Entries with the tag: olympic hockey
I am ready for the NHL to return to action.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the hockey in the Olympics these past two weeks and have enjoyed watching teams like Team USA, Team Canada, Team Finland and Team Slovakia have success. The games have been exciting, well-played and have provided fans with a few upsets (Team Russia and Team Sweden), which is all us puckheads could ask for.
With that said, however, I am excited for the NHL trading deadline, the playoff stretch run, and of course, the playoffs themselves. While I consider myself a fan of all hockey, it is NHL hockey that gets my heart pumping and the blood moving.
So, enjoy Olympic hockey while you can because this time next week, the National Hockey League will be in the thick of things as teams and their fans get ready for the stretch run.
From good friend of the blog James Murphy at NESN.com:
USA, the only undefeated team left in this tournament, has relied on a solid blue line presence in its offensive attack—and, of course, the goaltending of Ryan Miller—to get to the semifinals.
After being plagued early on in the tournament by too many odd-man rushes against, resulting from the defensemen pitching in on offense without leaving a man back, USA has tightened up its game defensively while still allowing the defense to play a major role offensively. In fact, a defenseman leads Team USA in every offensive category, and that threat has also helped free up the forwards for more chances as well.
Brian Rafalski (four goals, two assists) and Ryan Suter (four assists) have both played major roles in activating the defense into the offensive attack. Defensively, the American blue line has also been stellar, blocking shot after shot and limiting the offensive chances for opponents.
But the Americans wouldn’t still be playing if not for the goaltending of Ryan Miller, who is 4-0-0 with a 1.25 GAA and .944 save percentage.
Click here for more from my good pal Murph.
From Nicholas Montemagno at Rangers Tribune:
A big part of Switzerland’s success has been because of the play of goaltender Jonas Hiller. Hiller has been unbelievable so far in the Olympic Games, keeping his team in every game and providing them with a chance to win. Hiller came into the National Hockey League last season with the Anaheim Ducks, where he took over the starting job from veteran netminder J.S. Giguere, who recently has was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Without him, the Swiss would probably have been defeated yesterday by Belarus in the qualifier.
With that being said, the United States offense has a lot of fire power up front, and I think they have not really used it just yet. Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Paul Stastny, Phil Kessel are among the forwards who need to step it up on offense for Team USA. The Americans have been getting scoring from all angles, which is a good thing, but a lot of it has been secondary. The team’s primary scorers have not been all that effective just yet and need to bring their game to the next level in the playoff rounds.
Rangers forward Chris Drury has been one of the better players for Team USA and is opening the eyes of many with his recent play. Chris was one of the more frequently questioned picks by Brian Burke for Team USA, but with the way he has contributed in each win, how could they still be questioning the decision? The guy is a clutch player, not worth $7.5 million dollars, but he is valuable to this team and that has been made obvious.
Click here for more from our good pal Nicholas.
I know this has been talked about a lot in the last day or so but I wanted to point you folks to a great article by good friend of the blog James Murphy at NESN.com. The article talks about how Team USA’s win over Team Canada should be looked at as an upset rather than a miracle:
The USA’s 5-3 men’s hockey win over Canada on Sunday night was surely a giant upset. But it was no “miracle,” and it was not even close to what took place in Lake Placid, N.Y., 30 years ago today.
Yes, the Canadians—like the old Red Army team—were heavy favorites heading into this tournament. And yes, goalie Ryan Miller stood on his head with 42 saves just like Jim Craig did 30 years ago. Oh, and as Boston University alum Mike Eruzione scored the winning goal in Lake Placid 30 years ago, there was another clutch forward from BU, Chris Drury, who scored the go-ahead goal in the second period on Sunday. But really, the similarities end there.
Sunday’s victory over Canada was thrilling and, yes, it was very unexpected given the pre-Olympic hype and predictions. But this U.S. win was a statement game, not a miracle.
Click here for more from my great hockey pal.
From good friend of the blog Nicholas Montemagno at Rangers Tribune:
Henrik Lundqvist has been the most valuable player to his team so far out of all of the Rangers in the Olympics. In two games played with Team Sweden, Lundqvist is yet to allow a goal. First, he shutout the Germans in a 2-0 Swedish victory. Then on Sunday night he was perfect in net again as the Swedes blanked their rivals in Team Finland, 3-0 in a contest that found them getting a free pass to the Quarterfinals.
Marian Gaborik has played three games to this point with the Slovakians, despite a nagging thigh laceration suffered a couple of weeks back in practice when leaping over Henrik Lundqvist in practice. He was a gametime decision in Team Slovakia’s first tilt against the Czech Republic, and to Rangers fans’ displeasure, the skilled winger played in that game. He recorded a goal in the second period, which now is still his only point in the tournament. However, he has skated well and helped the team out defensively.
Click here to see how the rest of the Blueshirts who are participating in the Olympics are performing.
From good friend of the blog Jim Cerny at Rink Rap:
Let’s get this straight. Team USA’s 5-3 victory over their Canadian counterparts last night was a hugely important victory. Huge. And the game itself was a classic, a truely epic battle. And the result most assuredly was an upset.
But this was not comparable to 1980’s Miracle on Ice as some have suggested in their post-game hysteria and rush to coin the moment
For sure some of the same elements of the 1980 Olympic win over Russia were there last night for the United States. Team USA clearly was in the role of underdog in both games. Team USA was extremely opportunistic offensively, and took advantage of average goaltending by a world-class goaltender (Russia’s Vladislav Tretiak in ‘80, Canada’s Martin Brodeur last night). Team USA was tenacious, playing with high levels of grit and passion in their game. Team USA seemed on the ropes at many points during each game, being vastly outplayed, only to be saved by their own brilliant goaltending (Jim Craig in 1980 and Ryan Miller, with 42 saves, last night).
But let’s not forget that in 1980 the US squad was made up of a bunch of college kids and was playing one of the truely elite teams of all-time assembled by Russia. Plus it was a medal round game, with the winner advancing to the Gold Medal Game. And add to the mix the spectre of the Cold War at its height.
From good friend of the blog Jim Cery at Rink Rap:
Can the U.S. Win a Medal?
Yes, the United States can win a medal, but the better question is will they? So far I have seen a hard-working team with flashes of brilliance offensively (David Backes take a bow on both accounts) that has received tremendous goaltending so far from Ryan Miller. Sunday will be a huge test because Canada will be amped up to take out the US on home ice, and will have the extra motivation of trying to finish ahead of the United States in Group A’s preliminary round. Add in to the mix that Canada feels the need to show they can play much better than they have done, so far. A US win tomorrow would go a long way to boosting the team’s self confidence heading into the medal round. Still when it’s said and done, I think the US is on the outside looking in at the medal ceremony. Miller is the one player who can change that, however.
Click here for more Olympic thoughts from the NewYorkRangers.com beat writer.
Good friend of the blog Scotty from Scotty Hockey is at the Olympics as well and is providing solid coverage over on his site.
Here is some of what he had to say:
*I neglected to mention it yesterday but one of the best things about these Olympics is the uniform for the garbage people at the arena. They wear Islander jerseys without the crest. So every time I see some poor sod forced to mop up or pick up trash, I think Islanders. How appropriate.
*The atmosphere for the Czechoslovakia civil war was wild. Most likely it was because there were less Canadians in the building and more nationals for each team. Chanting, whistling, rising and falling with every play for the first two periods ... it was so much fun. I spoke to security and they said that there was only one minor tussle in the crowd, which I find surprising as rival fans were chanting and yelling at each other so much - especially walking out. Love the passion.
*Didn’t love the result, a 3-1 Czech win. It was so incredibly like a Ranger game that it scared me - team gets a great breakaway six minutes in but can’t score and gives up a power play goal. Team hits the post in the last minute of the second period and the other team comes right down and scores before the buzzer. Team comes out flat for the third losing by two, Gaborik draws a penalty and the power play can’t even get in the opposing zone. Sound familiar?
Click here for more and be sure to stop by his site every day for more excellent coverage.
Here is a bit of what he has to say regarding the Sweden vs. Germany matchup, featuring Rangers’ netminder Henrik Lundqvist:
New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will lead Team Sweden into the tournament this afternoon when they take on Team Germany at Canada Hockey Place. The Swedish, as I have stated, is one of the more well rounded clubs in this tournament and I am looking forward to watching them live today. While I am not expecting a total blowout like we saw on Tuesday in the Canada game and the Russia game, I do think Sweden will come out of this one with a victory and three points in the standings.
While the team is well rounded, their strength has to be defense and goaltending. Us Rangers fans know more than anyone about how netminder Henrik Lundqvist gives you a chance to win night in and night out. Henrik was a main reason Sweden won Gold in Torino in 2006, and will again be a major reason if they defend that title this time around in Vancouver. Plus Hank has been red hot for the Blueshirts heading into the tournament so you would assume we would be seeing more of the same on the rink today.
Click here for more and keep up the great work, Nicholas!
From Andrew Gross at Ranger Rants:
Ryan Callahan has been good enough to agree to return some e-mails during the Olympics to discuss his experience and preview/review Team USA’s games.
He got back to me tonight after Team USA held its first practice Monday afternoon as it prepares to play Switzerland Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern. Fittingly, Team USA’s game can be watched on USA.
“I think our team will be a fast, in-your-face type style,” Callahan wrote. “It seems to be a well-built team with out-grinders and checkers and our top skill guys and good goaltending. The Swiss, I think, will be a fast team that has played together now for a while, which will help them. They also have a good goalie in (Jonas) Hiller.”
Click here for more. Nice to know we’ll be hearing from our boys throughout the Olympic break. I’d be curious to get some thoughts from Drury, Torts (should be easy), and Lundqvist as well.
From good friend of the blog Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy:
He’s a goalie with a 2-3-1 record in February, who has given up 18 goals in six games and played to a save percentage of .850 or below in three of them. So the question for Team Canada Coach Mike Babcock over the last two weeks as been: Can Martin Brodeur(notes) start looking like Martin Brodeur again in the Olympics?
The decision to give Roberto Luongo(notes) the start in Canada’s first game of the tournament on Tuesday can be read several ways. Damien Cox saw it as a bit of scheduling genius ahead of the showdown against the U.S. on Sunday, as well as a little shock-and-awe for the Canadians before Game No. 1. But Babcock alluded to Brodeur’s workload with the New Jersey Devils as a factor, which brings to mind his uncharacteristic struggles this month.
Of course, Marty isn’t alone in struggling ahead of the Games. Luongo was pulled in his last start. Team USA starter Ryan Miller(notes) had given up 18 goals in five games before shutting down the San Jose Sharks in a 3-1 Buffalo Sabres’ win on Saturday.
Click here for more.
From Dan Rosen at NHL.com:
1. How will Canada handle the pressure?
No team will be under more scrutiny. The success of these Olympics in Canada will be defined largely by how the hosts fare in the men’s ice hockey tournament. Canada has the depth, talent and experience to win gold, but how they do will depend on how well they handle knowing that anything short of the top of the medal stand will be viewed as a disappointment.
2. Can the American blue line survive?
Besieged by injuries to Mike Komisarek and Paul Martin, Team USA is going to the Olympics without arguably its best shot blocker and best puck moving defenseman. It’s not as if Komisarek and Martin are irreplaceable, but Tim Gleason and Ryan Whitney have to prove they belong if the Americans stand a chance.
3. What will Alex Ovechkin do?
Who knows, but we’re guessing it’s going to be both impressive and theatrical. You should always watch Ovi because you just never know what you’re going to see next. The Olympics will be his biggest stage to date.
Click here for more.
From good friend of the blog Scotty at Scotty Hockey:
Now, sitting on an Amtrak train on my way to the Olympics, I think I finally get it: sure the NHL is the NHL, but these hometown teams are theirs. Just as we feel a New York pride when we pull on the Blueshirt to root on the boys, they feel the same love for their team - simply because it is theirs. The team represents their town and they want it to do well. Yes, there is something bigger and better out there but that is out there; this team is here and its ours.
It is a strange feeling to be sure but one I am certainly confronted with as I head to watch the best of the best, while the Rangers are back in New York, about to face off against Tampa. Sure I will root for Team USA, but my emotions will rise and fall based upon the text messages I get over the next few hours. Because that quaint little team in my home town will be playing and that team is mine. Sure there is something bigger and better out there, but the Rangers are mine.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I love Olympic hockey and was lucky enough to be in Salt Lake for the entire ‘02 Games (and was even inside the E Center for the Gold Medal game). So it can’t be the five circles rings that has brought me to this conclusion.
I think it was the WHL game I went to last night between the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Silvertips in Everett. Played in a wonderful 8,000 or so seat facility, the game was quite exciting with the Tips prevailing 5-1. There were just over six thousand fans in the building but if you closed your eyes, you would have thought there was over 10.
Click here for more.