It’s Thursday, so you know what that means…it’s time for your Weekend Guide!
This edition of WG is a little bigger than most, as we’re going to include the Columbus Day tilt in Rochester. Lots to get to, so let’s jump right in, shall we?
The Good Guys hit the road tomorrow, down I-81 to take on old friends the Binghamton Senators. Sens writer Mike Sharp tells us today that both Ilya Zubov and Drew Bannister are a little banged up at the moment; Zubov did not participate in today’s practice, while Bannister missed his third consecutive day of practice today. Sharp reports that the veteran defenseman is recovering from the ever-popular lower body injury, which he sustained in the preseason. The Sens are coming off a 5-3 victory at home over Hartford last Saturday, led by Martin St. Pierre’s hat trick on only four shots. Sens goalie Mike Brodeur turned away 25 of 28 shots to earn his first victory of the season. Given the focus on skating and forechecking at Crunch practices this week, this could turn into an entertaining game. Your game time start is 7:05.
Saturday night finally brings the long-awaited home opener, when the newly minted Adirondack Phantoms come in to town for a 7:30 date. After ten years, the AHL is back in Glens Falls, and from all accounts, the public couldn’t be happier. I spent some time talking with Tim McManus of the Glens Falls Post-Star this week about the team, and it’s obvious to me that Tim is a guy who not only knows the game of hockey, but truly loves it as well. That much was apparent when I asked him about the reception the Phantoms have received since arriving in town. He expertly pointed out the strengths of the team, most notably their wealth of offensive depth (the Phantoms feature five returning 20+ goal scorers from last year) and veteran leadership (the roster has seven vets with the last minute inclusion NHL greybeard Randy Jones, now playing in Glens Falls).
Tim also touched upon some of the weaknesses of his team coming into the year, specifically a roster featuring two rookie goaltenders and three rookie defensemen. The Phantoms are a team that will probably put up some numbers on the board, but will probably need to, given their relative inexperience in their own zone. Nevertheless, Tim tells me that the feeling within the locker room is that they have the right mix to not only contend for a playoff spot, but to be in the divisional title mix as well. Tim and I talked about a number of things, and a full recap of our interview will be up late tonight. Believe me when I tell you that Tim is a great guy, very gracious with his time and loves to talk hockey. He and the Post-Star crew are doing a fantastic job rebuilding the buzz in the Adirondack region, and you really owe it to yourself to head over to the Phantoms section of the Post-Star and have a read.
(It’s late notice, but Tim is hosting a live chat tonight on his blog, as linked above, at 8:00. Check it out if you can!)
Finally, the boys hit the Thruway on Columbus Day for the first regular season meeting with Rochester. The Amerks dropped their season opener 3-2 to Lake Erie last Saturday. Rochester will feature a very different lineup than last weekend, with the addition of familiar names Jeff Taffe, Michael Duco and Michal Repik. Of note, Jimmy Bonneau has been cut from the roster. With the loss of Trevor Gillies to Bridgeport and the release of Mike Sgroi, Rochester is, at present, missing an enforcer. Make no mistake, though: this year’s Rochester team is much better than the team Syracuse has owned the last couple seasons. As always, expect the bitter rivalry to continue at 7:05.
Now, on to other matters. It’s Thursday, it’s your Weekend Guide, so that means it is once again time for MJ’s PIT…OF…VIIIIIICE!
Last weekend was full of bad beats. I fell into the trap of getting greedy — I was dead certain New England would cover, but because I’d had a few good weeks, I got greedy and suckered myself into turning a sure thing into a shaky parlay. Cardinal mistake from a long-time player. For all you players out there, we’ve all been there before: a run of a few good weeks and decent payouts, and you think you’re ready to break the bank. It also didn’t help that I had some free time in the afternoon while on the road last week and made an absolute mess of last Thursday’s Tigers-Twins game. I felt good (greedy), made a couple of shitty plays early on (live betting is the tool of Satan) and dug a weekend-long hole for myself that I could not escape. However, this is a new weekend, and the slate’s clean. As always, all lines are courtesy our friends at Sports Interaction, the official book of The Chairman’s.
In Big Ten action, you might want to take a long look at the Purdue/Minnesota game. Purdue’s defense, statistically, is utter shit, going into last week giving up over 400 yards per game. They’re starting to turn the corner, though, cutting that horrendous stat down by about 100 yards against Northwestern last week. Yeah, they’re 1-4, but none of those losses was by more than seven points. Minnesota is coming off a close win over arch-rival Wisconsin last weekend, and have yet to blow anyone good out of the water this season. No, Toledo does not count as a good team. Sorry. Given all that, I’m going to go against the grain here and look for Purdue to pull of the upset. For added value, consider taking the under on this one as well. Your college pick looks like this:
Purdue at MINNESOTA (+3.5)
Purdue at MINNESOTA (Under 51.5)
Moving on to the NFL…and this one’s going to be sadistic. For sheer morbid curiosity, let’s have a look at this weekend’s matchup of Cleveland at Buffalo. This game is going to be total and utter shit: two teams with a combined record of 1-7 that have been outscored by a rough 2-1 margin this season. Two teams with inept offenses and nonexistent defenses. Who wins here? The short answer? None of us win. However, with these two shit teams, you have to think the under is the safe play. That’s the, er…highlight…of this week’s parlay:
Cleveland vs. BUFFALO (Under 40.5)
Pittsburgh vs. DETROIT (Pittsburgh -10.5)
Tampa Bay vs. PHILADELPHIA (Over 43.5)
And to wash down all that gambling goodness?
Last week, ol’ MJ had Rumple Minze for the first time in years. I was in Saratoga on business, thoroughly enjoying the food and atmosphere at the awesome Stadium Cafe (seriously — if you’re ever in town, GO EAT HERE) and well on my way to a nice Sam Adams Octoberfest buzz, when I looked behind the bar and saw it in the cooler. There is was, the Devil’s Brew of my youth, the drink that made my stomach feel like the engine on the Batmobile as it roared to life. Some of my earliest blackouts as a younger man were courtesy this fine rotgut schnapps, and it must have been 15 years since I’d last had any. For the nostalgia, I ordered a shot. True to form, it still went down like varnish, burned my esophagus all to hell, and tasted like shit. Of course, I put down a few more and staggered back to my hotel to close out the hotel bar for the night.
The bartender at my hotel was perfect: she was friendly, quick with a drink order and gave me about five fingers of Jack with just enough water to dilute the color in the glass. We worked well together for about four hours, when she left for the night. On her way out, she inadvertently closed out my tab without charging me, so the only drinks I wound up paying for were the last two I had after she left for the night. Sometimes, things just work out.
That’s all for your Weekend Guide. As always, there is always a fine line between stupid and clever.