Here’s plenty of thoughts on USA’s 3-2 nine-round shootout olympic hockey win over Russia as well as a few on the other three games that took place on what could best described as hockey nirvana Saturday in Sochi and for anyone else watching the games from a far.
–USA-Russia could be this Olympics’ version of USA-Canada in 2010 if some team can knock off the defending gold medal champs Canada. Then again, considering the Americans beat Canada on their home soil in the preliminary of the 2010 tournament and then lost to the Canadians in the gold medal game in Vancouver, USA may want another shot at the Canadians. But these two teams had a cold war hatred and passion flowing for each other and yet an appreciation of the instant classic they were creating together on the ice. If you got up early on what was maybe your day off to watch this game, you’re surely happy you did. There was no black coffee needed to get into this one, as it was edge of your seat viewing from opening faceoff until T.J. Oshie scored his fourth shootout goal on six attempts. Let’s hope if these two rivals meet again, it’s not anticlimactic. Something tells me it won’t be!
–Something also tells me that if there is another intense battle between these two teams or another controversial call like the no-goal call that went against Russia erasing what would’ve been a 3-2 lead midway through the third period there could be a John Tortorella-Bob Hartley moment on the benches. Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov and his staff — obviously not happy with the loss and feeling they may have been robbed on the goal that was disallowed because of the goal post being off it’s moorings at the time the puck crossed the line — refused to partake in the post game customary handshake with the opposing coaching staff. USA head coach Dan Bylsma and assistants Peter Laviolette and Todd Richards waited looking over at the Russian bench as the Russian staff turned and went down the runway to the dressing room.
There is plenty of pressure on this Russian team to win gold on home soil but that lacked class. It is not the Americans’ fault that the goal was disallowed. Bilyaletdinov and his staff won’t be the only ones needing some cheese with their wine. Defenseman Slava Voynov and Alexander Ovechkin both accused Kings goalie Jonathan Quick of purposely knocking the net off the moorings with Voynov — who is Quick’s Kings teammate — claiming the USA goalie does this frequently while playing for the Kings.
–A couple thoughts on that no-goal. First, this is another example of why the NHL is the best hockey league in the world as that Fedor Tyutin goal would’ve counted in the NHL. That goal would’ve gone in either way and it’s a shame such an asinine rule can play such a major role in a terrific game like this. But IIHF rules state no goal shall be allowed “if the net has been displaced from its normal position, or the frame of the goal net is not completely flat on the ice.” And on that note, bravo to the on-ice officials having the courage to follow the IIHF rule and wave the goal off in the lion’s den that was the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Hopefully that official’s crew has an armed security detail with them for the remainder of their stay in Sochi and until they return to their native countries.
–Not take away anything from this thrilling game and from T.J. Oshie’s shootout heroics but have to say I’m not a fan of the IIHF rule that allows allow coaches to select a player to shoot multiple times if the shootout extends beyond the third round. While I also don’t agree with NHL rules that don’t allow that to happen until every player has been used, I feel the same player should only be used a maximum of three times and not consecutively until the entire roster has been used. This would create for more selection skill as well as give the shooter a better edge. As Oshie pointed out following the game, he was running out of moves. Sooner rather than later the goalie is going to figure out the shooter.
–Prior to this tournament, Red Wings and USA head coach Mike Babcock questioned whether Pavel Datsyuk — whom he coaches with the Red Wings — was healthy enough to be playing. In another example of how NHL team loyalty is thrown to the side at the Olympics, Datsyuk quipped ‘What injury?’ and then replied ‘my injury does not bother me at all. Babcock is not my concern right now.’ On Saturday, the Russian superstar showed he is just fine and also reminded the world why he is known as “The Magician” with two beautiful goals from his magical stickhandling skills.
–An NHL related thought, if the Maple Leafs can figure out how to play better team defense and not leave their goalies out to dry so much, James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel might just be able to carry them further than the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring. Speaking of magic, those two are just that right now.
–There were other games today. Switzerland and Sweden both advanced to the medal round. The Swiss beat the Czechs 1-0 and the Swedes beat Latvia 5-3. While Sweden was a favorite coming in, it’s still amazing how well they’re playing despite missing Henrik Zetterberg, Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen. But the Swiss are quite the story themselves. After losing to Sweden in the finals of the 2013 IIHF World Championships, the Swiss are once again showing they’re a team to be reckoned with. Using a system similar to trap New Jersey Devils teams that won three Stanley Cups between 1995-2003 and getting unreal goaltending, the Swiss could shake up the medal round with an upset.
–As Hockey Night In Canada analyst Glen Healey stated late in the Czech Republic-Switzerland game when Czech goalie Ondrej Pavelec was trying to get the attention of head coach Alois Hadamczik to come out of the game for an extra attacker and Hadamczik didn’t see him, could Hadamczik become the first international coach fired during the Olympics? If he isn’t, he surely has to be when he and his team return to the Czech Republic. After being part of some very questionable roster selections prior to the Olympics, Hadamczik chose not to start Pavelic for the Olympic opener reportedly because of a grudge he holds over the Winnipeg Jets goalie and his team lost to Sweden. Then he is seemingly asleep at the wheel as his team tried to avoid another loss Saturday. Yikes.
–I’ll admit I wasn’t awake for Slovenia’s 3-1 upset win over Slovakia who seems to have unraveled at the seams in this tournament. Just wondering though: was it a “Slo” game? Sorry couldn’t resist.
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