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SAVANNAH… Sorry Northlanders, but it was 65 degrees here this afternoon. But I could hardly care, I have nothing on my mind but hockey, hockey, hockey. And earlier last week, when the countdown for the Men’s Olympic tourney was down to hours and minutes, I flipped on the SiriusXM NHL Network Home Ice channel and was ready for one of their afternoon talk shows and it started out with some more, by this time, innate talk and debate about the Team USA goalies followed up by even more debate about the Team Canada net minders. So, I did something I have never done before; I changed the channel.
This was about to be the 19,356 time I would have had to sit through some more talk about this topic and enough was enough, lets actually get the competition underway. And the next day that’s exactly what happened. I get it that the XM Home Ice guys were probably feeling the same way as I was, tired of talk and ready for action, but it made it no easier it listen to a topic that I had been hearing about ad nauseum for the past 6 months. But finally there were some games to get on with and that was most welcome.
As I said last week, there are about 4 teams in the hunt for a medal, USA, Canada, Sweden and Russia. There are a couple of clubs, Finland and maybe the Czechs that have an outside chance at some hardware. After that it is pure speculation and gambling. If I were going to do some handicapping though, (I won’t, I’m terrible at making picks) you would have to rather like Team USA’s chances after the epic shootout win versus host Russia on Saturday morn. TJ Oshie, the Warroad Wonder made all of us proud with a 4 out of 6 shootout performance. You would also have to say heck of a performance by Head Coach Dan Bylsma for rolling the dice and going with Oshie’s hot hands. I mean, he could have ended up on the goat farm never to return, but….
It worked out and now no one is second guessing the American team, they have a real shot at the top prize. On the other hand, I have watched Team Canada and have not been overly impressed. If you were a regular Home Ice follower you would have thought that the IOC had already prepared the Gold Medals for the Canadian squad. Not so fast. They slogged their way through the opener with Norway, beat Austria without any trouble, and should have, and then were taken to OT by Finland. Hey, the Finns are good and they have Tuukka Rask between the pipes, but I was led to believe that the Canadians were so good they could play two teams at once and still win.
If you asked me right now what I thought of the proceedings thus far I would tell you that the Americans look loose, relaxed, but very focused and can probably go with you in any type of game or style you wanted to play and probably still beat you. On the other hand, the Canadians look as tight as a drum to me. They seem to be ultra conservative in their play and in all other aspects about the games. They are playing like a team that is struggling under the weight of their own and their countries expectations of them.
You just know they think they are the Ferraris of hockey. Whether it is on the airwaves or in print or in conversation at the cocktail party the talk never gets around to how they will do. They will tell you themselves that they expect that their mere presence will obtain the Gold for them and that all others should simply wilt when they enter an arena. Jeez, should we run the NGK spark plugs today or the Bosch? Are you going to use the Pirelli’s today or the Nitto’s? In their finest east coast nasal infused monotone they will lead you to believe that they are so damned good they are just bored with it. The burden of it all!
Well, Steve Stamkos couldn’t go so they added a guy who should have been on the roster in the first place, Marty St. Louis, and all of the talk about him is that he will never see the lineup card. Same for PK Subban who just happens to be the reigning Norris trophy winner. Even if you didn’t agree with that choice, this guy has some serious game. Yah, I know he is prone to mistakes on occasion, but I will all but guarantee you that when his career is finis’ the other 7 D-men on Team Canada will pale in comparison, but he is almost relegated to the same status as St. Louis. For Coach Mike Babcock, (a guy I normally enjoy) he must be weary with the 35 million Canadian citizens resting upon his shoulders.
If we continue to advance, and I think we will, there is the chance that we will have to play the Swedes with King Henrik and I think we just have more juice right now. The Canadians just might have to play Russia, or maybe even Finland again to get into the Gold Medal game. Do they make it through either one of them? If Disco Dan Bylsma has on his dealers visor and is chomping on a Montecristo stogie and laughing as he sends out TJ Oshie to destroy yet another goalies hopes and dreams, doesn’t Babcock look like the guy who just found out from the warden that there is NO reprieve at midnight? We are warmin’ up the chair for ya right now! Make sure to wear TWO pairs of undies!
Anyway, these next few days are going to be exhilarating and exciting. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the games so far and I’m hoping and dreaming for a great finish for our Team USA and will be proud of them no matter what. Kudos to David Poile and staff for assembling one heck of a Red White and Blue hockey team… PEACE
MFAN EXTRA; Best wishes to the Team USA Women as well. I think they might need a couple of small adjustments to best Canada in a potential Gold rematch, but I have no doubt that we can beat them as well. I will have more on their tourney next week…. Over & Out!