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There were only two games on the NHL slate on Saturday, but there was actually a tonne of quality hockey played from Saskatoon to Stockholm.

 

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Let's start in Stockholm, where the Swedes faced off against the Finns in the semi-final of the World Hockey Championships. Amidst news that Alex Edler was going to be dealt a five game suspension for his knee-on-knee hit on Eric Staal - i.e. a suspension that would carry over into the Sochi Olympics, and possibly cost the Canucks defender his slot on the Tre Kronor - the Swedes played a hell of a game, and dominated on the power-play against the Finnish side. Henrik and Daniel Sedin playing alongside Dallas Stars sniper Loui Eriksson were completely dominant on Saturday, and if you missed it I highly recommend the highlights (which are literally just sweet Sedin plays, and awesome Jhonas Enroth saves):

 

 

In particular check out the set up by Henrik Sedin (working from Gretzky's office) and the finish on Eriksson's second goal at roughly 1:15 of the above video. Lovely stuff.

 

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One Swedish player, currently outside the NHL, who has stood out to me all tournament long is Petter Granberg (two t's in Petter, that's not a typo on my end). He's a 2010 4th round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a stay-at-home type defenceman (so he'll probably have limited fantasy value in the NHL). Truly he looks like he's a player, and might be able to help the Leafs out a lot sooner than one might expect, especially considering their relative lack of defensive defenceman. On Thursday Granberg was hard-matched against the Stamkos-Giroux line and he more than held his own. He was similarly good on Saturday against the Finns. Granberg possesses NHL size (6 foot, 3 inches and 210 pounds) and skates well enough that he wasn't beat wide by some very quick players on both Canada or Finland. Impressive stuff from the twenty year old...

 

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A year ago I remember watching Jonas Brodin go toe-to-toe with the likes of Evgeni Malkin in this tournament and thinking to myself "this guy might make an impact in the NHL sooner than I'd thought." Not that Granberg will necessarily have a similar level of success as quickly as Brodin did, but I'm just saying that he's made a similarly positive impression on me.

 

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In the later World Hockey Championship game, the Swiss shutout the Americans, ultimately winning by a score of three-to-nothing and advancing to the gold medal game. Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter opened the scoring with a beauty finish, and Swiss goaltender Reto Berra - the 26 year old goalie who everyone laughed at when he was described as a prospect following his acquisition by the Calgary Flames in the Jay Bouwmeester trade - made some really tough saves in the shutout.

 

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Pretty cool to see the Swiss make the finals in this tournament. Their men's national hockey team has been in ascendance for several years now but they haven't medalled at the World Hockey Championships since 1953...

 

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The second Swiss goal - which, more or less sealed their victory over the Americans - was scored by Julian Walker, a grinder who currently plays for Geneva in the NLA. He's basically a fourth liner who has only managed double digits in goal once over the past five years in the Swiss league. So it was hilarious when he scored on a breakaway with Matt Hunwick and Erik Johnson just completely blowing their coverage on the play. I feel bad for Avalanche fans...

 

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Speaking of the Avalanche, they own the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft, so all eyes in Denver were turned toward Saskatoon where all three realistic contenders to be the first player selected (Drouin, Mackinnon and Jones) were all playing in the same CHL game. It turned into one hell of a contest, with MacKinnon scoring a hattrick and Drouin and Jones adding a goal each in an 11 goal contest that was wicked fun to watch.

 

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Here's Nathan MacKinnon walking Seth Jones and doing all he possibly can to make Joe Sakic's decision in Newark on June 30th a difficult one:

 

 

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As sweet as that Mackinnon goal is, Ty Rattie's toe-drag, which he followed up with a slick backhand finish from his knees was even better:

 

 

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Okay let's turn to NHL hockey, shall we? In the early game the Red Wings made minced meat out of the Blackhawks, defeating them in the second game of the Western Conference Semi-Finals by a score of 4-1. Chicago had no answer for either the Zetterberg line (with Filpulla and Cleary) or the Datsyuk line (with Abdelkadder and Franzen), and Detroit did all of their damage at even-strength. This is looking increasingly like it'll be a close-fought series, and the edge might even be Detroit's as they head back to the Joe with an opportunity to really take control of the series.

 

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Here's a spot of "hard hitting analysis": Mike Babcock is a pretty good hockey coach.

 

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As far as I'm concerned, the reason Detroit won on Saturday was the suffocating play of Jonathan Ericsson and Nicklas Kronwall. Tough to imagine the Tre Kronor not taking both of them and making them the second pairing at Sochi (behind Karlsson and Ekman-Larrson). The Ericsson/Kronwall pairing were dominant on Saturday playing nearly ten minutes of shutdown hockey against the Jonathan Toews line. I'm so impressed by Ericsson's play in particular, his stretch pass to set up Johan Franzen's game sealing goal was icing on the cake of a lights-out two-way performance. Ericsson has come an awful long way as a defenceman this season.

 

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The late game between the Kings and the Sharks was such a weird one. After game two was functionally decided by a delay of game penalty, the Kings took an early delay of game penalty in game three and Dan Boyle capitalized to open the scoring. Hotshot Kings rookie Tyler Toffoli answered with a lovely backhand to capitalize on a broken play that resulted from some pretty weak puck-handling by Antii Niemi in the first period. From there the game was fast-paced but scoreless until a Logan Couture power-play goal put that game (and Saturday's fun slate of hockey to bed).

 

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Couture got the goal, but his overtime winner was set up beautifully by a gutless Patrick Marleau touch-pass. The Sharks power-play is just so, so frightening. Here's an idea I've been kicking around this week: I think that Yzerman should just bring Couture, Thornton, Marleau and Brent Burns to the Olympics as Team Canada's fourth line and first power-play unit. I tend to think the marginal benefit of installing the league's best power-play unit, with the same personnel the Sharks use in the NHL, might be worth leaving a guy like Corey Perry - as good as he is - off of the Olympic roster.

 

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Finally there's only one two games on the slate this Sunday: Bruins v. Rangers and the Penguins and the Senators facing off in game three of their series in Ottawa. I'm actually catching a train at Union Station in Toronto in a couple of hours and will be covering that contest for the Sporting News. So far the Senators have acquitted themselves well in this series, for the most part, but simply have no answer for the offensive fastball that Pittsburgh's top-players are pitching. Jason Spezza will return to the lineup on Sunday and perhaps that could tilt the scales somewhat, but I doubt it. With a healthy Sidney Crosby lining up for the Penguins, it's tough to imagine the Senators getting back in this series...

 

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On the Boston/New York series: I'd anticipated a somewhat vulnerable Bruins team in round two, seeing as how they're down three regular defenceman and all. That didn't show up in game one, however, as the Rangers rather thoroughly got their teeth kicked in. Impressive stuff from the 2011 Stanley Cup champions...


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Comments (9)add comment

Dakkster said:

Dakkster
... Corstyles: It's a cultural thing. Compare TV in general between Europe and North America and us Europeans mostly find North American production to be overly loud and annoying. European TV is generally more subtle and low-key.
May 19, 2013
Votes: +1

Corstyles said:

Corstyles
European commentators Did anybody else find the European commentating of the SWE / FIN game to be hilarious?

This was my impression:
"And... (5 seconds of silence) ... here's an opportunity. Oh! It didn't go in."
"Nice... play. That's intercepted."
"He comes in and takes a .... shot."
May 19, 2013
Votes: +1

MolsonX said:

MolsonX
... @yougo:

Thanks for the clarification.

Agreed, the SJ PP is deadly.
May 19, 2013
Votes: +0

yougo said:

yougo
... @MolsonX

The "gutless Marleau" is a joke because Jeremy Roenick called Marleau gutless a couple years ago in the playoffs, which was absolutely non-sense...

Great Ramblings btw, the only thing I might add is that you should consider adding some fantasy-hockey perspective in your ramblings. Per exemple, the fact that El Nino has been scoring in this tourney might suggest he'd be ready for a top6 spot in the NHL which raises his stock.

On a final note, I absolutely love this idea of bringing a whole unit of SJ players for the Olympics. Actually, Yzerman basically did that in 2010 with Heatley,Marleau,Thornton,Boyle (who all saw PP time together also).
May 19, 2013
Votes: +0

Dakkster said:

Dakkster
... I've been harder on Ericsson than most because he has just been an awful awful dman for several years, constantly making really dumb plays with and without the puck. He is BY FAR the most improved Red Wing this year compared to last. No contest.
May 19, 2013
Votes: +0

MolsonX said:

MolsonX
... Great stuff. Not sure why Marleau's touch pass was "gutless" though, it was a great play.

Anyways, great stuff, really enjoy your ramblings. Cheers.
May 19, 2013
Votes: +0

destructivedevil97 said:

May 19, 2013
Votes: +0

Thomas Drance said:

Thomas Drance
... @jcarbone hey thanks for letting me know about the myriad errors. I fixed the video link, and corrected my lazy one game assertion (I finished up the article at 2 am and had a morning train to catch - not a good excuse, but one nonetheless!). I also added an additional note about the Bruins/Ranger series.

Thanks for reading.
May 19, 2013
Votes: +0

jcarbone said:

jcarbone
... The link for the MacKinnon goal isn't working, just a heads up.

Also, there's actually two games Sunday, forgot about the Boston and Rangers series I take it..

Otherwise great writeup as always.
May 19, 2013
Votes: +1
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