Title: 2010 men's Olympic hockey tournament
hobbes - February 9, 2010 12:45 AM (GMT)
I have no idea if anyone on here cares about hockey, but the menís Olympic hockey tournament is the only thing in my life that rivals the World Cup.
The competition gets started Tuesday and I legitimately think itís a pretty wide-open chase for gold. With home ice, everyone is calling Canada favourites, but I think thereís four teams with a strong shot and two or three more with a small chance if the draw breaks right for them and their goaltending gets hot.
Some are predicting blowouts in the first round, but I think the draw is pretty balanced and Iím not expecting things to get too lopsided (though Belarusí injury problems could make it an ugly tourney for them). Plus thereís some tantalizing first round games ó Czechs-Slovaks, US-Canada, Sweden-Finland.
In one sense I feel itís a shame that the tournament almost completely over-shadows the Games themselves for some people (and Iím definitely one of them), but on the other hand, this year might the fairest best-on-best competition weíve had in hockey history and I canít ask for more than that.
I donít know how wall-to-wall the soccer coverage for the World Cup is in a soccer-mad nation, but to give you a slight idea of what Olympic hockey means in Canada 23 television stations aired the naming of the menís team live.
ursus arctos - February 9, 2010 03:01 AM (GMT)
I didn't that you had 23 stations in Canada, hobbes . . .
More seriously, I complete agree with you about the potential for this tournament. I was lucky enough to go to several games in Torino, and the quality of play was exceptional. Let's hope that the pressure of playing at home doesn't overwhelm Team Canada (and that the attention given to the tournament doesn't overwhelm the Games as a whole).
Yogi - February 9, 2010 04:24 AM (GMT)
I am looking forward to the tournament too. Canada can handle the pressure of playing at home and I think rightfully are the favorites with the Russians, Americans and Czechs always going to be in consideration too. But one thing I have learned about international hockey tournaments is never count Sweden out. But playing on home ice I still think Canada will win it all.
hobbes - February 9, 2010 10:22 PM (GMT)
|QUOTE (ursus arctos @ Feb 8 2010, 07:01 PM)|
| I didn't that you had 23 stations in Canada, hobbes . . . |
I didnít either! Actually there are 11 channels showing the Games and I hadnít heard of a few of them, but I guess theyíre being broadcast in Punjabi (Hockey Night in Canada is now broadcast in Punjabi, welcome to 21st century Canada), Italian and on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
I think Sweden has more talent than the US or the Czechs. The Finns also consistently perform well at the Games (theyíve won a medal in four of the last six Olympics, thatís pretty impressive).
Whatís interesting to me is that while Canada has the most complete team, I think there could be some questions in goal and the Russians have better goaltending and better forwards. But thereís questions about the Russiansí D, though Iíve been impressed with the KHLers like Nikulin and Korneyev at the recent Worlds.
The Finns and US have the best goaltending, but may not have the talent of Russia, Canada, Sweden.
The format is also pretty interesting, being the best second place team could be crucial and is someone starts slowly it could be a tough road if theyíre sixth or seventh after the preliminary round.
I donít know if there will be as many upsets as there were in 06 (Iím jealous you got to see Games live ursus arctos). Remember Finland and Slovakia won their pools and Switzerland were second behind Finland! I really think thereís more parity than ever.
But I really do love this draw. In addition to three traditional rivalry games, you get a Canada-Swiss rematch and a Sweden-Belarus rematch and Russia-Latvia and Russia-Czech could both have a little extra intensity.
Even Norway-US in Vancouver has a little historical significance that wonít be lost on the Norwegians or the Vancouver fans (provided there are fans at these Games, I never really know if Regular Joes get to attend these games).
ursus arctos - February 9, 2010 10:25 PM (GMT)
I never really know if Regular Joes get to attend these games.
Well, my name isn't Joe, but in Torino, it was actually possible to buy tickets for many of the first round matches on the day of the game. I have a feeling that Vancouver is going to be rather different in that regard.
hobbes - February 9, 2010 11:22 PM (GMT)
I know a local guy who won one of the ticket lotteries and he's getting seats for all of the hockey he wanted. And he was smart. He got four tickets and is using two. He sold the other two sets of tickets for around $25,000 and using that money to cover his airfare, accommodations (which won't be cheap at all) and the cost of the first set of tickets. eBay has gold medal tickets in the $5-6,000 range.
It's good that at least they're using a decent sized venue this time around. The Big Hat in Nagano sat 9,500, the E Center in Salt Lake had 10,100. The Palasport Olimpico was a good size (12,350).
GM Place seats 18,810 and is over 20,000 is you count private boxes (though I'm sure the media needs will cut capacity), so that should help meet demand ó especially for games not involving Canada or the US, though there are games being played at Thunderbird Arena at UBC but that still seats 7,200 which is much bigger than any of the other secondary venues at a previous games.
Sammy Maudlin - February 12, 2010 02:40 AM (GMT)
1) How are the groups divided and what is the tournament format?
2) How long have the teams, especially those with NHL players, had to train together?
ursus arctos - February 12, 2010 03:57 AM (GMT)
1). Three groups of four, with each team playing the others once, At the end of that round, the teams are ranked 1-12 based on points, then goal difference, goals scored, and IIHF ranking. The top 4 go directly to the quarterfinals, with the other 8 playing off for the other 4 quarterfinal slots. From that point on, it is single elimination.
2) Only a couple of days, but keep in mind that all of the medal contenders have at least a good portion of their squad playing in the NHL, so it is a relatively even playing field. Some countries have also chosen to keep NHL teammates together (Canada are playing an entire line from the San Jose Sharks, for instance).
Gunners - February 12, 2010 02:51 PM (GMT)
I don't watch the NHL very often, but I've always loved Olympic hockey. Just a better game IMHO. I took a look at the rosters, and based upon my recognition of players from past international competitions and my extremely limited NHL knowledge, I'm guessing that Canada and Russia are the favorites, followed by Sweden. However, I suspect that the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland, and the U.S. aren't far behind. I was amazed that I didn't recognize the names of fully 1/3 of the American players, but typically the U.S. team is better than the sum of its parts, so I'm going on faith.
ursus arctos - February 12, 2010 03:20 PM (GMT)
That's pretty close to the consensus view, Gunners, though a lot of people would put Finland in the top tier because Miikka Kiprusoff is arguably the hottest goalie in the world right now (and because the Finns have a history of over-performing at the Olympics and are in what is thought to be the weakest group).
BTW, I realize now that I failed to respond to the question about the composition of the groups:
Group A: Canada, US, Switzerland, Norway
Group B: Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia
Group C: Sweden, Finland, Belarus, GermanyFull schedule here
and team rosters here.
Yogi - February 12, 2010 04:52 PM (GMT)
|QUOTE (ursus arctos @ Feb 11 2010, 07:57 PM)|
| 1). Three groups of four, with each team playing the others once, At the end of that round, the teams are ranked 1-12 based on points, then goal difference, goals scored, and IIHF ranking. The top 4 go directly to the quarterfinals, with the other 8 playing off for the other 4 quarterfinal slots. From that point on, it is single elimination. |
2) Only a couple of days, but keep in mind that all of the medal contenders have at least a good portion of their squad playing in the NHL, so it is a relatively even playing field. Some countries have also chosen to keep NHL teammates together (Canada are playing an entire line from the San Jose Sharks, for instance).
This has to be the only tournament I have ever heard of where a ranking is used as one of the factors to determine who goes through to the next round. Well, now that i think about it, this sounds like the ridiculous system they use in college football bowl games with the BCS!
I am looking forward to this tournament though and I appreciate the list of the rosters. Notice Latvia with a player at Germany's Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams! What happened there, the owner is a Dan Haggerty fan?! :D
ursus arctos - February 12, 2010 05:32 PM (GMT)
Yogi, the ranking is only used to break ties if all of the other measures are equal.
It beats a coin flip . . .
German hockey teams often have bizarre English language names (other favorites include Bremerhafen's "Fischtown Penguins" and the Hamburg Freezers). When we were living in Germany, I was told that the Grizzly Adams series had been quite popular there, thus the attempt by Wolfsburg to capture some of the "magic".
I guess that "Baywatch" didn't really work for a hockey team . . .
raconteur - February 12, 2010 08:33 PM (GMT)
I wonder if all the Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams players have beards! :D
I've also wondered why the Boston Bruins have not tried trading the Slovakian player Satan to the New Jersey Devils! :P
I am not an expert on international hockey but it looks to me like Group B is the toughest group in the opening round. Each of the three groups have two difficult teams in them but what of the remaining teams in each group? I would think Slovakia is the "best of the rest" after you get past the top 6 in the world. Has the Russian-Czech rivalry continues post break up of the Iron Curtain? Somehow I imagine memories of 1968 have not yet disappeared.
ursus arctos - February 12, 2010 08:48 PM (GMT)
No, they don't all have beards. The marketing mavens have missed a trick!
Switzerland are actually the 7th ranked team in the world right now, and generally thought to be the "best of the rest". They also did much better than expected in Torino.
And yes, the Czechs and the Russians still don't like other. Nor do the Finns and the Russians, the Latvians and the Russians, etc.
hobbes - February 12, 2010 09:43 PM (GMT)
I donít like that the format favours running up the score as much as possible, but after using a format that had the have-nots playing each other without their NHLers in 98 and 02, this is much better. The 06 format (two pools of six, straight crossover in the quarterfinals) was better, but I can live with this.
The teams also had off-season training camps. And there was an exhibition game two nights ago (I think it was Belarus-Switzerland, but Iím not positive).
Plus Belarus has eight players from Dinamo Minsk and Latvia has 15 from Dinamo Riga. So hopefully that familiarity helps them.
Gunners> itís definitely a new-look American team and with Brian Burke calling the shots there was always going to be some more grit than normal in the roster.
I think your breakdown of where the favourites lie is spot on, but the fact that some of the 4-7 teams have really good goaltending makes for a deeper pool of teams with a real medal shot in my view.
I think the groups are fairly balanced. I would agree that the Slovaks are the best third team, but the Swiss had a great run in 06 and have quality goaltending and wonít be easy to beat. And ultimately they arenít the be-all and end-all.
Itís too bad Belarus has had a horible run of injuries before the tournament. I was thinking they could at least keep it close in some games. Iím hopeful Latvia can push someone too, though I think Norway is going to be in a for a rough, rough two weeks. The Latvian fans are the best in international hockey, so Iím looking forward to them if nothing else.
Martin - February 12, 2010 10:54 PM (GMT)
Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams! That is one of the best names I have ever heard of for a sports team! Hamburg Freezers is a pretty good name for an ice hockey team too.
What is a guy named Douglas Murray doing playing for Sweden? ;)
I really only follow hockey during the Olympics and I have to admit I have heard of more of the players from Canada, Czech Republic, Russia and Sweden than I have from the US team. In fact the only name I recognized for the US was Paul Stastny. Is that the son of one of the Stastny brothers who came to play in the NHL? I assume it is since his birth place is listed as Quebec City. If I recall correctly, the Stastnys were among the first athletes from the Soviet Bloc to come and play a sport in North America.
I also was surprised to read that Jaromir Jagr is still playing.
Looking forward to reading what those of you in the know have to say about these games.
Sporting - February 12, 2010 11:03 PM (GMT)
I know nothing about hockey but googled Doug Murray and found this:
|Murray's maternal grandfather is Swedish hockey player and olympic bronze-medalist Lasse BjŲrn. His paternal ancestors originate from Scotland. While his cousins all have Swedish names, Murray's mother preferred to be different and gave her children Scottish or English names. Murray's brothers are named Charles and Ted, with a sister named Roseanna.|
By the way, it's interesting that the word "hockey" and not "ice hockey" is used in this thread by people who know the game; in Britain at least, "hockey" used alone would always refer to the game played on grass etc., and not ice. Just an observation; obviously, different countries have their own vocabulary for things.
ursus arctos - February 12, 2010 11:14 PM (GMT)
Murray is a "physical" defenceman who plays for the San Jose Sharks, and really is Swedish born and bred, though he has Scottish ancestry. He also went to Cornell.
And you are right about Stastny. He is the son of Peter Stastny, who was the best of the three Stastny brothers who played for the Nordiques in the 80s after being smuggled out of what was then still Czechoslovakia. Peter is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and has also served as a Member of the European Parliament for Slovakia (all the Stastnys are Slovaks, from Bratislava). Paul's brother Yan also played in the NHL.
In addition to Jagr, Sergei Fedorov is playing for Russia, Peter Forsberg is playing for Sweden and Ziggy Palffy is playing for the Slovaks. All of these former NHL stars are still playing professionally (Jagr in Russia and the other three in their home countries). Fedorov is 40, and the oldest "name player" in the tournament.
ursus arctos - February 12, 2010 11:28 PM (GMT)
Sporting, you are absolutely right about "hockey" and "ice hockey".
To North Americans, Eastern Europeans, Scandinavians and the Swiss "hockey" is what is played on ice. The grass/astroturf game is either little known or (in North America), called "field hockey" and played almost exclusively by women).
In places like Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Argentina, Australia and the Indian subcontinent where the "turf" version is much more established, one always sees "ice hockey" to distinguish the winter sport. Germany now tends to use "hockey" for both versions (though the clubs tend all to have an "E" for "Eis" in their names) and in places like Italy and France "hockey" means the winter game, as the other version is barely known.
hobbes - February 13, 2010 12:35 PM (GMT)
It took me a couple of seasons to realize Doug Murray was Swedish, especially coming out of Cornell. Of course I remember a Swedish hockey player named Bobby Williams, so I guess the Swedes just like to throw curveballs at you.
I'm glad there aren't as many ex-pats on this year's Olympic rosters. The biggest foreign 'name' is probably Hnat Domenichelli who was a star in junior playing with Jarome Iginla, but never really panned out in the NHL. Now he's playing for Switzerland.
Ursus you want to break down the US team?
Here's my take: in goal Miller is arguably the best goalie in the tournament, though his recent play is a little worrisome. While he's not a guy that fills me with confidence, Jonathan Quick has been scorching lately and is a big reason the LA Kings are near the top of the NHL and had a club record win streak in January. Either way Quick or Tim Thomas are going to be the best third-string goalie in the tournament. Thomas is also in a bit of a funk, but I think goalies can get hot pretty fast especially when they completely change scenery. Excitement, international competition and two games against Switzerland and Norway might be what Miller needs.
Up front the Americans have some legitimate talent in Patrick Kane, Bobby Ryan, Phil Kessel and Paul Statsny.
Ryan Malone has 21 goals and is having a very good season. I think they'll need to find real finishers since Kane, Kessel and Parise are all a little more of provider than a finisher.
I'm curious how they use Pavelski and Kesler who centre the second lines for San Jose and Vancouver respectively. They're both important players on two of the best teams in the NHL, but I'm not sure either is top six and then it's a question of where they fit and if they play the wing. I'm not sure either is an elite centre at this international level, but I like both players.
This team also has some nice grit. I thought Callahan was excellent for NYR last year against Washington in the playoffs. Dustin Brown is the Kings' captain and is a big body, Backes has good hands and can be physical.
This is a pretty balanced team up front. It's not as explosive as some teams, but Kessel and Kane can be game-breakers despite being 22 and 21 respectively.
The intangible is the national team development program in Ann Arbour (similar to Bradenton) that means a lot of these guys know each other quite well. It could also be a negative (Kessel's draft stock dropped because it was common knowledge that no one at the NDTP could stand him, he's turned into a solid pro, so apparently HS cliques shouldn't be a big factor in draft day decisions).
It looks like the top six will be:
Parise - Stastny - Ryan: which offers some balance and play-making with maybe the most pure scorer (Ryan) that the US has.
Kessel - Pavelski - Kane: I'm not sure I would have put Pavelski here, but he'll add some defensive responsibility to Kane and Kessel and he's probably one of the few guys left that can skate with those two wingers. I could see Kessel playing centre and Malone moving to LW, but that's a pretty offence-first line.
After that it's hard to guess (and clearly this should evolve over the tournament), but a third line of: Brown-Kesler-Backes makes sense to me. Some size, some grit and some decent secondary scoring potentially.
That leaves Callahan-Drury-Langenbrunner with Malone the odd-man out, though he could also get PP time.
I believe Paul Statsny mostly grew up in St. Louis where Peter finished his career. Zach Parise's dad J-P was a Canadian NHLer, best remembered for having a meltdown and nearly swinging his stick at Josef Kompalla the East German referee for Game 8 of the 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series. Kampella's selection was so controversial (former Boston tough guy Wayne Cashman had his tongue severed nearly in half ó he needed 50 stitches ó by a high stick in Stockholm and no penalty was called by Kompalla a fortnight earlier) that the game nearly wasn't played. It's always weird to me to see Parise play for the US.
Defensively Rafalski will be leaned on heavily. A veteran, a good skater and a solid puck mover, the question is who to pair him with. It will probably be with the slow, but reliable Brooks Orpik who logged a lot of minutes with Pittsburgh and makes up for his limitations pretty well (in a similar way Jay DeMerit does as long as he has the right partner) or he may be paired with young Erik Johnson who has size and a lot of skill, but is still 21.
The US has a lot of size on the back end (and they lost Mike Komisarek to injury which could be a big blow. I thought he was great last year and lousy this season, so who knows how his form would have been in Vancouver) but no real alpha male shut down guy. Jack Johnson and Tim Gleason are pretty physical, but I'm not sure Jack is there yet and Gleason isn't good enough. Ryan Whitney has some offensive upside, but I think looks like the seventh D man and maybe a power play guy. I think Ryan Suter will be the puck mover on the 3-4 pair, but I don't know who with. Probably one of the Johnsons I guess.
If you asked me last year I would have said with Komisarek and Paul Martin from New Jersey (who is also hurt) the US could put together a pretty no-name, but quietly effective defence corps. Now I think it's clearly the biggest weakness. That and their scoring depth could be an issue, but it's a young group that should have good goaltending and will get two games to find their feet before an emotionally charged game against the hosts. It's set up pretty well for them. I'm not counting the US out at all.
P.S. Using 'ice' before hockey in Canada would be like an Englishman putting 'association' ahead of football. It sounds jarring and is pretty redundant because there really couldn't possibly be any confusion about what was being talked about. Thanks to ursus for breaking it down though.
ursus arctos - February 13, 2010 03:42 PM (GMT)
Hobbes, I may be a US citizen, but I've been out of the country for almost a decade and couldn't come within a light year of that level of analysis. Among other things, I hadn't realized that Zach Parise was J.P.'s son. There do seem to be a greater proportion of second and third generation professionals in hockey than in any other sport.
Martin - February 13, 2010 11:19 PM (GMT)
hobbes you should be a hockey writer, that was very informative!
My brother lives in Minneapolis and his son, my nephew, used to play youth hockey with Bob Gainey's son, this was when Gainey was involved with the Minnesota North Stars so that should tell you how long ago that was. But I was curious since the subject of second and third generation players came up, if Gainey's son ever made it into the pros?
I am also curious if Gordie Howe's grandsons ever made it into the NHL? If so they could become like the Boones or Bells in baseball with 3 generations of professional players.
Final question, when does the men's hockey start? Last night at the opening ceremonies they interviewed a US player with the LA Kings who attended the opening ceremonies but was flying back to Los Angeles right afterwards so he could play tonight in a NHL match with his club!
hobbes - February 13, 2010 11:46 PM (GMT)
|QUOTE (Martin @ Feb 13 2010, 03:19 PM)|
| hobbes you should be a hockey writer, that was very informative! |
lol Martin. I am a hockey writer, so I guess I found my calling. :)
Yeah Bob Gaineyís son Steve is still plugging away in the minors last I head. Heís played a little with Dallas, but was never a regular. Bobís daughter Laura was lost at sea in the North Atlantic a few years ago and her body was never found.
I donít think any of the Howe grandkids made it, but I agree with Ursus that there are a lot of second generation players who make. There are a lot of Sutters out there. Canadian womenís player Gillian Apps is the granddaughter of hall of famer Syl Apps who used to captain the Maple Leafs in the 40s.
Martin - February 14, 2010 12:22 AM (GMT)
You certainly have found your calling hobbes! I am looking forward to reading your comments on this Olympic hockey tournament.
Thanks for the info on Steve Gainey, that is what my brother had thought had become of his professional career too. And yes, I do remember reading the sad news about what happened to Bob Gainey's daughter. Tragic. Speaking of Gainey I just saw this week in the paper that he is stepping down as the Canadiens GM.
My apologies for the thread drift.
Yogi - February 14, 2010 05:47 AM (GMT)
OK hobbes great work on the US team preview, do you care to do the same, even if briefer to save time, on some of the other top medal contenders? If not do you have a link with a good preview of the competing teams?
I would make an "Old fashioned hockey, eh coach?" crack but I do not think the Hanson brothers style of play would go over well in international hockey! :lol:
Winslow - February 15, 2010 03:46 PM (GMT)
Well, consider this famous incident when Canada met the USSR in the 1987 world junior hockey championships:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vjcr0_NKEA
Gordie Howe was a near-neighbor of mine in the late '70s (friends and I rang his doorbell and met him twice, and he actually gave me a used stick--not his). I was hoping to see him in the opening ceremonies, but apparently he hasn't been well.
hobbes - February 16, 2010 12:46 AM (GMT)
Ahhh the Punch-up in Piestany. Always enjoyable. It helped turn the world juniors into a major event in Canada (the Canadians beat the Soviets in Moscow a year later in a very intense game) and with Glasnost taking the edge of the rivalry, Piestany served to throw gas on the fire of the rivalry before the 1987 Canada Cup which provided two of the three best hockey games I've ever seen.
It's only fitting that two Moose Jaw Warriors - Theo Fleury and Mike Keane - were at the heart of that. And I always felt bad for Everett Sanipass that this became his only claim to fame.
Gare Joyce wrote a book about this game and there's some interesting subtext. Evgeni Davydov was the first player off the bench. But Davydov was from Chelyabinsk in the middle of nowhere and had a chip on his shoulder and the coach was always trying to push his buttons. Davydov was one of the least likely guys to ever start a bench clearer, but clearly he felt he needed to show something to his coach and defend his teammates.
Even Davydov admits he's the first off the bench (and actually he was alone in going first, the rest of the Canadians piled off and then the rest of the Soviets went), but the Norwegian ref Ronning still insists he saw the Canadians go first. Ronning was seriously out of his depth and apparently only got the game because Lillehamer just got the Olympic bid and they were trying to build up Norwegian hockey. You know you're out of your depth when your response as a referee is to leave the ice and turn the lights out.
Both teams were kicked out of the tournament.
Pierre Turgeon stayed on the bench for Canada and some people never forgave him. Stephane Roy got double-teamed and someone kicked him because Turgeon wouldn't go over. Fleury said that Turgeon couldn't fight and he didn't blame him since it wasn't his game. The other Canadian goalie Jimmy Waite didn't fight either because he wanted to stay in the game and was afraid Canada would lose if both goalies were tossed. Since 18 players were ejected from Canada it was moot.
There were some great players in that game: Shanahan, Vladimir Konstantnov, Fedorov, Mogilny. Konstantinov man-handles Fleury in the fight and breaks Greg Hawgood's nose with a head-butt. Keane ran around punching everyone he could find.
Yogi I was going to throw together some thoughts on the other teams, but I was enjoying doing it too much and it got out of hand. I'll post it soon.
hobbes - February 16, 2010 11:14 AM (GMT)
Goal: I donít think itís any secret that Martin Brodeur is on the back end of his career and that he isnít what he used to be. He isnít as consistent and hasnít produced in the clutch the way he has. The Devils havenít won a playoff series in two years. Last night Brodeur was pulled. All of that being said if Brodeur can turn back the clock for two weeks Canada has to be favourites for gold.
Iíve liked Roberto Luongo since he was 17. Heís loved in Vancouver and is a technically superb goalie. But heís never really won much. I donít know if that has to do with being in Florida for so long, but it does make you nervous. M-A Fluery is very competent and could probably do the job. Itís not a weakness, but goaltending is often a Canadian trump card and Iím not sure it is this time around. All three have been in a funk in the last two weeks. Not a good sign. Luongoís getting the nod against Norway and so the tournament is already starting with a surprise and a possible controversy.
Defence: Chris Pronger was abysmal in 2006 and he worries me a little here. Other than that I loved the group they picked. And TBH I knew Pronger was a lock, I was just hoping he wasnít. It was guys like Green and Phaneuf I was really hoping would get passed over.
Niedermeyer didnít impress me the last couple of Ducks games I saw and the Seabrook-Keith pair havenít been dominant with Chicago, but all three are very good. I really like Shea Weber and while heís probably going in as the No. 7, Drew Doughty is ready to step in to any role IMO. He might only be 20, but I love this kid. Pronger and Niedermeyer are the only ones with Olympic experience, but I think this group can do the job. Itís a nice mix of skill, toughness, speed and shutdown defensive play.
Forwards: with the collection of talents up front you would think that scoring should be a strength. But in 06 Canada was shut out in three of their last four games. Some of the most important players this time around (Iginla, Nash, Thornton and Heatley) are all back.
I have few arguments about the group chosen, but my main one is a big one ó Patrice Bergeron. I wouldnít have had Bergeron on the team. Heís going to be on the top line. Bergeron had eight goals last year. Eight. Heís got 12 in 54 games this year. He had 39 points last year and has 37 this year. Seriously. What are they thinking? Well Bergeron was the U20 MVP when he lit up the tournament playing with one Sidney Crosby. Apparently them being together for two weeks in 2005 means they have chemistry. Meanwhile Steven Stamkos has 34 goals this year . . .
It should be Nash-Crosby-Bergeron; the Sharks line of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley. Iím expecting Iginla-Getzlaf-Perry and a fourth line of Staal-Richards-Toews.
Iím hoping they re-unite Nash-Crosby-Iginla which they used in camp, but the talk before they announced the team was that they liked Bergeron.
Getzlaf sprained his ankle and was nearly dropped, but Sunday night he put up four points in his return to the Ducks and should be fine for the Games.
Overall this is the deepest and most balanced team in the tournament and theyíre playing at home. I think they have to be the favourite, but theyíre pretty young and not terribly experienced. There arenít a lot of real proven winners in the group. GM Steve Yzerman is already deflecting a little by calling the Russians the favourites (given back to back world championships) and saying the pressure is on them. To me that looks like Hockey Canada is a little worried about the pressure.
Goal: Ilya Bryzgalov will likely be the starter. Heís been a big part of Phoenixí huge turn around this season. After him is Evgeni Nabokov who is having another great regular season with the Sharks. The worry is that Nabokov has always been pointed at as a reason why the Sharks are perennial regular season greats and playoff disasters. Third stringer Simeon Varlamov is there for experience. None of them have had a good playoff run in the NHL, which is maybe a worry, but the talent is there and Bryzgalov was the man at the worlds last year, so I think goaltending isnít a huge issue and could be a big strength. Nabokov and Bryzgalov are arguably having better seasons than Brodeur.
Defence: if thereís a weakness in the Russian team this is probably it, but I think that belief is over-stated. In their top four, the Russians have two sensational offensive defencemen (Markov and Gonchar who had 64 and 65 points respectively the last season each was healthy) and Anton Volchenkov one of the most under-rated players in the NHL. The reason this group is so discounted is because they have three KHLers (Nikulin, Kalinin and Korneyev) in their ranks. I think the KHL is becomming a very good league and those three could all play in the NHL if they wanted. Nikulin and Korneyev were on both of the last two world championship winners (held while the NHL playoffs are going on so some of the top players are unavailable, though it is still a very good tournament).
This isnít a great defence, but they have some experience and some skill. And most importantly they have good goaltending behind them and some ridiculous offence in front of them.
Forwards: Ovechkin, Malkin, Datsyuk, Kovalchuk and Semin. Those five and probably Alexander Radulov from Ufa could be the top six. Of the NHLers no one had fewer than 30 goals last year. In fact Datsyuk had the fewest with 32, but he made up for it with 66 assists. Kovalchuk was the best player on the ice at the last two worlds. Heís scored the game winner in the last two world finals (both against Canada btw).
Then add in character and leadership from Fedorov (who is the Franz Beckenbauer/Lothar Mattaeus of his generation, too old to score a ton, he reinvented himself as a two-way centre who is great defensively. Fedorov is one of the greats IMO). Morozov will captain. Viktor Kozlov brings size and a lot of experience.
This is a great forward group. Maybe not as deep as some, but no one can even come close to their top six. No one.
Goal: Itís up to Henrik Lundqvist and heís going to have to be great. Heís capable and while I donít think heís truly an elite goalie, heís pretty consistent and he tends to be at his best in the playoffs. He also was very good in leading the Swedes to gold in Torino. The Monster Jonas Gustavsson will back up and veteran Swedish league goalie Stefan Liv should be No. 3.
Defence: Theyíre the champs and theyíre talented, so you canít count them out, but man the Swedes have issues. There were some odd choices and one of the obvious ones was 36-year-old Magnus Johansson who plays in Sweden and looked very ordinary in his short stay in the NHL. Iím not sure 19-year-old prodigy Victor Hedman was ready, but the 6-6 rookie has a manís body and if youíre bringing eight defencemen why not bring the future?
Lidstrom is their best player and a huge key. I like Ohlund a lot, but heís had a bit of a tough go in Tampa, though that may not be all his fault. Kronwall has been fighting injuries and adds a nice physical element along with Murray. I think Enstrom is pretty under-rated and Iím curious to see if he can contribute offensively at this level. I donít see Atlanta a lot, but I like him every time I do.
I think Tallinder and Murray can both quietly do a pretty good job (especially Tallinder, who should be the other top-four d-man), but Iím not crazy about Oduya. If they go six deep theyíre not a bad group. They donít have a lot of flash, but they have some effective players. But Oduya and Johansson could be liabilities. At the high end Iím not sure theyíre much better than Russia if at all and theyíre probably worse than a few other big six nations.
Forwards: After Daniel Alfredsson, arguably the best three Swedish forwards are all centres ó Zetterberg, Henrik Sedin and Backstrom. Tomas Holmstrom got hurt and was replaced by the Mule Johan Franzen. Franzen has played six games this year after coming back from knee surgery, but I think theyíre going to have to lean on him to be in the top six.
On the upside Henrik Sedin is leading the NHL in scoring with 80 points and he and his brother are playing at home in Vancouver, so they could be one of the most dangerous lines in the Games. I think you maybe put Backstrom on their wing? And then use Franzen-Zetterberg-Alfredsson and really front load the top six.
Loui Eriksson and Patric Hornqvist are both having decent offensive seasons and could find their way onto a higher line, but in my mind are going to be secondary scorers.
After that it gets sketchy. Freddy Modin is 35 and having a terrible year. I canít believe he was chosen. Wienhandl is having a huge scoring season in the KHL, but Iím not convinced. I guess Iím not convinced he deserves a spot in the top six, but maybe he does. Maybe he pairs with the Sedins and they let Backstrom play his natural centre spot and play with Eriksson and Hornqvist? That would provide three pretty balanced scoring lines potentially.
Pahlsson is good defensively, but they donít have a lot of guys in that mold (Freddy Sjostrom would have been a nice pick, so too Mikael Samuelsson who has Stanley Cup experience with Detroit).
Then thereís Peter Forsberg. Sweden were one of a few teams who took 8 and 12 instead of the normal 7 and 13. Maybe teams are going to roll four pairs of D, but I would want my top four defencemen on the ice a lot more than that, so I donít know why you have two extra defencemen. Especially since it leaves no cover for injuries up front. Thatís an important point when you consider that they took Forsberg who is chronically injured.
This is a team that made some puzzling choices and Iím not sure are as good as they could be, but theyíre the defending gold medalists and theyíve got talent, so Iím not discounting them. My gut tells me theyíre too old and not good enough to win, but weíll see.
Goal: This will be a very interesting decision. Kiprusoff made waves when he milked an injury and missed 2006, but didnít miss a game with the Flames. In 2002 he turned down the call to establish himself in the NHL. Itís believed he told Jari Kurri and his staff that either theyíd start him in Vancouver or donít bother selecting him. I donít think heís the fans choice in Finland and I know some people were mad they chose him at all. Even if he is the most talented option.
In the meantime Antero Niittymaki was the star of the Finnish team in their silver medal run of 06. Based on their NHL form Kipper would get the nod, but Iím not sure. Niklas Backstrom is a pretty solid goalie in his own right. This could be the Finnsí strength or it could be a huge distraction.
Defence: Itís not a great defence, but itís probably better than it looks. In fact it might not be far off from Swedenís or the Americansí. Timonen and Salo are a nice top pair. After that talent drops, but itís not bad. Lydman and Pitkanen have had better years, but theyíre solid at 3-4. It drops off from there, though Lepisto of Phoenix isnít bad. I donít expect much from Kukkonen, though heíll probably be in the last pair while Niskala is probably off to work the power play.
Theyíll need to be better than the sum of their parts, but their forwards will help out and they should be a good system first group that will make it easy for their defence to play a simple game. And I think this group can do that so long as Timonen and Salo can deal with other teamsí real high-end guys. Seeing how they fare against the Swedesí decent offensive depth will be a good indicator if the Finnish back end can has the horses to contend.
Forwards: I wonít pretend to guess what Finlandís lines might look like. Goal-scoring looks like a problem. Simply put the Finns donít have as much talent as any of the other contenders and they really donít have the scoring of any other big nation.
Niklas Hagman is going to have to score because no one else is doing it. The Finns as a nationality are struggling to score this season in the NHL. Saku and Mikko Koivu, Selanne, Tuomo Ruutu and Oli Jokinen are scoring less than usual. Filppula in Detroit has been hurt (and isnít exactly prolific anyway).
Jussi Jokinen has as many goals as Hagman and is behind only Mikko Koivu in points but wasnít chosen. In fact heís gone off since not being chosen, though it wasnít like he was playing poorly before the teams were named. He also had a great playoffs with Carolina last year after being out-right released by the worst team in the NHL. I canít believe youíd leave a clutch guy like him off. Heís a streaky player that will drive you crazy over an 82-game season, but when heís in the mood he can be great. For two weeks he could be money. I guess weíll never find out, though some Finnish fans are trying to figure out which guy they can Ďinjureí before the tournament starts to get Jussi into the team.
Jere Lehtinen isnít what he used to be, but is an important leader despite being 36. Ville Peltonen at 36? Iím not so sure. Jarkko Ruutu is a pain in the ass to play against and they will need plenty of guys like him to be hard to play against while staying disciplined.
The Finns are full of gritty two-way players. They should be defensively responsible and that got them a long way in 06. Theyíre going to be very scrappy and that has held them in good stead over the years.
The Czechs are on a really rough stage in their history. Theyíve struggled to really develop elite players and donít have the depth that some countries do. In fact I think the Slovaks are a better dark horse to win the whole thing than the Czechs are. But then I started really looking at their team and thinking about it and I donít know. Thereís holes, but if it comes together . . .
Goal: Tomas Vokoun has spent a lot of his career on bad NHL teams. He doesnít have much playoff experience and yet is consistently a very good NHL goalie and is a two-time all star. He was fantastic when the Czechs won the worlds in 2005. Heís got enough international experience and is one of the most experienced NHL goalies in the tournament. He can run hot and cold, but in the right form, he could steal games the way a Kiprusoff, Niittymaki or Miller might. Ondrej Pavlec is a competent back up and is having a good season, but the Czechs need Vokoun to stay healthy.
Defence: This is an interesting group. At first I wasnít overly impressed, but the more I thought about it I realized they have seven defencemen who are top-four NHLers on their team. Iím not sure anyone beyond Canada and the U.S. can claim that. Thatís not a huge compliment, but these guys have a lot of good defencemen. they just donít have any great ones.
Pavel Kubina is having a good year and has 34 points. A guy you donít notice a lot, Zbynek Michalek, is having a very steady year on a very good Phoenix team play with Ed Jovonovski. He might be the steady stay-at-home guy to pair with either Kubina or Tomas Kaberle who has a whopping 46 points already this year with Toronto (though a lot of that must come on the power play).
After that I like Zidlicky better than Hejda, Polak or Kuba, but they donít drop off much. Even Miro Blatak from the KHL is a pretty defensively responsible guy who can move the puck.
Kubina and Kaberle (especially) arenít great defensive defencemen, so I wonder if the high end talent is there to deal with the forwards of Canada, Russia and Sweden. But they might be good enough to get them to the semis.
This is the other team that used 8 and 12. And they still didnít have room for Jaroslav Spacek or Roman Hamrlik from Montreal.
Forwards: On paper this group is average, but probably not good enough to contend. But thereís a few burning questions tied to each other: how good are the KHLers? and most importantly how good is Jaromir Jagr going to be?
Jagrís 37, but heís having a good year with Omsk Avangard netting 22 goals. He was good for nine points in seven games at the worlds last year. If he can find his best form he could help the Czechs spring an upset. Iím not picking the Czechs to make the semis, but theyíre really one good performance against a top team away from doing it. And all they may need is a win over the Russians in the opening round or an upset of the Finns in the quarters or something to do it.
There are a few countries that passed over decent NHLers because they liked their KHLers better. It will be an interesting subplot to see how that works out. Clearly their scouts feel the KHL players are better than some of the NHLers. Amongst the other KHLers, Josef Vasicek is having a good year with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl leading them in scoring with 44 points so far. Tomas Rolinek is leading Magnitogorsk Metallurg in goal-scoring (Fedorovís team).
The Czechs have really been hurt by injuries as Ales Hemsky and Milan Hejduk are both out. That would have really changed their dynamic up front.
Still Tomas Plekanec is having a breakout season with nearly a point per game (60 points, 43 assists) centering Montrealís top line. Milan Michalek has been consistently around the 60 point mark as a top-six guy on San Joseís perennial contenders and should be around 50 this season in Ottawa. He has 20 goals which should help and he adds some size to a small forward core. Martin Erat is a similar level player and has 18 goals for Nashville.
Tomas Fleischmann has 18 goals and 43 points with a great Washington team. Havlat had 77 points last year on a good Chicago team and heís only 28 (he seems a lot older than that to me). Elias had 77 points last year and is a good two-way player to boot.
Vasicek needs to have a good tournament because heíll likely centre one of the top lines. You could see Elias-Vasicek-Jagr and Iím thinking maybe Fleischmann-Plekanec-Havlat. Which isnít bad really. Maybe Michalek takes Fleischmannís spot (I know Fleischmann, so Iím biased), but thereís some possibilities to create offence depending on whoís playing well.
Roman Cervenka is the best player in the Czech Rep. and he could be in the NHL by next year if he wants. He is supposed to be one of the best players not in the NHL in the world and consdering the talent that left for the KHL thatís pretty high praise.
Krejciís numbers arenít great this year (only 11 goals), but I like his grit which might be a characteristic in short supply for the Czechs. Petr Cajanek is a pretty good two-way player too.
The Czechs are going to need some forwards to step up and as deep as the defence is Iím not sure itís good enough. A lot will depend on whether Vokoun can get hot and steal a game or two. I think he can do it. Still for a country that has exactly one player drafted in the first round of the NHL draft in the last 10 years (Michalek) on their roster, this roster is better than expected. The perception is that young Czech prospect after young Czech prospect has flopped in the NHL, yet this team isnít ancient and they arenít no-hopers.
This team kind of fascnates me because they could do anything and it wouldnít surprise me. They should probably finish second in their pool, win their second round game and then lose to someone like Sweden in the quarters. But they tend to either over-achieve or totally flame out. You could imagine them beating the Russians to win their pool or pulling an upset in the quarters . . . and I can also conceieve of them losing to the Slovaks, finishing third in their pool and be faced with a tricky game against the Swiss or Germans in the second round . . .
Goal: Jaroslav Halak. After having a shockingly good forward group and no goaltending, the Slovaks have a game-breaking goalie. Unfortunately he can also be awful. He had a rough outing Saturday and was pulled and heís been battling with Carey Price for the starting job this season, but at times this year heís been sensational. Around Christmas he went 6-1 with two shutouts and was maybe the hottest goalie in hockey. Right now heís not playing as well, but if he can find that form, the Slovaks could have a shot at a medal.
Peter Budaj saw action in 2006 as he played three games and did well, but heís backing up in Colorado and I donít think heís likely to put in the kind of performance the Slovaks need. Ratty Stana has international experience and plays for my boys Cherepovets Severstal in the KHL. Heís a former Moose Jaw guy too, so I have a lot of love for Ratty, but Iím sure heís No. 3.
Defence: Not terribly deep, but they have some high end guys and match up better than they have. Obviously it all starts with Zdeno Chara. The 6-9 defenceman is the tallest player in NHL history and is the best defenceman in the NHL. Itís somewhat rare for a player to log a ton of minutes internationally, but if Iím the Slovaks, Chara gets 25-35 a night.
Lubomir Visnovsky hasnít been as good since he left LA, but he has 10 goals and 30-some points from the blue line and is an elite offensive defenceman at the NHL level. I like Andrej Meszaros but heís not playing that well with TB. Iím not crazy about Jurcina (heís very slow) or Sekera, but if they double shift Chara I can see a guy like Sekera doing enough.
Martin Strbak had a cup of coffee in the NHL, but the big, decent skating vet is a career Euro who is having a good KHL season. At 34 he may have lost a step though, I havenít seen him in a few years.
Forwards: They're getting a pretty long in the tooth, but there is some talent up front. The question what they can get out of it. Seven of the 13 forwards are from outside the NHL, but all of them made the NHL and some (like Ziggy Palffy and Jozef Stumpel) were pretty good NHLers.
It's amazing to me that Marian Gaborik at 28 is the second-youngest forward there (Kopecky is only three months younger). Gaborik and Marian Hossa are going to have to drive the forwards group and really provide a lot of offence because Demitra and Satan have been fighting injuries and may be past it. There are a lot of 'name players' but not too many of them have done a whole heck of a lot recently.
The biggest worry right now is the fact that Marian Hossa, Gaborik and Satan all got hurt before the start of the Games, but all were left on their teamís roster.
What do guys like Richard Zednik, Stumpel, Palffy or Lubos Bartecko have left to give? Can one or two of the eight forwards over 30 that they have play at the level they need to to give the Slovaks the offence they need?
The Slovaks do have some size up front which could help. Michael Handzus will offer good two-way play and may add some offence. Marcel Hossa may be able to add to the scoring too, but overall I'm not sure they can get enough out of this group.
You like to have some experience, but I think young players have proven that they can step in and fill big roles and have been amongst the biggest players in the NHL. Itís becomming a young manís game and the Slovaks having a lot of things going against them right now.
I was going to brief up the rest, but ran out of time. In short:
Germany not as good as usual, still might be eighth best. Added Joachen Hecht as an injury replacement which should make them better. A handful of NHLers make them the best of the rest, but inconsistency means they may not ultimately make the quarters.
Swiss has goaltending (Hiller from Anaheim), some defence (Streit for NYI and U20 Luca Sbisa), but can't score. Still were second in their in 06 pool and beat Canada so who knows. Could be a tricky team for contenders starting with the U.S.
Latvia has a lot of teammates from the KHL. That continuity still probably won't help in deep pool. Skrastins and Bartulis only NHLers, though they could have had others.
Belarus lost two NHLers to injury (Andrei Kostitsyn and Mikhail Grabovsky). All told they had to change six players from their initial roster. Andrei Mezin (the hero of their semi run in 02) can't save them here.
Norway plays Egil Olsen hockey. They qualified with defence-first approach, it shouldn't do them any good here. First time back since Lillehamer.
If anyone read all of that, congratulations! It was for me as much as for you, so hopefully someone enjoyed me gathering my thoughts.
Merengue - February 16, 2010 04:40 PM (GMT)
That was wonderful hobbes, I do not know much about hockey but am anxious to watch it in these Olympics after reading this comprehensive preview. Superb.
So I take it the KHL, the Russian hockey league, (what does the "K" stand for anyway?), is now the world's #2 league behind the NHL. is it backed by wealthy hockey loving oligarchs?
ursus arctos - February 16, 2010 04:43 PM (GMT)
"Kontinental", and yes, there is significant oligarch involvement.
Truly a superb piece of work by hobbes. Better than anything I've read in the Globe & Mail or on the CBC (not to mention US sources).
raconteur - February 16, 2010 04:53 PM (GMT)
Hobbes your opus is a true work of art. Excellent work and I find it hard to really add anything to that. My question is when does the men's hockey tournament begin? The women's event is already underway but you would thnk that with so many group games to be played that it would have begun by now, 4 days into the Olympics. Second question is what arenas are being used besides the Vancouver Canucks home?
ursus arctos - February 16, 2010 05:07 PM (GMT)
It starts today, raconteur.
Almost all of the men's matches will be played at BC Place (the Canucks' home), but there will be a couple at the University of British Columbia (which is where many of the women's matches have been played).
Canada - Norway
US - Switzerland
Russia - Latvia
raconteur - February 16, 2010 05:16 PM (GMT)
I guess we could expect the Latvians to be fired up to play the Russians today.
Gunners - February 16, 2010 08:15 PM (GMT)
ursus arctos - February 16, 2010 10:30 PM (GMT)
Good result from the US men in the tournament opener. If they beat the Norwegians (which they should do fairly easily), they are through to the next round no matter what happens against Canada.
As hobbes (I think) mentioned above, a problem with this format is that it encourages the strong countries to run up the score on the relative minnows, and Norway's three turns as the ducks in the shooting gallery begin tonight.
hobbes - February 17, 2010 08:48 AM (GMT)
ģ from Tuesday
US 3 Swiss 1
A pretty good opener for the U.S. The Swiss were playing their game ó clogging the neutral zone, containing and forcing turnovers ó pretty well until a bad clear by Raphael Diaz was pounced on by Bobby Ryan who finished quickly and ruthlessly.
After that the U.S. dominated the second period, but got sloppy in the third.
The US lines surprised me a little: Kane-Statsny-Parise is a nice combo and while they didnít score I thought were dangerous and had a good game. The Swiss were playing to not allow odd-man rushes which didnít help this line, but they were surprisingly dominant on the cycle. When the chemistry comes they're going to be very tough.
Kessel-Pavelski-Malone were pretty quiet and I thought Kessel in particular didnít play well.
Langenbrunner-Kessler-Brown did their job defensively and were physical without really being as punishing as I expected. They should be the shutdown group, but didnít have much of a challenge against the Swiss.
The fourth line of Ryan-Callahan-Backes was fantastic. They led the way physically, they scored twice and killed on the cycle. Late in the first Chris Drury got his first shift on this line and they had a fantastic shift. Then on Druryís second shift (and they rotated who he filled in for) Ryan scored the opener. All four of those guys were going today.
I thought the U.S. did a nice job of being physical and getting to the net. The Swiss pushed back and didnít back down. Theyíre more physical then you expect traditionally, so pushing them around was no small feat, but I thought the US dominated physically and that helped them get other areas of their game going.
I totally forgot about the subplot from last year when Backes broke Julien Sprungerís neck with a relatively innocent hit at the worlds last year. Backes was suspended and tossed, but it wasnít as vicious as it sounded. Sprunger just got back in time for the Olympics, but Backes was huge this afternoon.
The U.S. power play was kind of interesting with Langenbrunner playing the point (as he does in New Jersey) with Rafalski, Brown, Kane and Parise (I think I got that first group right). They were running an umbrella so Langenbrunner wasnít often actually on the point, but Iím curious how this look works against better teams with only one true defenceman. The other U.S. unit was more orthodox and scored the third goal thanks to a greasy Malone.
The back end was pretty good, especially both Johnsons, but I thought Whitney was awful. He made a handful of mistakes which led to scoring chances and was torched by Sandy Jeannin early in the third. Gleason didnít impress me a lot either. He was beaten on the give-and-go that led to the goal.
Miller looked sharp with the goal being a big exception. Itís tough not getting many shots, but I thought he wasnít fighting the puck and looked good in the little things. It was still a horrible goal to give up.
Weber for the Swiss had a bad game getting beaten twice and man-handled physically by Backes on the second goal. As one of their few players with NHL experience and as Streitís D partner he has to be better. I thought the Swiss used their four pairs too much and should have rolled the top pair and the Blindenbacher-Sbisa pair more too.
Once the Swiss got a little momentum and confidence in the third I thought they looked not bad. They committed to the attack and pushed their defencemen more and really had the U.S. on their heels a little.
Their old top line of Paterlini-PlŁss-RŁthemann never really got going, but Domenichelli-Sannitz-Sprunger played well and Roman Wick had a good game too. Jeannin can be better. They may have a little more up front than I thought, but I'm not sure they're going to show it unless they're down and have to open it up.
Canada 8 Norway 0
For a bit I thought Pal Grotnes had another 50 save effort against the Canadians in store. If Norway had left him in it would have been closer.
Seriously, Bergeron? In two periods without him, Iginla goes from fourth to top line and scores three goals. How hard is this? Iginla-Nash-Crosby. Why did Bergeron make the team?
I thought Crosby had an off-night and he still had three assists. Jesus.
I know I pumped Shea Weberís tires, but he wasnít great. But Doughty was great. And watching Pronger reminds me of watching Ray Bourque (when he could be bothered to represent his country) - he may be an NHL superstar, but then you watch him internationally and realize that he's not very good at, you know, skating. Pronger was fine, but at times it looked like his skates were made of cement.
The Shark line was good and so was Getzlaf-Perry-Staal.
Trygg and Jakobsen were excellent on the Norway back end and they were missing their only NHLer in Tollefson due to a personal matter (?). Thoresen, Vikingstad and Aasen all played pretty well too. They were better than I expected.
And credit to Norway for playing the piss out of Holos and Trygg. I donít think anyone had more ice today and I think them playing four D really helped them keep it close for as long as they did.
In the first they were able to make a clean breakout pass instead of straight up chipping and chasing. Canada wasnít working hard enough or being physical enough and Norway was transitioning well.
I was pleased Canada picked it up and made it harder on them in the second.
I only half-saw the Russia-Latvia game at this point, so Iíll watch the tape later, but Russia looked pretty good. Though I think it needs to be Bryzgalov and not Nabokov. That first goal was pretty soft.
Not sure if Iíll see many games live tomorrow, but I hope I can.
Thanks for the kind words. One of the reasons I enjoyed doing it is because no one else does. Iíve done similar stuff for every tournament since 98. No one bothers to look at the smaller nations and no really worries about depth and line combinations on the bigger teams.
Gunners - February 18, 2010 02:33 PM (GMT)
|QUOTE (hobbes @ Feb 17 2010, 12:48 AM)|
| Thanks for the kind words. One of the reasons I enjoyed doing it is because no one else does. Iíve done similar stuff for every tournament since 98. No one bothers to look at the smaller nations and no really worries about depth and line combinations on the bigger teams.|
Hobbes, you're absolutely correct, and that's why I really have enjoyed your reviews. The major news sites focus entirely on the stars for the U.S. and Canadian teams, while even the hockey-specific sites focus primarily on the six favorites. It's tough to find good reviews of the Swiss, Norwegian, Latvian, Belarussian, German, and Slovakian teams, and its almost impossible to find thorough analysis of the lines and defensive pairings even for the favorites.
No upsets thus far, but I suspect it's only a matter of time....
ursus arctos - February 18, 2010 03:33 PM (GMT)
Sweden were rather unimpressive against the Germans last night. They will lose to the Finns if they don't pick up their game considerably.
hobbes - February 18, 2010 07:21 PM (GMT)
In the early game the Finns dealt with Belarus fairly easily, though I expected the Belorussians to be the team most succeptable to being blown out, so 5-1 isn't too bad. Teemu Selanne tied the Olympic point record with an early assist.
The Swedes didn't really impress, but I give Germany a lot of credit.
I didn't like the Swedish defence pairs much at all. Kronwall-Lidstrom is fine, but not who I would have paired and Enstrom-Ohlund isn't bad, but leads to problems: such as Oduya-Murray? How slow are those two? Pair them with someone with speed and then Tallinder a nice quiet steady guy who could pair nicely with a high end guy is with Johansson . . . Enstrom didn't have a good first game and Oduya and Murray were liabilities.
They took too many penalties and were very lucky that the Germans didn't score on the 69-second five-on-three to open the second period. Hecht and Ehrohoff both struck iron and Hecht really should have finished. Oduya's idiotic checking from behind didn't cost them.
The Germans were unlucky to go behind as Daniel Sedin's butt hit Greiss in the face on the power-play goal by Ohlund. The second goal was beautiful as Backstrom walked out and fed Eriksson with an unmissable chance.
That play was started when Sulzer bailed out on contact and Alfredsson stole the puck. Sulzer made a few soft plays and it cost the Germans dearly. The Alfredsson-Backstrom-Eriksson line looked really good.
The Gernan NHL line was playing well though they kept going offside. Tripp was a nice physical presence and Hospelt and Felski both had pretty good games. The Germans are deeper up front that I thought.
And it was awesome to see Sven Butenschoen still playing with Germany and rocking a ridiculous beard. Surely he needs to get traded to the Grizzly Adams ASAP.
The Czech-Slovakia game was the game of the tournament so far and looked like a classic for 30 minutes until the referees took over.
A great tempo and intensity to the opening 30 with both goalies playing great. The crowd was fantastic and looked to be full of partisan fans.
Then a bunch of ticky-tack penalties got called and the flow died for the rest of the second and then in the third the Czechs protected what they had and sat back being out-shot 12-2.
Jagr has to be the MoTM, but Patrick Elias was the best player on the ice. He was dazzling. He and Plekanec played great together and they were so good you barely noticed that Marty Havlat was MIA. Jagr-Cervenka-Cajanek had some good chemistry too. Cervenka played really well and Cajanek nearly scored twice.
The Czechs opened the scoring when a point shot hit Elias' behind. The Slovaks tied it early in the second on a great snipe by Gaborik who wasn't the feeling the affects of his injury at all.
Marian Hossa was the best Slovak, but missed too many great chances. He hit the post and then seconds later got his pocket picked by Jagr who in two strides was suddenly on a partial breakaway which he didn't miss. Hossa wanted a hook and based on how tight they had been calling things it was a hook, but it was in that grey area between being strong, lifting the stick and winning a battle and obstruction. But in my mind if you aren't going to call a stick infraction that was leading to a breakaway, you can't call half of the penalties they called earlier in the period on play that were going to have no bearing on the game.
Chara's second penalty of the period (probably deserved though the Czech dove a bit too) led to Jagr dominating down low and flipping the puck cross-crease to Plekanec who willed himself to one-hand the puck over the line in the crease. That kind of battle in close was something the Slovaks lacked a little and Plekanec's goal with two seconds left was a killer.
Marian Hossa and Gaborik looked unstoppable together on the power play so they paired them for third and put them with Demitra and man they looked good. It made them a little top-heavy, but it was a good line. They each played 20 mins, which is a lot for forwards. I thought Richard Zednik had a lot of jump and played well.
I liked what the Slovaks did with their defence: Chara-Meszaros and Strbak-Visnosky and then play the crap out of them. Jrcina and Sekera struggled together and for a guy like Jrcina that's there to be good down low and in his own end, he lost a lot of battles. They gave Chara superstar minutes (26:28 and he spent another four mins in the box) and he wasn't good enough on the day. They need him to be their best player, but I liked that they leaned on him. They have to because they don't have the depth on defence other teams do.
They also shortened their bench to roll three lines. It was an interesting ploy given that they play tonight, but it also shows how much they wanted the win. It didn't hurt them on the night as they took it to the Czechs late and didn't appear to tire. The Cibak-Kopecky-Rodivojevic line on got spot duty and Baranka didn't play at all.
Jagr was funny to me. He created and scored the winner and set up the back-breaker, but was kind of quiet. He reminded me of Carlos Valderrama towards the end of his career. You don't really notice him and then when he has the puck/ball he's lethal. Jagr did a great job of controlling the flow of the game and using his size to shield guys and create plays in the offensive zone. The comentators were going crazy with how 'great' he was. I thought he drifted in and out of the game and did little outside of the offensive zone, but he was smart about how he played.
I didn't like the Czech's D pairings . . . they were very balanced and they rolled all four. Vokoun was sharp, but when Hossa and Gaborik got going the Czechs struggled to contain them ó and they were already playing a defence-first disciplined style. What are the Russian's top two lines going to do to this group if they don't try to get a real shutdown pair together and work for the match-up. Polak-Kaberle isn't a bad pair. Too many good defensive defencemen with their two worst and their two offensive defencemen with two average defencemen.
The Czechs defensive system play was good and they seemed on the same page pretty well on that front. That and Vokoun could make them tough if they get the lead.
The Czechs will need to be better than 1-for-7 on the power play.
I also thought Halak played pretty well. The Slovaks have Russia today and I'm really curious if they turn to Budaj to give Halak some rest. I don't think they're expecting to beat the Russians anyway and after an emotional letdown losing the derby with the Czechs, giving Budaj his chance may be what they need.
There was a funny quote from US coach Ron Wilson complaining about the five Ryans on the team (not to mention Bobby Ryan): You say Ryan and three guys turn around. I need to learn the guys nicknames just to get my lines set.
libero - February 19, 2010 03:28 AM (GMT)
I wonder if hobbes has stopped hyperventilating yet?
Now that was exciting, Canada with a 3-2 shootout win over Switzerland. It was 2-2 after regualtion and the short OT, then on to the shootout where Canada's Martin Brodeur and Switzerland's Jonas Hiller each saved the first 3 and 4 attempts respectively. Then canada's Sidney Crosby scored on Canada's 4th attempt and Brodeur saved Switzerland's 5th attempt for the dramatic win.
I did not know this but after the first 3 designated shooters, you can call in a repeat shooter and that is what happened with Crosby who scored on his 2nd bite of the cherry.
Great excitement but the question which we don't yet know the answer to, was this just a blip or a sign of things to come for Canada?
I join the chorus in praise off hobbes reports. Looking forward to what he has to say about this one.