Sunday, February 28, 2010

Canada's Golden Moment

sidney crosby golden goal
How do you put a game like that into words? I’m at a loss. It was easily the biggest hockey game I have ever watched and that is a major understatement. Everything was on the line. The Olympics being held in Vancouver put such enormous pressure on everyone. Olympic Gold wasn’t just on the line, but our national identity as well. I’m not exaggerating. Canadians love hockey more than anything else. Is there another nation that loves anything as much as Canadians love hockey? Hockey is so intrinsically tied to our national identity. Paul Henderson’s goal in the ’72 Summit Series is probably a top-5 moment for Canada as a nation. I’m serious. It matters that much to us. So, being challenged so fiercely in our own game, in our own country, that certainly felt like an attack on our identity.

Failure was not an option. This was the most stressful sporting event I have ever witnessed. They couldn’t lose. I don’t know how I would react. The nation would be in a daze. Our collective spirits shattered. I had such a nervous energy this whole morning. My friends and I went to the local bar early to ensure we had good seats, but that was almost worse than waiting around at home. Waiting for the game to start was excruciating. Watching the game was almost torture. Every American rush down the ice was frightening. Jonathan Toews’ opening goal was the biggest relief. There was such a stress coursing through my body and that goal helped calm me down. It was certainly a huge relief for the Canadian team. It made Miller seem beatable. They didn’t have to play with the added pressure of rallying from behind under the collective tension of 17,000 + fans.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Breaking Down the Canada-USA Gold Medal Game

martin brodeur canada olympics
The finals are set for Olympic men’s hockey gold. Both teams took very different paths to the final game. USA were major underdogs before the tournament started and did everything but lose a game. They beat Canada in a major upset last Sunday and quickly dismembered Finland in their semi-final game Friday. I left work early in hopes of catching a great hockey game. I got home at the end of the first period and by that time it was long gone. Canada makes the finals under a little more adversity. They were pre-tournament favourites and barely beat a competitive Swiss team before falling to the Americans in the preliminaries. They absolutely destroyed the Russians in the most shocking Olympic matchup since Belarus-Sweden in 2002 and then barely squeaked out a semi-final victory over Slovakia in a game that took 3 years off my life.

Sunday’s matchup will conclude what is one of the most entertaining hockey tournaments ever played. There were a ton of overtime games, a few shoot-outs, a couple of upsets, and the fastest hockey I have ever seen. Even the bottom teams played hard and when they played each other they provided fantastic games that kept me enthralled. Who knew Norway-Switzerland could be so exciting?

So, to prepare for the big game I think it’s appropriate to break it down, DX style (more like Bill Simmons style, but whatever).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bizarro-Marty: Brodeur Fails Canada

After Canada’s win over Switzerland I was fully prepared to write a post belittling the notion that there was any goaltending controversy on team Canada. Luongo received his obligatory game against the Norwegians, but Marty would take it from there. I was fully convinced Marty was unflappable. He had this.

Well, that was before last night’s…incident. 4 goals and only 18 saves. Ouch. This performance was worse since Ryan Miller stood on his head at the other end of the rink and stopped 42 of 45 shots. Canada severely outplayed the Americans, but Miller severely outplayed Brodeur and Kesler severely outworked Perry to pot the clinching goal. It was that simple. That was the game.

It was a terribly disappointing finish. The extra salt in my wounds is that I now owe my Buffalonian friend a 2-4 of the “finest” Canadian beer I can find. Last night my mood was so unstable I contemplated buying Laker and warming it up in the oven. Thankfully for her my mood has stabilized relatively. Relatively.

I came home from a friend’s last night and met my Dad in the hallway. We just looked at each other and nodded. Nothing needed to be said. Just complete shock. Too much anger to even say anything.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Where Are They Now: Olympic Edition

ziggy palffy europe
One of the more interesting parts of the Olympic hockey tournament is seeing a bunch of old NHLers playing back on North American ice. Really my interest in this all stemmed from seeing Ziggy Palffy back in action. I mean anyone named Ziggy is interesting, right? I just had to know where some of these players ended up. Sure, there are the big names like Jagr and Forsberg who the media talks about relentlessly, but what about some of the less heralded players? Where are they? I haven't heard Ziggy Palffy's name in 5 years. Maybe he's a Slovakian movie star.

Looking up all this information also brought me to the realization that there are a ton of ex-NHLers scattered around the world still focused on living their hockey dreams and doing very well for themselves (just not NHL well). Maybe it’s my West-centric view of the world, but after anyone leaves the NHL I just assume they’re achieving mediocrity. My bad.

I’ll save that post for another day, but it will certainly involve Mikael Tellqvist, who according to Wikipedia was traded from the KHL to the Swedish Elite League. Is that possible? If so, it’s pretty cool.

Anyways, here are some former NHLers you will see during the Olympic tournament and where they are playing these days.

Monday, February 15, 2010

10 Players to Watch at the Vancouver Olympics

drew doughty canada hit
It’s a bit of an understatement to suggest that the men’s Olympic hockey tournament is important. It’s especially important for Canadians, not only because it’s in Canada, but because of the absolute debacle in Torino four years ago. Too bad USA Basketball already coined the Redeem Team. There is a lot at stake for the Russians as well. This is a chance at the ultimate retribution for the game 8 loss incurred in Russia over 30 years ago during the Summit Series. Teams like Sweden and Finland are being overlooked by the media as serious contenders for the Gold medal, despite being the two finalists in 2006. They have motivation to defend their national honour and prove that Gold isn't just a two-nation race.

There is not only a lot at stake for each country, but there is a lot at stake for certain players. Of course we all understand the pressure on players like Crosby and Ovechkin, but it’s highly probable that these players will perform to our expectations regardless of how high they are. We know how good these guys are. It's unlikely they will change our perception of them, barring some cataclysmic collapse. But there are many players throughout the tournament that have something to prove. 

Who will use this tournament to catapult themselves into national superstardom like Jarome Iginla did in 2002? Who will elevate their game to the next level and prove their critics wrong? Who will become this year’s Tommy Salo and have their career self-destruct before our eyes?

Here is a list of the players with the most to prove and those with the most to gain from these Olympics.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Miracle on Ice: Part II?

miracle on ice usa
The greatest period in American hockey is over. Stars of the 80s and 90s like Brian Leetch, Pat LaFontaine, Tony Amonte, John LeClair, Jeremy Roenick, Darien Hatcher, and Mike Richter have all retired. Players like Keith Tkachuk, Mike Modano, and (amazingly) Chris Chelios are all close to the end of their careers. These are the players that led the USA to its most successful era ever, which included a win at the World Cup in 1996 and an Olympic Silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake Games.

The Silver medal team was a group largely composed of older American players listed above and it briefly looked like there would be a void of American talent upon their retirement. The younger American players at the time, such as Chris Drury and Adam Deadmarsh, failed to develop into stars, which made the departure of long-time American stalwarts even worse.

There is now a young contingent of American players that are poised to once again bring the United States to the upper-echelon in international hockey. This year's Olympic squad proves that. The team is sacrificing experienced players like Mike Modano and Scott Gomez for many players who aren't even 25.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Canadiens Cut Gainey Loose

bob gainey habs gm
It was announced yesterday that Canadiens GM Bob Gainey is stepping down from his position and will be replaced by assistant GM Pierre Gauthier on an interim basis.

"I believe that the general manager position requires a long-term vision and commitment, and I did not want to make a commitment for four or five or six more years."

I’ll believe that Gainey is actually stepping down and he isn’t actually being forced out of his position, but, just for a second, let’s pretend that Gainey is actually being removed against his will. Would Bob Gainey’s dismissal be justified? Here are some possible reasons why the Canadiens would fire Gainey.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What's Wrong with the Bruins?

milan lucic winter classic bruins bourqueThere were big expectations from the Bruins this year after two back-to-back surprising seasons. After posting a 35-41-6 season in 2006-2007 and being thoroughly lambasted by the media for dealing star-forward Joe Thornton to the Sharks the previous year, the Bruins finished with an unexpected 94 points. That was good enough to squeak into the playoffs as the eight seed. They even pushed a heavily favoured Montreal squad to seven games. Last year, the Bruins shocked many pundits by winning the Eastern Conference by a wide margin and narrowly missing the President’s Trophy by only one point. The Bruins were eventually ousted in the second round, but their young squad appeared set to contend with the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way so far this year. In fact, the Bruins sit tied for 9th in the East and just recently snapped a 10 game winless streak by beating the Canadiens in Montreal. So what’s wrong with the Bruins? What happened to last year’s powerhouse?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

kovalchuk tradedThe NHL trade deadline is a month away, but there have already been three significant trades. The latest, consummated hours ago, involves the heavily rumoured Ilya Kovalchuk. It was not surprising in the least that Kovalchuk is no longer a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, but what is surprising is the team that acquired him, the New Jersey Devils.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Things Done Changed: The Value of a First Round Pick

I was going to wait to post this until closer to the trade deadline, but since Burkie and Sutter have gone crazy I thought it was appropriate to post it sooner.

GMs of terrible teams look fondly upon the 2007 trade deadline with the same wistful eyes that cocaine dealers get when remembering the 1980s.

This is the trade deadline that made rebuilding even more difficult than it already is. That’s because the 2007 trade deadline is better characterized as the year of overspending or the year of ignorance. Since it was only the second year after the lockout teams didn’t quite realize the tremendous value of draft picks in a cap system, especially first round picks. When you commit a large sum of your cap space to a small group of core players you continually need to replenish your remaining roster spots with young, cheap talent. Having young players make meaningful contributions, while still on their rookie contracts, is essential. GMs who believed they were on the cusp of a Stanley Cup run, or worse, on the cusp of only the playoffs, traded their picks faster than a crack addict selling their sex.
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