Kukla's Korner Hockey
Wayne Gretzky is predicting a showdown between Team Canada and Russia in the men’s hockey gold-medal game at the Vancouver Olympics.
“And I pick Canada to win gold,” he told a roaring crowd Friday night at Molson Canadian Hockey House….
“The best thing that probably could have happened to this team was a close, tight game and it shows this team can win under pressure,” Gretzky said. “Going forward, I think they’ll just get better and stronger every night.”
He predicted Canada, Russia, the U.S. and Sweden will face off in the semifinals, though he didn’t rule out Finland showing its mettle.
from Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer,
“I always want to play better,” Forsberg said after Sweden’s white-knuckle 4-2 victory over Belarus yesterday. “I’m 36. I don’t think it’s going to get much better. To be honest, I’d rather be in my prime than like this.”
There was resignation in his voice as well as his piercing blue eyes. For the last couple years, since he withdrew from NHL competition because of a chronic foot problem, there are periodic reports that Forsberg might return. He is hockey’s Sasquatch, Loch Ness monster and D.B. Cooper all rolled into one.
“I would say [he’s been asked] at least 100 times,” Forsberg said, and that has to be a conservative estimate. “I tried to come back in Colorado, but I wasn’t playing at the level I want.”
Guess what? Forget it. Forsberg said he will finish the season with the Swedish League team he plays with, but that will likely be it for his stellar career.
Indeed, when he looks back with the benefit of hindsight, he can see that his efforts to play with the foot injury were futile.
from Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times,
No one says that the N.H.L. is anything less than the world’s top league. But some of the best players so far at these Olympics do not make their living in it.
Some once were stars in North America: Jaromir Jagr of Avangard Omsk in the Russian K.H.L., Zigmund Palffy of HK 36 Skalica in the Slovakian Extraliga, Peter Forsberg of Modo Hockey Ornskoldsvik in the Swedish Elitserien and Sergei Fedorov of Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the K.H.L.
Others are players who established themselves as stars in their respective domestic leagues: Alexei Morozov of Ak Bars Kazan in the K.H.L., Roman Cervenka of Slavia Prague in the Czech Extraliga and Hnat Domenichelli of SC Bern in the Swiss N.L.A.
“We can skate — in Switzerland the games are so fast,” Domenichelli said after the Swiss team had rallied from two goals behind to extend Canada to overtime and then to a shootout.
Domenichelli was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, and played 267 N.H.L. games before heading to Switzerland in 2003. He is the N.L.A.’s No. 2 scorer.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
The U.S. won the World Cup of hockey in 1996, defeating Canada in the finals.
Canada won the gold medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, beating the Americans.
And so it has gone: The most recent example being a Canadian shootout win on New Year’s Eve, followed by the gold medal loss at the World Junior tournament in Saskatoon last month.
This isn’t 1980 anymore. This isn’t a pickup team of hungry American college kids taking on the world’s best. This is Patrick Kane and Erik Johnson, first picks in the NHL draft, and this is Bobby Ryan and Jack Johnson, second picks. This is more than half a team of first round picks — and most of the rest should have been first rounders.
“There’s a lot of talent in the U.S. right now” said Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman. “This is a legitimate rivarly and they’re a legitimate rival.
“The game is growing in the States and we can bad mouth the NHL that we’re in all these bad markets, but what’s happened in those markets is you’re starting to see hockey players developed. You’re starting to see players from Calfornia and St. Louis and other places where there were no players before.”
from Phil Coffey of NHL.com,
The one-game philosophy sure makes it interesting, even in 2010 where logic tells you Team Canada has more than enough goods to win this thing. Or the Russians, with their strong goaltending and potent offense.
“If you were to put us against Canada in 82 games, I don’t like our chances,” Sweden’s Daniel Alfredsson said. “But to play them one game, we definitely can beat them.”
“I don’t think it’s a given that Canada’s going to win. Not at all,” American forward Ryan Malone told reporters. “I mean, I can understand why people here feel that way. There’s a lot of pride. Canadians learn to play hockey before they go to church. But I look around at the players I’ve seen here today, and I see not just two or three teams that can win this. I see a lot of them.”
“That’s the biggest thing of all,” Malone said. “It’s just one game. Anything can happen.”
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail at CTVOlympics,
Coach Babcock determined there was more value to granting a day of rest, than in rehashing what went wrong against the Swiss. Babcock figured there’ll be time enough to do that Saturday, a day before their highly anticipated showdown with arch-rivals, the United States, with first place in the Group A standings and an automatic berth into next week’s quarter-final round up for grabs.
Even with a regulation and shootout win to show for its first two games, Canada is a decided work in progress, which is almost always the case in these frantically paced tournaments. Above all, they have been guilty of over-passing the puck and deferring constantly to new line-mates. Babcock needs to instill in them that a healthy selfishness is OK once in awhile - and that when the opportunity for a shot is there, they should take it instead of dishing off.
“The gold medal game is not tomorrow night,” said Sidney Crosby, after scoring the shootout winner against the Swiss. “That’s the good news.”
What is your opinion of the coverage being provided to us by the hockey writers in Vancouver?
My opinion is many of the writers are used to covering one game a night, but now are covering two and sometimes three games in the same night.
Many have deadlines that need to be met and I am sure they are scrambling at times, but I have been impressed by the work they have done.
It may get a bit easier for them once the preliminary round has ended and we should see extensive, in-depth coverage of the remaining teams.
Overall, they have done a great job providing hockey fans with all the Olympic Games notes and news.
Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov talked about the reasons of the loss to Slovakia, stated that not all players had passion, explained why Ovechkin had three shootout attempts and talked about power play units in an interview to Russia site gazeta.ru.
RussianHockeyfans.com offers you a translation.
What shortcomings of the team did you find out?
Bykov: “The players had no passion. It looked like it was a regular game for them.”
Ovechkin was turned on the whole game, made like five hits. Why weren’t other players pumped up?
Bykov: “Yes, Alexander was one of the players who tried to demonstrate their best during the whole game. Others were in shadow.”
via William Houston of Truth & Rumours,
It’s a big team, not overly physical. It has okay speed, but not great speed, not really quick. The players can’t finish. It certainly does sound like a Canadian hockey team. Still, we know this is the best men’s team Canada can put on the ice, because the hockey media told us. And the media were virtually unanimous picking them to win the gold medal.
Based on what the team has shown over two games, that isn’t going to happen at the Vancouver Olympics. Unless it gets miraculous goaltending and Sidney Crosby carries it on his shoulders, this team won’t make it to the gold medal game, never mind win it.
added 8:46am, Burnside and LeBrun of ESPN discuss the hockey action from yesterday, mainly the Switzerland/Canada game.
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