– I’m afraid all the US did on Sunday evening in Vancouver was awaken a sleeping giant. So it seems after yesterday evening’s Russian manhandling by the Canadians – a quarterfinal game in which they controlled the game from start to finish and beat the mighty Russians 7-3.
Before I even had the top button of my work shirt unbuttoned, Team Canada had a three-goal lead on the strength of a simplified game plan and the clicking of three lines. Each of the first three tallies came compliments of beautiful passing from three different lines and getting wingers to the net. Such is hockey in Canada.
The third goal came on an odd-man rush off a turnover at the Russian blue line. Jonathan Toews ended up with the puck on his stick leading the rush when Rick Nash sped by all the neutral zone defenders. Toews hit him with a pass, and Nash sealed the deal. Russia called a timeout, but it was too late. Canada had its groove back.
Sure, the US won in the afternoon, but after yesterday night’s beating, it looks again like Canada’s tournament to lose. The group simplified its game, getting off-side forwards to the net and creating traffic in front. After having difficulties scoring earlier in the tourney – for Canadian standards, anyway – they posted an seven-spot against Evgeyni Nabokov and company. Now, with Sweden out of the picture, the team seems to have a clearer path to the gold medal game – where the US may or may not be waiting.
– With all the hoopla sure to result from a possible US/Canada gold medal game – the second in the last three Olympics, if it occurs – it’s worth weighing in on the NHL/Olympic questions that seem to rule the day; namely, whether the NHL will allow its players to play in future Games after this Vancouver tournament.
One point that’s usually lost in this debate is one John brought up during Monday night’s PuckCast: the 2006 Games were, for NHL/North American standards, poor. Neither the US nor Canada medaled, and the gold medal game featured Sweden and Finland – hardly a huge draw for US audiences and, as such, a disappointment for the NHL, a business that shuts its doors for two weeks hoping to capitalize on momentum generated by the games. In 2006, though, there was no momentum – unless you recognize the negative momentum generated by American families suffering through 15 minutes a night of Jason Blake in red, white and blue.
From there, though, there’s a second point that’s always ignored. While the NHL is on record as having a preference for keeping its players from future Games – and, why wouldn’t it have a distaste for sending its property to participate in an all-in, high stakes tournament? – it’s particularly important for hockey fans and the league’s players to recognize the benefit to be gained by the NHL in coming out publicly in favor of future Olympic participation.
In other words, it serves no purpose for the NHL – an outfit just a season-and-a-half away from collective bargaining – to tip its hand on what the players believe will be a key issue. So, in the meantime, regardless of the NHL’s actual position on future participation, it will continue to remain anti-participation until it can use its position against the players in negotiations.
So, until then, don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see. As I’ve stated before, I think the NHL’s posturing.
Let’s see how easy that becomes if the US plays Canada for gold.
*On the Farm*
–Kyle Beach and Byron Froese each had goals in a 2-1 win for Spokane over Everett.
—Shawn Lalonde had an assist in Belleville’s 4-2 loss.