Just the best picture.

Just the best picture.

1

The Finns are like friggin’ acupuncture. The just seem to have this uncanny ability to find exactly where to pressure and when. They’re patient, they’re methodical…they just play within themselves until it’s time to strike, then they come out of their shell. They are, for lack of a more clever way to explain them, infuriating. They turn opponents into Teddy KGB: “Nyet! Nyet! No More! No! Not tonight! This son of b***h, all night he, “Check. Check. Check.” He trap me!”

2

The most remarkable thing to come from Finland’s 5-0 drubbing of the US squad is the press it’s generated for Bobby Ryan. On the heels of two straight shutouts his name is the most prominent thing in hockey writing after Teemu Selanne. Yes, he should’ve been on the team (same goes for Keith Yandle), but that US team wasn’t exactly a roster decision away from being gold medalists.

3

That said, the US team is going to be undersold in the wake of the thorough thrashing they took on Saturday, but I don’t think the round-robin games were just flukes. I think that was a legitimately powerful offensive hockey team that was dead focused on one thing: beating Canada. They lost, and the game today was a poor indicator of their true talent. It’s not that they “didn’t try” in Saturday’s game, but after the heartbreaking loss they just couldn’t get up for Finland. They played in autopilot. The Finns were likely disappointed heading into the game too, but the bronze really did seem to mean more to them.

4

It’s tough to quantify what Teemu Selanne means to Finnish hockey (to hockey in general, really). He’s played in six Olympics (his linemate Mikael Granlund was born after his second Games), and he’s left with four medals. He’s the Olympics all-time leading scorer by seven (24 goals, 43 points in 36 games), he’s the oldest player to ever score in Olympic hockey (he turns 44 in July), and the first of his two today turned out to be the bronze medal-winner. The fact that he’s done so much and seen even more makes his knowledge invaluable, and his words resonate. I took this picture before the game of Teemu talking to his Finnish teammates. He’s the only guy who spoke, and they huddled up waiting for him. He’s a coach in gear at this point.

Teemu

Timonen’s been at like 100 Olympics too. He’s less thirsty to soak up Teemu’s words, it appears.

5

I thought it was interesting that the CBC noted the Americans crappy warmup. Jim Hughson: “The US had an awful warmup, didn’t they?” That generally means the passing was sloppy, guys were missing the net, and there was no energy out there. It also usually means approximately eff-all, the equivalent of going to the driving range and striping the ball perfectly 100 straight times. As in, zero indication if you’re going to play great or terribly. But I could see today’s messy start being an indicator based on what I mentioned in point two – the game didn’t mean much to them, and they didn’t prepare like they normally would.

6

I tweeted after the game that I couldn’t call up a single American player who played well after that loss. Blake Wheeler definitely seemed a little more spirited than others, but given that he barely touched the ice when games mattered, it makes sense that he’d have more energy/desire to prove himself. A number of people suggested Quick to me, but I didn’t think he was that great (the first Selanne goal should’ve been stopped). After a little more thought…how often did you hear Patrick Kane’s name today? A lot, right? He was always around the puck, he generated some legitimate chances…he reminds me of Datsyuk a little bit. If I had to pick a US player of the game, it’s probably him. Kesler was decent too.

7Teemu selanne2

Another reason to love Teemu Selanne: he openly celebrated other players’ goals more than his own. He’s the poster boy for “act like you’ve been there before.” People make fun of that expression, and justifiably so, but it’s pretty cool to see a guy who cares that much about a game basically just give ‘er the ol’ tip-of-the-hat golf celebration when he scores, and go bonkers when teammates do.

8

What an ugly two days for the American squad. It’s a shame, because US hockey has had so much momentum after 2010, and not many people saw them getting their butts handed to them in the national spotlight. The best thing that could come from this is that it forces them to embrace their skill players in the future. This group didn’t work, as teams who prefer Brooks Orpik over Keith Yandle rarely will, particularly in international competition (seven game series on small ice, you might have an argument for the former. You don’t here). It’s time to change their line of thinking.

 

Comments (12)

  1. As hockey guys, we often find ourselves pointing how how “different” hockey players are than other self-absorbed pro athletes. More honorable. More team oriented, etc, etc.

    Team USA went a long way to disproving that today. The contrast today between the joy that the Fins showed in winning, and the ‘mailing it in’ attitude the American’s showed after going down two was stark.

    As someone that wears a USAHockey sweatshirt out when coaching my team, it was embarrassing. This was a bad day for the sport in the USA. Olympic success doesn’t do much for TV ratings, but my bet is that it does a lot for enrollment in minor hockey.

    There needs to be a lot of soul searching for everyone involved.

  2. I think pretty much everything has been said about Selänne and his career during these Olympics. I’d still like to add three mind bending facts:

    -He played for a Finnish national team for the first time 26 years ago.
    -He had a career threatening injury 25 years ago.
    -He shared the lead in goals scored in Olympics 22 years ago.

  3. It’s great to see the Finns celebrate the bronze and show that it still matters, and I’m very happy to see Selanne add to his Olympic scoring totals and get another medal.

    However, I’m disappointed in Team USA for this game. Yes, gold is always the goal at the Olympics, but a medal is still a medal and it means something to your fans and fellow citizens.

    I look forward to Canada vs. Sweden tomorrow to forget all about my country’s performance today.

  4. Just having Bobby Ryan instead of, say, Callahan probably would not have affected the outcome in a meaningful way. But having Ryan, Okposo, Yandle and Byfuglien instead of Callahan, Brown, Orpik and Martin could have been the difference between a bronze and nothing. Ryan gets the most attention but all four of these guys would have been a better option than at least one other guy on the team. The USA “braintrust,” and Burke should shoulder the most blame in my mind, really dropped the ball here.

    And I know Quck’s got the Conn Smythe and all that, but I would have gone with Miller in this game. Miller was rested, and he wasn’t in net for a deflating loss yesterday. Poor decision by Bylsma.

    Congrats to Selanne and the rest of the Finnish team, they definitely deserve this medal.

  5. “He’s played in six Olympics (his linemate Mikael Granlund was born after his second Games), and…”

    The math on that is suspect I believe.

  6. Great article. That’s 7 thoughts more than Wyshynski could come up with over at Puck Daddy, and each one much more intelligent and profound than the knee-jerk “blame Bylsma” reaction.

    I didn’t think Kane had a good game, though. He took selfish penalties and couldn’t generate anything not close to the boards.

  7. Food for thought… I’ve always argued that there should be some sort of silver medal bracket. Teams win the gold medal. They’re awarded the silver for losing. Yet the bronze requires a win. Some sort of silver/bronze medal bracket would require an extra game or two and more risk on the players for injury but I’ve never thought it made sense to have to win to get 3rd yet lose to get 2nd. If the extra game or two meant the NHL cutting bait then so be it. They’re cutting bait anyway.

  8. Point 8 is very true. But there was a lot of international hockey played the last 4 years by pros that the US didn’t match up to. Its good to see the US catch up with the Canadians, Swedes, and Russians in the Olympics. I think the momentum was lost by not committing to the World Championship tournaments. The US is not going to be able to win an Olympic tournament on talent alone because there’s no depth of talent. A team of snubbed Canadians could have fared better then the US team. The US needs experience. They need a nucleus of players that play in the World Championships each year to provide experience that can support the top players. Every year the European players head home to play in the WC. The US players just go home. I believe only Oshie and Stastny played on the 2013 team. The US players are that good to skip the WC.

    • True, though I think part of that is the WCs taking place during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Canada has so many NHLers that they can still field a strong Worlds team with the talent left over from teams that have missed the playoffs. Europe can draw from their leagues, many of which finish their seasons entirely by the time the Worlds begin, to supplement NHLers who are idle in late April.

      Then there’s the US. They have only five guys on the current Olympic team from non-playoff squads: Miller, Faulk, Carlson, Wheeler, and Kesler. Dip into the snub pool and you add Byfuglien, Ryan, and Okposo, but not Yandle. Plenty of goalies: Miller, Schneider, Thomas, Anderson… who plays in front of them? The top six defense is (arguably) in some order: Faulk, Carlson, Buff, Bogosian, Goligoski, and Greene. Go with youth at the bottom with Seth Jones and Colin Wilson? And the forwards are just as debatable.

      • Give the top American draft picks not on playoff teams an incentive to play on the Olympic team by committing to the WC team. US could try to build two experienced lines and two sets of D in the WC in three years. In the Olympics year bring in the pros to create the top lines and D pairings. I’m pretty sure this is what the European teams do. Its better than just waiting around to see what happens in four years. If you can’t beat them, steal their system.

  9. As an American this was a painfully accurate article to read, but the solid Rounders reference helped. One of the best exchanges from that movie:

    “Knish. How are you?”
    “The same.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *