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 »
If Team Canada were to play Team USA in 100 contests, I’m guessing the final total from those games would end up being something like Canada 53, USA 47. They’re as tight as two great teams can be. And at this point, they both respect the heck out of each other, so they’ll be bringing their best on Friday, so I think it’ll be a battle.
Here’s what I think happens:
The Canadians will focus on Kessel/Pavelski/JVR
Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski and James van Riemsdyk have been the best line in the Olympics outside Bob Costas’ self-deprecating “Eye’m back” comment. They’ve combined for 18 points to date, and they’re the main American threat.
The rest of the team is very good, but they’re “very good” in a North American sense. They work hard, they bang in rebounds….they’re not necessarily open-ice creators.
Canada’s depth should create lopsided possession. 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 »
Varlamov should stop that, but Aaltonen shouldn’t be there in the first place.
The Russians, they are Finn-i (ha). Kaput. No more. And that might be literal after Vladimir Putin gets through with ‘em.
Everyone has their own theories about why, and there’s no small amount of varied opinions (more on this from Scott Lewis).
Mine, is simply that their defense wasn’t good enough. And while that’s a commonly accepted fact, I think it has less to do with what most people associate that with – they get burned and give up scoring chances – and more to do with their lack of talent around the puck. Let me explain.
In hockey, true talent comes with cleanliness. Not so much in hygienic sense, as in the ability to manipulate the puck. If I were tossed into that Finland/Russia Olympic hockey game during the peak of my hockey career, you’d notice that I would occasionally bobble a less-than-perfect pass, it would cost me a second, and that lost moment would eliminate the time I would need to find the proper play with the puck. Also, I would get murdered by bigger, faster men, but you’d notice that bad-pass-taking too. Receiving a pass cleanly allows you to get your head up and make a quick pass, instead of having to force it to a guy a second later as the play develops. Read the rest of this entry »
It was probably the most-quoted line out of Mike Babcock’s mouth after Tuesday’s practice, and it came after he was asked about his oft-changing forward lines:
We’ve changed our lines, in my opinion, same at the last Olympics– too much. We’re trying to find the right way. It’s time to just let ’em go.
With full respect to the man in charge, I’m not sure I agree. Well, I agree with the last part, but definitely not the “too much” part. Hell, I barely think he agrees, given that he’s been the dude making the decisions, and he did the same thing during the 2010 Olympics. (…Which went fairly well, as I’m sure he recalls.)
There’s a certain number of Canadians who’d like to see their team’s coaching staff let well enough alone and “let the guys find some chemistry.” But Canada has done the right thing with all their line rejiggering. It’s time to find some consistency, but up until this point it’s made perfect sense.
Babcock could use a backhoe, scoop up five players and dump them on the ice every minute and the team could finish in the top five (y’know, assuming the other guys were changing for them. 10 players is too many). But at the same time, you want to maximize what all that talent can bring.
Canada was given a couple of tune-up games, and had they not changed their lines from game one to game two they would’ve been fools. Assuming there’s a ceiling on the maximum efficiency that you can draw from a group of any 25 players, which there logically is, what are the odds that the first time you got out a pen and paper you nailed it? Every shift is information, and while one bad go-round for a particular player with a line doesn’t mean they couldn’t end up as the best guy for that particular spot, a few more disappointing spins might indicate the start of a bad trend. You don’t have time to conduct a longitudinal study. Read the rest of this entry »