Wednesday morning began with something of a jolt, as some news about Team Russia's roster for the IIHF World Championships started trickling out this morning. Specifically, news about Valeri Nichushkin's being cut from Russia's roster:
Valeri Nichushkin won't play for Russia at the World Championship. Russia playing it safe due to him missing most of season with injury.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) April 29, 2015
Health concerns seem to have been a factor, although it's unclear just to what extent that played into it. Of course, there was also this bit from Mike Heika:
@Texasrulzgrl Stars do not believe Val Nichushkin has any "health issues." They believe he was one of the final cuts for Russia's WC team.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) April 29, 2015
Reading between the lines (or maybe just reading the lines in those Tweets), I will posit that Russia is skeptical about bringing Nichushkin along given that he just came off a very lengthy hiatus due to hip surgery. Combine that with the fact that his performance in the preliminary rounds (or whatever they're called; ask Huw or someone) certainly hadn't been anything to write home about, and you have a situation where Russia wants to ice the most competitive roster that they can, and Val just doesn't fit what they're looking for.
I don't see much reason to be concerned about this. One might even be grateful that Nichushkin won't be exposed to any potentially injurious situations during the tournament. And yes, experience on a "big stage" is certainly helpful, but don't forget that Val Nichushkin is barely two years removed from some pretty high-visibility competition. Ahem:
So, okay, it's still a bummer. We won't have the opportunity to watch any more highlights of Val for a few months, and yes, there would be some sort of ambiguous benefit from playing in another worldwide tournament, because I guess we're supposed to buy into the belief that this makes players more competitive or seasoned or something, which translates to better playoff performance. I don't know, it's all very nebulous; but given the tumultuous two season Val has endured with the Stars thus far, I'm perfectly happy to give him a summer to continue strengthening his repaired hip and learning how to shoot the puck over goalies as well as around them.
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Round 2 is finally here. Anaheim/Calgary is definitely going to be a juicy matchup. Calgary might even score once or twice before they're swept in three.
Saw Josh Bogorad Tweet this yesterday: "The morning after the Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs, Jim Nill had a text message from Sidney Crosby. Team Canada's two-time Olympic gold medal-winning star wanted to play at the world championships." [Brandon Sun]
Speaking of which, if you're in Canada, you can probably watch IIHF hot dog vendors warming up before their shifts start, as TSN has pretty comprehensive coverage of Worlds this year. If you're in the US, here is a coverage index for you. Probably you are in the US, like I am. [Broad Street Hockey]
As you saw, the Texas Stars were swept by Rockford last night after surrendering--stop me if you've heard this one before--a late goal to force overtime before giving up the game-winner very quickly into OT. Well, some other dumb team is going to win it now, I guess. [Here is some Twitter GIF footage] of the OT disaster that led to the goal.
Tomas Tatar is going to have all summer to think about the two golden opportunities he had to put Detroit in the lead last night, as the Lightning downed the Wings in a tightly contested game seven 2-0. [NHL]
The Hart Trophy nominees were announced yesterday; I think the world of Carey Price, but are Ovechkin's 53 goals not the most impressive accomplishment of this group? Sorry, but in 2014-15, scoring that many goals is far more impressive than stopping fifty times as many shots. John Tavares rounds out the top three because Eastern Conference. (mostly a joke) [CBC]
Tom Wilson ain't got time for namby-pamby criticism by writers who have never played the game. [Washington Post]
How does Calgary's Jonas Hiller match up against the goalie he backed up in last year's playoffs against Dallas? [NHL]
Elliote Friedman is here to explain how the playoff teams will have their draft selections determined. It's complicated. [SportsNet]
And James Mirtle reflects upon how "did they win a Cup" is a pretty redonkulous way to judge Joe Thornton or Alex Ovechkin's career. [Globe and Mail]
Derek Neumeier writes about how prior playoff experience is Kind of a Big Deal. Or as they say, act like you've been there before. Wait, is that applicable in this context. [THW]
I am such a sucker for GreatestHockeyLegends stories. Like this one: "The two were known as "fun-makers." Sometimes their tomfoolery would get them in trouble. Like the night in Chicago in 1938 when Montreal's train took off without them and goaltender Wilf Cude. Those three were still in the train station, hamming it up with locals. They had to run down the tracks chasing the train while one of the staff radioed to stop the train!" Check it out. [GHL]
Finally, who are the top 15 unrestricted free agents this summer? A bunch of old guys, mostly. Still, there are one or two defensemen on that list that certainly wouldn't look awful in Victory Green. [SportsNet]