The jerseys, man. (Look, we went over this yesterday, we’ll get to the hockey. Gimme a sec here.) Those black Canadian jerseys. Thoughts:
* Wait, did I say inoffensive? Because they have a Nazi armband, which is probably the opposite of inoffensive. I can’t think of the word…non-inoffensive? I’m sure that’s it. Anyway, you gotta go with two arm stripes, or none. You can’t wear a Nazi armband in international competition and expect not to get called out on it. Not cool, bro. Not cool.
* Imagine you’re Matt Duchene. You’re going to play in the friggin’ Olympics for the first time in your life. Wow. You’re getting a regular shift beside Getzlaf and Perry. You might have one game to prove you belong in the lineup and not the pressbox. And if it doesn’t go perfectly and you end up scratched, you may not get back in. Coaches rarely changes lineups after wins. So this might be your only Olympic game, ever. In your life. Here’s your black jersey with a Nazi armband, kid. Just like you always dreamed.*
*Note: yes, I’m aware he likely gives zero sh**s about the sweater.
Just let me pretend it’s a thing.
Corey Perry’s hand-eye coordination continues to stand out amongst a bunch of dudes with great hand-eye every time I watch him. To set up the Shea Weber’s goal he hand to knock down a cross-ice pass at knee height with one hand, which wasn’t a problem (then holy pineapple mittens did Shea Weber capital-b Bomb that). Yesterday he made a play where he knocked the puck out of the air. He’s scored multiple baseball-style goals in the NHL. Keep an eye out for it – I’m guessing dude didn’t strike out much in Little League.
P.K. Subban and Matt Duchene were basically forced into the role of “frequent healthy scratch guy” today, and it’s a crippling way to play if your strengths are on the offensive side of the puck. Coaches notice when their fringe guys turn the puck over, so all they want them to do is play safe. But if you’re specialty is creating offense, you have to take some risks. So you’re in a situation where the coach expects you to produce risk-free offense. Good luck with that. In the first period, both Subban and Duchene dumped pucks in, which you almost never see from them in the NHL. But you know they got to the bench and got their butt-pats for their Good Ol Canadian Smart Hockey.
Matt Duchene never had much of a chance to do what he does today (the one time he actually tried to get fancy by faking a slapper and passing, he was in a money scoring spot. Not good). P.K. Subban, on the other hand, was solid in every regard, and made it pretty clear that he should be in Canada’s top six. But in fairness, I’m biased towards great players.
The Chris Kunitz Thing is killing me. I know, I know, I know this isn’t the first time you’ve heard it and it’s getting tiresome, but that Team Canada has decided to shift John Tavares to play wing but didn’t run a Tavares-Crosby-St. Louis line is baffling. It’s one thing if you want to use Tavares as a center. But if you’re over that being an issue, play the guy with Sid. Every time he touches the puck he moves it to a better place, as does Crosby, so you can imagine how some of those offensive zone possessions would look. Kunitz was
probably Canada’s worst player against Austria, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do with him going forward.
Crosby’s situation is an interesting one – he was great in the first game, but didn’t really find his groove in game two. The guy’s role shouldn’t have to be using sorcery to turn good players into great ones.
(Another note on this: this isn’t a knock on Chris Kunitz, awesome hockey player, good guy. It’s commentary with context – in this lineup, with these options, he’s not the right choice.)
Along the same thought as the one above, Tavares did hit the ice with Sid a couple times because Mike Babcock had the “extra” guy from the four-man fourth-line rotating in with Sid and Kunitz, likely hoping to see if there’s a spark amongst any of those combos (I advocated doing something like this before the game). The other thing I noticed with Babcock’s player usage was how insanely short he kept shifts, particularly when plays were whistled down. It has to be a tough job to get all those stars on the ice and keep them happy. But my guess is that Babcock is less concerned with individual players finding a rhythm, and more concerned with the team finding it – you won’t be on the ice long, but you won’t be on the bench long either, so go hard, quick rest, and you can go hard again. He’s more about the team rolling than he would be in the NHL, where you want your stars playing their best first and foremost.
Roberto Luongo looked excellent. Maybe he didn’t see a ton of grade A quality chances, but it’s not like he went entirely untested. Price was good in game one too, but I’d personally run with Luongo until you’re given reason not to. All he does is stop pucks at an above average rate, and he’s played in plenty of big games. Let the incumbent give you your reliable goaltending. More on this in point 10.
That was an Olympic hockey game on Valium, which reminded me of a stacked beer league team I played on. Once it’s obvious that one team is so much better than the other and they’ve built up a lead, neither team is too eager to really push to make something happen. It’s over. Run the clock, guys. Nobody’s having fun.
Jeff Carter put together a natural hat-trick against Austria, and he did it in a team-low total of ice time, 8:46. It’s not like any of the goals were particularly difficult ones – Marleau rapped one off the post that kicked to him, he wrapped in a goalie turnover, and he fanned on shot that went under the goalies pad – but you know that’s going to be enough to cement him as a consistently used player by Canada (which is just fine). To his credit, his first goal was a perfect example of something coaches preach though: he didn’t skate by the net, he stopped. That’s a chance earned, where I’d have been doing a loop in the corner by then.
The powerplay is still a bit of a mess.
There’s an experiment that I vaguely remember from University where they offered people 30 flavors of ice cream, let them pick, then had them rate their satisfaction of it. Then they did the same with people after offering them only two. The people who were offered two largely rated their satisfaction higher, likely because they didn’t feel like they missed out on something (finally got to use this oh-so-valuable psych info I studied so hard to gain, nice). That’s kinda how Canada’s powerplay looks. If it were more like pinball, and they were granted multi-puck, they’d be just fine. But it just seems like there’s too many options for guys, so the choices are more complicated, and guys are making a lot of unsatisfying choices because of it. Might be time to refer to the gospel of KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.
My line-up against Finland:
Kunitz and Vlasic in the stands.
Don’t care if Sharp-Toews don’t play together. And c’mon, Benn-Toews-Nash? Ungh, double-up ungh, ungh. Also be happy to see Duchene plugged in for Sharp, depending who’s got jump that night.
One guy playing his off-side, and it’s Alex Pietrangelo. We’ll be okay.
Difference between Lu and Price is basically negligible, I just feel more comfortable with Lu in net for now. Give him the crease and the chance to lose the job as the guy who’s won gold before. Like seniority with jersey numbers, but on a bigger scale.