Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Silver Lining

It has taken me over a week to shake the funk that I found myself in after the US lost to Canada in the Olympic gold medal game, in what to me was one of the greatest sports events that I have seen in some time. On that Sunday, I strolled out of my apartment with a few friends clad in my 1980 USA sweater and other obnoxiously American accessories (read: 10-gallon cowboy hat) and proceeded to cozy up in a bar with large majority of Canadian patrons. Now, Canadians are generally pretty nice people, so while I and my company heckled every Canadian player (I laid off Brenden Morrow, I just couldn't bring my self to besmirch the Dallas captain), they more or less laid off ours, and on many occasions chuckled at some of our more ridiculous taunts. When Zach Parise tied the game in the final minute, I found myself at the top of my hockey enthusiasm (arguably on par to when Brett Hull scored the cup clincher in 3-OT), and then 20 minutes later met my low. I mentioned that the Canadian fans were not to harsh on the US through out the game and that continued after Crosby won them the gold, and thank god, because I am not sure how I would have handled an annoying gloating Canadian fan.

I digress, but the moral of the story was I was in a serious funk. I watched no hockey for an entire week, didn't check standings, or my fantasy team, or even survey the blog sheets - nothing. See, usually a sports loss of this magnitude comes when you have an entire offseason to take away from the game (see: Stars loss to Devils in 2000, Rockies loss to Boston in 2008, and many every Denver Broncos season since 1998). However, since the NHL season got back into gear the NEXT DAY, there was no time to get over the loss away from hockey, and thus I took my own hiatus. Now that I am back, partially thanks to a nice come from behind, on national tv, win by Dallas (i.e. Marty Turco) over the Capitals, I am ready to share my thoughts on the two weeks of hockey glory that were the Olympics.

Non-Obvious Stand Out Players:
As a general hockey enthusiast I watched just about every game of the tournament, and focused really on watching individual players. After the games in Turin, a few Olympic standouts made the switch to the NHL (namely Finland's Ville Peltonen), and as a wannabe GM thought I would try and find this years. I was really impressed with a number of guys and will now present my list of Top 3 non-obvious Olympic Standouts (as in they are not current NHLers).

3. Ziggy Palffy and Jozef Stumpel - How about a nice turnout for two guys who I thought were distant memories of hockey players. Turns out both still play and both managed to put together a nice tournament for a Slovakian team that has to be considered the surprise of the tournament. Yes, I know they were more stacked than some of the lower tier teams, but they played every team tough, ousted the defending gold medalists, and came one cross-bar away from taking Canada to overtime (coming back down 3 in the third, and the Canadians starting to look very shaky) for a spot in the gold medal game. Eight points between the two of them and a nice throwback to great hockey names of my childhood.

2. Edgars Masa─╝skis - The Latvian goalie was an absolute beast through much of the tournament. Yes I know the Latvians got smoke in 3 of their 4 games, but it was not because of this guy. He faced an incredible 170 shots in his games (~43 a game) against three of the more stacked teams in the tournament (Russia, Czech Republic, and Slovakia). The highlight of his tournament was in the qualifying game with the Czech Republic where he stopped 47 of 50 shots and willed the Latvians to a third period comeback, until late into OT when the Czechs managed to get one by him to take the game and advance. I was up late watching this match and went from dozing off early in the third period to being completely up and alert watching this guy frustrate and bewilder the Czech scorers while at the same time driving the momentum his team needed to tie the game late and send it into OT.

1. Roman Wick - Admittedly, I spent more focus watching this Swiss forward as the Group A (Switzerland, Norway, Canada, US) games were at better times and I had more of a vested interest. But in the four games i watched closely, SUI v. US (Prelim), SUI v. Canada, SUI v. Belarus and SUI v. US (Quarter final), Wick was constantly the most noticeable forward on the ice, and that says a lot considering the talent that he was playing across from. As the Swiss leader in forwards ice-time (85 minutes in 5 games = 17 minutes a game) and points (2-3-5), Wick not only was the most effective Swiss forward but he did it against the best lines on the opposing teams.

There you have it. 

Leading Picture Source: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

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