Canada Spanks Russia 7-3; USA Set To Play Finland, Slovakia Upsets Sweden
At 4:30 I was on my way to class, phone on lockdown. Right before the game was set to begin, I texted every single one of my roomates something along the lines of, "Tell me the result of the game and you will never have children."
Well I just finished watching the game an hour ago. Damn roomates might as well saved me the time.
* I know, I know, the majority of readers at Fear The Fin hate Ryan Getzlaf. But at some point I think the respect for a talented hockey player trumps all team-affiliation and chest-beating that goes along with rooting for your specific squad. He is, in my eyes, the best center in the Western Conference right now, only behind Sidney Crosby in terms of leaguewide talent. Beautiful vision. Beautiful. His hands are just as good as Joe Thornton, and the passes he is able to complete on the rush is what makes him a more dynamic player. Case in point-- during the first two periods tonight, Getzlaf rolled the puck onto the toe of his stick on three separate occasions, threading an area pass through a pinhole to spring a forward into the offensive zone (CAN's seventh goal being a good example if you have the tilt recorded). He is a big game player, and although Canada obviously rolled Russia handily tonight with contributions from a ton of forwards, I thought he was one of the best skaters on the ice.
* One more nod to Getzlaf before you all accuse me of treason. Well, in that case, let's make it two. A very underrated wrist shot that he can pick corners with, one of the better shots on a Canadian team loaded with excellent shooters. What really impressed me though, in terms of intangibles, immediately followed Volchenkov's hit on Eric Staal that injured the Carolina forward. The very next shift, after Volchenkov cleared the puck up the boards after a faceoff, Getzlaf takes a run at him and catches him off guard with a brilliant body check. All within the rulebook. Volchenkov had his head up and was looking directly at Getzlaf after he made the play. That was a message that needed to be sent. Getzlaf sends those messages. Grit and a refusal to lose, two of the sports greatest cliches, but cliches that hold truth in playoff hockey. Getzlaf provides all that and more.
* On the Volchenkov hit on Staal-- NBC was pretty fired up about it, calling it borderline dirty. I just don't see it. That is a play that happens ten times during the course of a NHL game. Elimination games are going to be physical, and to blame Volchenkov for an unfortunate injury (Staal took shifts later in the game, not that it should matter when analyzing the legality of a play) doesn't make sense to me.
More after the jump.
* Evgeni Nabokov is going to get ripped in the press tomorrow afternoon. It is unfortunate, but at this stage of the game, I don't know why we even care. I've made a conscious decision to turn a blind eye towards all the filth the MSM peddles when it comes to the Sharks because refuting it on this blog will not change the narrative they will continue to weave until San Jose brings home a Stanley Cup.
* That being said, not a strong outing in the slightest from Nabokov. He didn't get shit help from his defense and I'll spot him two goals-- the first from Boyle to Getzlaf, and the third from Toews to Nash. After that though, well, it's hard to defend him. On the second goal, Marleau was untouched in front of the net, but if you are dropping into the butterfly like Nabokov did, you need to close the five hole. Morrow's goal was obviously one that he would love to have back, Weber's in the second was a case of Nabby being off his angle, and the sixth one from Perry was a case of him challenging the shooter too much when there were multiple Canadian forwards in the zone. When you challenge that heavily in that situation you either a) need to have excellent rebound control to put the puck in the corner, something you can't count on when the distance between you and the shooter is rapidly decreasing or b) have faith that your forwards will backcheck and take out any trailers. I have no idea why he would have faith in his forwards backchecking abilities.
* Moral of the story? As unfair as it is, the book is still out on Nabby's ability to get it done in the playoffs. As much as it sucks to say, and as much as I really feel for the guy right now, he hasn't put a team on his back in the postseason since 03-04. The hope is that his best season as a professional continues after tonight's demoralizing loss.
* The sky is falling, the sky is falling! That's sarcasm by the way. The sky isn't falling, but I feel between that comment and the Getzlaf accolades we're losing readers by the minute.
* Dan Boyle is a goddamn machine. He has not had a strong Olympics thus far, but tonight he did what he does best-- carry the puck through the neutral zone and make a play. Like Ivano, TCY, and I all said in the preview, that first goal was going to be huge. Boyle put that play on his back and said, "Fuck it, let's get it done." And that is just what he did. One goal and two assists on the night, best San Jose Shark out there. Ask Gray what I'd let Boyle do to me. Filthy, filthy, and I would love every goddamn minute of it. Meow.
* As for the rest of the Canadian Sharks-- I thought they all looked pretty good, with Heater being the worst out of the trio. He didn't look atrocious by any means, but definitely didn't make an impact. Not that he really needs to prove himself as a clutch goal scorer. Marleau was all over the place putting pucks on net and driving the net hard, Joe had a pretty good game along the boards and made some nifty passes that his teammates didn't capitalize on. Once again his stat line reads zero points, but I don't think that was because of his play-- Patty buries a couple and he gets on the stat sheet. As much as I hate seeing Big Joe camped on the sideboards he is oh so goddamn good at finding the far-side defenseman to set up an open shot at the top of the circles.
* Although I pinched Getzlaf's nips above, I don't want it to come off as a sleight to Jumbo. Thornton's a world class player, I just think Getz is better. It's shitty that Big Joe gets as much criticism as he does (this coming after I talked about ignoring the media, hypocrisy at it's finest eh?) because he is solely a playmaker who relies on other guys to pad his point totals-- if the scorers don't score Jumbo looks like Dumbo in the media, and that's completely unfair. And while I think he needs to be more dynamic on the rush and not pull up above the goddamn circle everytime he enters the zone (hard to debate that) and could use a little more, "I'm taking the puck to the net watch the fuck out" mojo, he has some of the greatest hands in the game. The problem is that he can get too one-dimensional at times, and that results in the better defensive teams an ability to target him and take away his skill set. We've all seen Joe get frustrated when he doesn't have his space to work with, and he'll just start whipping centering passes into the slot. At those times I just want to hug the big lug, tell him it's all going to be okay, and then drag him into the paint to try something different. Again, he wasn't bad tonight by any means-- this is more of a midseason scouting report if anything else. Switch it up Jumbo, don't continue to fall back on what isn't working. And Go Canada. Your smile at the end of the game today made my day.
* Alex Semin. Look, Boyle's slew foot at the end of the game wasn't clean by any means. Non-suspendable, but definitely not something I condone. But, and this is a big but, I think Alex Semin is one of the sneakiest dirty players in the league today. He is the Corey Perry of the Eastern Conference, who will throw cheap shots and shy away when asked to back it up. He crosschecked Sidney Crosby's head tonight in the middle of the second (first?) that put Crosby down on the ice and went uncalled. Running Boyle from the side when the game was in the bag is not an isolated incident by any means. Boyle probably should have held his composure and let it go considering the score, but I'm not going to blame him for defending himself.
* Mike Milbury is a classless buffoon. "Eurotrash"? Wow. I understand he has always had a vendetta against European players, but that's like saying Spencer Pratt has always been a douche-- it doesn't make your actions inexcusable. Like I said before, he's just doing his job to generate controversy, but that is definitely toeing the line.
* Slovakia upsetted Sweden and will face Canada on Friday at 6:30. Finland beat the Czech Republic and will face the United States at noon. Earl Sleek of BoC is reporting that Team USAs game will be broadcast live. Hurray for NBC removing their heads out from under a rock.
* I was pulling for Team Canada tonight, but my thoughts go out to FTF's Russian Correspondent Ivan Makarov. He is one of the most patriotic men I have ever known, and there is no doubt that this loss sears his soul like a hot blade. The plan is to have him post something tomorrow on the front page breaking down Team Russia.
* Almost forgot-- remember that finger injury Boyle was dealing with to start the season? Pretty sure it's still bugging him and might have flared up again. The camera caught him taking off his gloves on the bench after his goal, and he had some white tape wrapped around one of his fingers. Just something to keep in mind.