Saturday, February 15, 2014

Did Oshie Awake the Nightmare Bear?

In case you're not a St. Louis Blues fan and wonder just who this T.J. Oshie is and why his official Sochi 2014 profile has him as "Furnace Face," it's all explained here.

Or just enjoy the Nightmare Bear before we get to the fact that T.J. may have awoken the Russian Bear itself.

I'm so stoned, comrade


Russia Tries 2010 Canada Map To Gold?

We all remember 2010 when Team Canada muddled through its group and finished with an average 2W-1L record. Thanks to one of those wins coming in the shootout, Canada slipped to the 6th seed and had to play that extra game in the qualifying playoff round. In the end it didn't matter and may have actually helped Canada's offence get it in gear with an 8-2 shellacking of perennial borefest Germany leading to the 7-3 gorillas on the loose attack vs. Russia in the quarter-finals.

This may be the route Russia will end up taking. All things considered, USA should beat Slovenia and Russia should beat Slovakia in the final group games for each team. The only way Russia avoids having to play that extra game like Canada did in 2010, is to run up the score vs. Slovakia and hope the Canada-Finland game goes to overtime/shootout. Russia has at least a five-goal deficit to make up on Canada should Canada lose in OT/SO vs. Teemu Suomi.

Realistically, the top four seeds are going to be Sweden, USA, Finland and Canada with the loser of that Finland-Canada game being the 4th seed.

The main issue is avoiding Russia in the QF because, like Canada in 2010, that is going to be one angry and highly motivated team by then. Russia does, at this stage, look like it'll be the 5th seed and therefore gets to play the 12th seed (which based on their lack of points and horrendous goal difference could be Russia having to play Slovakia for the second game in a row).

Let's assume Russia wins and all the seeds #5-8 win their qualifiers. That means Russia will play that 4th seed meaning...uh, Canada you might want to win that final group game vs. Finland. Of course, that could mean a semi-final paring with Russia but win or lose you're in the medal hunt anyway.

Of course, none of this will happen when Slovenia upsets the US and Slovakia wins in a shootout vs. Russia tomorrow. 

The Defence Does Not Rest

All this hullabaloo about the big ice and how it would adversely affect play for North Americans, hid the fact plenty of ice means plenty of room for the D to manoeuvre around in the offensive end for ALL teams.

Currently, there are four defencemen in the Top 10 of the Olympic scoring leaders with Sweden's Erik Karlsson and Finland's Olli Maatta 1st and 2nd atop the list. Maatta's teammate Sami Vantanen and Canada's Drew Doughty are the other two.

Of the 75 goals scored in the tournament so far, 20 percent have been scored by defencemen. It sounds like a lot, and it is. In the 2013-14 NHL season so far 737 goals have been scored by defencemen. There have been 4,835 goals scored meaning D-men make up about 15 percent of the goal scoring load (Give or take as some of these GF overall may be the phantom extra goal awarded for a win in a shootout. Not to act dumb, but does a 3-2 shootout win in a shootout = 3 GF or the real 2 GF in NHL stat minds?).

Anyway, without the D chipping in, and not just chipping it out, you're going nowhere in this tournament period.

Why No Love For the Swiss or Finns?

Is it just me or are "experts" overlooking two teams that are incredibly dangerous? Finland I'll give everyone a pass pre-tournament on as they had two key injuries to captain Mikko Koivu and Valteri Filppula (and now have Alexandre Barkov down for the count) even with their incredible great medal track record. The thing that has to jump out is their ability to score now in bunches. That's what is incredibly scary about the Finns now. They have always been good but, if they can now score, they have the D and netminding to win it all.


Hey, this guy IS pretty good

 Then the Swiss have been showing that Torino 2006 was no fluke with a decent showing at Vancouver 2010 (a shootout loss to Canada and getting to the quarter-finals). Sure, they are the LA Kings of international hockey in that they can barely score a goal let alone two, but Jonas Hiller is playing at even a better same level than he has been playing at with the Anaheim Ducks. The Swiss are simply scary good and it's not like they don't try to score, they just don't have the talent level to do that yet or pepper stronger opponents with enough shots to make up the difference.

Enough With Crosby's Troubles

Is it just me but what is Sidney Crosby's problem? I mean, Jeff Carter can't seem to click with him and gets moved to play with Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Toews and scores a hat trick (OK, his first goal was assisted by Marleau and Crosby, but you drift my get).

Did we have this discussion about Wayne Gretzky ever at the international level?

At the '81 Canada Cup he, Gilbert Perreault and Guy Lafleur were terrific  and even after Perreault broke his leg, the other two continued to rack up the points until that Soviet Union mugging of the entire team in the Final.

In '84 #99 was paired for the most part with Michel Goulet and Rick Middleton and they were pretty great together. In '87 of course Mario and often a rotating set of wingers (or centers converted to wing) the last being Dale Hawerchuk on that famous winning goal.

I'll stop there as I could go on and on until the Nagano 98. Point being the Wayner has always been THAT good that anyone who plays on his line will get set up to put the puck in the net.

All I can say, it's a short tournament, Sid, and there's no Jarome Iginla there to help you out this time. You're the veteran now.

Oshie Shoots Up Sochi

Sure, TJ Oshie's four-for-six in the shootout was wild and crazy but does it mean anything beyond a pretty good and close hockey game decided by the skills competition? Most likely, it doesn't.

In 2010, there were just two shootout games and both involving Switzerland. As forementioned they lost to Canada, but they did beat Belarus in the other one.

It's a nice story with all this 1980 Miracle On Ice nostalgia wrapped around the Not Soviet Union vs. USA vibe. In the end it amounts to little, if Team K-Swiss Logo USA do not at least medal.

After all in 2010 Ryan Miller stole the group game 5-3 for Team USA after Canada poured 45 shots at him. In the end, come the Gold Medal game the Americans came up a sliver (silver?) short.

Get back to me when TJ is needed in an elimination game. Then let's see if he's really Jonathan Toews-like.

Toews...Toews...and more Toews!

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