Sunday, 12 April 2009

What Long Weekend?

Normally, I reserve the right to sleep in on long weekends. That includes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Occasionally, I'll replace the Friday with a Monday, but it's still three days worth of sleeping in. Which is good. Only this weekend had me preoccupied with hockey, so I'm not complaining. I spent the last two days watching some excellent hockey being played at the World Deaf Ice Hockey Championships, and I'll be back there tomorrow night for more action. In the mean time, I've let the rest of the hockey world evolve without mentioning anything, so I'm here to put my spin on what's been happening in the world of hockey from the last couple of days. And there have been a number of major stories. Let's take a look at what I think of what the hockey has offered.

  • The IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship in Hameenlinna, Finland wrapped up today. In the bronze medal game, the host Finns defeated their arch-rival Swedish team by a 4-1 score to take third-place. Michelle Karvinen had a pair of goals for the Finns while Mari Pehkonen and Mari Saarinen added singles. Danijela Rundqvist had the lone Swedish goal. After losing two blow-outs against Canada and the USA, Finland responded well, and looks like a medal favorite as the 2010 Winter Olympics near. Congratulations to Team Finland on their bronze medal victory!
  • In the gold medal game, Canada and the US met up once again for bragging rights as they look towards the Olympics. Things didn't start well for the Canadians as the Americans got on the board just 24 seconds in as Caitlin Cahow finished off a two-on-one with Jenny Potter to give the Americans the lead. Jennifer Botterill replied for Canada to tie the game in the second period, but the quicker American team was not to be denied today. Meghan Duggan made it 2-1 USA before a powerplay goal by Cahow made it a 3-1 lead. Hilary Knight added an empty net goal to end the game with a 4-1 victory. Congratulations to Team USA on their gold medal victory!
  • In my own view, Canada looked a step slower than the Americans all night. Canadian defenceman Colleen Sostorics seemed to struggle all game against the Americans, and was caught up ice on the Americans' opening goal. If Canada wants to compete with the speedy American team, they will have to work on their agility and foot speed. The American women simply out-skated and outworked the Canadians today.
  • The KHL has crowned its first champion, and the series went down to the wire for the Gagarin Cup. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and Ak Bars Kazan had battled their way to a stalemate over six games, so a seventh and deciding game was necessary. Lokomotiv had won all the odd-numbered games, while Ak Bars responded each time by winning the even-numbered games. In Game Seven, however, all bets were off as it was a one-game, winner-takes-all Championship. Former NHLer Aleksey Morozov was the only player to hit the scoresheet, scoring a goal midway through the third period, giving Ak Bars Kazan the inaugural KHL Gagarin Cup Championship. Congratulations to Ak Bars Kazan on their victory!
  • Jacques Lemaire, head coach of the Minnesota Wild, has stepped down from the position, citing that "it's time for the players to get a new coach and myself to look for other stuff". The announcement, made on Easter Sunday, seems to indicate that Lemaire will look for opportunities outside the Wild organization, but Lemaire stated he would not speculate on that as he was still under contract with the Wild. It has been reported by several media outlets that Bob Gainey is interested in hiring the defensively-minded coach if he were available, so only time will tell whether or not Gainey will bring back another former Canadien to lead the troops.
  • The Detroit Red Wings made some news yesterday with the announcement that they had signed Johan "The Mule" Franzen to an 11-year deal worth a reported $43 million. The $3.9 million cap hit is a huge discount for the Red Wings, and will keep the 29 year-old in red-and-white until he is 40. The Red Wings are reportedly now in talks in with Marian Hossa on a similar long-term deal to keep the sniper in town as well. Only Henrik Zetterberg's 12-year deal is longer in Red Wings' history than Franzen's new deal. And keeping Franzen in town makes the Red Wings formidable for years to come.
  • Boston University's Matt Gilroy, a highly-touted, undrafted defenceman, was named the 2008-09 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner as the top player in NCAA hockey. He was selected ahead of BU teammate Colin Wilson and Northeastern goaltender Brad Thiessen as this year's winner. Because of his age, he has free agent rights, and is eligible to sign with any NHL team he wishes. Toronto is reportedly making a strong push to sign the puck-moving defenceman, but Philadelphia is also apparently making a push to sign the blueliner. Gilroy is obviously in the driver's seat here as a free agent, so it will be interesting to see where he decides to play.
  • Speaking of Boston University, the #1-ranked team in US Collegiate hockey pulled off the improbable Saturday night. The Miami-Ohio Redhawks had built a 3-1 lead over the Terriers before the Terriers woke up late in the third period. BU head coach Jack Parker pulled the goaltender with 3:32 remaining, opening the path for the Redhawks to seal the deal and win their first national title. Except that Boston University didn't give in. With 59.5 seconds left, Zach Cohen flipped a backhander over Miami goaltender Cody Reichard to make it 3-2. Momentum shifted immediately, and the Terriers rode the wave as Nick Bonino's wrist shot with 17 seconds remaining found the back of the net to tie the game at 3-3. Overtime was next, but it didn't last long. 12 minutes into the extra frame, BU defenceman Colby Cohen ripped a slapshot that caught Miami defenceman Kevin Roeder on the shinpad as he sprawled to block the shot. The deflected shot eluded Reichard, and BU had won the NCAA Ice Hockey Championship. Congratulations to the Terriers on their fifth national collegiate championship!
  • NHL Playoffs start on Wednesday. I'll have a rundown on the series that day. The AHL Calder Cup Playoffs also start Wednesday, and I'll take a quick look at those series as well. ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs have already started, and I'll update who is doing what on Wednesday.
  • Lastly, I'm changing the Playoff Pool that I ran last season. Justin St. Louis won last season's HBIC Playoff Pool, but this season will be a little different. Details coming tomorrow. Tune in for that. Free shwag for the winner, and we all love free shwag!
That's all for today. Easter Sunday means dinner with the family, so I have to get my rear in gear for that. I'll be back tomorrow with a recap of the Canada-Slovakia game from the World Deaf Hockey Championships, as well as the Playoff Pool information.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

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