Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Lucas Aykroyd at IIHF.com,
A few years ago, this criticism was perfectly legitimate. At the annual World Championship, Russian blueliners would pinch at inopportune times, giving up odd-man rushes on a regular basis. In their own zone, they would attempt feeble pokechecks instead of taking the body, and woe betide the Russian netminder who failed to smother a rebound, as opposing forwards on elite teams would happily rush to the net and bang in loose pucks.
No wonder Russia suffered some mighty collapses in international hockey. The most notable instance was the embarrassing 11th-place finish on home ice at the 2000 IIHF World Championship in St. Petersburg. But the 10th-place outing in 2004, marked by legendary coach Viktor Tikhonov’s ill-fated comeback at age 73, wasn’t far behind in terms of lowlights.
However, this is 2010. The Russians have tightened up significantly on defence going back to 2005, when they captured bronze at the Worlds in Austria. The improvement has been particularly evident under coach Slava Bykov, who took over the reins for the 2007 Worlds in Moscow.
from John Dellapina at NHL.com,
As if Slovakia didn’t have enough on its Olympic plate what with assignment to the toughest Group and a bracing opening game against arch-rival Czech Republic on Wednesday, it now appears as if goal-scoring machine Marian Gaborik won’t suit up until the Saturday’s round-robin finale against Latvia.
According to Slovakian team doctor Dalimir Jancovic, Gaborik still has significant weakness in his right leg and difficulty fully flexing his knee one week after a collision in practice with New York Rangers teammate Henrik Lundqvist left him with a deep skate gash to his lower thigh.
“I think he needs without training three days still,” Jancovic told NHL.com.
from Russia Today,
• Russia’s ice hockey captain Aleksey Morozov says the food at the Olympic village has been so bad he has been forced to eat at McDonalds.
• Despite being 11 time zones from Russia, the players will have a few home comforts, with the players’ wives, girlfriends and children also in Vancouver, though they will not be staying with the players in the athletes’ village.
“It’s support and gives our guys extra motivation. So I don’t partially see anything wrong with this. Sport and the family are one. Our players are professionals and know why they are here and we will hope it will give us extra motivation and strength to achieve a miracle,” Russia’s coach added.
Apparently, ‘Miller Time’ and ‘Support Our Troops’ are not words the International Olympic Committee wants to see on goalie masks.
Read the AP story via NBC Olympics.
from Mark Purdy of the Mercury News,
Canada invented the game of hockey, as every citizen here is required to tell foreign visitors at least five times a day. And while the Winter Games have taken place once previously in Canada — Calgary 1988 — the players were amateurs and not NHL professionals, who didn’t appear in the Olympics until 1998.
In other words, this will be the first time an Olympic hockey gold medal will be decided by the world’s best hockey players on Canadian soil. And since Canada finished a disgraceful eighth at the last Winter Olympic hockey tournament in Torino four years ago, the home fans are in no mood for finishing second. As one international hockey official has joked, the country is “a nation of 35 million general managers.”
Another indication of hockey’s pecking order here: Every men’s tournament game will be played at the largest and nicest ice arena in town, Canada Hockey Place, home of the Vancouver Canucks NHL team. Usually at the Olympics, the biggest and best arena is reserved for figure skating, the glamour event of the games. This time, the figure skaters have been shunted off to the Pacific Coliseum — the smaller 42-year-old building where the Canucks played in the 1980s and ‘90s.
from Charles McGrath and Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times,
...But the groupings suggested some surprising thinking on the part of the Russian coaching staff. Sergei Fedorov, Slava Kozlov and Alexander Radulov, who all play in the Kontinental Hockey League, were together, but Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk — the three best players on the team and potentially a devastating line — were not. Instead, Ovechkin was with Datsyuk and Alexander Semin, who is Ovechkin’s teammate on the Washington Capitals….
Talking about how the problem of getting the lines to click on short notice, Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames and Canada said: “The coaching staff talks to us, and they’ve already been thinking about the role they want each of us to play. They’ve put the lines together, and some of the guys have already played together.”
Ron Wilson, the United States coach, likened the process of putting together a team on one day’s notice to a riddle.
“It’s like a Rubik’s cube,” he said, speaking with reporters at Canada Hockey Place. “You just start moving it till you get a side with one color all the same.”
“The exciting thing about these Olympics is having them in Vancouver. It’s hockey, hockey all the time, and it’s a great atmosphere.”
-Teemu Selanne of Team Finland. More on Teemu, who is playing in his last Olympic games, from Mark Whicker of the OC Register.
from Craig Custance of The Sporting News,
“Coming here today and seeing all this,” said Zach Parise, nodding toward the swarm of media. “The nerves start to creep in.”
There’s only one way to remove those nerves.
“You almost just want to start the game and let the nerves relax a little bit,” he said.
After months of anticipation, they finally get that chance.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
This time, with only three round robin games, it was assumed Brodeur and Luongo would split the first two games, but that Brodeur, almost as a courtesy, would start the opener. Instead, he gets the tougher opponent in Switzerland, with the really complicated choice being who starts next Sunday against the United States.
“No, I wasn’t surprised,” Brodeur told the Star. “I’m going to play the next game (against the Swiss). More of a challenge for the coaches will be who plays after that.”
Babcock didn’t really explain his choice, mumbling something about Luongo being a Vancouver Canuck, and something else about Brodeur having played so much this season – he’s appeared in 58 of New Jersey’s 61 games – that he might be able to use a couple of days off.
Maybe. More likely is that Brodeur is already slotted to get the game against the Americans and would face a four-day layoff if the games against Norway and the Swiss were flipped. But we’ll see.
The second surprise unveiled by Babcock on Monday was having Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, a player who wasn’t even invited to the summer camp in Calgary, skating alongside centre Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash on what is expected to be Canada’s top line.
from Dan Rosen of NHL.com,
Even after his major knee operation in October, Johan Franzen had a gut feeling that he was going to be in Vancouver for the Olympics.
“I didn’t book a vacation trip,” he said Monday after Team Sweden’s practice.
Maybe not, but he also didn’t find out officially until 11 o’clock Sunday morning that he would be part of Team Sweden.
Franzen, who is four months removed from surgery for a torn ACL, is here because his teammate in Detroit, Tomas Holmstrom, can not be as his Olympics were derailed by nagging foot and knee injuries.
“I waited until the last day and I finally got the call,” Franzen said. “I wanted to believe it (that I would be in the Olympics).”
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