Stargazing: Friday Olympic News and Notes

Stargazing is a daily assortment of Dallas Stars  and NHL news, and whatever other random ramblings are bouncing around inside our heads.

Do you like the NHL stopping down for the Olympics? I think we talked about it on a podcast earlier in the season and my response was "Yes". Well, it's now been like six weeks since I've seen a Stars game (Alright...has it really only been six days?) and a lot longer since I've been to the AAC. I am having some serious withdrawal issues. 11 days until action resumes on March 2nd against the hated Kings.

The IIHF and the IOC have made it pretty clear in the last couple of days that they'd like Gary to commit to the 2014 Winter games in Russia, but Darth Bettman is taking his time, saying they'd like to have a greater hand in the proceedings. There' s also the next CBA to think about. It's clear the players want to go and do this, they've been giddy about it since camp. Those close to the team(s) say the players have had one eye on their jobs and one eye on the Olympics all season long. But stop and ask yourself: Does the NHL as a league benefit from Olympic participation?

I received a "NHL Fan Faceoff Survey" yesterday from the NHL. (You can sign up with them here to give them your opinions should they ask, which they do infrequently). They wanted to know about my Olympic viewing habits, how much I was watching, and more specifically WHY I was watching. (i.e Patriotism, favorite players, etc...)

I don't know if they're going to get a lot of useful information on this subject from hockey fanatics that signed up to take their surveys. What I do know is that the common-sense test tells me: The NHL, as a money making entity, likely receives very little measurable economic benefit from allowing it's players to take part in the games. At least not enough to offset the cramped schedule that produces an increased risk of injury, and whatever potential injuries come from the games themselves, not to mention stopping down for two weeks.

Here's the bottom line: Is anyone watching Olympic hockey at home going to be drawn to the NHL because of it? Very few, if any. That's my opinion. I could be dreadfully wrong. I think the people watching these games are you and me. We're already in. We have hunt to find these games on CNBC or wherever they are, and we do because we already love it.

Does Olympic participation "grow the game?" That's hard to measure. Does it earn money for the National Hockey League? Probably not. I hope they can find a way to do both. It's a great tournament.

Enough of that yacking, and onto some notes to kill your Friday afternoon...

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Brenden Morrow notes (hint, there aren't many):

He's an "energy guy", of course...

Canada started the third period with authority, but the pesky Swiss began to cause fits with their bursts of speed. In a call for energy, head coach Mike Babcock sent Mike Richards and Brenden Morrow over the boards, and they both nearly put a Swiss player through the boards.

This site is actually assigning grades (1-10) to each Canadian player, for EACH game....

Brenden Morrow: Very effective in limited minutes, showed lots of energy and threw his body around in the third. 7.

Most places mention him only in passing, because Iginla was basically punished having to play with Brenden, apparently...

The winger was rocked by a second-period check by Raff aele Sannitz and didn't start the third period of a 3-2 shootout victory over the Swiss. And when the Calgary Flames captain finally saw the ice, he took a few shifts with Brenden Morrow and Mike Richards. His spot on the top line with Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash in the final frame was taken by Patrice Bergeron.

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Where to watch today:

  • Loui Eriksson and team Sweden take on Belarus @ 2pm on MSNBC.
  • Karlis Skrastins and Latvia take on the Czech Republic at 7pm on CNBC
  • Finland and Jere Lehtinen will play Germany @ 11pm on MSNBC (late night hockey...excellent)

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Mark Stepneski offers his thoughts on the 4 Stars players...

Loui Eriksson: His goal the other night against Germany looked like a lot of the ones he scores for the Stars. He was at the net and instead of taking a pass from Brad Richards, he took one Nicklas Backstrom and popped it into the open side of the net. He’s looked good on the the line with Backstrom and Daniel Alfredsson.

Jere Lehtinen: He looked like Lehtinen in Finland’s win over Belarus. He was defensively solid, great on the penalty kill and got off a couple off good chances. He, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne have a long history, great chemistry and they are still a very effective line.

....

Visit his site for the rest.

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Sidney Crosby continues to spout generic sports comments like he's a robot. Would it be so wrong for some player to say "Holy sh%t, that was a close one, eh?"

NHL.com -- Can this be a good thing for you guys going forward, to go through adversity early?

Crosby -- "I don't think it's a bad thing. We have to learn from it for sure. There are areas we can get better and execute better. I thought through the first half we had some chances and we might have passed up a few shots to make an easier or prettier play I guess, but we're continuing to learn. It's a short-term event and you have to get better and we'll look to do that here for the next one."

NHL.com -- Did you guys feel pressure in this game?

Crosby: "A little bit, but I think you do every game. Every game is a must-win in this tournament. That's kind of the common theme you are going to see, and it's not going to get any less as the tournament goes on. As much as we want to win in regulation, this is probably good to go through this and get that feeling of desperation where every play is so important. It was tight there and we found a way."

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Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy fame has a great piece today about the USA lines, and how they might change....

By the end of the 6-1 victory for the U.S. over Norway on Thursday, Kane's line had been scrambled -- and the dominoes could fall throughout the American lineup ahead of Sunday's titanic matchup against Canada.

"Who knows? They split us up at the end," said Parise, who was reunited with Devils teammate Jamie Langenbrunner(notes) at the end of a game that wasn't nearly the blowout the final score indicated.

Said Langenbrunner: "I wouldn't be shocked by anything that we do. It's a short tournament. You have to try things."

Know this: The inability of the U.S. to possess the puck offensively and pressure in the opposing zone is affecting every facet of their game. It's taxing the defensemen to make plays. It's keeping goalie Ryan Miller(notes) busy in a game against Norway; what happens when it's Jarome Iginla(notes) and Sidney Crosby(notes) in the offensive zone instead of Mats Aasen Zuccarello and Mads Hansen?

People hear "offense" and assume it means "goal scoring." It doesn't. Outside of the David Backes(notes) Crash Line-like group that's humbled opponents and put goals on the board, there's no one putting a scare in an opponent or maintaining offensive pressure to relieve the pressure on Miller. It's one of the greatest failings of this young team in the young tournament -- despite its 2-0 record -- and Coach Ron Wilson indicated changes could be coming to the forwards.

Visit Puck Daddy for the full article. Good stuff.

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NHL.com has some of Bettman talking about Olympic participation:

Bettman also opined when asked for his reaction on the fact fans were calling into NHL Live! to express their excitement over fewer commercial breaks during Olympic hockey games as compared to the NHL's regular season.

"That's a little hard to respond to because I'm not watching the games on television," Bettman said. "But this is one of the things we don't have control over. We bring in 140-plus players and we participate in the Olympics by stopping our season for two weeks, but this is the IOC's show, the broadcasters' show and the IIHF's show. There are a lot of things we don't have control over and going forward, it may be we need to be a little more involved than at least to this point we've been allowed to be."

Overall, Bettman, his wife and youngest daughter, are enjoying the Olympic experience.

"It's always great to be at the Olympics and when you're here for the two weeks, it almost seems like nothing else matters," he said. "We get to see tons of great hockey games and lots of people are excited about our games and about all the other events going on in Vancouver. It's a terrific city and they're really doing it right."

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By the way...letting players repeat in the shootout after the third shooter? In a tournament where you have teams full of NHL snipers against teams with ZERO NHL snipers? I don't know about that.

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