So another Olympics have come and gone with Canada’s Golden Generation — probably the greatest single stock of hockey talent ever produced in a 10-year period by any nation — having waltzed a bit more breezily straight through to the gold medal for which they were always the heavy favorites.
There aren’t a lot of lessons to be learned, in general, from “Best team wins” headlines, and anyone trying to attribute this to anything bigger than Canada having the talent to medal if they’d sent two teams to Sochi (an oft-repeated trope, but a 100 percent accurate one) is romanticizing things.
On the other end of the spectrum is the country that has in the last several years really cemented itself as the single biggest threat to Canada’s continued international success overall: The United States of America. They beat the brains out of everyone that sucks, barely snuck by Russia thanks a dumb rule that’s so dumb even the depthlessly incompetent IIHF is not going to let it exist any more, and then got creamed by both Canada and Finland en route to an embarrassing fourth-place finish. Read the rest of this entry »
The surprising thing about Canada’s defense of their gold medal was how clean it was. En route to the Stanley Cup you usually mix in a few poor games, you fall behind at some point, you get outplayed for awhile. Canada’s only sketchy moment was not beating Latvia by more – the final wasn’t all that close. Canada played like assassins methodically and systematically destroying targets without remorse. Target acquired, target eliminated, what’s next?
It sucks that Sweden wasn’t able to dress their best team. While it’s fun for Canadians to win (well, if you’re Canadian), they played a Swedish team without Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg, and surprisingly, Nick Backstrom (more on the Backstrom absence here…weird situation). Those are three elite players that could’ve greatly altered the course of the game.
I know “Canada likes hockey” isn’t the most compelling thought, but the city of Toronto was absolute mayhem. I’ve only been here for 16 months after leaving Phoenix, but it’s silly. My wife and I lined up at 5:50 for the seven a.m. game, waiting in a line of roughly 100 people, and had this pic of us taken before puck drop. Read the rest of this entry »
Just the best picture.
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!”
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.
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. Read the rest of this entry »
That was quite possibly the least-close 1-0 game between two great teams that’s ever been played. The zone time was preposterously lopsided, the scoring chances weren’t that close. Carey Price was asked to be great in the first period and was absolutely that for Canada, but in the second and third period he was simply just asked to…be. Canada’s back-pressure through the neutral zone kept the Americans second chance opportunities to just about nil.
Holy line changes, batman. At one point in the third the CBC broadcast mentioned that no Canadian forward had an average shift length above 40 seconds. And as the game progressed, they grew increasinly militant about it. Puck in, off the ice, fresh legs, puck in, off the ice. I’m pretty sure Jeff Carter was on the bench for 25 seconds once after a 17 second shift.
It’s funny watching guys like Rick Nash and Matt Duchene play more humble roles in games like this. On their teams in the NHL they’re looked at as The Guys, the players who need to score or their teams have no chance to win, so it’s hilarious watching them dutifully dump pucks in and change, keep their shifts short, and do the right things. There seemed like about 10 players on Canada/US trying to create (Kessel, Kane, Parise, Crosby, Benn and so on) and the rest of the guys were just trying real hard not to become national punchlines. Read the rest of this entry »
As always, the notes are chronological (save for the first one), and this isn’t a recap. Here’s what stood out to me during that great game:
Depending on who you root for, that was one of the best/worst games ever played. Congrats to Marie-Philip Poulin on the success.
Tara Watchorn of Team Canada reminds me so much of Chris Pronger I can’t get over it (which is a huge, huge compliment). Players like Pronger (and Zdeno Chara) play in a way that makes people hate competing against them. Opponents would rather change, rather come down the other side of the ice, rather do anything else than engage them…because they’re mean. Which is good. They’re talented too, but they’re mean. They have zero intention of making friends on the ice. Watchorn could care less, and would be zero fun to play because of that. You like having that on your team (as long as they don’t take endless penalties). Read the rest of this entry »
Just seven thoughts today, because I’m pretty sure most people are aware Canada’s win was a one-sided assault on an inferior opponent who got a lot of bounces and great goaltending. Right? Right.
Contrary to Glenn Healy’s thoughts, I thought the Canadians showed a lack of respect for Latvia’s goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. Healy’s intermission commentary was basically that in the NHL there’s no point in taking shots from far out or a bad angle because they aren’t going to go in, but against a guy who’s just an AHLer you should shoot from anywhere because hey, who knows!?
Unfortunately, the line between AHL and NHL goaltenders is actually razor thin, and Gudlevskis is a guy Steve Yzerman just drafted in the fifth round to the Tampa Bay Lightning who was named the AHL’s player of the week in January thanks to his 2-0-1, 0.65, .973 performance. At 21 years old he’s played to a 2.69 GAA and .900 save percentage with numbers trending in the right direction. Maybe he’s not Carey Price, but he’s far from a joke.
Mindlessly whipping shots at a legit goalie from all angles is usually a waste of time. Given the talent disparity between skaters (and whoa doggy was there a disparity), I’d have preferred to see Canada wait for better looks than opting to take up Operation Bomb Everything, which they did. They outshot Latvia 57-16. Showing Gudlevskis more respect probably helps them score a few more.
Speaking of Gudlevskis, here’s what the Latvian goaltender’s Wikipedia page was edited to say, courtesy @DrewMTips: Read the rest of this entry »
The jerseys, man. (Look, we went over this yesterday, we’ll get to the hockey. Gimme a sec here.) Those black Canadian jerseys. Thoughts:
* They’re not awful. As far as jersey’s go, they’re fairly inoffensive and cool.
* 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. Read the rest of this entry »