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  1. First off, a big congratulations to the Big Red Machine, winning gold on home ice. Canada's 14 gold medals, if you haven't heard for the millionth time now, is the most by any country in Winter Olympics history. It's no small feat, and as cliched as it sounds, Canada's success has really united its people from coast to coast. The importance of "Own The Podium" was not lost in the eyes of the government and this is great news for the traditionally under-funded Canadian athletes, with the federal budget expected to double its annual contribution. With such initiatives from the Canadian government expect more and more gold medals for Canada's trophy case. It seems only fitting anyway, amidst the Molson, HBC, and Tim's commercials that we should be good at "conquering winter." Sure, the Americans won more medals, but we can always say we won the most golds, and perhaps the ones that mattered to us most. In both men's and women's hockey the Canadians were victorious over their southern rivals, even though the women's post-game celebrations drew the ire of the IOC. But, as Roy MacGregor says, "so what?"<img src="http://media.nj.com/star-ledger/photo/-da5f91bb0cd558bd_large.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed"> The USA-Canada game was one for the history books and I don't remember Salt Lake even coming close to receiving as much hype as it did. If Gary Bettman still doesn't understand why NHL players need to be in Sochi, then I'm not sure if anything in this world will convince him. Hockey in North America is reaching its peak, with USA Hockey introducing a slew of new stars. Hockey Canada has always had a steady stream of quality talent, but Sidney Crosby has garnered the most attention since Wayne Gretzky. The gold medal game drew the highest TV ratings since the 1980 USA-USSR game and it shouldn't surprise anyone that a vast majority of the American viewers were from the north. However, let's hope that the high viewership in cities without NHL franchises, like San Diego, doesn't give Bettman any funny ideas. Some, however, remain quite pessimistic about hockey's staying power in the States. Of course, it doesn't help Bettman that none of USA's marquee talents play on Southeast Division teams. The days of European dominance, and questions of whether the North American development programs are heading in the right direction or not, are over. Jaromir Jagr, Peter Forsberg, and the stars of yesteryear don't dominate the NHL anymore. Finland and Sweden have probably seen the last of their stars from the '90s, while Russia is re-thinking their strategy and selection process. So disappointing was their performance this year that their Olympic Committee head Leonid Tyagachev has resigned after pressure from President Dmitry Medvedev. Just one day after the Closing Ceremonies, the NHL was right back at it again. I must admit, and I'm sure I'm not alone here, that I was suffering from the Olympic hangover and didn't even realize the NHL had resumed playing until I saw the boxscores. If there was any drawback to the Olympics, and this is a minor one, to say the least, was the somewhat uneventful trade deadline. Despite featuring a record number of players, I felt that most of the moves were lateral moves at the very best, with GMs trading for the sake of trading. Here's some winners and losers... The clear winners, I think, were two playoff teams: the Kings and Capitals. With such a young team, Dean Lombardi made an astute move and got veteran leader Jeff Halpern. The price may have seemed a little steep for the journeyman centre, with Teddy Purcell and a third rounder going the other way, but with the Kings' organizational depth it was something they could afford. I think the Capitals missed some of Chris Clark's presence so they got former Canuck Scott Walker and the underrated Eric Belanger. Milan Jurcina returns to Washington and they also got Joe Corvo as well, and the price wasn't bad. The Capitals really made themselves a contender in this one and I have a feeling they'll top Pittsburgh this time around, despite getting Alexei Ponikarovsky. The Pens just don't seem to be playing as well this year - perhaps the novelty of not having Michel Therrien behind the bench is wearing off a little. Phoenix was surprisingly active during the deadline but I think the bigger story is their success, not their acquisitions. There was, I think, a clear loser on this day and I think that's the Oilers. The 'Canes unloaded what players they didn't need, but at the end of the day the Oilers were still saddled with the same group of players they began the season with. Only two trades materialized for them: shipping Lubomir Visnovsky to Anaheim for Ryan Whitney and then Steve Staios to Calgary for Aaron Johnson and a pick. Unless Johnson impresses, he probably won't be back next year while Whitney's signed through 2013. Whitney perhaps isn't the type of player that brings a new attitude to the locker room, something that Steve Tambellini has been wanting to do, but the Oilers had to take some salary back. Some people wonder why the Oilers struck a trade with the Flames, but I really think that speaks to the futility of the Oilers' position. They obviously didn't have Calgary in its mind as a trading partner, but the lack of interest from other teams, or the reluctance to part with picks and prospects, probably pushed the Oilers to them. They have some immovable assets there. It's a long road ahead for the Oilers. The sweeping changes didn't come and the team will probably make more noise at the draft. Sam Gagner may be the only player really worth keeping but it's a shame he has to toil there. <img src="http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/object2/1850/125/n55157749204_7654.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks made some depth moves, acquiring Yan Stastny, Andrew Alberts, and Sean Zimmerman. Zimmerman probably won't see any NHL time in his career, Stastny's a call-up at best, while Alberts is a decent depth defenseman. Seeing as how Kevin Bieksa is still out with an injury and Willie Mitchell's status unknown, Mike Gillis didn't make any moves to shore up the blueline. I was personally pulling for Dan Hamhuis, but the Predators elected to keep him for the rest of the year despite his impending free agency. Gillis' big move last year was getting Mats Sundin, but nothing this year. It's perhaps a vote of confidence from Gillis for this team, but it's still missing some pieces before it's a contender in a tough conference. But of course, I'll still be cheering for the blue and green. Back to the NHL we go!
  2. What an absolutely dominant performance by Canada last night in a 7-3 rout of Russia, the performance we've been looking for since the opening game against the Norwegians. After a close shave against the Jonas Hiller-led scrappy Swiss squad and a disappointing loss against the rough and tumble Americans, the Canadians responded with two convincing wins. The key last night wasn't so much that Mike Babcock completely outcoached Vyacheslav Bykov, or that Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Semin, and Pavel Datsyuk were next to ineffective, or that the Russian holes on defense were completely exploited, or that Evgeni Nabokov played one of the weakest games in his career (and will no doubt be subject to some ribbing by the Sharks' quadruplets). The key last night was that the Canadians got an extra game to fine tune their chemistry and were able to ice four complete lines. It was quite surprising, but also quite comforting, that even when Sidney Crosby and Scott Niedermayer were held off the score sheet the Canadians were still able to pull of such a convincing win. The Canadians were able to execute, scoring a number of tic-tac-toe plays in which Nabokov had no chance, including a partial two-on-one break led by Jonathan Toews off a Mike Richards pass that led to a beautiful Rick Nash goal. That line was clearly the best line last night, not only completely shutting down the Russians' top line but also scoring. Ovechkin and Semin combined for 6 shots and -4 on the night. It's hard to single out who didn't play well last night, but Patrice Bergeron logged less than five minutes and Chris Pronger continues to play mediocre hockey. He's nowhere near Niedermayer's class. When I did my last pre-Olympics post I did mention, and Pierre LeBrun did as well, that the Russians' KHL contingent could be a drawback. I think last night it was pretty clear it was a mistake. The Russians' KHL players combined for -12 last night, with captain Aleksey Morozov logging just under twelve minutes of ice-time. Sergei Gonchar, Ovechkin, and Datsyuk, all of whom play in the NHL, both logged more than 20 minutes. I thought it was a curious decision not to take the KHL's leading scorer Sergei Mozyakin, instead taking Alexander Radulov and Sergei Zinovyev, both of whom finished in the minus. Zinovyev played just 8:49, the least out of any Russian forward. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/8b/fullj.a8f3670ece6600bb7eec1ce1d04972f6/a8f3670ece6600bb7eec1ce1d04972f6-getty-95659033mh128_ice_hockey_qu.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> The physical play, once again, was set by the Canadians and the Russians didn't have anybody to counter. While Ovechkin's hit on Jagr was quite entertaining, the Russians couldn't keep up. Before the Olympics began I did see that as a potential problem, and which is the main reason why when I made my picks I made sure Evgeny Artyukhin was on that squad. I do agree that this win, by far, was the most convincing in this tournament even though face-offs could use more work. However, I think more interesting happenings were occurring outside of the Russia-Canada match-up. Didn't I say the Finns would be in the mix? Miikka Kiprusoff made 31 saves for the Finns who will play the US in the other semi-final. The win wasn't an easy one to swallow - Pavel Kubina stopped checking Niklas Hagman to retrieve his helmet only to allow him to score the eventual game-winner. Kubina had lost his helmet during play and under international rules playing without a helmet could result in a minor penalty. The rule created some controversy, including Hagman's own admission that it's a "stupid rule." Either way, from the looks of things the Finns may very well finish with the bronze. The Finland-USA game should be a well-fought one and really could go either way, but I'll have to go with the 1980-inspired Americans and Ryan Miller on this one. I think the biggest storyline of the night, however, was Slovakia's upset of Sweden. The defending champions won't medal in this tournament, despite relying on a veteran squad. Led by Pavol Demitra's three points, who is playing the best hockey I've ever seen him play, and Jaroslav Halak, the Slovaks are have already achieved their highest finish at the Olympics. Henrik Lundqvist made just ten saves in the loss, and coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson continued to rely on his veterans, even if they're essentially playing on one leg: Daniel Alfredsson logged 19:28, Henrik Zetterberg 18:58, Johan Franzen 17:46, and Peter Forsberg 16:07. On the other hand, the NHL's highest scoring duo was surprisingly limited to secondary roles, to me especially, as Henrik Sedin finished with 13:43 and Daniel Sedin with 13:23. Meanwhile, Patric Hornqvist, Loui Eriksson, and Nicklas Backstrom all logged more ice-time than the twins. Gustafsson's reliance on players based on age seems to be extreme at best. I didn't get to see much of the game, but it seems as though the Sedins played well enough but failed to execute. The Slovaks have an uphill climb with Canada next, especially when they're firing on all cylinders. Halak has been amazing but the Canadians are clearly the best team in the tournament now. Expect the gold medal game to be a re-match between the US and Canada and it will be a barn burner.
  3. Before we begin anything, first, take a deep breath. Okay, now we're ready to go. The game came as advertised, although for Canadians everywhere (or for those who may cheer for Canada) the loss was devastating. It's not the gold medal game, not yet, but it might as well have been. With an electric, playoff-like atmosphere, the US fended off a multi-faceted Canadian attack, who were unable to beat Vezina favourite Ryan Miller, who stopped 42 shots in the win, while at the other end of the ice Martin Brodeur allowed 4 of 23. There is simply no question who was the better goalie tonight and in a short tournament like this, goaltending can be the difference between a gold medal finish and a sixth place finish. It's a good thing that Canada has a great insurance policy. I do believe that Brodeur has played himself out of this tournament. Even though the Swiss and Americans were much tougher opponents than the Norwegians, he didn't come up big in the big game. He played the puck way too much tonight and he is no Marty Turco, that's for sure. Brian Rafalski's goal also came at the expense of Brodeur's puckhanding, as was Chris Drury's goal (more on him later) on a missed poke check. I'm not exactly sure what he's been trying to accomplish with those moves, and most people have been vilifying him already. It's not all on him though - Canada's defense scrambled in their own zone multiple times and a lack of communication seems to be the problem. I'll bet that Luongo gets the start against the Germans on Tuesday and may very well be the man from here on out. The Canadians didn't play terribly - in fact, I thought for the most part they played quite well, but it left people wondering where the hell did the sudden burst of energy in the last two minutes came from. Okay, the answer is obviously desperation, but where was that all game? The Americans didn't generate a lot of shots, but they did pressure the Canadian defense that looked flustered at times and forced Brodeur to make some tough saves, although I don't think he made the game any easier for himself. The Americans played with more desperation and their jubilant goal celebrations are indicative of that. They executed better than the Canadians tonight. Speaking of defense, Drew Doughty is an absolute lock for Canada for every Olympics from here on out. Despite fanning on a potential game-tying goal, he looked great on the ice - smooth, calm, and composed. He was the exact opposite of four-time Olympian Chris Pronger, who logged only 14:05 to Doughty's 23:20. Pronger was a lock for everybody's picks for Canada's this year, but you have to wonder if that really was the right decision. Let's face the facts though: Pronger, at 35, is still one of the better defenseman in this league, but his best days are behind him, having last won the Norris ten years ago. His skating, never a strong suit to begin with, has regressed and he was never a particularly intelligent hockey player either. His size was and always will be an asset, but his lack of mobility was completely exploited by the much smaller but faster American forwards. His veteran presence was not felt in this game at all, unlike Scott Niedermayer's. The loss raises questions, but you really have to wonder if Steve Yzerman should've taken Mike Green or Stephane Robidas instead. It was definitely the kids who had the better night tonight, with a very strong performance from Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards, even though he played less than 13 minutes and finished with a -2. They played with urgency and an extra jump in their game that wasn't seen by the veterans of the team. It again makes you wonder if guys like Steven Stamkos should've made the squad. Ironically, for the younger American squad, it was the veterans that pulled through. It's funny how that works sometimes. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/4b/fullj.64cbaf35c88c44bd8dbb35714c4b03a4/64cbaf35c88c44bd8dbb35714c4b03a4-getty-95657025mw057_ice_hockey_da.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">I made my picks for USA, there was one player that I couldn't cut no matter how poorly his season was going: Chris Drury. He was even my pick for captain. Captain Clutch, he of the 47 overtime winners, knows how to win. A lot of people wondered why Brian Burke selected the Rangers centre, but it's easy to see why now. Drury has just 10 goals and 22 points this season, but his veteran presence, face-off ability, and tenacious forecheck really set the tone. He's not the most talented player, but through hard work he gets his stuff done. Along with Miller, there are shades of Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig there. You know USA wants to win gold. Badly. Sometimes I wonder if Canadian hockey players may be just a touch too humble. The Americans generated a lot of scoring chances on individual play, especially Rafalski's goal and some stickhandling clinics put on by Patrick Kane and Bobby Ryan. The best chances for the Canadians came when the big kids, Eric Staal, Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry drove the puck straight to the net. Too often are Canadians looking for that extra pass instead of taking the shot. There were 45 of them tonight, but if takes 45 just to score 3 on Miller, then shoot 65 times. Ability only goes so far, as I'm pretty sure Miller would've liked that Sidney Crosby goal back, before numbers take over. This is going to sound silly, but the Canadians were a little too unselfish with the puck. Everyone parked their egos at the door, but at the same time someone has to step up and say, "I'm gonna be that guy." Joe Sakic was "that guy" in 2002. Part of the reason a single player hasn't stood out yet may be because Mike Babcock has decided to spread the ice-time around. Only 2 Canadians played less than ten minutes (Brent Seabrook and Patrice Bergeron) compared to the Americans' 4 (Ryan Malone, Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel, and Ryan Whitney). On the flip side, only 2 Canadians topped 20 minutes tonight (Doughty and Duncan Keith) while there were 4 for the Americans (Brooks Orpik, Ryan Suter, Jack Johnson, and Rafalski). There's a clear hierarchy on Team USA as to who gets the ice-time and who doesn't, while it's not so clear on Canada because there's such a wealth of talent and versatility. I have a feeling that some Canadian players need more ice-time to find their rhythm and be effective. The physical game from the much bigger Canadians was there, but not enough. Neither Dustin Brown nor Ryan Callahan are big players (both stand around 5'11"), but when they're on the ice, they're speeding bullets and will hit anything they see. Neither player hit the scoresheet, but they don't need to get score to have their presence felt. Ryan Kesler also helped in that department, including scoring the empty netter on a lazy backcheck by Perry that iced the game. It was a humbling experience, to say the least, for the Canadians. They didn't make the road any easier for themselves, now having to face Germany before a dangerous Russian squad. Who knows though - maybe the Canadians just planned to do it this way all along.
  4. It will be only another three days before the Olympic torch enters BC Place and it will be exactly a week today when Canada will step onto the ice to show the world what they can really do after a devastating seventh place finish at Turin. The Games coincide with what has been traditionally the toughest stretch in a grueling 82-game NHL season, in which the travel and general wear and tear catch up to players, resulting in injuries to key players. For the 12 teams that will take part, some of them have already named roster replacements, while others are awaiting word on their original selections' health before making any changes. Szymon Szemberg of the IIHF has notified teams that they have until February 15, the day before the first games, to make changes. <img src="http://cdn.bleacherreport.com/images_root/image_pictures/0002/4984/random_key_38803_file_st.louis.martin.1_feature.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">The return of Dan Boyle is a big sigh of relief for Canada because he's a truly underrated defenseman with amazing skating and puck-moving ability. A lot of people credit Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards for Tampa's 2004 win, but Dan Boyle and Martin St. Louis were equally vital. The big news today, however, is Ryan Getzlaf's sprained left ankle. He is listed as day-to-day and may very well heal in time for the Games but with these type of injuries it is impossible to tell how long he will be out for. Getzlaf was in crutches after the game but X-rays were negative and he will undergo further testing today. Should Getzlaf not be able to make the trip, who takes his spot with Corey Perry? Well, I think it's quite obvious that will be Eric Staal, who has 34 points in 29 games since December and plays a fairly similar game. For those concerned with handedness, Staal is a lefty while Getzlaf a righty, but the new replacement could fill that void. For me, there are two players that Canada can take and they're both from right shots: Steven Stamkos or Martin St. Louis. Jeff Carter (also a righty) may creep into the conversation here and may get the nod because of his size, but Stamkos is having a far superior season. My personal choice would be St. Louis because I think his strong play this season has been overlooked and he is an Olympian vet, so throwing him into this situation won't be anything he can't handle. On a roster that is full of centreman, having St. Louis, a natural winger, could help. Scott Niedermayer isn't having a good season either and all eyes will be on him to right his game and lead the team. As a winner at every single level, Niedermayer isn't a stranger to pressure. With a strong supporting cast that is by far, I think, the best in the tournament, Canada's defense should be one of few worries of the coaching staff. Canada's defense has a little bit of everything - speed, size, skill, strength, and even youth in the highly regarded Drew Doughty. The big head scratcher for Mike Babcock and company is to figure out which players get the big minutes and which ones sit. A lot has been made about goaltending as well, with Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Marc-Andre Fleury struggling. Brodeur, Canada's undisputed #1, has allowed more than 3 goals in his last 5 games with a 2-3 record during that stretch. The Devils blew a 2-0 lead last night against Philadelphia. Luongo had a fantastic game in Boston but lost his previous game and was pulled in Toronto. Fleury has allowed 13 goals in his last 3 games and had a save percentage far below his usual .906 mark in that stretch. Is it fatigue? It could very well be with all three goalies heavily relied upon by their respective teams. Some argue that coaches, especially ones with Olympic commitments like Jacques Lemaire, should rest his starters in preparation for the Olympics but that won't happen - the NHL is their day job and they're paid to win, so naturally it's their only focus until the opening game against Norway. Either way, Canada is walking into the tournament with their three best goalies, even if they are currently being outplayed by Steve Mason and Marty Turco. Exactly who the hero will be remains to be seen. <img src="http://www.cbc.ca/gfx/images/sports/photos/2008/10/30/bogosian-zach-081010.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">USA has already lost two of their original selections. Paul Martin is out with a broken arm and won't be 100% by the start of the Games and Mike Komisarek is going to have season-ending shoulder surgery. Brian Burke swiftly announced Ryan Whitney and Tim Gleason as his replacements. While Whitney hasn't exactly had a stellar season, he is logging almost 25 minutes a night for the struggling Ducks while Gleason will replace Komisarek's defensive zone presence. While I like the majority of USA's roster, I would've picked Matt Greene (Grand Ledge, MI) and Zach Bogosian (Massena, NY) instead, to continue Burke's trend of a youth movement, even though it's not like Whitney (26) or Gleason (27) are that old. Greene has been vital to the Kings' success and is their best defensive player. While Bogosian has really cooled off and has just 20 points with -13, he is the future of USA's defensive corps along with Erik and Jack Johnson. If anything, Bogosian will be USA's seventh man and it would perhaps do him some good to just soak up the atmosphere. The USA are underdogs, but it's the way they like it. Just ask Mike Eruzione and the 1980 squad. <img src="http://www.cbc.ca/sports/columns/newsmakers/gfx/evgeni-malkin-250.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Russia will perhaps be Canada's biggest challenge because their offense is, by far, the best in the tournament. When Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin play on your second line, you have an embarrassment of riches in the goal-scoring category. However, there are two things to note. First, I think Russia shot itself in the foot when they announced that half of their roster will be made up of players from the KHL. I think hockey politics took the front seat here because Russian officials were much too eager to show the world that the KHL is on par with the NHL, but let's face it, the world's best players are in the NHL. If the Russians win gold, then they have a point, but if they lose, it shows that the NHL is still the superior league. Second, defense remains the big issues because their top two defenseman, Sergei Gonchar and Andrei Markov, are both known more for their offensive talents than defense. The Russians can outscore anybody, but the question is whether or not they are good enough in the defensive zone. Talented forwards Alexei Kovalev and Alexander Frolov were the notable absentees, and even if their consistency at the NHL level is suspect, they are top performers for Russia - Kovalev has 10 points in 14 games for Russia in two Olympics and Frolov has 15 points in 16 games in two World Championships. Sergei Mozyakin, one of the top performers in the KHL year-in and year-out, was also another omission. Semyon Varlamov has been out since December with a groin injury and his replacement will be Alexander Eremenko, the fourth goalie at camp, but the issue is largely irrelevant because Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov are the clear 1-2. The Swedes may be hit by injuries the hardest, with both veterans Tomas Holmtrom and Niklas Kronwall questionable for the tournament. Let's not forget that despite his selection to the roster, it is still not 100% sure whether or not Peter Forsberg will play. Assuming that all three will be unavailable, Johan Franzen, who recently returned from injury, will get the first looks. Forget about Mikael Samuelsson - even if he's asked he's already said he'd say no. If Franzen isn't ready, than the Swedes could go with more checking ability in Fredrik Sjostrom, or scoring ability by reaching into their own backyard and pick Johan Davidsson from HV71 Jonkoping of the SEL. The captain and team's leading scorer for the past two years, Davidsson is having another strong season and gives the Swedes another representative from the SEL despite not having played at the international level since the 2007 World Championships. Since former Washington Capital and coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson (son Anton is in the Caps' system) has been adverse to selecting younger players, Victor Hedman, who wasn't even on the original shortlist, probably won't be picked. Instead it may very well be Alex Edler, who I felt should've belonged in the first place, or another Red Wing in Jonathan Ericsson, or Chicago's underrated Niklas Hjalmarsson. Whatever the case, Sweden will almost undoubtedly be in play during the medal rounds due to their incredible chemistry. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are expected to anchor the top line in front of their home crowd while Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson will form the second. Finland will make some noise because like Canada and USA, they will benefit from a smaller ice surface with their North American style of play. Tuomo Ruutu and Niklas Backstrom are both on the injured reserve and it seems unlikely either will make the trip. While they are very good NHLers, especially Backstrom, it won't hurt them significantly. Miikka Kiprusoff will man the pipes while Antero "Sushi Roll" Niittymaki will back him up and is more than capable of handling the load, having won MVP honours at Turin. Nashville's Pekka Rinne will most likely be the third string. Jussi Jokinen and Lauri Korpikoski would be my first choices as Ruutu's replacement, both versatile players but lack Ruutu's physical play. There will be a good chance that the games will be decided by shootouts and Jussi Jokinen may be the best in the league, along with Jonathan Toews. The scrappy Finns are considered underdogs in this tournament but do have the ability to make some noise. Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, the leading scorers at Turin with 11 points each, are both returning. Neither the Czechs nor Slovaks have any injuries, the only medal round threats to not have any. It works in their favour, but they face a very steep uphill climb in the tough Group B (Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia). The Slovaks, who finished fifth in Turin, are headlined by a healthy duo of Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa, while Zdeno Chara continues to patrol the blueline. There is no obvious strength on the Slovak squad, but there's no obvious weakness either. If the goaltending holds up with Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj, the Slovaks have a good chance of finishing in the bronze medal game. The team is headlined by a big batch of veterans, including Jozef Stumpel, Pavol Demitra, and Miroslav Satan. Gaborik is the Slovaks' youngest forward and he is 28. Like Sweden, the Slovaks will lean on veteran leadership, good goaltending, and timely scoring to get them through the tournament. For 37-year old Ziggy Palffy, who came out of retirement in 2007, this will most likely be his last opportunity to win a medal. A veteran-heavy team may not necessarily be a bad thing - for one, the team could fall flat on its face like Canada in 2006 or be a surprising contender like USA in 2002. Given the talent pool it seems unlikely the Czechs will finish third again, although it's not out of the realm of possibility. Like the Slovaks, the Czechs don't have any weaknesses, but rather just a solid, well-rounded team. What gives the Czechs an edge over rest of their competition, however, is their ability to score. The undersized Tomas Plekanec will be the team's top centreman, but what the team lacks in depth down the middle is more than made up for on the wings with Martin Havlat, Patrik Elias, Milan Michalek, Martin Erat, Tomas Fleischmann, and, of course, Jaromir Jagr. To be honest I though the Czechs would stock up on some more firepower because that's their obvious strength, but instead chose to exclude Jiri Hudler, Vaclav Prospal, and even Milan Hejduk, a curious decision to say the least. Tomas Kaberle, Marek Zidlicky, Filip Kuba, and Pavel Kubina makes up a nice defensive corps, while shot-blocking machine Zbynek Michalek (271 in 2008-09 was 33 more than second place Brett Clark, another underrated defenseman) will be the shut-down man. There will be no Dominik Hasek to confound shooters, although Tomas Vokoun is certainly no slouch. Odds to win Gold: Canada (1:2), Russia (2:1), Sweden and USA (6:1), Czech Republic (12:1), Finland (18:1), Slovakia (40:1) Go Canada Go!
  5. When Team USA announced their roster at the end of the Winter Classic, I could have bet money that Zack Bogosian of the Thrashers would have been on the team. Luckily I didn't because Burke made a mistake by not including him in his National roster. Insted of Bogo, Burke picked the likes of Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson, Brain Rafalski, and Ryan Suter, all of whom were obvious choices to make the squad. What surprised me the most was the other 3 Dmen taken: Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, and Mike Komisarek (Although Komisarek was a given seeing as he plays on Burke's Maple Leafs), out of all these players I would still take Bogosian over them, and here is why: -Zack Bogosian: GP:41 G:8 A:9 P:17 +/-:-12 PIM:36 TOI:22:37 Bogosian is a big, hard hitting Defenceman who can be played in all situations. Tied for 6th in Defencemen goals scored with his 8 goals. Is a -12 due to the fact that Atlanta has the 5th worst GAA in the entire NHL while playing in the high scoring SE division. Bogosian has represented America at the 2009 Men's world Ice Hockey Championship. -Brooks Orpik: GP:38 G:0 A:14 P:14 +/-:3 PIM:28 TOI:20:00 Orpik, Like Bogosian, is strong and loves to hit the opposition. Can only be relied on as a stay at home defenceman due to poor showing in the offensive zone. Won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. Has never represented Team USA before. -Paul Martin: GP:9 G:0 A:2 P;2 +/-:1 PIM:0 TOI:23:57 Has been out with a broken arm for almst the entire NHL season. Can be overpowered by bigger forwards in front of the net. Martin is consistant in his own end and can chip in offensivley if needed. Has represented Team USA at the 2008 World Championships. -Mike Komisarek: GP:34 G:0 A:4 P:4 +/-:-9 PIM:40 TOI:17:54 Komisarek, like Orpik and Bogosian, loves to hit opposing forwards. Is prone to taking dumb penalties at the worst time possible. Isn't showing any consistant defence this season, and can't score offensivley either. Komisarek has represented Team USA at the 2000 U-18 WJHC, 2001 & 2002 U-20 WJHC, and the 2006 Men's Ice Hockey Championships. Zack Bogosian is the only player mentioned that can produce any offence and can run the PP. But why would Burke leave him off the team? Well, you could say that he is inexperienced seeing as Orpik has a Stanley Cup and Komisarek has played for Team USA 4 times. You could also blame the lack of media coverage for the Thrashers and Burke and his staff just forgeting about him. But I think what really happened was that a couple of big egos got in the way and forced a couple of defencemen that don't deserve to be on the Team. Burke and Komisarek, Shero and Orpik, Lamoriello and Martin. All 3 of them wanted to showcase their over-hyped defencemen at the price of letting a guy like Bogosian not get a chance on the team.
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