With the men’s Olympic hockey tournament underway, here are a few thoughts I’ve had from the opening games. At this point, all teams have played at least two games and we really are already separating the good from the bad and the ugly, as happens every year. The prelims really are just a warmup for the teams we know are going to make it to the medal round anyway, as they try and fuse a team together and get some momentum before the elimination games really begin.
- Great job by Slovenia, the tiny former Yugoslav nation with fewer than 200 registered male hockey players, on getting their first ever Olympic win, over the reeling Slovakian team.
- Even though Finland hasn’t dominated, as a Canadian fan, I am scared of what Tuuka Raask could do in the medal round.
- The US team has looked dominant, maybe the best team in the tourney so far.
- 4 goals by TJ Oshie in the shootout against Russia? Incredible. That will be seen as a classic game in no time.
- Tough blow for Sweden, who were the favorites in my mind. Losing Henrik Zetterberg really hurts. He is a beast, and probably their best player. They have good team depth, however, and should be able to make a run at a medal without him. That D combination of Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson is terrifying.
- The uniforms: as awful as they were when they were released, they actually look pretty decent on the ice. That goes for most of the teams. I really like the Finnish flag jerseys, the Czech whites, and the Canada reds. Still a huge thumbs down for the black Canadian alternates, and those Russian ones look like a big mess with the white eagle heads. And is Austria just wearing the Canadian jerseys from 2010 with a different logo? No points for creativity there.
Now, specifically on the Canadian team:
- I want Carey Price as my goalie moving forward. Luongo played well and got a shutout, but that was against Austria. I just don’t trust him to rise up like I would Price.
- Crosby has been quiet, which shouldn’t really be a concern. He didn’t do tons in Vancouver, either, before scoring that one little goal of his…
- I am endlessly impressed with our defense. Weber and Doughty have been great in both ends of the rink. Everyone else has been solid as well. No glaring giveaways, and it looks like they are all playing well together. This bodes well as we move forward, since in these short tournaments, D and goaltending are paramount.
- Why is Rick Nash on this team again? I love to hate him.
- Hopefully Canada got a scare from its close opening game against Norway. European teams can really shut it down out there, and Canada has to be willing to get dirty in the corners and messy in front of the net to get some mucker goals in order to bear those teams. For example, Switzerland gives you no chances, so you need to capitalize on every sniff you may get.
- I don’t know if I like playing two easy teams off the hop. I would rather have had the Finns as a second game, a truer test for the team. Then an easy one to close the round robin. This would have given them a bit of a break going into the medal round. Now, they will be playing tough and meaningful games for the rest of the tournament. No more simple ones.
- Again, those black jerseys were terrible.
It is very exciting going forward, to see which nation will rise above the others. There are still so many contenders out there, and it really is too tough to call at this point. The US looks like the team to beat, but that could change in a moment, which really is the best part about the Olympic tourney.
Go Canada Go!
Of course Sidney Crosby needed to be the captain of Team Canada’s Olympic Hockey Team.
He is the best hockey player in the world. He is the face of the NHL. He is a Stanley Cup champion. He has won Olympic Gold before, from that little overtime goal that may be the most memorable moment for an entire generation of hockey fans in Canada.
It is definitely possible to debate Crosby as our captain. He has had a history of whining to refs, but that was before he matured in to the player he is now. There is also Jonathan Toews, who has won two Cups with Chicago, and presents himself in the stoic manner of other Canadian legends, such as Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. But is seems natural that Crosby is the choice, simply because he is the best. Over the years of being scouted and being a phenom from an early age, he has been saddled with pressure to perform since he was a kid. And nothing will change as the team heads over to Sochi, Russia, to attempt to defend our gold medal on foreign soil, on the much bigger ice that gives our guys fits.
There is no debate from me on this choice. Crosby is the perfect captain for us, the natural leader of this team. Along with him, I really like the selections of Toews and Shea Weber as his assistants. A great group, all with tons of experience.
Hopefully enough to help lead us to gold once again.
So it has finally been announced after months of debate, that will surely carry on now that we can debate who made it and who didn’t. In Canada, it is no secret that the majority of us base our Olympic viewing around the hockey team, and so many of our hopes rest on the team assembled for each Games.
Here is the list of players that made it:
Forwards: Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Ryan Getlzaf, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews.
Defense: Jay Bouwmeester, Drew Doughty, Dan Hamhuis, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, PK Subban, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Shea Weber.
Goalies: Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith
Some of my thoughts on the picks:
- I feel like Rick Nash is done. He is now dealing with concussion issues, and only has 8 goals this year. He has always been tons of promise, with little follow through. Sure, he has nice hands, skates well, and is a big body, but I would have chosen James Neal over him in a heartbeat.
- I want Price to be our starting goalie.
- How amazing is that D? Far and away the deepest group in the tournament.
- Perplexed by Hamhuis getting named to the team. I may have gone with Seabrook as by defensive D-man instead.
- Don’t like Marleau on this team. He was solid in Vancouver, but has a history of not showing up in the biggest games, and I feel like his time is done.
- One of the more controversial picks, Kunitz, is fine by me. Anyone who keeps Sid going is fine.
- Glad that Jamie Benn, one of the biggest camp snubs, made the team. Big, can skate, can finish.
- Same for Sharp. He has been way too hot lately to ignore. Throw him with anyone and he’ll score.
- Jeff Carter? I never actually thought of him in the discussion for the team. Would rather have Martin St. Louis on there. Or Claude Giroux. Not nearly the same size as Carter, but it wouldn’t matter on the large ice.
- There are two Canadian players who are 5’11”. And they are the smallest, with everybody else over 6′. That is a big team.
- Smart moves: leaving Taylor Hall, Joe Thornton, and Dan Boyle at home. Hall can’t play in his own end and is very poor without the puck, Thornton is too slow for the big ice, despite being a generationaly good setup man, and Boyle is over-the-hill, having a poor year, and I was surprised he was being considered.
- Shocked Logan Couture didn’t make it, even with his recently injured hand. He will be on the next team, for sure.
- I think there is a good combination of finesse, scoring, and grit on this team to rightfully be a favorite for the Gold. Canada, Sweden, Russia and a darkhorse Finland (I just love those goalies) are my Top 4 teams. The US isn’t far behind.
- Weakest area is in net. I’ve never been sold on Luongo, as we won last time in spite of him, not because of him. Price has been big before, but has also gone through major slumps. I think Smith is a systems goalie, and kind of surprised he is on there ahead of Corey Crawford.
- Too bad those uniforms are just so ugly. I thought for a moment that they were growing on me. But then they weren’t. Will probably still buy one, thought. Sadly.