Attention - the old, familiar forum is back now. You can login and post without fear of losing the post with the final upgrade. Your posts from the last two months will be added piecewise over the course of the next few days. The forum will be official re-launched within the next few days, but in the meantime you can use it, fix your signature, post, etc, as needed.
The Men’s Olympic Hockey Tournament finally got underway yesterday. I was going to go off on a rant about how from a purely fantasy perspective the Games are kind of a downer but the reality is I just find Olympic Hockey pools to be lame so the lack of immersive fantasy hockey is a bit of a drag. The awesomeness of the games outweighs that tenfold though so I’ll spare you the rant.
I will ask if any of you have found a way to make Olympic Hockey pools entertaining because I am at a loss.
I did place some spicy bets before the games got underway.
If you’ve been following the ramblings these past few months you’ll note that I bet on the underdog odds of Finland to win their group and win the Gold. That was a longshot when I placed it and the injuries to Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula do not help my cause in the slightest. But I stand by my reasoning for the bets. If I’m betting on one goalie to steal this tournament it’s Tuukka Rask.
I have to say, the Swedes looked pretty dominant for much of their 4-2 win over the Czech Republic.
The entire first half of the game was an exhibition of Swedish dominance. They controlled every bit of the play and were exceptional in activating their defense to help create opportunities.
Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson is just a disgusting defense pairing. I’d take the two-way ability of some of Canada’s pairings but for pure offense it doesn’t get better than these two together - and that's not to say these guys can't defend.
Karlsson led the way for Sweden with two goals and OEL had two assists.
The announcers were talking about how Daniel Sedin had said playing with Niklas Backstrom was like skating with his brother Henrik. Not sure if they quite have the same fearsome Children of the Corn telepathy it’s clear that these two will create offense because of their immense hockey IQ.
Once the Czechs went down 4-0 they found their game and controlled the final period and a bit but teams that go down always seem to carry the play so I don’t know how much to read into that. I’d like to think they could be a problem going forward but I just don’t know.
Some very curious lineup decisions from the Czechs though. We know all about the “snubbed” like Radim Vrbata who didn’t even make the squad but how about Martin Hanzal not even getting into the game and Ales Hemsky barely getting a shift until the third period while NHL washouts like Roman Cervenka, Jiri Novotny and the archaic Petr Nedved got shifts?
I will say this though, Cervenka and Nedved looked good. Can you imagine if Cervenka went to a non-horrible NHL team? I’ll bet he could’ve left a mark. I’d bet Nedved could still play in the NHL too but he’d be on the Teemu Selanne plan because the wear and tear would be a lot.
Back to Hanzal though. I have a tough time believing there’s no room for him out there. He’s slowed down a ton heading into the Olympics and maybe there’s an underlying injury that we don’t know about.
Hemsky is less surprising. He’s had some success internationally but his production at the last Olympics was spotty and he’s been mostly miserable this season. I did like what I saw from him when he finally got ice time in the third though. I hope he does enough here to catch some team’s eye and get him dealt before the trade deadline. I mean, you know he’s getting dealt but to get something more than a fourth rounder Hemsky’s going to have to play his butt off. I’m weary about him having an actual impact for an NHL team though but maybe escaping Edmonton is what he needs to get his edge back. It’s hard to remember but Hemsky was once one of the most fearless competitors on the ice, something that at his size led to a lot of injuries, which may have led to his recent shyness.
The best was seeing the Czechs leave Ondrej Pavelec, their lone NHL netminder, in street clothes while giving the start to Jakub Kovar (a former Flyers pick) and the backup spot to Alexander Salak (formely of the Blackhawks). Both Kovar and Salak have been killing it in the KHL this season while Pavelec up until recently had been his below-average self in the NHL. I doubt there’s much discrepancy between the talents of these three but it wouldn’t shock me if Kovar and Salak were in fact the better of the three. Pavelec just isn’t very good.
I’d be interested if either Kovar or Salak came over to the NHL. As mentioned, Kovar has done well in the KHL this season and was solid for the Czechs at the World Championships a couple of years ago. He got shelled by the Swedes though and was ultimately replaced by Salak.
Salak gave up a quick goal upon entering but settled things down quickly and helped the Czechs mount their comeback attempt. That game gets out of hand without Salak.
I always wondered whether Salak might get the opportunity to shine at the NHL level. He has killed it at every stop he’s made in Europe including the Czech, Finnish and Swedish leagues and now the KHL. He was rather pedestrian in his two years in North America though so perhaps he’s just better on the big ice.
What was hilarious though was that for the entire second period until the Czechs tilted the ice in their favour the announcers couldn’t help but bring up the fact that Pavelec was not dressed for the game. I couldn’t help but laugh. The Swedes were dominating. He wouldn’t have helped matters. Once the Czechs got on the board Pavelec wasn’t mentioned once. Funny how once the team starts playing well who the goaltender is stops mattering.
Switzerland shutout Latvia 1-0 with Jonas Hiller getting the win. He’s one guy I’m not too happy to see in action at the Olympics. He’s always been at his best when his workload remains light. Five or six extra games trying to carry the Swiss to a surprise medal only means he gets depleted for the stretch run. I hope all you Hiller owners out there have the Frederick Andersen handcuff. And don’t forget about Viktor Fasth!
I didn’t catch the game but it’s no surprise to me that Roman Josi finished second on the Swiss team for ice time. He’s a very important player for both the Swiss and the Nashville Predators. You may not have noticed because of Josi’s rough start to the season but he has been logging HUGE minutes for the Preds and has 21 points in 32 games since December. It might be too late to get in on him. But then again it might not be. Scan the waiver wire in your league.
Have you been following the women’s tournament as well? Really great game between the US and Canada yesterday. That’s probably the best rivalry in hockey right now, so while it doesn’t have the same speed as the men’s game it’s still entertaining as hell to watch. No doubt national pride has at least something to do with that but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen from the women’s game while it’s been on the big stage.
Andrew Berkshire takes an interesting look at how, for Canadians, hockey gold means more relief than joy.
When you are of the opinion that it's gold or bust, there really is no such thing as tempering expectations. Logically you would think that after winning the last Olympic Games, Canada would be entering Sochi with swagger, but after repeated failures at the World Juniors and the World Hockey Championships in the last four years, it seems like the feeling Bruce described is once again overwhelming.
It’s an interesting notion but I’d say how Canada wins (if they win) will determine the order of joy and relief. Because if it’s a dominant win then you have time to sit back and breathe and feel relief. There’s very little joy in a resounding win when that’s what’s expected of you. When you pull out a nail-biter though? That’s pure joy. I mean, just watch the video below – does that look like joy or relief?
Just watching that reaction video gives me chills. No better feeling. I’ll never forget where I was or who I was with when that goal was scored and the joy we all shared. Yes it’s true that for the past four years I’ve felt plenty of relief knowing that Canada has that Gold but the joy of the moment came first because of how it came.
This oral history of the 2010 gold medal game is a must read:
Ron Wilson: "Because it was just the tying goal, we [were really] celebrating on the bench. Because you're that close to your dreams: winning a gold medal, and on top of it winning it in Canada. So our guys had gone nuts. And had I had any common sense at all, I would have said, 'Calm down, the game's not over.' Or, 'Let's go out and win it before we get to overtime. We've still got 25 seconds, they're going to be so disappointed, we might be able to jump on them.'
PENALTY-KILLING: “As a player who relishes that type of role I can assure you that my approach to killing changed dramatically because of the extra space in-zone. I expect most of the contenders to play a system with a very tight box, forcing less, and relying more on staying tight as to limit plays through the center of the box. Again, this is in contrast to how we do it on the smaller ice. There are far fewer opportunities to force the opposition into making a rushed play because the extra length it takes to enforce that read can get you so far out of position and into a situation where you are unable to recover. Therefore, there will be times where penalty kill will be in limbo because killers will want to force a play but are forced instead to stay patient and rely on the system more so than instinct.”
The AHL All-Stars took on Swedish club team Farjestad in lieu of a typical All-Star contest. Smart move. I didn’t watch the game but I imagine it was a more competitive contest than your typical All-Star game. The AHL thumped Farjestad 7-2, which isn’t all that surprising when you consider the game was played on North American ice.
Leafs prospect TJ Brennan was also there but was held scoreless. Nonetheless, here’s an interesting profile on the dynamite season he’s having for the Marlies.
Hey Leaf fans! You ready for a preview of what life would be like if you had an actual #1 center?
Leo Komarov wants back in the NHL, those of you in leagues counting hits, take note.
"Clearly there is a concern," he said about his No. 1 being banged up. "To start games and not finish when I'm not the one giving him the hook … he's having health issues, for sure."
Jen Scrivens provides an interesting look at how the better half deals with trades in the NHL.
On a related note. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Ben Scrivens is a legit starter. If the Oilers are serious about their rebuild they find a way to get him signed. And if you believe in the Oilers’ future whatsoever then Scrivens makes an excellent gamble in keeper leagues.
Pretty light on fantasy news but if you have any questions fire away and I’ll address them in tomorrow’s ramblings. I won’t be able to tackle questions today as I’m on the road coaching hoops. Today is the championship and my boys have the semi-final this morning and the final in the evening if they win. Wish us luck!
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.