Mar 012010
 

With the Olympics and a whopping 80% of the country watching at least part of yesterday’s gold medal game it’s going to be a bit of a culture shock going back to watching games like Tuesday’s Leafs/Hurricanes match-up, but it was one hell of a two weeks. One thing I heard at the end of yesterday’s matchup is that although Canada won the game the real winner was the sport of hockey. I can’t agree more with this, but not because of the gold medal game only.

One thing that stuck out in my mind was that this was the first international hockey tournament I’ve seen in which every team was competitive. With the exception of the 8-0 Canada win over Norway, and Finland’s collapse in the first 10 minutes of their semi-final game against the US losing 6-1, there wasn’t a single blowout in the mens bracket. Teams like Latvia, Belarus, and even the Germans were competitive in every game. The fact that Latvia got two (very good) goals past Nabakov is huge in my mind. What about Belarus playing the defending Olympic Champion Swedes, being down 3-1 in the 3rd, bringing it within 3-2 and then ringing one off the post moments after their second goal nearly tying the game. There was also the Latvians who down 2-0 in the 3rd period of their qualifier who completed a 3rd period comeback only to fall just short in OT.

There were a handful of moments at this Olympics which demonstrated just how far the sport has come internationally. One last such example was Norway who almost beat a Swiss team that the game before had taken Canada to a shootout. Norway a team made up of KHLers, SELers and other European league players with only one NHL player to their roster. They lost to the Swiss 5-4. Belarus also almost made it out of their qualifier game and in what was probably the biggest upset of the tournament, the Slovaks beat the Russians in a shootout capped by the Canucks own Pavol Demitra.

After watching two weeks of some of the best hockey we’ll ever get to see in this city one thing’s for sure, the sport we love to watch is becoming more competitive which only spells good things for the future. It’s only a matter of time before we see other teams entering the mix. Japan has a hockey league that saw Claude Lemieux’s presence for a number of years before he returned to the Sharks for one last stint. Heck, we all know if the Chinese want to be good at something they will find a way to be. The presence of China’s womens hockey team at this Olympics in my mind means it’s only a matter of time before the sport becomes even more global than it already is.

The reigning champion Swedes lost in what is now a changing of the guard for Sweden as it was likely the last Olympics for a number of Swedish greats like Lidstrom and Forsberg. It also saw the Slovaks tie their best finish in an Olympics ever. While this sport is Canada’s game, and while we still get over the Olympic hangover and the first gold rush in BC in over 100 years, the rest of the world wants to play and I for one love it!

Feb 272010
 

I love Brian Burke, he’s a character and I would have him back as GM of my Canucks any day but I’m getting sick of him perpetuating this “underdog” nonsense. This isn’t 1980. For those that don’t know In 1980 the Americans were a bunch of amateur and collegiate players that beat the Russians and ended up winning the gold medal at those Olympics in their next game against Finland. That game against the Soviets was named the “Miracle On Ice”.

Now I know Burke is notorious for two things: great quotes, and mind games. This whole Olympics he has perpetuated this label that the Americans are some sort of under dog and what’s frustrating is how everyone just eats it up. Has anyone taken the time to look at their squad? In hindsight it’s a very smart move by him. It eases the pressure on the team, and gets them emotionally into the game if they buy into it. The interesting thing though was the overwhelming response by the media and writers who in some cases reacted like the American win over Canada was on par with the second coming of Jesus. The reactions that I saw about beating Canada at “Canada’s Game” just blew my mind.

The Americans while not having as deep a pool of talent to select from as Canada, have put together a team that’s on par with Canada’s in almost every facet. The Americans have an all-star cast of their own that have donned the red white and blue and the notion that they are some vast under dog is just absurd. Belarus in an elimination game, Latvia, Germany, those are under dog teams. A team that boasts Ryan Miller, Phil Kessel, Chris Drury, Patrick Kane and Zach Parise amongst others is not some sort of under dog.

When the USA and Canada face off on Sunday in a rematch of the Salt Lake City gold medal game one thing’s for sure – we are going to be witness to the best hockey game played in North America, ever. May the best team win and if that does turn out to be Canada, I hope Brian Burke’s underdog label makes Team USA feel better about second place. This is Canada’s game and to quote Swiss alpine Olympian Didier Couche “second is the first loser”.

Feb 222010
 

I supported picking Brodeur as the starting goalie despite enough reasons to justify Luongo being put in net, so at this point I don’t even feel slightly bad about tearing Brodeur a new one. Throw every cliche you can at the game and it’ll in all likelihood make sense. The one I like right now is “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” Last night Team Canada played a heck of a game. They were for the most part all over the American team, but Brodeur let them down.

I thought Brodeur’s puck handling was going to be to his advantage and yesterday he proved it was to his detriment. Brodeur plays the puck like a defenseman, and when he’s on the Devils his blue line know to go out when he handles the puck, not collapse to the net. One of the key things is that the blue line doesn’t know Marty’s style of play, but that doesn’t excuse the nonsense we saw from him in net last night. I have never seen a goalie go down on so many shots, and flop around like I saw Brodeur last night. Not even Dominik Hasek has had a game where he’s flopped around in net as much as Brodeur did.

Brodeur’s puck handling was ridiculous at best and it all culminated in his baseball bat, derek-jeter-ground-out swing that cost Canada the goal. That robbed us of momentum, that basically sealed the deal. With that in mind though it was clear from the beginning. His poor decision making and puck-handling less than 30 seconds into the game cost us the game’s first goal and from there it went down hill.

With that being said everyone’s calling for Luongo. Brodeur had his chance, and I thought even against the Swiss he had a shaky game at best. I still believe Luongo knows this ice better than anyone, regardless of opponent he posted a shutout against Norway, and he looked solid. My worry is that without the trapezoid he’ll play the puck into even more awkward situations than he already does on the Canucks, but at this point anything is better than Brodeur.

Canada next plays the Germans in qualifiers. So you give Luongo the start and he wins. Guarantee this city is going to be preaching the good word according to Lu. That in itself might be the problem. Lets be honest, a half concussed, one armed Fleury could take down the winless Germans. The test comes in the game after which will be the Russians. Tuesday’s qualifier against the Germans is going to be a good indicator of how Luongo feels getting the start. Brodeur had his chance and the Germany game should be a good way to ease Luongo into this. That being said, come the quarterfinals, if Luongo’s given the start, it’s all on him to save this country’s hopes of a gold medal.

This is Luongo’s chance to prove to everyone, on the biggest stage of them all, that he can be a “big game goalie”. Don’t blow it Lu, no pressure.

Feb 212010
 

At first I was worried that the 7 Canucks participating in the 2010 Olympics were going to come back to the regular season fatigued and unrested, but now that you look at the games and the roles each player representing their country has, it looks like the Olympics are catering to their individual needs in a funny kind of way.

Luongo

The one thing Luongo needed was rest. It’s clear at this point that Brodeur is going to take the games the rest of the way and after Luongo got his chance in front of the home town crowd and put up a shutout, riding the pine is perfect. He’s going to get the two weeks rest he needs while still getting in practices and staying game ready. That’s exactly what we need if we want him to be ready for when the break’s over. If Luongo’s ready to go it saves us having to struggle through the first few games as “he finds his game”

Henrik and Daniel

Henrik and Daniel after being hotter than hot lost their groove and fell into a rut. Now back in Vancouver representing Sweden they seem to have found their cycle game again. If they can work out their kinks in this two weeks they’re going to be in the right place game-wise when the Canucks road trip resumes.

Demitra

Demitra is getting better with each game. After slowly finding his game just before the Olympic break that unfortunate situation with his mother in law proved to be an obstacle in his return. However he’s proving now that his goal and shootout winner before the Olympics are just the start of Pavol returning healthy. He’s continued his game with an assist and a massive shootout winner to help his under dog Slovaks beat a Russian team touted to be unstoppable. This games is only helping Demitra become better for his return to the Canucks lineup post Olympics.

Ehrhoff, Salo, Kesler

Ehrhoff, Salo and Kesler have been a few of the things on the Canucks that have actually been working despite an interesting start to the NHL’s longest road trip ever. The Olympics doesnt help them get their game back, but keeps them in game shape for when they return and need to try and finish this road trip above .500 in a fight for the Northwest. Kesler’s playing for the US the same way he does for the Canucks, like a man possessed. It’s a true testament to his character and game. Ehrhoff and Salo staying in game shape is the best thing we can ask for as they’re two intricate parts of a powerplay we desperately need to kickstart on the second half of this road trip.

All in all the Olympics are turning out to be just-what-the-doctor-ordered for the Canucks versus this draining tournament that was going to affect the Canucks in the long term and result in a bunch of superstars fatiguing down the stretch when it mattered most. Funny how things work out.

Feb 202010
 

I love hockey, we all love hockey, and since the weather is gorgeous and the world is in town for a couple weeks why not show them some real Canadian spirit and play some road hockey right? And while we’re at it, where else to play other than right outside the mother of all hockey venues, the Molson Canadian Hockey House. It should be a blast so tell your friends and hopefully we get a large crowd together to watch us all play!

Who: Us, and you if you want to play!
What: Red vs White Team Canada road hockey game
Where: Outside the Molson Canadian Hockey House in Concord Pacific Place. You can get there by getting off the Skytrain at the Canada Hockey Place stop.
When: Tuesday February 23rd from 12 noon – 4PM Thursday February 25th from 3:30 – 6pm

If you want to play leave a comment here and we’ll get back to you, and if you don’t come on by and watch. Heck, if you’re nearby for work, and on your lunch break come watch for a bit. It promises to be a fun lead up to the hockey games that afternoon!

GO Canada GO!

Feb 182010
 

So as I get ready to take in Canada vs. Switzerland at GM… err.. Canada Hockey Place later today, I’m fortunately not posed with a problem of who to cheer for. I’m a big fan of Canada – so much so that I’ve pledged to wear a red or Canadian themed shirt (my white Canada Hockey jersey for instance) throughout the Winter Olympics. So what is that problem I speak of?

You see, I’m also a diehard Canucks fan. So it’s awesome to see the following players represent six different nations:

  • Roberto Luongo (Canada)
  • Daniel Sedin (Sweden)
  • Henrik Sedin (Sweden)
  • Ryan Kesler (U.S.)
  • Sami Salo (Finland)
  • Pavol Demitra (Slovakia)
  • Christian Ehrhoff (Germany)

But when it comes to choosing local team over the national team, how do I not go with those who have maple syrup running through their veins?

It’s great that Demo has finally found his game on the national stage, but I find myself wanting him to choke. I love the Sedins, but I hope they both get the flu and have to sit out for a couple of weeks. Kesler may be a God among men when playing at home, but here’s to hope that by wearing the US jersey means he plays like he’s been playing on the road this season.

Is this sacrilegious for a diehard Canucks fan? Maybe, but I don’t wish them any harm and hope all seven come back strong for a run to the post-season. I’m just hoping that one of them (and lets be clear, it’s the guy with the maple leaf on his chest) comes back with a gold medal, while the others simply come back with a gold medal experience.

So as I watch Canada play tonight, I’m thankful for one thing – that the Canucks didn’t sign a Swiss player this season.

*****

[Editor's note: For the duration of the Games, I think it's totally okay to call the Sedins second-liners again. - J.J.]

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