The beauty of "one-and-done" tournament hockey, they say, is that anything can happen. After yesterdays' 10+ hour display of quarterfinal action, I'd remind those same people that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
North of (our) border, Canadians delight this morning in their 7-3 romp over a Russian team that was favored to at least medal in Vancouver. Evgeni Nabokov took the opportunity last night to uphold the most time-honored San Jose Shark tradition: Shrinking in big moments.(I kid) So while I enjoyed watching Brenden Morrow score a goal, because I think he's a swell guy, I found myself wanting to change the channel halfway through what was supposed to be the big game of the week, and wondering how Ovechkin and Bryzgalov might respond in a 7 game series. We'll never know.
Defending Gold medalist Sweden then faltered against Slovakia, providing Stars fans pulling for Loui Eriksson some additional disappointment. "Waiting for Sweden to wake up" was what I was doing, but then something weird happened: The time ran out and the game was over. Sure, Slovakia has Hossa, Gaborik, Demitra, etc; But Sweden and Russia not being in the final four of the tournament isn't the hockey-sexy scenario we had all drawn up when this thing started.
Not all the news was bad yesterday, however, as the United States finally took Jonas Hiller out of the tournament. Hiller gave Canada a scare in pool play, then did it again yesterday as he kept the Americans scoreless for 42 minutes before Zach Parise tallied the game winner. Watching Hiller play that well, and hating him for it, was easy for the Stars fan in me and the American. As we return our attention to the NHL playoff race next week, let's not discount what this tournament might do for the confidence of the Anaheim net minder.
Reminder: Defending Big D Live is on the air @ 7pm CST tonight.
After the jump, some praise for Morrow, a weird rule gets Hagman the game winner against the Czechs, and the U.S. women take on Canada tonight for the gold. I think it's on C-SPAN7 but I'll double check that...
A really weird, un-hockey-like rule forced Pavel Kubina to abandon his defensive position while on a penalty kill, and retrieve his fallen helmet. Had he not, he would have received a minor penalty. This gave Finland and Nik Hagman the break they needed:
"I noticed that he lost his helmet, but then he still played a little bit," said Hagman of the Calgary Flames. "I thought it should have been a penalty. Then, I don’t know if the referee told him he had to get his helmet or he felt his luck was running out with the time.
"Good for us that he lost his helmet. But that’s tough. That’s … I don’t know if I can get into trouble, but that’s a stupid rule. I know they want to keep it safe that nobody plays without a helmet. But everybody’s played so long that they’re smart enough.
"You lose a helmet, they should let the guys play. It’s stupid to go five-on-four. But those are the rules and you’ve got to play by them. And we maybe got a little lucky bounce there."
I like Hagman for telling it like it is.
Scott Burnside at ESPN has a nice piece on the American squad:
In the moments after the United States' 2-0 quarterfinal victory over plucky Switzerland, head coach Ron Wilson took his players straight to their dressing room and told them he was proud of them.
Proud not necessarily for being 4-0 in this wildly entertaining Olympic hockey tournament and now having two cracks at a medal starting with Friday's semifinal game against Finland. But mostly proud for sticking with the plan, for not buckling when it might have been easier to do so.
Wilson said that he told them "that we were really proud of them for not ever losing their cool or allowing our expectations of beating the Swiss to get in the way of executing our plan."
This is a team about which much was unknown when the tournament started.
Perhaps too young, too thin down the middle, too vulnerable along the blue line. Perhaps.
Check out the entire article here. I rather like his idea that they have "two cracks at a medal" better than my feeling this morning that Canada's way to Gold has been paved. Much more cheery.
Travis Hughes at SB Nation had this to say following Morrow's goal against Russia last night:
Brendan Morrow is an aging forward who has a clear role on this Canadian team. He's not there to score many goals; he's simply an experienced veteran who is there to provide support and a lot of energy while he's out there. His ice time has been cut back in the tournament and he's seen a lot more bench than he's used to seeing.
With less than two minutes left in the first period, Morrow proved that he still has a lot of worth left. With the puck behind the net, Morrow walked right in from of Evgeni Nabokov and just jammed the puck into the net. Nabokov's presence was merely a road block that he plowed right through.
I don't think of him as "aging" just yet. Is that the way people outside of Dallas think of Brenden Morrow?
Morrow popped up quickly, which is why the defense lost track of him, and dug out the puck from behind the net. Then he attacked decisively, lifting a backhand over the goalie's right shoulder, and watched the puck trickle down Nabokov's back and into the net for a 4-1 Canada lead. It was a classic Morrow goal. "I just saw that I had some time and space," he said, "so I tried to chip it up and find a hole." In Dallas, Morrow is the Stars' star, the guy who scores big goals in big games. The captain. The person others look to for leadership. He is the man. We know that's not his role on Team Canada.
Morrow popped up quickly, which is why the defense lost track of him, and dug out the puck from behind the net.
Then he attacked decisively, lifting a backhand over the goalie's right shoulder, and watched the puck trickle down Nabokov's back and into the net for a 4-1 Canada lead.
It was a classic Morrow goal.
"I just saw that I had some time and space," he said, "so I tried to chip it up and find a hole."
In Dallas, Morrow is the Stars' star, the guy who scores big goals in big games. The captain. The person others look to for leadership.
He is the man.
We know that's not his role on Team Canada.
For many more one and two sentence paragraphs about Brenden, head over to the Morning News.
In September, the U.S. women opened the Olympic season by winning the Hockey Canada Cup, held in the 2010 Olympic venue. They beat Canada in a preliminary game and in the championship game.
Since then, the course of the rivalry has taken a 180-degree turn. The U.S. women have won once in their last eight games against Canada.
"I think we've generated a lot of momentum," Wickenheiser says. "We've come a long way from a year ago, where our team game was until now. I think our young players are understanding they can perform and play under pressure."
All but one of Canada's recent wins came in exhibitions used by both teams as Olympic tuneups, making their full significance unclear.
Canadian forward Jennifer Botterill, though, calls them "great stepping stones."
"All year I think we've been about performing on any given day," she says. "We know those were steps in the past and helped get us to this point, but we're just focused on the moment."
In this tournament, the USA and Canada have been equally dominant, averaging at least 10 goals a game, with each team allowing two goals overall.
"I think (the) U.S. is a better team and (the Americans) have better skills," says goalie Kim Martin of Sweden, which played both teams in Vancouver.
Hopefully it will play out a little closer than the Canada-Russia game last night. Go USA.
Last night, 2.5 hours after the U.S. game was over, I got a text from a friend in San Diego. He was pretty nervous about the outcome. I informed him he was watching a tape delayed game. Colorful language ensued.
Don't worry sports fans. You only have to beat NBC over the head about something 5 or 6 thousand times before they change their ways...[LA Times]
After once again annoying Olympic hockey fans, NBC has promised to broadcast the U.S. men's team's next game live in all time zones.
The network aired the Americans' 2-0 victory over Switzerland on Wednesday live in the Eastern and Central time zones. It was on a one-hour tape delay in the Mountain time zone and two-hour delay for the West Coast. It wasn't immediately clear why the network didn't show the game live across the United States. NBC streamed it live everywhere on its Olympics Web site.
The United States will play the winner of the Czech Republic-Finland game on Friday in a semifinal at the Vancouver Games.
Some viewers vented their anger on the Web. San Francisco viewer Elrod May wrote on Twitter: "Once again NBC fails during the winter olympics, I have to watch the men's hockey game on msnbc.com."
Stars hockey resumes in 5 days.
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