didn't exactly lie about not having enough time to devote to anything but the Tampa Bay Lightning's quest to win a second Stanley Cup, but I decided yesterday that I am going to cram in a short stand-up comedy set at one of my favorite open mics, the tremendous "First Friday" show tonight at the fabulous Tre Amici @ the Ybor Bunker.
Support real, live people doing stuff in person!
I don't know if those exact people will be there (Look at 'em; some of them look like hipsters, don't they? Aw, don't be so judgmental like that. I'm sure they're nice. You're right, though; that one guy looks kinda douchey...) but I will, at some point, be standing under that enormous clock (I said clock, you pervs), attempting to take words with which you are familiar, coupling them together in combinations that will surprise you and thereby induce the LOLZ (I'm also going to try to get host Jim Barrett to take pictures of me and put them on the dang web site).

Join me, won't you? You won't? Why not?!?

First Friday
Friday, June 5 * 7:00PM
1907 19th Street

Thursday, June 04, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 1 recap: Blackhawks rally late to take opener

Originally published at on Wednesday, June 3rd

The Tampa Bay Lightning tried and failed to nurse an early 1-0 lead as the Chicago Blackhawks tallied two goals in the final six and a half minutes to win Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final in Tampa Wednesday night.

The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

The early lead, particularly the first goal, has been a key ingredient in the success of both Conference Champions this postseason, with each having won nine games when they've tallied the first marker. The Lightning accomplished the feat tonight only to find out that isn't enough, going into a defensive shell in the third period and getting burned twice late to drop the opening game of the series.

The Lightning started fast in the first period and fairly dominated play throughout the period. They outshot Chicago 10-7 with the Blackhawks getting most of those few shots late due to a couple of power plays. They also held a decisive advantage in faceoffs, winning 14 of 20.

Alex Killorn put the Bolts on top at 4:31 on a nifty goal that saw him at the side of the net where he spun and used his backhand to spike the puck and bounce it past Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford. Anton Stralman and Valtteri Filppula were credited with assists on the play.

The period ended with Tampa Bay up 1-0

The second period came and went with no goals scored and both teams doing a good job of limiting offensive opportunities, although the Lightning had a few good looks in the final three minutes of the period. The Lightning held an 18-13 edge in shots heading into the second intermission.

In the final period, for whatever reason, they came out playing a preventative defensive game, seemingly perfectly content to simply clear the puck from the defensive zone and not attempt to mount any kind of offensive pressure. It's a strategy that rarely ever works in the regular season, let alone a Stanley Cup Final

At 13:28, Teuvo Teravainen broke the seal, scoring on a screened Ben Bishop on assists from Duncan Keith and Andrew Shaw

Just under two minutes later at 15:26, Antoine Vermette jumped on a terrible giveaway by J.T. Brown to score the eventual game winner. Teravainen picked up the lone assist.

Tasked with re-starting an idle offensive engine with under five minutes to play, Tampa Bay couldn't respond, unable to even pull Bishop for an extra attacker until there was just over a minute remaining.

The series continues with Game 2 at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

Game notes:

  • Both teams are now 9-1 when scoring first this postseason.
  • Neither team was able to cash in on power play opportunities, with Chicago going 0 for 3 and Tampa Bay 0 for 2 with the man advantage.
  • Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle assumed assistant captain duties for tonight's game.
  • Brian Bickell was a late scratch for Chicago and was replaced by Kris Versteeg.
  • The Lightning slip to 5-6 at home this postseason, where they have now lost three in a row, something that never happened during the regular season.
  • The Lightning honored the Lightning fans as the 52nd Lightning Community Heroes of the season during the first period of tonight's game, to thank the fans for all of their support. Greg Zimmer, a STM since day one and one of the Lightning's longest tenured season ticket holders, represented the fans and met with Mr. Vinik before the game. In honor of our fans, the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program is donating $100,000 donation to the Gold Shield Foundation and C.O.P.S.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


Originally published at on Tuesday, June 2nd

The hype and hoopla surrounding the 2015 Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks surges toward a boiling point with today's Media Day festivities.

Today, reporters from newspapers, TV and radio stations and blogs (like this one!) were granted access to players, coaches and others from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks during the NHL's official 2015 Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

This was my first time participating in an event like this one and it wasn't quite as bizarre or surreal as what we see when the NFL presents media day prior to the Super Bowl. There wasn't a single person spotted in a wedding dress or any other kind of costume (although there was this one guy with red pants...), but it's still a pretty overwhelming spectacle. It's at least 10 times the media presence at any Lightning games leading up this series, including any postseason games so far. Activities took place on the concourse outside section 128 at Amalie Arena, which was rendered virtually unrecognizable with carpeting on the floor and black drapes along the walls, decorated with large photos from Stanley Cups past.

Pipe-and-drape corridors were constructed to direct the flow of traffic. Podiums for players to stand behind and answer questions were scattered about and there were bright TV lights shining from all directions.

I moved among the familiar faces, either people who have been around the building all season or that I knew from seeing on television, and managed to get answers to a few questions.

Head coach Jon Cooper on getting swept in the opening round of last year's playoffs and the impact that had on the team this season:

"We were feeling really, really good about ourselves in the middle of April and six days later, it wasn't so good. And we went into the summer with the sting of what had happened and I think it fueled us this year. We've had a history of not going into long losing streaks because of the attitude that's in that room."

J.T. Brown on whether making it to the Stanley Cup Final means he has bragging rights over his dad, former Minnesota Vikings running back Ted Brown, who never played in a Super Bowl:

"I actually never thought of it like that but now that you say it, maybe a little bit. But obviously I don't want to rag on him too much because he had a good career himself."

Brown on whether his style of play has changed for the posteason:

"If you look at the regular season, you see a lot of highlight reel goals, a lot of fancy goals. When it gets to the playoffs, I feel like its more shut-down. You're more focused on stopping goals than scoring them, I guess you could say. I think I've played the same way I've played the entire year, but the focus changes in the playoffs to strictly trying to stop goals, but I don't think I've changed too much from what I've been doing all year."

Brian Boyle on whether he's surprised that this team has gotten so far so quickly:

"Not really. It was probably at the first day of training camp when I said this is the most skill I've ever seen in a training camp. There were guys going to Syracuse who could have impacted NHL teams. You know, you have to put it all together and make it work and I think Coop (coach Jon Cooper) has done a great job of that. And everybody has fit in pretty seamlessly when they've come up. We've had holes filled by guys who started at Syracuse. You look at guys like Ceddy (Cedric Paquette), you look at Vladdy (Vladislav Namestnikov). You've got a number of veterans who've been great all year long; Fil (Valtteri Filppula) Heddy (Victor Hedman), Cally (Ryan Callahan). You've got Stammer (Steven Stamkos) leading the way. It's a great mix of guys and we've gotten great goaltending from Bish (Ben Bishop) all year long."

Monday, June 01, 2015

CROSS POST FROM RAW CHARGE: Embracing the non-traditionalness

Originally published at on Sunday, May 31st

Tampa Bay is the quintessential non-traditional hockey market and the Lightning are playing for their second Stanley Cup. A lot of people don't like that. But that's their problem.

"...for me it's just a team that is standing in my way right now." - Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers on facing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 NHL Playoffs

When St. Louis said that prior to the Eastern Conference Final, a lot of Lightning fans took it as a personal insult, although it could be said that it was actually the highest praise he could pay toward the team with whom he'd established himself and spent the majority of his career. For one thing, as an opposing player, regardless of history, that mindset is absolutely correct. And the pendulum swings both ways in that regard; it's exactly the way you'd want and expect Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle, as well as all the Lightning players without ties to the Rangers organization, to approach it.  For another, referring to the Lightning as 'just a team' is a compliment that many provincially-minded hockey people simply can't (or won't) bring themselves to pay.

Don't get me wrong; this isn't intended to be one of those whining, pathetic "everybody is against us and we don't get any respect" screeds. That's a tired, cheap and manipulative ploy, probably the most eye-rollingly hollow and overused motivation tactic ever foisted upon the world of sports. Before the season began, the Lightning were picked by most credible media outlets to have a very good season and by many to go deep into the postseason. The fact of the matter is that the Lightning play in what is frequently referred to as a "non-traditional market" and until ponds freezing over throughout the state of Florida is a common occurrence for 100 years or so, that designation is going to stick. Might as well not only accept it, but go ahead and openly embrace it.

There are those throughout the world of hockey who use that term as a derisive slur, with the intention of demeaning and belittling. The fact that the Lightning, based in Tampa, part of the Tampa Bay region, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the state of Florida will play for the Stanley Cup for the second time in their relatively brief history, laying waste to half of The Original Six in the process (so far), rankles those people to no end. To them, the Lightning are not "just a team" but "just a non-traditional market team" (pronounced most effectively while sneering).

I've never been able to understand that thought process. If you love something as much as these people say they love hockey, why wouldn't you want to promote and share that love with as many people in as many places as possible? Seems to have worked with soccer and basketball. Still, there are people out there who believe the game is "theirs" and should only be shared with those they deem worthy. That's even more reason to go ahead and own the non-traditional title. This is not something that should make you feel embarrassed or insulted or put-upon in any way; this is something that should fill you with a warm satisfied glow. This Tampa Bay Lightning team is giving you the golden opportunity to thumb your nose in the general direction of all those established, provincial thinkers who are under the mistaken belief that the team you root for doesn't even deserve to skate on hallowed NHL ice, let alone hoist its most cherished reward.

Let's recap the opponents the Lightning have faced so far this postseason...

ROUND 1: The Detroit Red Wings (est. 1926 as the Detroit Cougars)

Detroit is called "Hockeytown" because they started calling themselves that. Shut up Warroad, Minnesota, Binghamton, New York, Sarpsborg, Norway and others who would lay claim to that moniker.  The winged wheel logo combined with the word "Hockeytown" is a legally registered trademark of the Detroit Red Wings. The Lightning won that series in seven games.

ROUND 2: The Montreal Canadiens (est. 1909 with the NHA, with the NHL since 1917)

Les Habs have won 24 championships, 22 Stanley Cups since 1927 when the Stanley Cup started being awarded exclusively to NHL franchises, which is at a rate of over 25% of the time. As a result, their fans and media have come to believe they're entitled to win it at least once every four years. Any time they don't, it's seen almost entirely as a failure on the part of the Canadiens. The Lightning brought about this year's failure in six games.

ROUND 3: The New York Rangers (est. 1926)

From the outset of the Eastern Conference Final, we all heard the stories about goalie Henrik Lundqvist's record in elimination games and how the Rangers had never lost a Game 7 on home ice and so on. All very impressive accomplishments to be sure (and now all answers to trivia questions) but because they were presented with all the bombast and hyperbole that often accompanies anything to do with New York sports, where "fast" becomes "fastest" and "pretty good" becomes "greatest", it was as if simply speaking those stats aloud meant not having to actually play the games themselves. Well, they did play the games and the Lightning won four of them, including Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

Meanwhile, we're just down here packing a virtually abandoned shopping mall to standing-room only so we can watch away games together and eating the vegetables we grow in our on-site hydroponic garden while firing off actual lightning bolts inside our arena at home games. Not just a team? That's fine. My point is, you're damn right we're non-traditional. That's not likely to change any time soon, so don't worry about it. On the contrary, embrace it, own it, wear it as a badge of honor! And enjoy the fact that your team is making life miserable for those who have a problem with it.

And now the Lightning will face the Chicago Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup, marking the first time in NHL history a team has faced four Original Six teams in the postseason. Of all the Original Six teams, Chicago is probably the team that has the least history with Tampa Bay, outside of them being the opponent in the Lightning's first game (a 7-3 Bolts win on October 7, 1992 with Chris Kontos scoring a non-traditional four goals in front of a sellout crowd of 10,425 at the extremely non-traditional Expo Hall at the State Fairgrounds). That's about to change in a big way. Right now though, they're just a team standing in the Lightning's non-traditional way.

WARNING: Partial hiatus imminent. Sorry, but GO LIGHTNING!

Because this happened Friday...

THIS is going to start happening on Wednesday...

Yep, the Lightning will play for the Stanley Cup! The playoffs, which began way back on April 16th have made life extremely hectic. And after some things that happened at work yesterday, I now know that things are going to get even more crazy. As such, the "I might not be around that much" caveat I laid out here back then should be upgraded to "I will definitely not be around at all" effective from whenever you stop reading this until June 18th. But I don't want the blog to go completely dark during that time so I'm going to cross-post the stuff I write over at Raw Charge, the blog where I help cover the Lightning. Apologies in advance to those of you who don't care about sports, but since sports is mostly how I pay my bills, this is just how it has to be for a while. I'll be back with the usual fart jokes when this is all over, hopefully after the team brings THIS home...