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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Surprise, Surprise...

Russia loses to Finland in Quarterfinals
Picture from the New York Times
Semi-final match-ups: 

Finland vs. Sweden
Canada vs. USA

Okay. But... where's Russia? Oh, right. They've managed to legitimatise the label "Russian Deception" or "Russian Catastrophe", or whatever defines a Russian bomb at the Sochi Olympics (and not from terrorists). Men's hockey gold was really the only medal that mattered the most to the host nation...and they blew it. Olympics after Olympics, the Russians are known to be a team that doesn't play like a team, and that was evident during the quarterfinals yesterday. The Finns, despite missing key players like Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula, demonstrated character and unity that the Russians could never match. I extend my condolences to all Russians on this disappointing day in Olympic hockey. As a Canadian supporter, a Canada-Russia final would have been EPIC. Until next time... if the NHL allows its players to go to South Korea in 2018. But that's a conversation for another time...

Moving on, I completely underestimated the Latvian hockey team. I was convinced that Canada would face-off with Switzerland. Logically speaking, the Swiss had a better team on paper, but what matters is the team on the ice, and Latvia brought it. That was the case today, as well. They are not the most skilled hockey team, but they played the body and committed to it, especially in the first period. However, the rest of the game could be titled "The Kristers Gudlevskis Show" (it has a certain ring to it, no?), as the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect stopped 55 of 57 shots fired at him, giving Shea Weber and the Canadian hockey team their second goal only on the 54th shot. 
Latvian Netminder Gudlevskis
(AP / Mark Humphrey)
Anyone watching the game could see how tired Gudlevskis was midway through the game, lying down, face to the ice, holding onto the small breaks in between plays. All in all, kudos to Latvia and Gudlevskis on making it all the way to the quarters, and making a game out of a match-up that could have been a complete thrashing from their Canadian opponents.

Speaking of which, who here is kind of (really) worried about the lack of offensive output displayed by our Canadian team? In fact, it's not much of a question. On paper, this should be the team scoring the most goals, but they have produced 13 thus far, 7 of which were from defensemen. Captain Crosby has changed lines as many times as the host of the Oscars, and there seems to be some chemistry  between him, Kunitz, and Bergeron. Heading into the semis against a hot American team, the Canadians need to start producing offensively if they want to beat a team that wants redemption from Vancouver. That being said, I know that it's not about a lack of effort or talent. With 57 shots on goal, many of which were quality scoring chances, team Canada didn't give up and panic. 

As a Montreal Canadiens fan, I don't think Subban will be in the line-up when we face the Americans. But he does offer that offensive flair and spunk that this team desperately needs. He is a risk taker, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Carey Price made the saves he needed to make yesterday, stopping 15 of 16 shots. Pundits will probably pick on him for that lone goal, talk about his technique, or how shaky he may have seemed throughout the game. Listen, even if his shoulders should have been held higher, it was still a breakaway that shouldn't have happened. Moreover, the fact that he was able to keep his concentration while his counterpart was being bombarded with pucks, is something that should not be overlooked. The real problem here, as previously discussed, is our lack of offensive production. However, with the effort the boys put into today's game, they are bound to grow from this experience. Hopefully, they will be able to perform up to their potential on paper, Friday at noon.

3 comments:

What irks me most about Subban's scratching is the fact that we're not scoring goals and our power play is non-existent. They are subbing in Dan Hamhuis for 5 minutes a game to give some guys a break, but playing a forward. A RIGHT HANDED forward at the point on the powerplay. No slight to Patrick Sharp, but... THATS WHAT SUBBAN DOES!! Why not dress PK simply to do just that! I don't get it, its mind boggling.

Finland is a great team, always has been. Their players come up through TPS Turku and the Finnish Elite league playing the style of game the national team thrives on. Thats why so many finnish players are good defensively: Mikko Koivu, Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu, Saku Koivu, Sean Bergenheim. They can all back check and kill penalties. The Swiss are developing that style. Canada & Russia seem to have all general's and no soldiers. All-star teams are great for non-checking all-star games, but you need guys who do the dirty work consistently. Its hard for individuals to win in hockey. Teams win in hockey.

Lastly, Latvia was tough. And their goalie had a career day. Kudos on the effort and great article, Safia!

Thanks Nick! I completely agree, it makes absolutely no sense to have a Norris Trophy winner as a healthy scratch. It's simply nonsensical. Part of me wants Babcock to use Subban as a forward on the 4th line, because at this point, our Dmen are more offesively productive than our forwards!

Hopefully the boys learned a thing or two from Canada's women's hockey team. That game was phenomenal!

Canada and Carey Price win the gold..Congrats..Now, maybe the Habs will awaken from their 20 year slumber and get Price a decent defense and enough scoring to give him a chance at the Cup one day.

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