Olympic Hockey: National Personalities?

Ryan Miller - Team USA
Team USA, on the strength of Ryan Miller’s shut out, and Zach Parise’s two goals, advanced to the Olympic “final four” yesterday. It was a fantastic day of hockey! The Canadian team looked super impressive, beating up on the Russians, 7-3… but making it look even easier than that. (And Russia is loaded with NHL all-stars!) Actually, all of the teams—not just the Russians—are loaded with NHL all-stars.

(Except for the United States team. Fascinating.)

Team USA has had superb goal tending—much like the Buffalo Sabres—and are the only undefeated team left in the tournament. They are also “scrappy” and physical, and they just play like they won’t accept losing. Aside from the Canadian players, it was interesting to see the “personalities” of each nation’s players. The United States players are as I described above. Mostly second and third-line players who are the “heart and soul”, the “grit” of their teams. You can’t win without them. (But usually, you can’t win if they are your whole team… So, we do have Patrick Kane and even Zach Parise, who are more “skilled players” and natural scorers.)

Then there is the Russian team. If you look at their roster, it’s just staggering how much fire power they have. Alexander Ovechkin is the leagues top goal scorer. And right behind him—sometimes in front of him—is Evgeni Malkin, and right behind them in the scoring column is Ilya Kovalchuk. All three are members of the Russian team, along with a handful of other amazing, all-star players.

But what I noticed about these guys was, they almost looked inept. They were definitely not the offensive machines that they are each night in the NHL. Yes, Canada had a good defensive scheme and some pretty talented defensemen (and a talented goalie) but, they face that from most teams in the NHL.

What they were missing was their teammates.

They needed the guys who are on Team USA. The grit guys. They needed the guys on Team Canada, the guys who set up their scoring. They need the skill and experience of the Fins and Swedes… the savvy veterans who set up their amazing scoring plays. Sadly, even their goalies (who are equally amazing) just looked silly, as all these highly skilled scorer try to play defense in front of them.

I just found it really intriguing to see how a country could have a hockey “personality.”

It’s certainly why the Russians lost. For the most part, every NHL team would want any of those top 6 or 7 guys on the Russian’s team… but with a few guys sprinkled in to help them thrive.

The four remaining teams seem to have a bit better balance. (Though, as I mentioned, Team USA is the most unbalanced, with hardly a “star” player on the roster.)

Really fun hockey being played these days. The semifinals are tomorrow. USA vs Finland, and surprising (but talented) Slovokia vs the homeland favorite, Canada. A rematch of USA vs Canada (which team USA won 4-3) would be a fantastic Gold Medal game … but all four of the remaining games should be fantastic. Can’t wait!



Ryan Miller

It’s really unbelievable when in the world of professional sports, one team can totally dominate another, game after game, season after season.

Unless you are a fan of a Buffalo pro sports team.

No, I am not speaking of the incredible streak that the New England Patriots are still enjoying against our Buffalo Bills… though that is a pretty frustrating one for we Buffalo fans. Tonight I’m befuddled by the way the blue and gold managed to post another ‘L’ in the standings after sixty minutes versus their current (and long-time) nemesis: the Ottawa Senators.

The Sens have won 8 straight against the Sabres, and their dominance has extended to the post season in recent years, with their last meeting being a win in only five games against the President Trophy winning Sabres of 2006-2007. (I believe that was the highest point total in Sabres’ history that year.)

From what we’ve heard, it was a hard-fought game. They got the first two goals, then the Sabres scored two goals in 27 seconds to tie it up … then the Sens scored in the last minute of the game to get the win, 4-2. (Empty netter added at the end.)

Oh, I forgot to mention… all four goals were scored by Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, each with two. (All that was missing was two more from Dany Heatley, who now plays for San Jose.) Those two continued their strange dominance of the Sabres.

The Sabres are really having a very good season. They have a great goalie, who is having a good year. They have just enough scoring from the right players (but could certainly use more…) And for a while they had quite a lead in their division.

They just better hope that they don’t face the Senators in round one of the playoffs.