What a finish to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics! Could anyone, including organizers and sponsors, ask for anything more than an overtime game in the gold medal game?
One of the toughest things to hear is "there has to be a winner and a loser", and I want to strike that comment from the record. The USA didn't lose the gold medal. They deserved the medal as much as Canada did through their play. It just plain sucks that an entertaining game like that has to end.
I'll say it here first: this is the best gold medal game ever seen since the NHL players began going to the Winter Olympics in 1998. This might be the biggest goal of this generation, moving alongside Paul Henderson's historic Summit Series goal and Mario Lemieux's 1987 Canada Cup goal in terms of overall history.
I'm not going to break down the game or comment on who did what and who was the best player or anything. I'll let other sites and blogs do that. The Canadians won, the Americans came so close, and we were treated to two weeks of amazing hockey. What I do want to do is highlight all of the achievements of the Canadian athletes here.
This site focuses mainly on hockey because that's what I truly have a burning passion for when it comes to sports. However, after watching the amazing performances by Canadian athletes, and a number of other country's athletes, over these past two weeks, you get a sense that sports brings the world together. Sure, there are rivalries between countries, but everyone celebrates in the realm of sports.
I want to use this space to highlight the achievements of the Canadian athletes over the last 17 days. There have been a number of amazing performances and achievements seen in these Olympic Games by Canadians, so I want to take some time to thank those who made these 2010 Winter Olympics memorable.
Without further adieu, let's take a look at the fourteen Canadian gold medalists.
Alexandre Bilodeau wins the first gold medal for Canada on Canadian soil in history. The 22 year-old dedicated his win to his older brother, Frederic, who suffers from cerebral palsy. This gold medal would be the first of many for Canada. Congratulations to the Bilodeaus, and to Alex for being the first Canadian to win gold in Canada!
The second gold medal came in women's snowboard cross. 31 year-old Maëlle Ricker of North Vancouver, BC raced to a first-place finish. She had previously competed in the 1998 Nagano Games and the 2006 Turin Games, but this was her best finish to date in the Olympics. Congratulations to Miss Maëlle Ricker!
The women continued the gold rush for Canada as 24 year-old Christine Nesbitt put the speedskating world behind her. In the women's 1000-meters race, Nesbitt raced out to a gold medal finish with a time of 1:16.56. The former hockey player turned to speedskating when she was 12 when she hung around the rink after practice in London, Ontario. The sport of speedskating appealed to the young Nesbitt, and she hasn't looked back. Congratulations, Christine, on your gold medal!
Canada continued down the golden path when the man with the turtle helmet broke through. Jon Montgomery, a 30 year-old auctioneer from Russell, Manitoba, sped down the Whistler track head first and into the hearts of Canadians. Montgomery earned himself even more Canadian love when he grabbed a pitcher of beer on the way to an interview with TSN's Jennifer Hedger, and drank a good portion of it on live TV. Congratulations, Jon, and enjoy the ride!
Three days later, an amazing performance brought Canada another gold medal. Tessa Virtue, 20, and Scott Moir, 22, put on a dazzling display of footwork, axels, and dance moves in winning the ice dancing event. It couldn't have happened to two nicer people who, according to both athletes, are best friends. The performance was fluid and precise, and they were rewarded for their hard work and obvious chemistry. In keeping this related to hockey, Scott Moir used to play hockey against American silver medalist Charlie White when they were kids! Congratulations to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir on their 2010 Olympic gold medal!
The next gold medal was secured the following day. 26 year-old Ashleigh McIvor took to the air and used her speed in women's ski cross to earn her gold medal. The native Vancouverite started skiing in the ski cross in 2003, and is currently ranked second in the World Cup standings. Congratulations on your gold medal, Ashleigh!
February 24 saw Canada claim one of its best days at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Heather Moyse, 31, and Kaillie Humphries, 24, in their Canada 2 sled raced to a 3:32.28 time, edging out the Canada 1 sled driven by Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown for gold. Moyse, from Summerside, PEI, and Humphries, from Calgary, Alberta, claimed their first Olympic gold medal as a team! Congratulations to Heather Moyse and Kaillie Humphries on their gold medal, and to Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown on their silver medals! Canada has the top-two bobsleigh teams at the 2010 Olympiad!
The next day featured the first hockey gold medal. Team Canada, behind a Shannon Szabados shutout and two goals by Marie-Philip Poulin, defeated their rivals in Team USA by a 2-0 score. The win gave Canada its third-straight gold medal in women's hockey, and fourth medal since 1998. Congratulations to the Canadian women's hockey team on your gold medal victory!
February 26 saw the Canadian men's speedskaters take their spots on the podiums. Charles Hamelin, 25, raced to a 40.981-second victory in the men's 500-metre short track event over the other competitors, and claimed his first gold medal of the day! Congratulations on that gold medal, Charles, but we aren't done just yet with you!
Hamelin joined his teammates - brother François Hamelin, Olivier Jean, François-Louis Tremblay and Guillaume Bastille - in earning another gold medal. The Canadian men's speedskating team raced through the men's 5000-metre relay to a time of 6:44.224, just ahead of South Korea. Seen here on the left with the women's speedskating team, the Canadians made up for a few earlier losses in the Olympics with this gutsy performance. It won't be the last time we mention the Canadian speedskaters today, though. Congratulations, gentlemen, on your gold medal!
Speedskating brought another gold medal to Canadian soil on February 27. The men's team pursuit speedskating event saw Canadians Mathieu Giroux, Lucas Makowsky, and Denny Morrison earned a gold medal with a 3:41.37 sprint against the United States. The three men pushed themselves to the limit in winning the event, and they truly deserved the medal! Congratulations, gentlemen, on your gold medal win!
Canada added their 12th gold medal later in the day on February 27. Jasey-Jay Anderson, 34, raced Austrian Benjamin Karl in the final of the men's parallel giant slalom in snowboarding, and finished 0.35 seconds ahead of Karl to earn the gold medal. The Montreal-born athlete showed some serious speed and control in the foggy conditions, earning a gold medal. Congratulations to Jasey-Jay on his gold medal!
And February 27 remained golden for Canada when men's curling wrapped up. Called the "Michael Jordan of curling" by US curler John Shuster, Kevin Martin led Team Canada into the gold medal game without losing a game during the preliminary round. In the final against Norway, Martin built an impressive lead by aggressively curling, and downed the Norwegian men by running them out of rocks in the tenth end. With the 6-3 victory, Canada successfully defended its gold medal in curling! Congratulations to Kevin Martin, John Morris, Marc Kennedy, Ben Hebert and Adam Enright on their gold medal performance!
And finally, we get to the last day of February, and the biggest day for Canadian sports at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Canada's men's hockey team squared off against Team USA, the winner taking home a gold medal. Jonathan Toews and Corry Perry staked the Canadians to a 2-0 lead midway through the second period before Ryan Kesler got Team USA on the board. Late in the third period with goaltender Ryan Miller on the bench, Zach Parise tucked home a goal past Roberto Luongo with 24 seconds remaining, and overtime loomed. However, Jarome Iginla found Sidney Crosby alone at the bottom of the faceoff circle on the right side of the American net, and Crosby's shot found a hole past Miller for the goal. With the 3-2 overtime win, Team Canada claimed their second gold medal in the last three Olympics, and brought home Canada's 14th gold medal of these games!
I also want to congratulate the other twelve athletes and teams who brought home medals as well.
Silver medalists include Jennifer Heil (women's moguls); Mike Robertson (men's snowboard cross); Marianne St-Gelais (women's 500m short track speedskating); Kristina Groves (women's 1500m speedskating); Jessica Gregg, Kalyna Roberge, Marianne St-Gelais and Tania Vicent (women's 3000m relay speedskating); Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown (women's two-man bobsleigh); and Cheryl Bernard, Susan O'Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire, Cori Bartel, and Kristie Moore (women's curling).
Bronze medalists include Kristina Groves (women's 3000m speedskating); Clara Hughes (women's 5000m speedskating), Joannie Rochette (women's figure skating); François-Louis Tremblay (men's 500m short track speedskating); and Lyndon Rush, Lascelles Brown, Chris Le Bihan and David Bissett (men's four-man bobsleigh).
26 medalists came from Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics, including the 14 gold medalists. Canada made history by breaking the old record of gold medals won by a host country when they surpassed the ten gold medals set by Norway in 1994 and the United States in 2002. Canada also led the Winter Olympics with the most gold medals, becoming the first host nation to do so since Norway in 1952. And with the men's hockey gold medal today, Canada sets the record for most gold medals by one nation in a Winter Olympics with 14, breaking the marks set by the former Soviet Union in 1976 and Norway in 2002 with 13.
We saw some amazing individual performances as well. Clara Hughes became the first person in history to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics as an individual after she captured a bronze medal in the 5000-metre speedskating event. She won two bronze medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta as a cyclist while winning a gold medal in 2006 in the 5000-metre speedskating race and a bronze medal in 2010. With her medal at this Olympiad, Clara Hughes ties teammate and friend Cindy Klassen as the most decorated Olympic athlete in Canadian history with six medals to her name. Congratulations on an amazing Olympic career, Clara, and enjoy your retirement from competitive cycling and skating!
We witnessed tragedy strike these games in a couple of ways. Before the Opening Ceremonies had occurred, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili had a horrific spill on the Whistler Sliding Center on his final training run. Kumaritashvili didn't survive the crash, and his teammates wore black armbands during the Opening Ceremonies in memory of their fallen teammate. All my best goes out to Kumaritashvili's family as they work to cope with the loss of a son, brother, friend, and athlete.
We also saw the mother of Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette suffer a fatal heart attack just days before her daughter was to skate. Rochette pledged to go on as a way to remember her mother, and you could see the tears welling up in her eyes before her first skate. The bronze medal she earned in Vancouver will undoubtedly be a tribute to Therese Rochette, and Hockey Blog In Canada passes on all its best to you and your family, Miss Rochette.
Without a doubt, outside of these two terrible tragedies, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics were nearly perfect from a TV viewer's point of view. Granted, NBC had a few people up-in-arms over their consistent non-coverage of men's hockey when Team USA was doing so well, but they stated their reasons for this, and they were logical. CTV, TSN, and Sportsnet provided amazing coverage in Canada, and there wasn't really a lot to complain about in terms of personalities or coverage. Everyone was professional, and staff from all three networks seemingly cooperated and enjoyed the Olympic Games for the spectacle that they were.
It's truly a feeling of pride when I say that the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics felt more like Canada's Olympics. From the support of fans across the nation to the various regions of the country that the athletes hail from, nearly every corner of this country was well-represented, and every Canadian should be proud of what the athletes, organizers, and volunteers accomplished over the last two weeks.
I know I am. And isn't that the goal of the Olympic Games?
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Sunday, February 28, 2010
What a finish to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics! Could anyone, including organizers and sponsors, ask for anything more than an overtime game in the gold medal game?
Saturday, February 27, 2010
When the debate about great leaders in sports comes about, Mark Messier's name is almost always given. His glare, as seen on the cover to the left, is legendary, and the stories of his leadership make him sound more like a Greek god than a mortal hockey player. However, for all that is known of his on-ice exploits, there is so much more to Mark Messier's legend. The intensively private man's life is covered in-depth by Jeff Z. Klein in Messier, published by Triumph Books. This biography opens up the world of hockey's greatest leader, and the only man to captain two different teams to a Stanley Cup Championship. I was blown away about all the stuff that hasn't been reported in terms of how generous with his time that Messier is when it comes to the various charities and groups with which he was involved over his career. Again, there's so much more to Messier in this book that is rarely ever covered by the media.
Jeff Z. Klein is a self-confessed, life-long Buffalo Sabres fan, but he has penned a number of excellent hockey works such as Mario Lemieux, The Death of Hockey, and The Coolest Guys on Ice. June 14, 1994 marked a major moment in his life when he was permitted to drink from the Stanley Cup after the New York Rangers had won the NHL Championship. Klein's work can be read on his New York Times blog, Slap Shot Blog, and in the New York Times newspaper.
Klein starts the story of Messier at the very beginning when Mark Douglas Messier was born in Edmonton, Alberta on January 18, 1961.
Klein explores the hockey family that the Messiers were: Mark's father, Doug Messier, was a journeyman defenceman. Doug Messier has been drafted by the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, but the senior Messier turned down an invitation to the team's training camp in order for him to pursue education and business pursuits. Mark grew up in Portland, Oregon after the Messier family settled there, with Doug having been bought by the Portland Buckeroos of the WHL. Doug would wear #11 for Portland, a number that would be associated with another Messier shortly.
The Messiers had a farm out near Beaverton, and they owned a log cabin up on Mount Hood. It was in the Oregon setting that Mark took up hockey, whether it be on ice, on a street, or simply shooting a ball or puck against a wall. Messier began his hockey career as a youngster in Portland, Oregon in the Portland Amateur Hockey Association. However, in 1968-69, Doug Messier retired from hockey, and the family moved back home to Edmonton.
Mark Messier's brother, Paul Messier, accepted a hockey scholarship to the University of Denver when Mark was fourteen. Like his father did, Paul was encouraged to continue his education first and foremost over hockey. Mark, however, was allowed to drop out of Grade 12 in order to pursue his hockey dream.
After playing extremely well in 1977-78 for the Tier II St. Albert Saints, it was apparent that his leadership skills had been developing. Doug Messier, coaching the Saints, would address the team before game, but he would be told that "#11 had already done it". Mark was becoming a valuable player to several teams at 16 years of age.
At the end of the '77-78 season, he joined the Portland Winter Hawks in the WHL Playoffs, but the team didn't fare so well. The taste of big-time hockey wasn't lost on Messier, though, and he tried out for the Canadian Olympic team in 1978 before getting his big break. With Wayne Gretzky on his way from Indianapolis to Edmonton, the WHA's Racers looked for someone to step into a scoring role, and invited 17 year-old, Tier II junior player Mark Messier in a tryout situation in a game against the Winnipeg Jets.
Mark's foray into the WHA at first was unproductive in terms of his stats, but he caught the attention of Edmonton head coach Glen Sather. With the Indianapolis Racers selling off most of their talent in 1978-79, the team struggled. It eventually folded, and the five games that Messier played in were all losses. However, shortly before Christmas, Mark Messier became a professional hockey player when he signed with the Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA at the tender age of 17.
That seems like a lot of information, right? Klein goes over all of that information in the first chapter! This book is filled with a number of amazing tidbits of history, including how Mark Messier became an Edmonton Oiler through the WHA dispersal draft, his ventures into international hockey, how he and Gretzky became life-long best friends through their different personalities and styles of play, Mark's moves through professional hockey, and he went from being a slightly uncoordinated Tier II junior player to one of the most respected men in the game of hockey ever.
One of the more interesting chapters is where Klein describes Mark's efforts during the September 11, 2001 tragedy in New York City, and all that Messier did for various groups. It's in this chapter that we see how loved Mark is by the city of New York, and how much he loves New York City. This was, by far, my favorite chapter of the book, and it's certainly worth the wait.
While I found that Klein was almost apologetic in spots for Messier's behaviours, Klein really does an excellent job at peeling away the layers of Mark Messier as a person, finding the personal level that one can relate with in terms of Mark's career and life. While Messier may not win any literary awards, it is one of the better biographies I have read about an athlete who fiercely guards his privacy, and Klein does a superb job at making the larger-than-life athlete seem like a real person with faults and flaws. Because of this, Messier deserves Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. For 336 pages of Mark Messier, there are some amazing facts about the man in this work.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Friday, February 26, 2010
The majority of North American soil is shared by two countries. These two countries share the longest undefended border on the planet, and there are few differences between the people who make up these two countries. Of course, I'm talking about Canada and USA with this introduction, and these two teams will play for the 2010 Olympic gold medal in men's hockey. Both teams have performed much better than what we witnessed in the opening preliminary games, so the gold medal game should be an exiting finish to the men's hockey tournament in Vancouver.
I've been asked by several people who my pick is to win the games, and it's extremely tough to pick a winner when it comes to Team USA and Team Canada. Both teams have gone from individual NHL stars into a solid Olympic team in terms of the evolution throughout these Olympic games. The holes seen in each team have become smaller as the Olympics have progressed, making each team that much harder to play against.
Let's start with the team that I consider to be the underdogs going into the Gold Medal Final: Team Canada.
Team Canada has gone 4-1-1 in the 2010 Olympics, having lost to Team USA and defeating Switzerland in a shootout. They finished seeded sixth overall, and had to play an extra qualification game in order to reach the Quarter-Finals. They scored 32 goals-for in reaching the Gold Medal Final while allowing 14 goals-against.
Team Canada is led by Jarome Iginla with five goals and seven points. Jonathan Toews leads Canada in assists with seven, and also has seven assists. Dany Heatley also has seven points. Luongo is 3-0-0, and has won all three games in regulation time. His 1.75 GAA leads Team Canada, and he has a 91.95 save percentage with one shutout.
Statistically, Canada isn't at the top of any category. However, they discovered in the qualification game against Germany that roles needed to be filled. Players suchs as Jonathan Toews, Mike Richards, and Brendan Morrow stepped up and delivered magical performances against the Russians in the Quarter-Finals. The Slovaks provided some edge-of-the-seat moments in the Semi-Final, but Canada weathered the third period storm and advanced to the Gold Medal Final.
The favorites going into the Gold Medal Final have to be Team USA.
Team USA is 5-0-0 in the 2010 Winter Olympics. They finished first overall in the standings with 22 goals-for versus six goals-against. The Americans are, by far, the best defensive team in the tournament, and haven't allowed more than one goal in any game except against Canada in the preliminaries where they won by a 5-3 score.
Brian Rafalski leads Team USA with four goals and eight points, while Zach Parise, Ryan Malone, and Patrick Kane have added three goals each for the American squad. Ryan Miller is solidifying his mark as the best goalie on the planet right now as he enters the Gold Medal game with a ridiculous 1.04 GAA, a 96.16 save percentage, and one shutout.
The Americans can boast the best goaltender in the tournament in Ryan Miller, and the best defensive team because of Miller's efforts along with a total team defensive effort preached by head coach Ron Wilson. Ryan Whitney is the only player not to be on the plus-side of the ledger in the plus/minus category, and he sits with an even plus/minus. Team USA dispatched the Swiss by a 2-0 score in the Quarter-Final after earning a bye past the Qualification Round. They followed that effort up by blowing out the 2006 silver medalists in Finland in the Semi-Final by a 6-1 score.
Putting the numbers and figures aside, this game looks like it may end up being a war. Both teams have really stepped up their physical games, bringing an element that the European teams seemingly couldn't match. Canada absolutely abused the Russians down low in the Russian zone, and the Americans ran roughshod all over the Finns in their Semi-Final Game.
If anything, though, I'll have to give the physical edge to Team USA as they are a team of gritty, tough scoring threats that don't let up for any inch of ice. That wears teams down and causes players to make mistakes, and the Americans are extremely effective in playing this style of game.
In looking at both teams, Team Canada's worst game statistically was against the US. However, Team USA's worst game came against the Canadians. See how close this matchup truly is?
The one factor that no one can truly factor in is history. In 2002, the Americans had it in Salt Lake City as they were the only team to win a men's hockey gold medal on home soil, and they rode it all the way to the Gold Medal Game. However, they ran into a vastly-improved Canadian team in terms of Canada's evolution from the start of the tournament, and Canada came away with the gold medal after a very exciting game.
Combatting the history factor in Vancouver, though, will be the home ice advantage. You know that the Canadian fans at Canada Hockey Place will almost will their team to victory. Two nations will be behind their respective teams as a gold medal and four years of bragging rights will be at stake.
Sunday is a monsterous day for hockey. You know I'll be watching.
And, with the risk of being called a "homer", GO CANADA GO!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
If there was any team that Canadians should embrace as true champions, the Canadian women's national team is it. Three gold medals in the last three Winter Olympiads, and a whole host of other awards that should make Canadians proud.
You know is proud of the Canadian women? Me. I am.
It needs to be said, though, that the American women played a very good game as well. In fact, the Americans played well enough to win over the last 40 minutes of the gold medal game. Jessie Vetter was strong in net, they had good scoring chances, and their defence bent, but didn't break. If anyone earned a medal outside of Canada, the Americans deserve their medal as much as the Canadians deserve gold. The American women have nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of. Sure, they can be disappointed, but they played extremely well throughout the tournament.
And the Finns? They showed why they are making strides as a nation in women's hockey. It took an extra period of play, but the Finnish women knocked off their Swedish rivals by a 3-2 score in overtime this afternoon. Noora Raty proved that she is a world-class goaltender, and the Finnish women showed enough moxie to earn their second bronze medal since 1998. In 2002 and 2006, they ended in fourth-place, so this medal has to be sweet. It's probably even sweeter for Karoliina Rantamaki, who scored the overtime game-winner, as she and defenceman Emma Laksonen are the only members of the Finnish team to win two medals. Congratulations to Finland on their bronze medal performance!
And how about those Canadian gals? Jennifer Botterill, Jayna Hefford, Becky Kellar, and Hayley Wickenheiser have all won three Olympic gold medals to go along with their 1998 silver medal. Kim St-Pierre, Colleen Sostorics, Cherie Piper, and Caroline Ouellette have all won the last three Olympic gold medals.
And what about the youngsters? Meghan Agosta led all Canadian scorers with nine goals and 15 points in the five games Canada played, and captured her second Olympic gold medal. Marie-Philip Poulin scored both goals in the 2-0 gold medal victory, and had five goals and seven points in the tournament. Shannon Szabados recorded the shutout tonight, and helped Canada earn their third-straight gold medal with her 28-save performance.
Canada is a balanced team, and they certainly showed everyone why they shouldn't be underestimated in any game. They got goals from veterans and youngsters, their defence corps communicates well and plays very well in their own zone, and they have at least three goaltenders who could start on any international team. This deep, talented team deserved their gold medal after putting in two weeks of hard work, and months of dedication to their Olympic dreams.
Congratulations to the Canadian women's hockey team for their phenomenal efforts in Vancouver in winning the 2010 Olympic gold medal!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
With the second week of the Olympics underway, and a lot of good hockey still to be played in Vancouver, we pause to check out what's been happening with the Manitoba Moose on Antler Banter. The Moose had a Toronto-Rochester-Toronto swing to end their eastern portion of the roadtrip before getting ready for a trip to Texas to end the roadtrip this week. We'll review those games, and talk a little about the Syracuse-Binghamton outdoor game from last Saturday. You can always find all of your Manitoba Moose news and information on the Moose website. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Let's get cracking with the Hardcore Hockey!
The Moose rolled into Toronto on Wednesday night after having dispatched the Rochester Americans the night before. Having split with the Marlies the weekend before, there was some urgency to pick up at least a point on the road against Toronto. Cory Schenider and Joey MacDonald took to the blue paint at either ends of the ice for this game.
The opening faceoff led to an odd-man rush for the Moose as Dan Sexton cruised into the Toronto zone after taking a pass from Travis Ramsey. On the two-on-one, Sexton fed a lovely pass across to Michael Grabner, and the Austrian-born sniper buried the puck behind MacDonald. Just 11 seconds in, the Moose were up 1-0 on Grabner's 12th goal of the season.
Manitoba increased their lead on the powerplay just before the midway point of the period. Nikita Kashirsky had taken a hooking call at 6:03, but Brett Festerling was sent to the Toronto sin bin 16 seconds later for roughing. Kashirsky spent the two minutes in the box, and emerged as Manitoba stormed up the ice. With their mere 16 seconds of powerplay time, the Moose capitalized when Marco Rosa ripped a shot from inside the faceoff circle past MacDonald. Rosa's 19th goal of the season at 8:14 was a powerplay marker, and gave Manitoba the 2-0 lead.
Brian Salcido took a tripping penalty 27 seconds after the goal, sending Toronto to the powerplay. After a fairly uneventful start to the powerplay, the Marlies began to move the puck well. A point shot by Brendan Mikkelson was tipped in front by Kyle Calder, and the puck found its way past Schneider. Calder's powerplay goal at 10:25 was his fifth of the season, and Toronto was on the board, trailing by a 2-1 score.
The rest of the period was played out without any goals, but the two teams were knotted at 14 shots apiece. While I wouldn't say the Moose were firmly in control, the first period looked like a good road effort. However, the second period proved me wrong.
As the period wore on, you could tell that Toronto was building some momentum by carrying the play. MacDonald played well in the Toronto net, stopping the Moose chances, but Toronto was getting more quality chances, and it showed when the Marlies capitalized.
A delayed penalty call allowed the Marlies to send on the extra attacker, but it didn't take long for them to score. Tim Brent converted a Greg Scott pass into a goal when he left the two Moose defencemen looking like pylons before sliding a puck under Schneider. I'm not sure what Nick Boynton and Nolan Baumgartner were thinking, but someone should have laid Brent out before he got to Schneider. In any case, the Marlies tied the game at 2-2 on Brent's fifth goal of the season with 3:01 remaining in the period.
Jonas Frogren took a selfish kneeing penalty at 18:13, and the Moose were headed back to the powerplay. However, another miscue between Boynton and Baumgartner allowed a shorthanded two-on-one for Phil Oreskovic and Ben Simon. Simon found Oreskovic wide-open at the backdoor, and he buried his first of the season while shorthanded at 18:37 of the second.
The period would close with the Marlies up 3-2 on Oreskovic's shorthanded tally, and the Marlies leading 25-20 on the shot clock. Honestly, Boynton and Baumgartner were truly killer B's out there as their mistakes cost Manitoba the lead in that period.
Tim Brent added his second goal of the evening by squeaking a wraparound past Schneider. Schneider just couldn't get to the post before Brent slid home the puck, and Brent's sixth of the season at 4:23 gave the hometown Marlies the 4-2 lead.
The Moose didn't quit, however. Sergei Shirokov found the back of the net when his shot got underneath MacDonald's glove at 12:23 of the third. Shirokov has been missing from the scoresheet lately, so it's nice to see the Russian rookie doing what he does best again. Shirokov's 17th of the season made it 4-3 for the Marlies.
Joey MacDonald didn't allow another puck past him, despite a furious flurry of shots in the late going, and the Marlies skated to the 4-3 victory. Toronto outshot the Moose by a 33-25 margin in the game - yet another sign that Manitoba really didn't deserve to win. With the loss, the Moose fall to 27-24-5-1 on the season.
Manitoba regrouped and headed to Rochester for a Friday night game with the Americans at Blue Cross Arena. Manitoba's 6-3 victory on Tuesday was still fresh in the minds of both teams, so there was some hope that Manitoba could continue their winning ways against the Amerks while the Amerks wanted some revenge. Cory Schneider got the call yet again for the Moose, while Rochester sent out Alexander Salak to the cage.
Rochester opened the scoring 8:01 into the game. Jeff Taffe gained a head of steam as he tore down the right wing on a two-on-one. His backhander went upstairs in a hurry over Schneider's glove to the top shelf. Taffe showed why he has 19 goals on the season with that effort, and Rochester had the 1-0 lead.
However, I would like to point out what appears to be one of the worst non-calls on the season. Referee Terry Koharski stood idly by while a Rochester forward laid out Brian Salcido at the Moose blueline, causing the two-on-one to develop. It had to be one of the most obvious interference calls to make, but no call was made on the play. The result was Taffe's goal as Travis Ramsey was the only defender back during the rush.
The Moose made up for the non-call 1:24 later. Pierre-Cedric Labrie caught a break as he came down the left wing. His centering pass intended for Tom Maxwell in front of the net was deflected by Stefan Meyer's stick. The deflection, though, went up and over Salak's right shoulder and landed behind the surprised goaltender inside the net. Labrie's unconventional third goal of the season tied the game at 1-1.
Late in the period, the Herd went ahead. Rochester's Victor Oreskovich was in the box for his high-sticking infraction, and the Moose powerplay took control. A shot on net from the slot by the streaking Nick Boynton was stopped by Salak. However, the rebound landed into the feet of Boynton and three Americans, and Salak couldn't cover it. The puck squirted loose to the left hash marks where sniper Dan Sexton was waiting. With Salak down and out, Sexton tickled the twine as he sent the puck high. Manitoba took a 2-1 lead into the break after Sexton scored the powerplay marker, his fifth goal of the season, with 1:11 left.
7:26 into the second period, the Moose added to their total. On a three-on-one, Guillaume Desbiens carried the puck down the right wing as Mike Keane hustled to catch the play. The trailer, defenceman Travis Ramsey, stayed put in the middle as Keane filled the left wing lane. A nice saucer pass from Desbiens to Keane settled on Keane's stick, and Salak slid across to play Keane's shot. Keane caught Ramsey in the slot and dropped the puck to him. Ramsey wasted no time in slapping the puck into the open part of the net, and Manitoba was up 3-1 on Ramsey's first goal of the season.
Rochester opened the third period by inching closer on the scoreboard. At the 56-second mark, the Moose were whistled for too many men. The Amerks' powerplay made them pay. Jason Garrison's point shot looked like it caught teammate Michael Duco up high, and ricocheted to the left side of the crease. Mike York was standing wide-open at that spot, and he fired the puck home over Schneider's pad from the sharp angle. York's powerplay goal was his sixth of the season, and the Americans trailed 3-2 just 2:06 into the third frame.
Both teams battled down the stretch, but Manitoba went up by two goals again. Marco Rosa caused a turnover in the Rochester zone, and fed a pass from the middle of the ice to Michael Grabner on the right side. The puck was slightly behind Grabner, but he corralled the puck and fired a high laser over Salak's shoulder to the far post. Grabner's 13th goal of the season gave the Moose a 4-2 lead with 4:14 to play.
The Americans closed the gap 1:22 later. Evgeny Dadonov started a give-and-go with Michal Repik the resulted in a shot on net for Dadonov. Chris Taylor was battling in front of Cory Schneider with Nolan Baumgartner, and Taylor got his stick on the puck to shovel the Dadonov rebound between Schneider's pads to the back of the net. Taylor's 12th goal of the season made it a 4-3 game for Manitoba.
The Americans could not get any closer as the Moose defencemen and Cory Schneider kept them off the scoresheet. With the win, Manitoba moves to 28-24-5-1 on the season.
The Moose were back in Toronto for a Saturday afternoon game against the Marlies. The Moose had dropped the last two games to the Marlies, so they needed to get back on track against a team trailing them in the standings. The Marlies wanted to continue their recent success against the Moose, and sent James Reimer to the net to continue his winning ways against the Herd. The Moose went to Daren Machesney for this game after Cory Schneider had dropped his last two games against Toronto.
Just 4:50 in, Toronto grabbed a lead. Tim Brent's backhander was stopped by Machesney, but the rebound popped out front into the scrum. Greg Scott banged away at it, but the Moose goalie held his ground. Unfortunately, the puck bounced to Machesney's right where Viktor Stalberg was standing at the edge of the crease, and Stalberg buried the puck past a helpless Machesney. Stalberg's 12th goal of the season gave Toronto the 1-0 edge.
The play went back and forth for the majority of the period with both goalies matching each other save for save, but a Toronto powerplay proved fruitful for the home squad. Juraj Mikus teed up a point blast that hit Machesney, but the rebound found its way back into the crowd of people on the doorstep. Kyle Calder picked up the puck with Michael Grabner on his back, and slid the puck past the outstretched glove of Machesney into the open net. Calder's sixth goal of the season put Toronto up 2-0 at 17:46.
Aside from a round of fisticuffs between a few competitors later in the game, that was it, folks. James Reimer made 31 saves for his first AHL shutout, but not many were of the spectacular variety. Toronto hands the Moose another loss, this one by a 2-0 score, and sends Manitoba home with a 28-25-5-1 record on the season.
Saturday was a special day for the AHL as the Syracuse Crunch hosted the first outdoor game in AHL history. The Mirabito Outdoor Classic was played at the New York State Fairgrounds, setting the scene for a game between the Syracuse Crunch and Binghamton Senators.
If anyone asks, the first goal scored outdoors by an AHL player was scored by Syracuse forward Alexander Picard. The game also set an AHL attendance record as 21,508 fans turned out to see the Syracuse Crunch defeat the Binghamton Senators by a 2-1 score. In one of the cooler moments, skydiver Ray Maynard arrived on the ice from the air above to deliver the first puck used in outdoor game to New York Governor David Paterson and Senator Chuck Schumer. That puck was originally used on September 27, 1991 when the Los Angeles Kings hosted the New York Rangers in Las Vegas in the first professional outdoor game in modern history.
As stated above, Picard gave the Crunch the lead 6:47 in. Binghamton's Josh Hennessy tied the game up early in the second period. David Liffiton's goal late in the second period restored the one-goal lead for Syracuse, and ended up being the game-winner. It was all about goaltending in the third period as neither team could put the puck past the opposing goalie. Kevin Lalande recorded the victory for Syracuse while Binghamton's Mike Brodeur took the loss.
So why I am talking about this game? The Moose had their own outdoor game on Monday! Bob Hobson of Winnipeg won the Home Depot Backyard Rink contest for his awesome backyard rink, and his prize was a game of shinny against the Moose players!
Daren Machesney, Matt Pettinger, Evan Oberg, Michael Grabner, Nathan McIver and Guillaume Desbiens showed up for the fun, and the neighbourhood kids played the Moose! Mick E. Moose was there to stir up some fun as well. All in all, a very cool promotion run by Home Depot and the Manitoba Moose. Congratulations to Bob Hobson! Make sure you check out the Moose's Build A Rink page so you can get some tips on how to build your own rink, and maybe the Moose will be in your backyard next season!
The Moose have a three-game affair to take care of in Texas this week. The Houston Aeros are up first on Thursday, and then its off to San Antonio for dates with the Rampage on Friday and Saturday.
The Aeros have a nearly identical record to Manitoba, so this should be a close game. Houston enters the game with a 28-24-6-1 record, and currently sit fifth in the tightly-contested West Division. Maxim Noreau leads the team with 43 points, and Jon DiSalvatore leads the team in goal-scoring with 18 goals. Both Barry Brust and Wade Dubielewicz don't have very impressive records, but their 2.43 and 2.51 GAAs, respectively, show that they are effective puck-stoppers. Manitoba will need to find its scoring touch to win this game.
San Antonio sit seventh in the West Division with a 24-24-3-6 record. This is another team that doesn't score a lot, so Manitoba will need to have its scoring production on hand. San Antonio is led by forwards Kevin Porter, Kyle Turris, and Sean Sullivan. All three men have 37 points this season. Chad Kolarik is the leading goal-scorer on the Rampage with 17 tallies to his name. Josh Tordjman is still a very capable goaltender, but Justin Pogge has come on strong since being assigned to the Rampage. I'd expect to see both men in the two-game set.
Looking at the three-games-in-three-nights set, I'd be happy if Manitoba returned with four of six points. Personally, all six point would really help as the Moose sit in fourth spot in the AHL's North Division, two points back of third-place Abbotsford with a game in hand. Here's hoping the Moose can go guns-a-blazing through Texas, and come home with six points in their pockets.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
It's been a long time since I could post a picture like the one to the left. If you're on the Canadian team, you're breathing a bit of a sigh of relief. Canada finally found some scoring, got a decent defensive effort, and Luongo was sound. There were some excellent personnel moves made by Canada's coaching staff in preparation for this game, and a couple made during the game that certainly went a long way in helping the Canadians down Germany 8-2 tonight. And, for the first time at this Olympiad, the Canadian men's hockey team looked like a team.
I liked Mike Babcock's moves of getting the energetic and physical Eric Staal on to a line with Crosby and Iginla. Staal is a good playmaker and finisher in his own right, so having him with a sniper like Iginla and a playmaker like Crobsy is a great combination. While it was tough watching Nash, Getzlaf, and Perry struggle, the top Canadian line looks like it's getting its act together.
I also appreciated the wise move by the Canadian coaching staff when they kept Pronger stuck to the bench. Look, the guy is past his prime in terms of his effectiveness. He doesn't have the wheels, he is no longer an intimidating physical presence, yet he still perceives himself to be what he was a decade ago. Chris Pronger is, at best, the seventh defenceman on this Canadian team. I'd love to see Drew Doughty and Shea Weber eating up a pile of the minutes that Pronger is getting.
So it's onward to Wednesday's quarter-final matchup with the Russians. The winner gets a shot at a medal. The loser gets no better than a fifth-place finish. This is certainly a game that both teams would have expected to come later in the Olympic tournament, but this is where we find ourselves.
If I'm Canada, I send out the checking line of Brendan Morrow, Jonathan Toews, and Mike Richards against Ovechkin's line every chance I get. Richards should be assigned to Ovechkin like he's his siamese twin. For Malkin I'd deliver a healthy dose of Crosby's line. You know that Crosby would relish the opportunity to play against his NHL teammate.
The other major factor could be the Washington-Pittsburgh matchup from last year's NHL Playoffs. There was so much chatter about how the Penguins hammered the Capitals in Game Seven of their series, with Crosby's team coming out on top. You know that Alexander Ovechkin can't be satisfied with how that series ended, and this is the world's biggest stage in terms of knocking Crosby and his team out of medal contention.
With all of these storylines, the Russia-Canada game tomorrow should be very interesting. Again, Canada has to be mindful of the speed that the Russians possess. However, if they remain disciplined and stick to their puck control game, there's a good chance that Canada could advance.
The schedule says the game starts at 4:30 PT tomorrow, so tune in where ever you may be. This is one game that could turn into a next-goal-wins type of game if both teams come out firing!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Monday, February 22, 2010
Normally, I save emails up until I have four or five I can post with regards to a certain topic or event. Occasionally, I get emails where people take me to task over something I've written, and I'm more than happy to discuss my views on a subject. After all, I don't mind seeing someone else's perspective if one is willing to challenge my perspective. So it was a bit of a surprise that I got a very well-written email that spun the Canadian loss to the Americans in a different light rather than the outrage about how the Canadians could lose.
Blaine took the time to read through my article from yesterday before writing a very smart email that I'm happy he's allowed me to share. Here it is in its entirety.
"I just read your blog on the canadian-american game and agreed with most of it. However, I think there is something we are overlooking in all of this.Thanks for the email, Blaine. I appreciate you taking the time to write me with your thoughts.
"As a canadian and as a hockey fan, I think there is too much panic in the canadian game. What I mean by this is that we have this white-knuckle WE HAVE TO WIN OR ELSE mind-set - and it cripples the creativity and flow of our game; this process starts right at the grass-roots levels. I tried to watch the game dispassionately tonite and it struck me how the canadians always seem to be running a chinese fire drill in their own end; by contrast, watch how (usually) efficient and economical the swedes or finns (especially the finns) are in their own zone. Our players appear to have a very low panic threshold and we saw the same thing at the world juniors, too. At some point, we are going to have to teach our kids to just go out and play rather than squeezing the sticks so tight that you can see the sawdust spitting out between the fingers.
"Beyond that, canadian hockey really needs to break away from this myopic shit of looking only at playing the "canadian style"; christ, i am so sick of listening to the Hockey Canada junior coach du jour talk about playing "the canadian style". How 'bout, just for a change, we play "the winning style?" What does that mean? Well, it really means taking a step back and looking at what other countries do well and maybe deciding that such a style can work for us, too. Take the russians: this team seems to need fewer chances than canada to score just as many goals. Obviously, having ovechkin and kovalchuk helps - but I truly believe that canadian hockey does a poor job of creating "finishers"; we seem to work too hard to score our goals in international play. Additionally, as canadians, maybe we need to ease up on the accelerator: we put so much pressure on these kids to win that they often play beneath their potential; I believe we are seeing some of that in this tournament.
"Finally, I think its fair to say that canada is done in this tournament. Even though I was always ridiculed for saying it, I always thought that brodeur was a good goalie who played in a great situation - rather than a great goalie who made his team better. think about it: put hasek in New Jersey for 15 years, and what sort of numbers does he put up? The thought of it is frightening.
"Right now, canada is in a helluva pickle. Luongo has never shown he can win the big game in the playoffs, and can we afford to put him in at this juncture? My guess is that they will go with luongo in the german game and then come back with brodeur (I am assuming that they actually win the german game - which is far from certain). Personally, I don't see any happy options here: Brodeur is not going to win you a game at this level against the elite teams - he may have lost canada this one tonite - and Luongo may or may not be ready for a show-down with the russians less than 24 hours later. The sad thing is that I could see canada losing pretty decisively to the russians - and we will suffer that ignominy even though, I think, this is the best-balanced and deepest team we have sent to the olympic games since pros started being used back in 1998. Its too late now, in any case; they've crossed the rubicon, so to speak, and unlike ceasar, there is no conquering goin' on here."
I, for one, agree with Blaine on a number of things he has presented.
This "win-or-else" mentality has evolved over a number of years as we tried to claim superiority over every other country out there. It started in 1972 at the Summit Series, and has been gradually picking up steam at each international event since. It was evident during the NHL-Soviet meetings, it was painfully obvious at the Canada Cups, and it certainly reared its ugly face during the 1998 Nagano Olympics and the 2006 Torino Olympics.
We place unbearable pressure on our National Under-20 team every time the World Junior Championships get underway. These are young men no older than 19 years of age who carry the weight of the expectations of a country on their shoulders, and that expectation is a gold medal. Nothing else. Gold or nothing. Lose, and you'll be forgotten. Win, and you're part of something special.
That's pretty much how it is for all our teams in Canada. If you don't bring home gold, don't bother coming home. That's a pretty harsh reality when you stop and think about it. And Blaine has it correct: the emphasis placed on winning stifles the creativity and imagination that some of these players bring to the table. The Canadian systems haven't changed much over the last twenty years, and while those systems won gold medals through the 1980s and 1990s, they need to be revamped again as the European teams have caught up to the level at which the Canadians are playing.
We used to get by because our goaltending was better. Grant Fuhr, Martin Brodeur, Tony Esposito, and others held the fort against the opposition better than others. However, guys like Hasek, Nabokov, Lundqvist, Miller, and Kiprusoff are breaking that stereotype as they have claimed gold medals, NHL trophies, and other accolades over the Canadian netminders.
We used to boast the best defencemen. Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, Larry Robinson, and Scott Niedermayer were the toast of tournaments as their smooth skating and scoring abilities mesmerized opponents. Today, players like Gonchar, Rafalski, Kaberle, Timonen, and Lidstrom are the elite players on the blueline that score in bunches.
Up front, we could boast players like Gretzky, Lemieux, Phil Esposito, Mark Messier, and Darryl Sittler as the best scoring talents on the planet. Today, there are players like Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, and Henrik Zetterberg to match up with our scoring threats.
For the distance we once had on all of these other countries, it's time for Hockey Canada and Canadians to face reality and admit that the distance between the top-six countries in the hockey world is no longer what it was, and it probably will never be that distance again. For Canadians to simply expect a medal of any colour at this point in time is absolutely ignorant. And I mean that with all due respect.
I have to agree with Blaine again, though, in that this might be the deepest Canadian team we sent to the Olympics. There are grinders who can score, there are scorers who can grind. There are setup men who have amazing finish, and there are finishers who can play as a setup man. The defensive unit is fairly balanced and deep in terms of the number of levels it can play at. Any team would love to have the goaltending that Canada does when the goaltender of the reigning Stanley Cup Champions is your third man.
However, if you look at all of the other medal favourites in this tournament, they are just as deep as the Canadian squad. Where they excel is in the effort and hard work departments. If there is one team that tends to take shifts off, the Russians are probably that team. However, the Swedes, Finns, Americans, and Czechs all work much harder than the Canadians do over the course of 60 minutes. And, as a result, all of those teams are ranked higher than the Canadians as the elimination rounds begin.
Canada needs to begin to step back when it comes to the expectations we place on our hockey players. Yes, we expect them to play hard and to compete in every game, but we need to start changing at this "gold-or-bust" attitude when we send a team to an international tournament.
No longer are the Swedes "soft", as they were thought of in the 1970s. No longer are the Americans "lucky", as they were thought of 1980 after completing the "Miracle". No longer are the Finns "dirty", as they were thought of in the 1990s. No longer are the Czechs "dependent on Hasek", as they were thought of in the late-1990s and early-2000s. No longer are the Russians "a professional amateur team", as they were thought of before the fall of the Iron Curtain.
And no longer is it a given that Canadian hockey players will return to Canadian soil with a medal or a championship to their names. Those five teams are all gold or silver medalists since 1998, and all five of them want the 2010 men's hockey gold medals.
It's all up to how badly our Canadian players want it, and how much they are willing to sacrifice to earn that title. If they continue down the same path they were on during the preliminary round, they aren't coming home with anything except their tails between their legs.
But if they're willing to give everything they have on every shift of every game, that might be enough to win a gold medal. It might be enough to beat those five teams ranked ahead of them.
The one thing it will certainly guarantee, though, are entertaining hockey games, and a return to a "Canadian style" of play seen in the 1972 Summit Series and the 1987 Canada Cup. That was a time when every Canadian hockey player gave it everything they had, and left everything on the ice. And that's when Canadian hockey truly ruled the world.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Huge win tonight for Team USA against the Canadians. Not only does Team USA get the bye to the quarter-finals, but Canada now has to go through Germany and Russia just to get to the semi-finals. The one thing, however, that stood out to me tonight seems to be a repeat of the same thing I said about the Canada-USA final at the World Junior Hockey Championships. For all intents and purposes, Canada looks like it wants to be playing in an all-star game while the Americans put their hardhats on and rub on copious amounts of elbow grease. Once again, the better team won tonight, and I take nothing away from the Americans in that regard. They were better for the majority of the game.
I do want to take a little time to get a few things off my chest.
First, Chris Pronger is a waste of humanity at the Winter Olympics. They brought him in for his "veteran leadership" and how he can help lead the young blueline that Canada is employing, but he looks slow and old out there against the younger, faster teams. For my money, Chris Pronger might be the worst player on the Canadian roster right now, and, if I were coaching, he'd be sitting.
Secondly, for all that Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash bring to the table in terms of talent and effort, it was those two who brought home a pair of -3 ratings in the Canada-USA game. With the tournament round beginning, it's time to shore up the defensive zone for the Canadians, starting with these two youngsters. If you aren't scoring many goals like Canada currently is, you had better keep opposing players off the scoresheet. Neither Nash nor Crosby has done that yet.
Thirdly, this obsession with Martin Brodeur's NHL stats needs to end. You play your hot goalie until he falters, and that's that. For the game against Germany, Luongo would be my starter. Brodeur didn't play well against Switzerland, and he looked average against the Americans. The only goaltender who has won a game in regulation for Canada right now is Luongo. Case closed.
Fourth, and, in my estimation, the most important thing that the Canadians can do to start changing their fortunes is shooting the puck. Notice in the last 10 minutes of the game how many shots the Canadians had? If Ryan Miller hadn't been brilliant, there could have been two or three goals. The Canadians need to start hammering the puck on these talented goaltenders. No more dipsy-doodles and cross-ice passes looking for the highlight reel goals. Drive the puck on net, crash the crease, and get some garbage goals like the other teams do.
Ok, to the Americans.
With all the hoopla surrounding General Manager Brian Burke's choices of who plays for Team USA, perhaps the biggest statement he made was his "underdog" statement about Team USA. It was a role that he wanted, and it was one that he was fine with in respect to the other countries.
Does anyone realize that this is exactly what Wayne Gretzky did in 2002? Remember how the Canadians were struggling, and Gretzky held that press conference to tell the world that it was Canada versus everyone else?
Brian Burke took all the pressure off his players and coaches by telling everyone that they were the underdogs going into the Winter Olympics. The result? A very relaxed, very composed team. And for all the criticism that I've given Ron Wilson over the years about his coaching in Toronto, Team USA has all the earmarks of a Brian Burke-built team, and a Ron Wilson-coached team: they're gritty, they work their butts off, and they win.
And that's the difference between Canada and the USA. Canada is literally an all-star team from top to bottom on its roster, but it plays like an NHL All-Star team as well. For the last ten minutes of the game, Canada played like the house was on fire, but the first 50 minutes was lackadaisical and loose.
Why is this? Canada is experiencing the same problems it found in Torino, Italy four years ago. They struggled against weaker teams - including a loss to Switzerland - and they can't seem to turn on the effort or the scoring against the better teams.
I get that the Canadians only have a few days to get some chemistry going, but that excuse wears thin when you consider the other countries who have the same issues. It's not like the Americans, the Russians, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Swedes, and the Finns have spent the last few weeks getting lines in order and working on systems. Yet the Canadians seem to be lacking something that the other six countries aren't: team cohesiveness.
It was evident tonight in how the Americans played as a team throughout their lines. The Americans deserve their top seed because they were the best team in their pool. If you're a Canadian and you disagree, you're fooling yourself. The Americans are a BETTER TEAM than the Canadians despite having less talent on a per-player basis.
In the Olympics, individuals win individual medals. The best teams win team medals. As it stands right now, Canada is not a medal favorite in my view.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Saturday, February 20, 2010
The last few days of hockey have been spectacular. If you missed some of the Olympic hockey games today, you missed a few amazing performances. Today, the Swiss and Norwegians played an amazing game that featured everything television viewers could wants - goals, hits, saves, and drama. Tore Vikingstad of Norway scored a hat trick against the Swiss - his first ever while playing for the national team - and tied the game at 1-1, 3-3, and 4-4. Vikingstad played a marvelous game, and certainly deserves some recognition for his efforts today. This game might only be edged out by the Slovakia-Russia game from Thursday in terms of its excitement. All in all, we have had some excellent games in Vancouver thus far, and we haven't even hit the playoffs yet.
With tomorrow being rivalry day at the Olympics, I figured it's time to start cleaning out the mailbox. I have lots of stuff that needs to be sorted that really doesn't fit into any categories, so I want to use tonight as a way to get the info out.
I just want to put a disclaimer up here that if you don't like the music from the first two bands I am trying to help, please don't be a jerk and write stupid stuff in the comments. Personally, I'm a rock guy, but I'm willing to help these people out because they asked. Just because you may not like what you hear doesn't mean everyone else will share that sentiment. Use your head when commenting. Anything stupid will be deleted with extreme prejudice. Are we clear?
Ok, let's get to the mailbox.
- Got an email from a gentleman named Dave Adnams. Dave works for Prhymetime Media, and he's helping a Vancouver band get their newest song onto playlists around the world. The band is called Bryan O'Ryan, and its members include Bryan Fogelman, Ryan Worsley, Zach Throne, Michael Nowak, and David Milwain. Head over to the Bryan O'Ryan site, and give a listen to their first two singles. Their newest tune, entitled "Crosby Stalls and Nash", has already received playtime on Canadian radio stations. Thanks for writing, Dave, and all the best to Bryan O'Ryan! They have a couple of great songs already!
- More musical news to pass on your way. I received an email from Françoise Doherty, an aspiring filmmaker and musician from Canada. Françoise has written a song called "I Like Hockey" that she wanted to get out to the masses. I'm happy to help her song reach these masses. Please click here to access her CBC Radio 3 webpage, and give her song a listen. The CBC site is best optimized in Internet Explorer, so if it doesn't work in Firefox, go back to IE. I had to do that in order to listen to Miss Doherty's works. Thanks for writing, Françoise, and here's hoping that you have a ton of success in your music and film career! I'll tune in on Sirius 86 to catch more of your music!
- I received an email from Liz Murphy about her company's product. Sani-Sport is a company that produces a sterilization "closet" for sports equipment to help prevent infections from bacteria and viruses. The cycle takes about 16 minutes, and Sani-Sport is already being used by 26 NHL teams. While this product isn't for the common beer league hockey player, hockey teams that want to ensure cleanliness for their athletes should investigate this product. Sani-Sport might be the best investment that any team can make in preventing unseen injuries like staph infections. This looks like a great product!
- I had asked the other day about speculation on a March 4 press conference at MTS Centre in Winnipeg. There were rumours of the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg that would be announced on March 4, but a number of sources killed that rumour. That, of course, led to other teams' names being mentioned, including both the Phoenix Coyotes and the Florida Panthers. I am officially going on record here: the NHL is not coming back to Winnipeg. The press conference has nothing to do with the NHL whatsoever, according to those few reliable sources.
- Teemu Selanne has now written his name into the Olympic record books. Selanne assisted on the powerplay goal in the second period by Kimmo Timonen to give him his 37th Olympic point, breaking a record held by Canadian Harry Watson, Czechoslovakian Vlastimil Bubnik, and Russian Valeri Kharlamov. It's one thing to score often at the NHL level, but it means something to score often at the Winter Olympics in a short tournament. Selanne has played in five Winter Olympics now, winning two bronze medals and a silver medal. Congratulations to Teemu Selanne, the most prolific scorer in Olympic men's hockey history!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Friday, February 19, 2010
I happened to be searching on eBay yesterday when I came across a seller who was offering up a number of old copies of The Hockey News. I had to take a look at what the description said about the old copies. Lo and behold, the gentleman had uploaded a number of articles in his descriptions of each publication! It was like I wandered into The Hockey News' archive room, and had access to all of their old publications for free! Here are some of the cooler articles I found that the gentleman had put up on eBay.
- October 9, 1954 - Fred Sasakamoose of Saskatchewan becomes the first "full-blooded Indian" to wear the Chicago Black Hawks jersey. While the story is slightly politically incorrect, it is hockey history.
- February 25, 1956 - Maurice "The Rocket" Richard is wearing the alternate captain's "A", but no TV numbers yet. How about the caption? Chadwick gets called up to face the feared Canadiens in his first game? Ouch.
- June 1, 1966 - The Hockey News talks a little about each league's championship teams. They look at the Oklahoma City Blazers from the Central League who won the 1965-66 Championship. I'm more concerned with the names. Harry Sinden, Glen Sather, Derek Sanderson, Jean Paul Parise, Terry Crisp, Ted Irvine, and Gerry Cheevers all had successes in the NHL. That would have been one heck of a team!
- November 26, 1966 - How often do you see players move to a new position on the ice after establishing themselves as a superstar in another position? Wendel Clark made the jump from defenceman to winger after the Maple Leafs moved him, but how about Gordie Howe? Howe shifted back to play defence after the Red Wings against the New York Rangers after the Red Wings lost two defencemen to injury. In today's game, that would be like moving Ovechkin back to the blueline!
- December 3, 1966 - Bobby Orr figures that he won't win the 1966-67 Lady Byng Trophy after leading the Bruins with 33 PIMs at that point in the season. The winner that season was actually Stan Mikita of the Chicago Black Hawks.
- January 7, 1967 - The NHL will take a hard look at goalies who carry the puck after rookie goaltender Gary Smith skated the puck up to the center line. Frank Udvari, the NHL's Supervisor of Officials, states, "I know a goalie can hold the puck for three seconds, but he isn't supposed to be carrying it like a football player". Did Udvari even read the reports? Smith stickhandled it to center ice!
- March 4, 1967 - We get the first reports on the new "Player's Union" that the NHL players are trying to form, and Alan Eagleson is at the center of it. Eagleson admits to being approached by former Ranger and Black Hawk Camille Henry about starting this in the NHL after Eagleson had been successful in getting head coach and GM Eddie Shore to resign from the AHL's Springfield Indians through player revolts and walk-outs. The rumblings of the NHLPA start in early 1967.
- April 3, 1970 - Everyone says Bobby Orr was the best player in the NHL at the time. If you needed midseason proof of that, check out the scoring race from April. Orr is 19 points ahead of teammate Phil Esposito, and Orr was a defenceman! Orr would finish that season with 33 goals and 87 assists for 120 points - a full 21 points better than Esposito, and his first 100+ point campaign in the NHL.
- April 24, 1970 - Does anyone know who the first player from Czechoslovakia was, and who he played with in the NHL? Now you do. Jaroslav Jirik played three games for the St. Louis Blues at the end of the 1969-70 season after signing with the team for training camp. The 30 year-old had some trouble adapting to the North American style, apparently, but he is the first player from Communist Czechoslovakia to suit up in the NHL.
- December 25, 1970 - "Punch" Imlach, the general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, suggests that the NHL should outlaw Bobby Orr from being on the powerplay due to how good he is. While it appears that Imlach's sense of humour is his best trait, Orr was never banned from any powerplay.
- December 25, 1970 - Also from that same issue, Phil Esposito proclaims that he'll "never score 66 goals" in a season despite his scoring pace to be far above that mark. He claims his problem is inconsistency, and that his inconsistent scoring will be his downfall. Despite his claims of that, Esposito would end up with 76 goals and 76 assists in the 1970-71 season.
- November 19, 1971 - In a cool feature, we get to meet rookie Marcel Dionne of the Detroit Red Wings. Dionne cracked the lineup for the 1971-72 season for the Red Wings, and would win up scoring 28 goals and adding 49 assists in his 78 games that season. Not bad for a guy who heard some chatter about being too small. Of course, Dionne became a legend in Los Angeles a few years later.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Are everyone's hearts still beating? Tonight felt a lot like Torino in 2006, only with less heartbreak. There's something about the Swiss playing Team Canada that brings out the best in the European country's hockey stars. In Torino, Italy in 2006, the Swiss shocked the Canadians with a 2-0 upset, including killing off all 12 penalties they took in the game. It was hardly something any Canadian could be proud of, unless, of course, you were Swiss-Canadian. Tonight, it appeared the Canadians ran into another hot goaltender in Anaheim's Jonas Hiller, but Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout and Martin Brodeur held the fort as the Canadians won 3-2. All together now: PHEW!
They say that what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Well, adversity is what this Canadian team needs. If you remember to the 2002 gold medal Canadian team, they faced a pile of adversity before getting their collective butts in gear to win the gold medal. It was four years ago to the day that the Swiss pulled off their "Miracle" when they beat Canada. Tonight might have been the best thing to happen to Team Canada, and they'll need to be able to weather a few storms as they prepare for the Americans on Sunday. Martin Brodeur will start for the Canadians again, according to head coach Mike Babcock.
There's the short story: Canada wins in shootout 3-2, finds out that hard work can trump talent if talent isn't willing to get dirty. Let's take a peek at some of the other hockey stories spinning around the Internet right now.
- Fabulous review of St. Louis Blues, Note by Note over on Uni Watch Blog today. I'm not much of a St. Louis Blues fan, but this appears to be a "must-have" book for hockey historians. Lots of amazing photos and great pieces in the book from what Paul Lukas posted.
- The Manitoba Moose, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Saskatoon Blades, the WHL, and the NHL all squashed rumours of a Thrashers-to-Winnipeg move last week, but there's still something stirring in the corridors at MTS Centre. A major press conference has been scheduled for March 4, but no one is talking about it. With the secrecy swirling, there have been mentions of either the Florida Panthers or the Phoenix Coyotes moving to Winnipeg, but I am adamant in my stance that Winnipeg is not an NHL city. Anyone want to venture a guess as to what may be happening?
- No clue what he was thinking, but Oilers' goalie Nikolai Khabibulin was picked up for drunk driving and speeding after being pulled over near Scottsdale, Arizona. Khabibulin is currently on the injured list after undergoing successful surgery for a herniated disc in his back. You have to wonder if driving while drunk at excessive speeds is good for his back, his contract, or his status on the team.
- You have to feel for Jonathan Cheechoo. Cheechoo was part of the trade that sent Canadian Olympian Dany Heatley to San Jose, and now Cheechoo finds himself in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators. For a player that scored 56 goals in 2005-06, this might be the lowest point in his career. Here's hoping that Cheechoo can regain his form and make his way back to the Ottawa Senators' lineup.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Antler Banter would like to interrupt your regularly-scheduled Olympic coverage to bring you the latest news on the AHL and the Manitoba Moose. While the 2010 Winter Olympics are being played in Vancouver, the Canucks, along with the rest of the NHL, is off on break. The AHL, however, remains full steam ahead, so we'll look back on the three games that the Moose played, and look ahead to the upcoming games. As always, player moves are mandatory if you're associated with the Moose, so we'll cover those as well. Don't forget that you can always find all of your Manitoba Moose news and information on the Moose website. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. It's time for some Hardcore Hockey!
The Toronto Marlies rolled into MTS Centre this past weekend to face the Moose. The Moose were 2-0 against the Marlies this season, so there was hope that the Herd could continue down that path. Cory Schneider got the call for the Moose while Joey MacDonald was sent to the nets for the Marlies.
The first goal was scored just past the midway point in the first period. Tom Galvin kept a puck in at the point during some five-on-five hockey, and fired a shot towards the slot. Marco Rosa was cruising through the slot, and picked up the loose puck. Rosa, on his backhand, found just enough room along the ice between MacDonald's left leg and the left post, tucking it past the sprawling goaltender's glove to give the Moose a 1-0 lead. Rosa's 15th goal of the season at 12:39 wouldn't be the last time he was heard from on the night.
At the end of one period, Manitoba was outshooting the Marlies by a 15-14 margin. Normally, it takes Manitoba the better part of two periods to reach that total, so it appeared that the Moose were out to shoot the lights out. One noticeable thing about the Marlies was the number of times they ran goaltender Cory Schneider. While I'm sure they wanted to rattle Schneider's cage, it seemed to happen early and often, and the Moose began to take exception to the Marlies' frequent abuses of their netminder.
Early into the second period, the Moose struck again. On a two-on-one, Michael Grabner streaked down the right wing and into the Marlies' zone. Brendan Mikkelson attempted to cut off the pass across the ice as he crowded Grabner, but Grabner threaded a pass across to Lawrence Nycholat on the left side who had nothing but net to shoot at with MacDonald overplaying Grabner's shot. Nycholat buried his second goal of the season at 2:55 off the gorgeous feed from Grabner, and the Moose a 2-0 lead.
Just 28 seconds later, and the Moose found themselves up 3-0. Dan Sexton crossed from left to right along the high slot, bringing two Marlies defenders with him. That left Michael Grabner wide-open on the backdoor, and Sexton spotted him. Showing his NHL-calibre hands, Sexton delivered an amazing pass to Grabner's tape, and Grabner buried his gift. With eighth goal of the season at 3:23, Grabner put the Moose up 3-0.
Sexton's pass, however, was certainly deserving if anyone was needing highlight reel fodder on Friday night. He went tape-to-tape through both Phil Oreskovic and newcomer Keith Aulie to Grabner for the goal. Sexton is showing why the Anaheim Ducks are so high on his abilities, and why he may only spend this season in the AHL.
Sexton was also in on the next Moose goal, again showing some fabulous hands in the process. Grabner caught up to a puck in the left wing corner, and shoveled a pass back to Dan Sexton at the hash marks. Sexton made a nice deke, going forehand to backhand to draw Brendan Mikkelson away from the slot and the wide-open Marco Rosa. Sexton spotted Rosa as both Mikkelson and MacDonald committed to him, and Rosa fired the puck past the outstretched glove of MacDonald to the back of the net. Rosa's 16th of the season at 7:11 not only gave the Moose a 4-0 lead, but Rosa officially took over the goal-scoring lead on the Moose as he pulled one ahead of Sergei Shirokov.
Kyle Calder and Alex Berry cut the deficit for the Marlies a short time later. Calder and Berry broke in on a two-on-one with Calder carrying the puck towards Schneider. Travis Ramsey tried to play the pass, but the puck got between his legs, giving Alex Berry a clear shot as Schneider tried to slide across. Berry found the back of the net with his third goal of the season at 18:08, and the Marlies trailed 4-1.
Remember how I was talking about the Marlies running Cory Schneider? Well, things turned ugly in the third period. 85 minutes in penalties were handed out for a variety of infractions, but there were two fights that highlighted the card. Pierre-Cedric Labrie served a buffet of knuckle sandwiches to Richard Greenop after Greenop had been jawing and poking at Labrie for about a minute straight. Give the decisive win to Labrie in this battle.
Shortly after the fisticuffs died down, Michael Grabner picked up his second goal of the game. Marco Rosa made a couple of nice moves around Justin Hodgman and Brennan Evans, making them look like pylons in the process. Rosa found himself on a two-on-one with Grabner, and defenceman Juraj Mikus did nothing to help MacDonald. Rosa slid the puck under a sprawling Mikus to the open Grabner, who flipped the puck over MacDonald's pad and into the yawning cage. Grabner's ninth goal of the season at 17:37 rounded out the scoring as the Moose went on to a 5-1 victory.
I'm surprised there weren't more goaltender interference calls made in this game with the number of times that Schneider found himself on the ice with a Marlie all over him. Sometimes, I wonder how these AHL referees are adjudicated when it comes to reviewing their work. In any case, the Moose improve to 26-22-5-1 with the victory.
Saturday night saw the Moose and Marlies conclude their two-game series at MTS Centre. The Moose looked to build on their win from the night before, but they would be in tougher as Winnipeg-born James Reimer would take the nets for the Marlies. Cory Schneider was back between the pipes for the Moose. The Moose wore the jerseys of the East St. Paul Aces, a minor hockey team in Winnipeg, as part of the Moose's commitment to community and their celebration of hockey and community spirit. Honestly, though, with the Moose in the Aces' jerseys, this game resembled a Toronto-Ottawa battle from the mid-1990s.
There was no scoring in the first period, and the bad blood from the previous night had apparently subsided. The shots were 14-14 after one period, similar to the night before, so the goaltenders were busy.
7:45 into the second period saw the Marlies crack their goose egg. Justin Hodgman dropped a pass to Tim Brent at the top of the right face-off circle. Brent's shot on net was partially screened by Kyle Calder, but Schneider made the save, kicking out to the left side. Travis Ramsey, who was checking Calder, ended up on top of Schneider as Justin Hodgman picked up the loose puck. With no one standing between him and the net, Hodgman fired home his fourth of the season, and the Marlies took the 1-0 lead.
A couple of penalties later, and the Marlies were in the dressing room with the 1-0 advantage. It was clear in this second period that the Marlies were the far superior team in terms of puck control. The Marlies closed out the period with a 20-8 margin on the shot clock, and the Moose should have considered themselves lucky that the score wasn't worse than what it was.
4:17 into the third period, and we had ourselves another goal. Off a face-off in the defensive zone, Michael Grabner picked up a loose puck and turned on the jets. It appeared that there was some confusion between Brendan Mikkelson and Jonas Frogren as to who was going to take Grabner, and Grabner exploited that mistake. He split the defence to go in alone on Reimer. It appeared that Reimer squeezed the puck as Grabner went to his left on the forehand, but the puck squirted loose and snuck across the goal line. Grabner's tenth of the season evened the score at 1-1.
The Marlies fought back. Tim Brent cut in towards the slot and attempted a wrist shot, but the puck rolled off his stick. Both Brian Salcido and Cory Schneider went down on the whiff, but Brent corralled the puck, stepped around Nick Boynton, and flipped a backhander at the right post. Kyle Calder had crashed the net, and the puck ricocheted in off his body. Calder's fourth of the season with 8:47 to play put the Marlies up 2-1.
While the Moose valiantly tried to tie the game up, James Reimer stood tall, turning aside 33 of 34 shots to keep the 2-1 victory intact. With the loss, the Moose fall to 26-23-5-1 on the season.
The Moose traveled to Rochester, New York for a Tuesday night game against another division rival in the Rochester Americans. Rochester sat six points ahead of the Moose, so the Herd needed a big game against their New York opponents. Cory Schneider got the nod from head coach Scott Arniel, while Rochester sent out impressive rookie Alexander Salak for the game at Blue Cross Arena.
Rochester got on the board first in this game. Chris Taylor's fantastic pass to Jeff Taffe was wired by Taffe past Schneider on the left side for his 18th goal of the season. With the goal at the 11:39, the Amerks took the 1-0 lead.
It's hard to say anyone was a stand-out in the first period except for Cory Schneider. The Americans outshot the Moose 11-4, and carried the play for the majority of the period. Without Schneider in the nets, it could have 2-0 or 3-0 easily.
Manitoba's leading goal-scorer evened the score in the second. Travis Ramsey's point shot was stopped by Salak, and the rebound came out to his right. The loose puck sat idly just outside the crease, and Marco Rosa pounced on the opportunity. Rosa dove across the slot on his stomach, and swept the loose puck into the unprotected Amerks' net. With Rosa's effort, he recorded his team-leading 17th goal of the season, and the two teams were square at 1-1 at 9:37.
Shawn Matthias didn't let that tied score last long. Just 2:07 later, Matthias crossed into the Moose zone, and he wristed a laser on net that got under Schneider's pad. Matthias' fifth goal of the season was a little unexpected, but it gave Rochester the 2-1 lead.
1:09 after Matthias' goal, the Moose drew even again. Lawrence Nycholat set up a gift for Dan Sexton to tap in with his cross-crease pass. Sexton's fourth goal of the season at 12:53 made it 2-2, but credit has to be given to Nycholat. His cross-crease pass was superb, and even I could have scored with that much time. Ok, maybe not. But I digress.
48 seconds after the Moose tied the game, they went on the offensive. Nolan Baumgartner moved into the high slot and crushed a slapshot past Salak after taking a feed from Guillaume Desbiens. Baumgartner's second goal of the season for the Moose put the Herd ahead 3-2.
Chris Taylor was sent off for a slash at 14:31, and that sent the Moose powerplay onto the ice. It took a little time for the Herd to get the powerplay going, but the Moose did capitalize. Nick Boynton fed Marco Rosa on the backdoor, and the Moose sniper roofed a shot past Salak. Rosa's 18th goal of the season ended Salak's night at 15:57 as the Moose pulled ahead 4-2. With Salak on the bench, the Amerks went to former Brandon Wheat King Tyler Plante to see if he could change their fortunes.
Just to note: Boynton's pass was something you'd see in the NHL. It was crisp and hard, and Rosa made no mistake when it arrived on his tape. There are a few reasons why Boynton has played nearly 500 games in the NHL. That's one of them.
After two periods, Manitoba had stormed ahead on the scoreboard, and made a serious dent on the shot clock. Manitoba outshot the Americans 17-8 in the second, and led 21-19 overall. I don't want to sound any alarms, but why don't the Moose shoot more often?!?
Matt Pettinger didn't take his foot off the gas pedal in the third period. Just 3:09 in, Pettinger's quick shot beat Plante on the blocker side, and the Moose jumped out to a 5-2 lead. Pettinger's 12th of the season wasn't the prettiest goal, but it certainly does the job.
Michael Duco of Rochester tried to narrow the gap with his goal at 14:10. Duco took a cross-ice pass from Jamie Johnson and slapped the puck home before Schneider could get across to block the shot. Duco's seventh of the season made it 5-3.
However, Manitoba iced the game less than two minutes later. Michael Grabner added his 11th of the season when he went upstairs past Plante to make it 6-3 for Manitoba with only 3:59 to play. Grabner extended his three-game scoring streak with the goal as well.
When it was all said and done, Manitoba had secured the 6-3 win. Maintoba improves to 27-23-5-1, and found themselves tied with the Abbotsford Heat in third-place in the North Division. The Moose sit four points behind the Americans, and four up on the Lake Erie Monsters.
Nolan Baumgartner was re-assigned to the Moose by the Vancouver Canucks with the Olympic break underway in the NHL. Because Baumgartner was back with the Herd, the Moose faced a veteran problem again. To solve this issue, it appears the Moose will sit a veteran player on a rotating basis until the Olympics are over. Captain Mike Keane took the seat in Rochester, allowing Baumgartner to be inserted into the lineup.
The Moose are in Toronto tonight for a date with the Marlies. On Friday, they return to Rochester for another game with the Americans. And Saturday sees the Moose back in Toronto again. Nice scheduling, right?
Manitoba won't see Toronto's Andre Deveaux on Wednesday night after the AHL handed him a three-game time-out for his actions on Friday night in Winnipeg.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: divisional games must be won. The Moose need to take points off the Marlies to keep pace with the other teams in the division, and need to win against the Americans in order to close the gap. They already gained two points from Rochester of the possible eight divisional points this week, so they have to keep that momentum rolling.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!