Thursday, February 25, 2010

Olympic updates and European Jerseys

I have heard from a few people that they wish last night's Canada/ Russia game would have been closer, and were disappointed in the blowout. I could not disagree more, I was simply estatic with the whitewash of the Russians. In my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined such an outcome and then I was surprised again later in the evening with the Slovakia victory over Sweden. Slovakia cannot be underestimated, but the results could not have been better overall for Canada. As well, Finland may very well beat the Americans. Myself, I have not been blown away by the U.S. so far. The near upset by the Swiss in the quarterfinals leaves me to think they are ripe for the picking by the Finns.

I was at the surprisingly entertaining Belarus/ Switzerland Qualification game on Tuesday which the Swiss won in a shootout. I have been very impressed with attendance as even the noon games between less popular teams have been pretty close to sold out. Overall now I have seen the Swiss play three of their four games as well as Finland/ Germany this past weekend. Therefore I have seen in person three of the four finalists, the Finns having fairly easily beaten the Germans 5-0 including 4 via the powerplay. I say the final four is fairly wide open still, but if Canada comes out of the gate like they did agianst Russia there is not a team in the world that can beat them.

One of my favourite things about attending Olympic hockey is coming across foreign fans sporting team sweaters from various European Leagues. I've been stopping them and asking to take a photo of their great uniforms. Every person I asked was more than happy to pose for a shot.

Magnitogorsk Metallurg, Evgeni Malkin jersey. Actually a nice looking jersey for a European team which is usually bogged down with advertisment logos. I love the Russian lettering for the name.
Omsk Avangard, Jaromir Jagr. Again, it would seem the KHL has alot less logo-ing than Scandinavian or German teams.
Lukko Rauma, Finnish League. This one I actually didn't get a clear shot of the front of the jersey yet I have figured it out to a team called Lukka Rauma from Finland. I have heard of most of the club teams in Europe, but this one was new to me. Apparently they have been around since 1936, but last won the league title in 1963...sort of a Finnish version of my Maple Leafs. The five players they have retired in their history are by and large unknowns even to the likes of myself. Have you ever heard of Teppo Rastio, Jouni Peltonen, Matti Keinonen, Jorma Vehmanen or Matti Forss?


Berlin Polar Bears, T.J. (Travis) Mulock. This guy was my favourite, he was very happy to pose as long as he didn't spill his two beers. A man after my own heart. Here we see more of a presence of ad logos on a still, fairly cool looking jersey. When I asked him to turn around he said "Local guy, local guy." I thought he meant Mulock was a neighbour of his from Berlin. Upon checking I find out that he is from Langley, B.C. and played for the local Vancouver Giants and Surrey Eagles. Plus he is actually a member of the German Olympic team. He played over 14 minutes against the Finns in the game I saw and slightly less than that against Canada in the Quarterfinal.
This guy had two other pals with him, also in their Berlin Polar Bears jerseys. As they walked away I saw one had across the back "FELSKI". An actual Sven Felski jersey! I should have offered to trade him for my vintage Team Canada jersey. Alas, I was so excited by the sight of Felski that I didn't even have the presence of mind to get a pic. Oh well, I'll have to hope I bump into him around town this weekend.



Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brodeur....yikes.


Well, here we go again. Canada is attempting to take the hard route to the medal round at the Olympics. It didn't work out so well in Torino. I'd like to say they ran into another hot goalie that stole the game (as was the case with Jonas Hiller of Switzerland), but honestly I wasn't all that impressed with Ryan Miller's play. He really didn't make an exceptional save (maybe once while spread eagle on his back in the third period). Miller simply seemed to have terrific postition making the Canadians seemingly hit him in the crest with most shots. The true difference was Martin Brodeur, he was definitely not up to par.

Brodeur's puck-handling, usually one of his strong suits, was atrocious. On the second goal, he seemed to forget everything he has learned about the butterfly style of goaltending and opted for a 1979 style Mike Palmateer "two-pad stack". His baseball-style bat of the puck directly to Rafalski was highly uncharacteristic, and highly ill-advised. As well, in the third period he decided to dive headlong for a puck on a poorly controlled rebound. I would not be averse to playing Roberto Luongo against the Germans in the Qualification game and hopefully again against the Russians in the Quarterfinals and on.

Canada's powerplay was inadequate once again, and their two best players on the night Crosby and Nash actually ended up minus three each on the evening. Nash played some nice physical hockey and Crosby seemed to long for a consistent third on their line. On the plus side, Drew Doughty was impressive once again and seems to have moved up to the first powerplay unit. He actually played ten minutes more than Dan Boyle on the night after playing six minutes less than him against the Swiss.

Having attended the Germany/ Finland game on Friday (pictured above), I'm fairly confident that Canada will beat the Germans on Tuesday. Germany will lean heavily on defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Dennis Seidenberg who are leading them in ice-time by a wide margin. Our old friend, Sven Felski is actually topping Germany with a plus one rating through three games. For Canada, playing Russia with no rest on Wednesday will obviously be extremely difficult.

One of the cool things about being at the Germany vs Finland game was getting to witness Teemu Selanne besting the All-Time Olympic point scoring mark. Selanne notched his 37th point, one more than Russian Valeri Kharlamov, Czech Vlastimil Bubnik and Canadian Harry Watson. However, I have seen from a few sources differing numbers for Harry Watson's 1924 totals. Hockey-reference.com has Watson scoring 37 goals as well as 9 assists, and another site I've found him with 37 goals and no assists. I'm not sure if assists were an official olympic stat in 1924, but it looks like Selanne would at the very most be merely tied with Watsons 37 goals. I will however on this matter defer to the IIHF and IOC.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Canada vs Switzerland

Last night was perhaps one of the more entertaining games that I have ever personally attended. The atmosphere in the arena was electric from an hour before puckdrop, right through the game. I was able to get down to the glass for warm-ups and got some pretty good shots. Our seats weren't too bad either, a dozen rows up on the goal line.
It's somewhat concerning that Canada couldn't quite get the powerplay going, and I really wish they'd start playing the body more. Playing Toews on the top line with Crosby and Nash was nice to see, and I really wish we'd see more of that combo. Doughty as well looked great for a kid his age, and I liked him getting some powerplay time. I have to say, I felt a lot more comfortable going into the shootout with Brodeur in net than if it was Luongo.

Below is the sea of red on the way into the rink. Nice day in Vancouver as you can see, it was about 12 degrees at game time.

Nice shot of Brodeur in warm up. Perry was the "puck-from-net-remover" throughout the warm up.


Fleury adjusting his equipment, from 3 feet away.


Fleury taking shots.



Big Joe and Sid. I'd like to see more out of Thornton.

Marleau and Toews.

Iggy slapper.


The Kid.


Heater, Nash and Iggy.
Opening faceoff, not bad seats.



One of the many big stops by Hiller.


Brodeur stonewalling in the shootout

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

U.S.A. vs Swiss

Pictured above is the view that my buddy Geoff and I had from our seats at the first Olympic hockey match. Overall, the game was not too bad and had alot more hitting than I would have expected. The U.S. seem to be a fairly physical bunch (at least against the smaller Swiss) with some nice big smacks delivered by the likes of Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan seemingly trying to stay out of the 13th forward slot through hard work and big hits.
The second U.S. goal (David Backes blowing aound Swiss defender Yannick Weber before stuffing it past Hiller) was singled out by Bob McKenzie later in the evening as the goal of the night. It was an impressive goal, but I thought it was more a literal illustration of the talent differential between the teams. Backes, middle of the pack among the U.S. scoring threats coming down against perhaps Switzerland's second best blueliner Weber, looked like Mario Lemieux in his prime busting down the wing. There's a reason why Weber is still in the AHL.
The Americans will definitely have to be better than their two shots on the Swiss goal in the third period.

A few other things that caught my eye:

- GM Place, sorry...Canada Hockey House has had every piece of Vancouver Canuck-ness stripped of it. From the board ads, to the ads on the stairs...it's all Vanoc. Even the Canuck banners and retired numbers have been placed in storage.

-we sat in the same section as some of Team U.S.A.'s family members led by Jamie Langenbrunner's wife, mother and kids. I believe we were near Tim Gleason's relatives too, who else in their right minds would have matching U.S.A. jerseys with "Gleason" on the back...

-right in front of us was a guy from Miami, Florida with his three kids. He kept asking us about some of the finer points of hockey like "When is a hard hit like that called a penalty?" or "What's hooking?". He told us he was at the Women's Gold Medal game in Salt Lake City, but couldn't quite remember the teams that were playing.

-the only beer served in the building is Molson Canadian (ugh), but that didn't stop me from having one before 12 noon.

- upon purchasing 50/50 tickets I was told to check later on the concourse screens for the winning number as they would not be announced in the building. I assume that has something to do with the IOC not wanting to officially condone gambling.

-the in-house scoreboard host was ex-NHL goalie Marc Denis and we had a good chat with him when he was in our section. We wondered if he was still playing anywhere overseas (I kind of thought he may have been in the KHL), but he says he decided to hang them up (he's only 32 years old) after a solid season in the AHL with Hamlton last year. He said he didn't want to do the minor leagues any longer and it was a family decision to not go play in Europe. I didn't mention to him that I drafted him as my goalie in 2006 when he went to Tampa, basically costing me the pool singlehandedly with his atrocious numbers. Nor did I mention that among goalies with at least 300 NHL games, only he and Ron Low have career winning percentages under .400 (Denis barely under, Low extremely under). Denis did a good job interviewing the aforemetioned Langenbrunner family and later U.S. legend Mike Eruzione.

We found it somewhat funny when a few hockey "fans" in the crowd asked Denis to snap a picture of them thinking he was just another usher. But really, even after hearing him on the scoreboard saying his name was Marc Denis, perhaps only a small number recognized him as the ex-NHLer he was. In fact, with perhaps a few breaks in his career (not playing for Columbus for one) he could very well have been in the mix to be a member of the Canadian Olympic team. As recent as 2006 he went 4-1 for Canada at the World Championships.

Pictured below is myself with Marc Denis, and yes I'll be wearing that same get up Thursday when I attend the Canada/Switzerland game.




Monday, February 15, 2010

Who are the hot Olympians?


Well, tomorrow is the opener of the Olympic hockey tournament, U.S.A. vs Switzerland and I'll be there watching. Looking forward to see if the Swiss can pull off another upset like they did in Torino when they beat Canada. Below are the top scoring forwards on each country's team since Jan 1. (GP-G-A-Pts)


Canada

Crosby 21 19 11 30

Marleau 21 13 10 23

Staal 19 12 11 23

Heatley 21 9 12 21

Getzlaf 18 7 13 20

Nash 21 9 11 20

Thornton 21 5 15 20

Iginla 22 7 12 19

Perry 22 6 12 18

Toews 21 7 9 16


Crosby's almost goal per game pace bodes well as does the San Jose trio coming in fairly hot. Iginla and Staal have picked up the pace of late with Staal having a somewhat surprising 12 goals in his last 19 games.


And the coldest of Canada's forwards...

Bergeron 15 1 6 7

Morrow 17 1 7 8

Richards 21 8 4 12


I have questioned the selection of Bergeron from the beginning, and I only hope Hockey Canada didn't make a mistake by including Crosby's old World Junior running mate. Brendan Morrow as well is troubling, I know he's on the team more for his tempo-setting and grinding, but one goal since Jan. 1st, that just doesn't cut it.


United States

Kane 21 8 14 22

Kesler 20 6 14 20

Langenbrunner 22 5 15 20

Parise 21 11 8 19

Backes 19 4 12 16


Kane and Parise are expected to lead the U.S. offensively but the presence of Kesler, Langenbrunner and Backes on their hot list shows they may have more depth than at first glance.


Drury 22 5 3 8

Malone 21 2 6 8


Chris Drury's days as a reliable offensive contributor may be behind him, but Ryan Malone's 2 goals in his last 21 games is fairly atrocious.


Russia

Ovechkin 22 16 23 39

Semin 22 16 17 33

Malkin 21 8 19 27

Kovalchuk 22 9 12 21

Datsyuk 21 8 11 19


Pretty scary stuff, all the top Russians are firing on all cylinders as of the start of the tournament, Ovechkin and Semin's 16 goals each are second to only Crosby.


Sweden

Backstrom 22 11 19 30

H.Sedin 20 6 21 27

D.Sedin 20 6 19 25

Alfredsson 15 8 10 18

Hornqvist 20 10 6 16

Zetterberg 19 6 10 16


Even though the Sedins have slowed down a bit on their recent road swing, they're both coming into the Games on a fairly hot swing. Backstrom is just one of the many Capitals on fire since the New Year. Zetterberg being tied with Patrick Hornqvist in points since Jan. 1 is some cause for concern for the Swedes.


Czechs

Havlat 20 7 12 19

Fleischmann 22 4 15 19

Plekanec 20 7 7 14

Krejci 20 4 8 12


Not very much in the way of hot Czech team members playing in the NHL. They better hope Jagr brings some scoring punch from the KHL.


Finland

M.Koivu 20 6 11 17

Miettinen 20 7 6 13

O.Jokinen 22 6 7 13

Hagman 22 5 5 10

S.Koivu 18 4 6 10


Much like the Czechs, Finland is not bringing many hot scorers to the Olympics although they are predictably led by Mikko Koivu and should be during the Games as well.


Slovakia

Hossa 19 11 9 20

Gaborik 20 9 9 18

Handzus 20 7 6 13

Kopecky 20 3 3 6

Satan 18 3 3 6

Demitra 11 1 3 4


Not much here after the big two, they better hope Halak steals a game or two for them.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010 Lesser Known Stars


I had lunch (a few beers) this week at Germany House, and yesterday at Ontario House. It's really quite surreal that after seven and a half years of anticipation, the Olympics are here. I checked out the rosters of the hockey teams that dwell outside of the Big Seven nations to find the stars of those teams.

Norway
Mathis Olimb
; plays with Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League and has 31 points in 48 games this season. Per-Age Skroder may be the Norwegians hidden gem, as he led the Swedish loop in scoring last season with 30 goals and 59 points playing for Modo. This season he has dropped off to 17 goals and 33 points in 47 games, but his mantle has been picked up by Modo and Norwegian team mate, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen. He has 51 points in 48 games to sit third in Elite League scoring.
Another high-flying Nord is Tore Vikingstad (pictured above) who was a St.Louis sixth round pick in 1999. He currently has 55 points in 42 games for Hannover of the German League, good for third in overall scoring.

Switzerland
Yannick Weber a defenseman drafted in the third round by Montreal in 2007 after playing junior with the Kitchener Rangers. He notched 20 goals and 55 points in his final junior season and impressed with 44 points in 68 games with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs last year. Weber has played 8 games the last two years with Montreal and has one assist, this season he has 23 points in 45 games with the Bulldogs.

Latvia
Kaspars Daugavins
is one of the few Latvians that doesn't play for Dynamo Riga in the Russian League. Daugavins has played one game with the Ottawa Senators this season, the remainder with Binghamton where the Left Winger has 14 goals and 32 points in 47 games. in 2008 he tallied 74 points in 62 games for the OHL's Mississauga Majors. Herberts Vasiljevs has 51 NHL games to his credit and scored 25 points in those games. He last suited up for Vancouver in 2001/02 and his last five seasons have been spent in the German League where he annually scores at a point per game pace.

Belarus
Oleg Antonenko is one of the few athletes at these games that I can say is older than myself. The 39 year old Left Winger has played in Russia since 1988/89 and is currently with Dinamo Minsk. He has 11 goals and 18 points this season after having a nice campaign last year with 18 goals for Balashikha of the KHL.

Olympic Hockey Pool, Last Chance!



One more chance to get in my Hockey Pool. Pick one player from each group,all games count (Qualification and Placement games too), most points wins.


I'm heading to Short Track Speed Skating at the Pacific Coliseum this evening. Hoping to see Canada's first ever gold medal on home soil in the form of Charles Hamelin.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2010 Injury Replacements



With a week to go before the Olympic tournament Team Canada may be faced with the prospect of replacing Ryan Getzlaf and his banged up ankle. A few days ago the U.S. replaced Mike Komisarek and Paul Martin with Ryan Whitney and Tim Gleason. Patrik Elias and Dan Boyle returned from 10 and 6 game layoffs this weekend, just in time to get a few games in before Vancouver. Lets check out who, among possible Olympic replacements has been the hottest since the new year.


Canada
Steven Stamkos
In 17 games he has 11 goals, 13 assists for 24 points. Stamkos, in my mind should be the one called if Getzlaf is unable to go.
Mike Green
Having just served a three game suspension, Green has played 14 games scoring 4 goals and 11 assists since New Year's. He is an ideal replacement for one of Canada's offensively geared defenders such as Boyle or Doughty.

Jeff Carter
With 8 goals and 7 assists in 17 games, Carter may not be the hottest, but he was the last cut from the original roster selected back in December.
Vincent Lecavalier

Vinny has been slowly heating up after a slow start with 6 goals and 18 points in 17 games since December. His size and international experience could make him the choice to round out the roster.

Alex Burrows

One of the hottest scorers since Jan. 1 with 15 goals and 22 points in 16 games. Aside from even the more than goal/game goal scoring, the main reason I might consider Burrows is his 4 shorthanded goals in the New Year. His tenacity on the penalty kill would be a welcomed asset for Team Canada.

Shane Doan & Ryan Smyth

Doan has 7 goals and 19 points while Smyth has 8 goals and 13 points, each in 18 games. Like Lecavalier, each would bring international experience, but they also bring the grit and leadership that may be wanted by Team Canada.


Russia

Alex Kovalev

Kovalev has a point per game since being snubbed by Russia. The question is , does the Russian brass even want the much maligned player on their squad?

Alexander Frolov

Frolov seems to be justifying his exclusion from Team Russia with a mere 2 goals and 9 points in 17 games in the New Year.

Nikolai Kulemin

Kulemin has rounded into form as a solid contributor and adept penalty killer, something the Russians may need. His 5 goals and 9 points in 18 games isn't too bad either.


United States

Tim Connolly

One of the hottest yanks since the New Year with 23 points in 18 games, he may be a nice replacement on one of the top two lines.

Keith Yandle

He may be the first defenseman to fill in with 4 goals and 11 points in 17 games.

RJ Umberger

6 goals and 12 points.

Matt Cullen

15 points in 18 games.

Brian Gionta

7 goals, 12 points and 17 games.All three may very well still play a roll in Vancouver.


Sweden

Johan Franzen

Is playing his first game in four months tonite, and will get three games in before the Games begin. Does Sweden take Franzen over others if needed? I say yes.

Mikael Samuelsson

After being scorned and lashing out at the national team, Samuelsson's 7 goals and 11 points in 16 games may not be enough to garner a selection.

Kristian Huselius

Huselius has been quite productive with 5 goals and 18 points in 17 games and may be given some consideration if the need arises.

Anton Stralman

Stralman has had a nice breakthrough year and has 11 points in 16 games since Jan. 1.


Czech Republic

Vinny Prospal & Radim Vrbata

With 11 points each since the New Year (Vrbata with 6 goals) these two are the best of the slim pickings remaining in the NHL. The Czechs may be more likely to dip into the European Leagues for a replacement if needed.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The State of Canadian Goaltending




Here are the statistics for NHL goalies born in Canada since the start of the New Year. Minimum 10 games played.

(GP W-L-OTL AVG)

Martin Brodeur
17 8-8-1 2.44

Roberto Luongo
15 10-3-1 2.38

Marc-Andre Fleury
12 6-5-0 3.05

The three Olympians have been playing well if not spectacular. Luongo has the best numbers but has himself hardly been outstanding. This past weekend in Boston was the first time in a long while that the Canucks stole a win mainly due to Luongo.
Brodeur's numbers are pedestrian for the likes of him. My theory on who starts game one of the Olympics is that Babcock will give Luongo the start in the first game against Norway to simply get it out of the way. Brodeur would then start against the Swiss and each subsequent game. I believe Babcock and the rest of Canada's brain-trust would like to roll with one 'tender, and they will after giving BobbyLu his one moment in the sun.

So, if one of the Olympic three were to get hurt, who would be the injury replacement?
Cam Ward
16 9-7-0 2.21
Ward was perhaps the hottest goalie from Canada prior to getting hurt this past weekend. His injury is technically day-to-day, but looks to be more serious than that.

Marty Turco
11 4-7-0 2.86

Steve Mason
11 4-5-0 3.00

Chris Mason
13 6-4-3 2.15

Brian Elliott
14 10-3-0 2.14

Jose Theodore
11 10-1-0 2.43

Jeff Deslauriers
10 2-7-1 3.50

These six are the only other Canadian goalies to have played at least ten games since Jan. 1. Honestly, who among these guys would be chosen as an injury replacement. Brian Elliott may have the best numbers over the last five weeks but that's not enough for me. Turco would probably be the most preferred among Canada's brass, I'm just not so sure his game has come around enough yet. Steve Mason is slowly breaking out of his sophmore slump, but the only way he'll get to the Olympics is on a tour bus. I'd say, if Canada did have to replace a goalie it would be Jose Theodore. His numbers are perhaps more based on his team scoring almost five goals per game over the last few months, but he may be just about all Canada has left to chose from.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

1980 Olympians NHL Stats




I wanted to check the career NHL stats of the 1980 Olympic hockey teams. Of course the Soviets and Czechs were not allowed to play in North America for almost a decade following Lake Placid, unless they were to defect. In fact of the seven Soviets who would play in the NHL only three played in more than one season. The Russians eventually came to the NHL by waiting out the fall of communism and the Czechoslovaks by mainly defecting (see Stastny's). There would be ten Czechs from the 1980 team to come to North America with six of them playing at least three seasons here (The Stastny's Three, Jiri Bubla, Miroslav Frycer and Jaroslav Pouzar).


Each team's totals follow.






The Russians are led by the late career jumps to the NHL by Sergei Makarov, Slava Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov who came to North America in their late 20's. Of the seven Swedes to come to the NHL (a fairly low number explained by the fact that most of their top talent was already here), all would have fairly substantial runs. Bo Berglund and Lars Molin played 130 and 172 games each while Tomas Jonsson, Mats Naslund and Pelle Lindbergh had fairly lengthy careers with top teams in the NHL.


Finland's impressive numbers are attributed mainly to Jari Kurri's Hall of Fame career with Kari Eloranta and Mikko Leinonen chipping in a few good seasons. Twelve of the U.S. Olympians went on to play the the big leagues with all getting a substantial chance to play. It's probable that U.S. based NHL teams attempted to capitalize on the Gold Medal players as a marketing tool if not quite the greatest contributors on the ice. Players like Bil Baker, Dave Silk, Rob McClanahan and even goalie Jim Craig probably got more chances to succeed because of the mystique that came with them. This is not to say that the States squad didn't produce bonafide NHL players, Ken Morrow, Mark Johnson, Mark Pavelich, Mike Ramsey, Dave Christian and Neal Broten were all above average pros. Morrow won four Cups with the Islanders and Broten one at the end of his career.


Team Canada sent eleven players to the NHL with only Randy Gregg, Tim Watters, Jim Nill, Paul MacLean and Glenn Anderson making more than passing contributions (Gregg to five Cups, Anderson to six).




In keeping with my goal of posting only articles about the Olympics, I decided to put an addendum on this one regarding the recently completed Phaneuf transaction.


Incidentally, Bobby Orr had 26 PPG's and 11 Game Winning Goals over his first five years.




The fact that the Leafs got a 24 year old player that can be mentioned even in the slightest with these greats in exchange for Ian White and Nik Hagman, (Stajan and Mayers are upcoming UFA's) can only be considered a coup.


And now back to Olympic talk....


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