Olympics: Scared of Switzerland

Olympics: Scared of Switzerland

I was listening to the post-game summary following the Canada-Finland game at the Olympics, and the hosts were discussing how neither Switzerland or Latvia (the two teams who play to decide who faces Canada in the quarter finals) pose a serious threat to the Canadians in the elimination round.

Well, I strongly disagree.

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 5 - Latvia v SwitzerlandI am scared of the Swiss.

A team that plays that solid of team defense needs to be one that is able to strike fear into the Canadian team. All three games that Switzerland has played, have all ended up with scores of 1-0 (the won two of them). That means that they already have garnered two shutouts against Olympic competition. Granted, beating the Czechs this year isn’t the most difficult of tasks, but it still says something about how well this team can play together.

And they have the most important thing: a hot goalie, in Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks. He has been playing extremely well, and this should be considered a problem for Canada.

Plus, they are a massive underdog, with nothing to lose, going against a hockey juggernaught, a team with some of the highest expectations entering the tournament.

Strangely, the Swiss have been a team that have caused Canada fits over the years, which may be surprising to many. Whether it be in the World Championships or the Olympics, the Swiss always play the Canadians tough, and we struggle to get through their stalwart defensive system. The Canadians need shots, lots of them, and traffic in front of Hiller. They need to collapse on their net, and hope for some lucky bounces. It needs to be anarchy out there, and the Canadians need to use their big bodies in order to create havok.

I am confident that this team can win. They have the best players in the world, and their confidence should be boosted after a hard fought win against Finland. By no means are they scoring like they should be, but at least they know that they can play in a tight game, which is probably what they will end up with against the Swiss. As long as they remain confident in their team, and not get rattled by the tight D and make foolish mistakes, they should be fine.

But it doesn’t change the fact that Team Switzerland scares me in this tournament.

House of Cards Season 2

House of Cards Season 2

Note: Since I first posted this, I have finished the season. I have added my comments about the season as a whole at the bottom of the post.

Released for one day. 7 hours later, I have cruised through the first half of the newest season of the Netflix original series, House of Cards.

And it has not disappointed thus far. At all.

house-of-cards-season-2-posterThere is so much to like about this show, but really, it is Kevin Spacey being so deliciously evil that you can’t help but cheer for him, that really makes it all so great. He is absolutely ruthless, and his journey begins just where the first season left off. We have to wonder where he will stop, or where all the deals and promises he makes will have to end. They have to end at some point, don’t they?

There are some big moves in the opening couple of episodes of Season 2, but I won’t spoil them, since this is a show that is worth watching on your own. But there are some good storylines that have come out, and a couple of the smaller characters from Season 1 are getting their own plots now, to the benefit of the show. Of course, there is still plenty of backdoor dealings to keep the more casual fan interested.

I’m sure I will write another post about this series once I have completed the season (which, at this rate, could be later today). Truly addictive television, House of Cards is the best of the Netflix originals, and easily worth the subscription on its own.

After finishing Season 2, I will add a couple of thoughts, without revealing any spoilers.

The best thing about Netflix releasing their entire series’ at once is you can absolutely devour them in a short timeframe. The sad part is that once it is done, it is a really long wait until the next year comes out. I will instantly feel this way about House of Cards. After thrashing through the entire year in less than 24 hours, I will now be forced to wait, like the rest of us, until Season 3 is released, presumably next year sometime. At least, I am assuming they will have a third installment. It is definitely successful enough, and it is more than definitely good enough.

This was captivating political television. There were really good twists and turns throughout, and some maneuvers that one would truly not imagine seeing. As I had noted above, I really liked the new stories with the minor characters. They stay throughout the year, and they are developed well, to the point where you don’t mind watching their segments, and are not just craving to get back to the story of Frank Underwood and his devious schemes.

As for an overview of the entire season, it is great, better than I would have expected. Too many shows promise such great things with the first year, only to disappoint going forward. I wrote about this in my review of the second season of Homeland. But they didn’t mess with this one. There was still work for Underwood to do at the end of the shows first run, and he gets back to business in the second go at it. The schemes, ploys, backstabbing, and back room politics are all still there. And it is absolutely engrossing.

I recommend the newest season of this show with the highest regard. It is truly excellent.

Olympics: Hockey so far…

With the men’s Olympic hockey tournament underway, here are a few thoughts I’ve had from the opening games. At this point, all teams have played at least two games and we really are already separating the good from the bad and the ugly, as happens every year. The prelims really are just a warmup for the teams we know are going to make it to the medal round anyway, as they try and fuse a team together and get some momentum before the elimination games really begin.

Olympic-rings

  • Great job by Slovenia, the tiny former Yugoslav nation with fewer than 200 registered male hockey players, on getting their first ever Olympic win, over the reeling Slovakian team.
  • Even though Finland hasn’t dominated, as a Canadian fan, I am scared of what Tuuka Raask could do in the medal round.
  • The US team has looked dominant, maybe the best team in the tourney so far.
  • 4 goals by TJ Oshie in the shootout against Russia? Incredible. That will be seen as a classic game in no time.
  • Tough blow for Sweden, who were the favorites in my mind. Losing Henrik Zetterberg really hurts. He is a beast, and probably their best player. They have good team depth, however, and should be able to make a run at a medal without him. That D combination of Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson is terrifying.
  • The uniforms: as awful as they were when they were released, they actually look pretty decent on the ice. That goes for most of the teams. I really like the Finnish flag jerseys, the Czech whites, and the Canada reds. Still a huge thumbs down for the black Canadian alternates, and those Russian ones look like a big mess with the white eagle heads. And is Austria just wearing the Canadian jerseys from 2010 with a different logo? No points for creativity there.

Now, specifically on the Canadian team:

  • I want Carey Price as my goalie moving forward. Luongo played well and got a shutout, but that was against Austria. I just don’t trust him to rise up like I would Price.
  • Crosby has been quiet, which shouldn’t really be a concern. He didn’t do tons in Vancouver, either, before scoring that one little goal of his…
  • I am endlessly impressed with our defense. Weber and Doughty have been great in both ends of the rink. Everyone else has been solid as well. No glaring giveaways, and it looks like they are all playing well together. This bodes well as we move forward, since in these short tournaments, D and goaltending are paramount.
  • Why is Rick Nash on this team again? I love to hate him.
  • Hopefully Canada got a scare from its close opening game against Norway. European teams can really shut it down out there, and Canada has to be willing to get dirty in the corners and messy in front of the net to get some mucker goals in order to bear those teams. For example, Switzerland gives you no chances, so you need to capitalize on every sniff you may get.
  • I don’t know if I like playing two easy teams off the hop. I would rather have had the Finns as a second game, a truer test for the team. Then an easy one to close the round robin. This would have given them a bit of a break going into the medal round. Now, they will be playing tough and meaningful games for the rest of the tournament. No more simple ones.
  • Again, those black jerseys were terrible.

It is very exciting going forward, to see which nation will rise above the others. There are still so many contenders out there, and it really is too tough to call at this point. The US looks like the team to beat, but that could change in a moment, which really is the best part about the Olympic tourney.

Go Canada Go!

Eating Edmonton: The Rock Wood Fired Pizza

Classic rock. And pizza.

Sold.

rockA new location on 137th Ave in Edmonton offers up a cool decor, good music, excellent pizza and some really good micro brews. The interior of the bar area is cave-like, with all exposed brick and dim lighting, highlighted by the massive neon signs promoting the various beers the place has to offer. Graffiti on the walls and a reasonable amount of seating (they probably should have gone with smaller tables to get more parties of people in, but that’s a small gripe) makes the place a cool one to hang out in. It avoids the cheesiness of something similar, like a Hard Rock Cafe.

The main draw here is the wood fired pizza. And it is worth the hype. We tried out two kinds, the perfectly seasoned and not-too-spicy Crazy Train and the sweeter and cheesier Founders Pie. Both were absolutely delicious (and tasted great as cold leftovers the next day, as well, something that is very important with pizza). At about $20 for a medium pie, the prices are reasonable, and good when considering the quality and comparable pizzas out there.

TheRock_Food_FramedThe beer was really good as well. Both of us were drinking the Suicide Blonde beer, a lightly coloured and tasty brew. I would definitely go back for more of it. The prices on drinks were reasonable as well, at just under $4 for a 16 oz beer. There is also the option to go for the 22 oz for a little more than a dollar more. Next time I go, it will be tempting to try out their beer sampler, to test out the different beers they have to offer.

At a newer place, often it seems like they would be disorganized or poorly trained, but that isn’t the case at The Rock. The waitresses were quick, attentive, friendly, and cute. Not much more to ask for, is there?

Overall, this place is one to head back to. The food is outstanding, and it is nice to be somewhere where you don’t have to listen to annoying pop songs. Give me Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Clapton any day of the week.

Olympics: Kaetlyn Osmond

There is nothing better in sports than the Winter Olympics. I will watch anything. There is a biathalon on? On it. A little bit of figure skating? Sure, why not? I don’t understand all the technical aspects of the sport, but I feel I get it enough to be a semi-intelligent viewer.

Obviously, my major draw is the hockey tournament, which starts later on in the week. In the meantime, we get the chance to feast on a bevy of fun and viewable sports, where we can cheer on Canadian athletes who have dedicated their lives to their sport, enduring years of grueling training in order to get their few minutes of glory on the world’s largest athletic stage.

You cheer for your country, first and foremost. But you cheer for the great stories, you cheer for the sport, you cheer for the underdogs. You cheer for all the good things that sport encompasses. For a while, you can forget about the politics of it, the problems that Sochi is having, and you can be a fan.

And there is nothing better.

osmondKaetlyn Osmond is our Canadian figure skating champion, and she is hard not to cheer for. At only 18 years old, she is our national champion, and the future of Canadian figure skating. For the past years, she moved across the country to train in Edmonton, while attending Vimy Ridge Academy in the city in order to complete her high school education while driving towards becoming the best that our nation has to offer in the discipline. She is cute, and friendly, and driven to win. She loves to skate. And all of us her in Edmonton are behind her.

Her initial programs in the competition are for the new team competition. Sure, she may have taken a tumble in her long program, but we still look at her with pride. The students of Vimy Ridge Academy are behind her, abuzz that a girl who graduated only in June is representing all of us at the Olympics. This was someone they would occasionally pass in the halls, share a class with, or simply know about through the stories of her victories.

Kaetlyn is a great story, and with years to go in her career, we hope for endless success. For her, for our country, and for sport.

Edit: With her performance, Kaetlyn is now an Olympic medalist! She has helped secure Canada the silver medal in the team skate competition. Great work Kaetlyn!

osmond2

New Trailer: The Fault in Our Stars

When you love a book so much, it is scary to see it come to the big screen. And I love The Fault in Our Stars. I had long wondered why no John Green books had been transformed into films, given that there is such an appeal to his stories, and such a massive popularity among teens. Who of his fans don’t believe that Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns or Will Grayson, Will Grayson would make a great movie? It almost seems as though his novels are made to be classic teen love story films.

I was dreading to see what would become of TFiOS the moment that I heard it was being made into a movie.

And I hate to say it, but I think my fears have been realized. I know that Nerdfighters everywhere will be ecstatic about certain aspects of the trailer. I, unfortunately, am not sold.

The first trailer for the movie has been released, and upon first viewing, I instantly hated it. Upon further viewings, I have softened up my stance, but still am decidedly on the fence as to the results of what this film could be.

The lines, so beautifully written on the page, come across as hokey when heard aloud, delivered by actors (specifically, the actor playing Augustus Waters) that may not have the gumption to handle such a complex role as Hazel and Augustus. The trailer gives us the outline of a definite love story, which the novel is, but holds none of the humour or sarcasm that made the book so completely memorable. If the film lacks this, and it may not, as this is only a preview, then it is simply a sad love story that is left over. And the book is so much more than that. The greatest thing about Hazel in the novel is her unique way of looking at her life. She is going to die, she knows it. She is well aware that she is a grenade, but she deals with this reality in a way so uncommon across literature.

Some positives is that there seems to be many things that have made the cut from the novel into the film. Such as the literal heart of Jesus, a brief glimpse of Hazel reading An Imperial Affliction, going after Isaac’s ex-girlfriend. All of the big speeches from the novel seem to be there as well, although I was pretty surprised to hear chunks of them in the trailer.

I will still see this movie, if only as a sign of my dedication to John Green. As of now, I am uncertain to how it will translate on to the screen, and I am infinitely worried that the incredible story that Green put on to paper will not fully be told on celluloid. Time will tell. I want so badly for it to be a great adaptation. I want to love it like I love the novel. I want to be able to show the movie when I teach this novel to my class, as I already have done a couple of times. I want The Fault in Our Stars, the movie, to be as classic and memorable as the novel.

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman

Today, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment of an apparent heroin overdose. He was 46.

pshA great actor, gone too soon, as too many great actors are. He was great at what he did. The roles I remember him most fondly, and love him the most in, were as the crotchety old music writer in Almost Famous, the caring male nurse in the amazing Magnolia, the weird, just-trying-to-fit-in employee in Boogie Nights, and the non-believing baseball manager in Moneyball. And of course, there is the ultimate guilty pleasure that is Twister. That is not to say that he didn’t have a ton of other great movies. This was, after all, an actor who was nominated for Oscars four times in his career, winning once for his great turn as Truman Capote in Capote. He was always great at giving honest performances of often tortured or complex people, and I loved how he could run his lines in a very stream-of-consciousness type of delivery.

A sad loss for Hollywood, and for us, the audience, as we will no longer get to see his inspired performances.