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Iced Coffey

Defense still rules the rinks

A few Olympic thoughts on Sochi as we look forward to the stretch drive to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

* Say whatever you want, but defense still wins championships -- or gold medals -- as Canada proved so conclusively in its run to the gold medal. Watching the Canadians play defense, you just got the feeling no one was going to dent the Maple Leaf. Carey Price made some terrific stops to be sure, but the Canadian defensive play just smothered the life out of some pretty good clubs.

* And while Canada may not have scored as many goals as people would have liked, sometimes you have to credit the other guys, like Team USA goalie Jonathan Quick, who made the 1-0 loss to Canada cosmetically close with his fine play. Ditto Henrik Lundqvist, who was the best player for a depleted Swedish team in the gold medal contest.

* Bottom line, Canada rules. No ifs, ands or buts.

* It will be interesting to see how Team USA's players respond when NHL play resumes. The losses to Canada and Finland in the medal round were devastating for a team that looked like it might have something going early on. After the debilitating loss to Finland, many of the comments from the American players were very pointed, certainly leaving the impression that the end of the Olympics was going to linger a while.

* There will be debate about the NHL continuing to participate in the Olympics what with the next Winter Games scheduled for South Korea. Yes, the time difference, which already is confusing me, will not make for easy viewing in North America. But hockey fans will find the games and you can be sure television will make the games available both live and on delay for fans eager to drink it all in.

Yes, shutting down the regular season is problematic for the NHL. The NBA doesn't face that problem because basketball is played in the summer. So, unless you move hockey to the Summer Games, not likely since hockey is a big-time sport in the Winter Games, the NHL season will be disrupted. But you know what? Three weeks every four years is a small price to pay for the memories the NHL's participation in the Olympics brings.

And yes, there were injuries, none more devastating than the knee injury suffered by the Islanders' John Tavares and the injury to Henrik Zetterberg. Still, the Olympics are worth it, whether the NHL ever finds a way to capitalize on it or not.

* In any discussion of NBC's hockey telecast from Sochi I must recuse myself from any discussion of Doc Emrick's brilliance because I have been blessed to call him a friend for upwards of 20 years, so I won't tell you he turned in another tremendous tournament. I do know that Ed Olczyk and Pierre Maguire have their critics, but I thought both were excellent. NBC gave us a lot of information, but not too much talk, which is a delicate balance to reach.

* Was delighted for the great Teemu Selanne, who is one of the really good guys in this game, as well as one one of its most talented players. The way Selanne was embraced by all his teammates and team officials reminded me of the moments after the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup. Selanne was being escorted to do a postgame TV spot and stopped to shake hands and embrace every team and arena worker he encountered. Working at NHL.com at the time, we had sent Evan Grossman to follow Selanne around and he came back raving about how Selanne had treated people. Since Evan had filmed the whole thing, we were able to put the images on the web. With any luck, you can still find them.

* Apropos of nothing, I remember way back in the day that goalies were loath to change their equipment. They would break in a set of pads and gloves and use them forever, and those old masks were so customized they were a staple of a goaltender's identity. The changes in equipment have allowed goalies to be much more liberal with their equipment. In recent weeks, Henrik Lundqvist has used his customary gear with the Rangers, a special set of gear for the outdoor games at Yankee Stadium and another set for the Olympics.

* Speaking of Lundqvist, my guess is the New York Rangers will hit the ground running when NHL play resumes thanks in no small part to the goaltending of Lundqvist. I would imagine the Canadiens will be delighted to see Carey Price too.

* Sidney Crosby may make you crazy if you don't root for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he remains quite the player, eh?

* Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Towes continue to take their games to the next level in important games.

* Was very happy for Marty St. Louis. Another one of the good guys. Originally left off the Canadian roster, St. Louis replaced the injured Steven Stamkos and contributed to the gold medal victory. Years ago, when the NHL All-Star Game was in Montreal, St. Louis was a late injury replacement and went through a hellacious trip to get to Montreal in time to participate in the  exhibition game.

* Call me old, but it still seemed strange not to see Scott Niedermayer in the Canadian lineup.

Filed in: | Iced Coffey | Permalink
  Tags: sochi+olympics


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About Iced Coffey

Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.

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