Sunday, May 18, 2008

Team Canada World Hockey Championships 2008 - Gold Medal Game Thoughts

1st Intermission

After 20 minutes Canada has a 3-1 lead based on goals from Burns (2) and Kunitz (1), but I don't think Canada has been the runaway better team. If you've been watching the broadcast you'll see Canada has gotten a couple of breaks on penalties going both ways (a non call against Canada and a bad call on Russia).

Russia, especially the 'Capital Punishment' line of Semin, Ovechkin and Fedorov, have been extremely dangerous each time they've been on the ice and have a goal (Semin, from Ovechkin) to show for it.

Hitchcock has clearly decided on a power vs. power strategy and is playing Heatley, Getzlaf and Nash against the Capital Punishment line. It's hard to tell if MacT is trying to match Hamhuis/Bouwmeester against that line or Burns/Keith or if he's decided either of them would be fine. We lost sight of the Capital Punishment line for nearly 6 minutes while Russia tried to kill off a couple consecutive Canadian PPs.

Brent Burns has been the story of this game so far for Canada scoring two goals. Burns' first goal was a shot from the point after making a great play to fake out the shotblocker, it came just after a Russian penalty expired. His second goal was a 5-3 PP marker on which Heatley fanned on a shot that St. Louis redirected to Burns out in front. Really a fantastic play by Martin St. Louis on the play.

Spezza has been a real story as well, he's been playing very simple smart hockey and I've even seen him throw his body around. Ottawa might want to take note, it's possible to ring Spezza in a bit and still have him contribute.

Jovanovski has really imposed himself in this game and leads all Canadians with over 9 minutes of ice time. He set the tone early with a huge hit off the opening faceoff and he's just looked fantastic.

Duncan Keith with a slash at the end of the period and Canada has to kill off the majority of the penalty still and the Russians get fresh ice here at the beginning of the second.

Canadians are outshooting the Russians 15-5.

2nd Intermission

A much closer period for Canada, and IMO what we saw was simply an inability of Canada's top line to handle Russia's top line. A smart in-game adjustment by Ken Hitchcock and by the second half of the period we saw Doan, Toews and Roy playing the Capital Punishment line. I like the change a lot, let your captain go up against their top player. The level of commitment Doan has in identifying Ovechkin was obvious when he avoided an obviously loose puck to slam Ovechkin physically. So far he's the only one who's been able to match Ovechkin in the physical department, as all of Bouwmeester, Burns, Hamhuis have been victimized by number 8's explosivity along the wall and in races for loose pucks.

The move also freed up Heatley/Nash/Getzlaf to score a goal of their own for a tie for Canada in the period.

We're also seeing some real running around in the defensive zone for Team Canada. Canada has really had trouble identifying their defensive zone assignments and as a result the Russians have had some absolutely top quality chances from the slot and high slot. It cost Canada on their first goal and it almost cost them a couple times in the second.

Breakouts have also been an issue for Canada. On their SH goal against, as Pierre Maguire mentioned, Canada had 3-4 chances to get the puck out and failed. They've had issues getting the puck to their wingers on the boards with the Russian forwards in very good position to pick off passes along the boards.

Craig MacTavish continued to favour having Jovonovski on the ice but Canada's top defenceman in ice time for the second was Duncan Keith whom he played just over 8 minutes. Doan, Toews and Kunitz all saw their icetime increase up front by about a minute, partially due to reassignments and partially due to increased 5-5 time.

Watch for the Russians to continue to shoot from the outside hashmarks and hope Ward kicks out a rebound to a streaking Russian player. I feel it's a set play and Canada has gotten lucky in that they haven't connected yet.

I didn't feel Canada did a perfect job in the third against the Swedes as it got very close towards the end. After dominating that game in the faceoff dot they lost several late game faceoffs in a row. Third periods have not been kind to Canada, so we'll see if they can lock it down.

Staal, St. Louis and Kunitz bounced back from a bad game vs. Sweden and are playing what I think is their finest game of the tournament.

Russia outshot Canada 12-8.

3rd Intermission

Well, once again Canada's worst period is the third and now we're all tied up going to 4-4 Sudden Death. 20 minutes of OT then a shootout.

Despite the fact Canada was outshot 13-6 the two goals against weren't scored because of defensive zone assignment breakdowns or anything like that which is good news. The Russians have a couple lucky ones this game but their philosophy is all about throwing pucks on/at net and you have to expect once in a while they'll get a bounce.

Certainly the story of the game for me has been the Capital Punishment line outplaying the Heatly/Nash/Getzlaf line. Sure, Canada's top line is on the board but they just haven't been very dangerous on the whole. Ovechkin Federov and Semin on the other hand are getting about one high quality scoring chance per shift. Ovechkin is a +2 while Heatley Nash and Getzlaf are only even.

Hamhus was MacT's go to defenceman that period (8:49 ice time) but the standout performance by a defenceman in that period went to Staios. Just playing really smart in his own zone, not panicking on 1-1s and as always he's blocking a bunch of shots. Jovonovski's ice time was reduced again this period but he still leads all Canadian defenceman. Brett Burns is catching up though.

For their part, Russia shortened their bench. Two players Maxim Sushinski and Konstantin Gorovikov, both -2 in this game, didn't even see the ice. Obviously Ovechkin was played to the bone, trailing only Alexei Morozov and Sergei Zinoviev for ice time that period on the Russian bench. I would expect that to continue.

OT predictions: Shane Doan for Team Canada, or (who else) Alexandre Ovechkin for the Russians.


Ilya Kovalchuk blows one by Ward for the win.

The Russians really deserved this game, they outplayed Canada for large stretches. They just had a terrific game plan, all offense all the time, and credit their coach, Bykov, for going for it every chance he got. He played 4 forwards on the PP that won the game and there was just too much firepower for Canada to handle. Full credit and congratulations has to go to Team Russia, there is no argument from me about how good they were, and maybe a sign of a Russia's resurgence.

I wanted to write about the game vs. Sweden and never got the chance, but there's something that really disturbed me about that game. It wasn't so much that Canada leaned heavily on Heatley/Nash/Getzlaf, as they had a terrific game scoring 3 goals. It was that all of Canada's goals in that game relied so heavily on unbelievable individual efforts. This team had talent, but it never did become much of a team. It reminded me a lot of Canada's 2005 lockout edition. That team rode the success of one line, Nash, Thornton and Gagne, which was shutout in the final vs. the Czech Republic. That team had a lot of talent as well, but like this one, it wasn't much of a team.

Nash, Heatley and Getzlaf did not have a great game today, I wouldn't even say they had a good game. Their one goal against Nabokov seemed like a weak one to me, and they played most of the game in the defensive or neutral zone. Was it a product of stiffer competition in team Russia, fatigue, or some other factor? I don't know, but they weren't impressive.

I have to feel for Nash though taking the penalty on the game winner. A lot of people will probably blame him for the loss but there was 5 goals against Canada not just 1. There were a lot of breakdowns (Patrick Sharpe played arguably his worst game) by a lot of players.

I'll write more about this later, now I just want to sulk.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Team Canada World Hockey Championships 2008 - Is This Team For Real?

About halfway through the game vs. Norway I thought to myself; 'this team is going nowhere.' Then they scored 6 straight goals.

I'm used to a range of inconsistency in the World Hockey Championships, the nature of the tournament (short) and the players (young) makes for a perfect cocktail of inconsistency. But Canada should never be in a tight game with Norway, let alone two.

In the 2006 World Championships Team Canada went unbeaten in the round robin and qualifying rounds and then disposed of Slovakia 4-1 in the quarter finals. In the semifinal Canada played Sweden.

Now, the very recent history of these two teams in the World Championships has been generally favourable to Team Canada. There were a couple of very good Swedish teams that Canada faced in the finals, Swedish teams that were more than expected to win it all, facing Canadian teams featuring half of the Oilers roster including Cory Cross, Anson Carter, Mike Comrie, Sean Horcoff and of course, Steve Staios and Ryan Smyth. The Canadian squad came out on top two years in a row, 2003 and 2004, the first time with a disputed OT goal by Anson Carter, the second time in a come from behind effort featuring a then mostly unknown goaltender playing for Sweden named Henrik Lundqvist.

That game in the 2006 World Championships semis did not go well for Canada. It was 2-0 Sweden before Canada even blinked, and then 5-2 just a couple minute into the second period. Canada scored one with less than a minute left in the second and scored early in the 3rd, Canada got very close several times but it was too much of a deficit to overcome. They played the bronze medal game the next day and had nothing left emotionally or physically having spent it all trying to overcome the Swedish onslaught. As is usual with Canada, it's Gold medal game or nothing, and they lost 0-5 to the Finns in the bronze medal game.

This team has better depth and better high end talent than that 2006 edition of Team Canada. They literally have three lines that can light it up at any time and a 4th line that just looks plain mean out there most of the time. They have a defensive group who worst performer (according to ice time) has probably been Jay Bouwmeester. In net that year Canada had Alex Auld and Marc Denis - this year they have former Conn Smythe (and WC Gold) winner Cam Ward and top NHL shutout man Pascal Leclaire. This team also gets to play on small ice.

Look, this is a good hockey team. 30 NHL GMs would love to have this roster - but anything can happen in a single game. No disrespect to Sweden, but this team could even lose to a roster whose top line consists of Niklas Backstrom, Tony Martensson and Patric Hornqvist. Especially if that Swedish roster employs one Henrik Lundqvist.

2 MURRAY Douglas D- 0-0-0 +2 - 13:41
5 FERNHOLM Daniel D - 0-3-3 +2 - 14:53
7 WALLIN Niclas D -1-1-2 +2 - 15:50
36 STRALMAN Anton D - 2-3-5 - 16:19
24 FROGREN Jonas D - 0-3-3 +8 - 17:57
29 JONSSON Kenny D - 2-4-6 +3 - 19:23
23 EDLER Alexander D - 1-2-3 +4 19:36
6 JOHANSSON Magnus D - 1-2-3 +2 22:53

I would imagine that Johansson and Edler get the undesirable task of shutting down Heatley Getzlaf and Nash, although it's not entirely obvious what the pairings are. As can be seen, this defensive group is actually pretty even top to bottom in terms of point and plus minus distribution. This is both a sign of a good defensive group and a team that's been successful, especially in terms of even strength. Their team is a combined +72, which although pales in respect to Canada's +114, it at least shows that Sweden is winning the even strength battle by about 2 goals per game.

Murray, Wallin and Stralman are their top penalty takers so look for Canada to try and exploit both Murray and Stralman with the Heatley Getzlaf Nash line. It's my opinion that Canada has been playing Burns and Aucoin with the top line, so expect Staios and Hamhuis to be up against the Backstrom/Martenson/Hornqvist line. I might be jinxing the poor guy by saying this, but Staios has yet to be on for an ES goal against.

It's hard to say how Team Canada coaches reacted to Ward's game vs. Norway. I didn't feel he had much of a chance on either goal, but it sounds like Pascal Leclaire will be starting tomorrow. Is this part of a general plan or reaction to Ward's game? Only Hitchcock and the rest of the Team Canada staff knows.

Some intangibles:
Now that Sweden is the underdog and Canada is the favorite, how will Canada react? Can the Swedes take advantage of a Canadian team that knows they're expected to win?

What is the deal with Marcus Nilson? He has 4 goals, 2 assists and is +4 playing only about 3 minutes more a game than with the Flames.

The Tre Kroner roster also features Oilers rookie Robert Nilsson. He's getting about the same ice time as Nilson and is 2-3-5 +5.

How will Eric Staal play, and where will he be slotted in? Although the line was broken up halfway through the game, with Derek Roy being slotted in between Doan and Toews, the St. Louis, Spezza, Roy line wasn't half bad. I thought Spezza did a lot of good things, although he still isn't doing enough IMO. For my money he gets put back between Chimera and Mayers.

Does Kunitz get put back with Doan and Toews, or does Roy stay with that tandem. Personally I like Roy with them because it gives that line so much tenacity. I think it'll depend on how Hitchcock wants to line match, or if he wants to line match. Doan Toews and Kunitz become more of a shutdown line together, and more of an offensive line apart. I think Hitch will go the offense route.

How will Canada respond in the third period? If they have a lead, can they hold it?

Canada plays Sweden tomorrow at 2:50 MST. Game on TSN and

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Team Canada World Hockey Championships 2008 - Quarterfinals Notes

Canada and Norway faced each other once in the qualifying portion of this tournament. Canada won 2-1 on the strength of a late 3rd period goal by Rick Nash.

Eric Staal will miss the game to attend the funeral of his grandfather

Jason Spezza will take Staal's spot on the second line

"I believe in karma...I think I've handled the situation pretty good and tried to be pretty positive with it...hopefully, I can contribute in the latter part (of the event) when the games mean a lot here down the stretch."(TSN)

Sam Gagner will be subbing in for Staal, it will be his first time in a game situation since Canada's final exhibition game vs. Finland

"I think there's more nerves watching than actually playing...obviously when you're playing you have a little more control. When you're not, it's a little tougher."(TSN)

  • Cam Ward is expected to start
  • In their only meeting so far this tournament Canada outshot Norway 52-16
  • Norway's only goal against Team Canada was scored while shorthanded by Mads Hansen.
  • Goaltender Pal Grotnes played pretty much the best game of his career, he was terrific and is the key player for Norway
  • Morten Ask is Norway's leading goal scorer with 2
  • They have 2 players tied for points lead with 4 - Anders Bastiansen and Morten Ask
  • Team USA put 4 less shots at Norway than did Canada
  • Team Norway defeated Team Canada 4-3 in the World Championships back in 2000
  • Team Canada is ranked 1st in scoring efficiency (GF/SF) with 35/247
  • Team Norway is ranked 14th in scoring efficiency with 9/125
  • Canada's PP is ranked 5th with a 25% efficiency
  • Norway's PP is ranked 12th with a 13.33% efficiency
  • Canada's PK is ranked 2nd with an 88% efficiency
  • Norway's PK is ranked 13th with a 73.68% efficiency
  • Canada is the 12th most penalized team, Norway is the 10th
  • Canada's goaltending ranks #1 by SV% (.932) and (GAA 1.67)
  • Norway's goaltending ranks #12 by SV% (.889) and 10th in GAA (4.17)
  • Canada's top faceoff ace is Patrick Sharp with 42 wins and 20 losses, Toews is second with 46 wins and 22 losses

Expect Team Canada to go with similar ice times to the rest of this tournament, there shouldn't be any defensive pairings that can't handle Norway's top guns, and there shouldn't be any defensive pairings on Norways that can stop Nash/Getzlaf/Heatley.

According to the numbers, this should be a blowout. That means all the pressure is on Team Canada, and none on Norway and their merry band of day labourers.

If Canada loses this game it will be nothing less then an absolute catastrophe. Remember, Norway is no joke.

Finally, I keep meaning to throw up a couple links to Staple's Cult of Hockey. He's been tracking errors for Team Canada's goal against, although I haven't seen his evaluation of Canada vs. Finland.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Team Canada World Hockey Championships 2008 - Finland vs. Canada Postgame

I feel pretty confident in saying that Canada's 6-3 victory over Team Finland was Canada's most complete game of the tournament. Just a quick breakdown of what I saw in the game:

The Good
Higher Quality Chances - The shots were down this game (22) compared to say the game vs Norway (52), but Canada is really burying their chances. Canada had a little help today (Doan puts one off a stick which then deflects off a shoulder and into the net) but in general they just created high quality chances (Getzlaf in alone, Doan in alone, Sharpe in alone, Heatley in alone, Heatley in the slot...) and then let their talent level do the talking.

This ignores the post and the time Nash and Getzlaf got in alone and neither could get a hold of the puck.

There was at least one post as well.

And finally it seems like all 4 lines are contributing in one way or another. Spezza is actually creating chances and limiting his giveaways, Doan, Toews and Kunitz have been very smart (although I feel Toews has been a bit underwhelming, he's been playing smart but I think he's a step behind his linemates), and we all saw St. Louis, Roy and Staal light it up vs. Germany.

The Bad
No Lock Down - It's disheartening to see Canada winning by 4 goals in the third period, adding another goal, but only winning by 3. Third periods with big leads have not been particularly impressive for Canada. Third periods have not been impressive for Canada in general.

VS. Team USA
-2 goal lead early in third
-win by 1 goal with under a minute left

VS. Latvia
-7 goal lead going into third
-0 goals scored in third, Latvia carried most of play

VS. Germany
-10 goal lead early in third
-Germany scores only goal, Canada wins 10-1

We all saw what happened with Finland.

Obviously I'm being overly critical here, as most of these games were blowouts, but Canada needs to insure they play as well in the third as they have the other 2 periods.

The Suprising
I think judging from defenceman ice times we can conclude a couple of things:

Craig MacTavish has a high level of say of who goes on and when. Steve Staios is probably more of a third pairing defenceman on this team, not so much because he isn't a capable defenceman, but because this is a star studded group. But he's played the fourth most minutes for Canada and despite what I've judged as some poor decision making at times, he's got a very respectable +/-, good enough to be tied for third on the team. No small feat considering by my eye he's playing against the other team's top lines while Burns and Duncan play with the Heatley/Nash/Getzlaf line against the other team's shutdown lines.

8 BURNS Brent D 6 1 5 6 8 +10 0 0 0 0 22 4.55 114:08
22 KEITH Duncan D 6 0 1 1 2 +9 0 0 0 0 6 0.00 105:44

2 HAMHUIS Dan D 6 1 1 2 8 +5 0 0 0 0 5 20.00 101:27
24 STAIOS Steve D 6 0 0 0 2 +7 0 0 0 0 6 0.00 99:33

55 JOVANOVSKI Ed D 6 0 1 1 4 +4 0 0 0 0 13 0.00 96:30
4 BOUWMEESTER Jay D 6 0 0 0 0 +2 0 0 0 0 5 0.00 91:17

52 GREEN Mike D 6 3 3 6 2 +1 0 0 2 0 30 10.00 88:26

The other thing we can see by this grouping is MacTavish's distaste for chaos defenceman. I think we can classify Jovonovski and Green in that group, and they're getting the least amount of ice time. I think we can also see that he prefers to pair a steady guy with a chaos defenceman (ala Bouwmeester with Jovonvski, and often Hamhuis/Keith with Green unless on the PP).

I wonder if we can conclude anything about how MacTavish sees Bouwmeester though. Is Bouwmeester being played so sparesly because he's paired with Jovonovski and he doesn't add as much on the PP as Green or Jovonovski, or because he just doesn't see Bouwmeester as being very good. It seems my dream of the Oilers acquiring Bouwmeester isn't very realistic.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Team Canada World Hockey Championships 2008 - Finland vs. Canada Pregame

Well, Canada made short work of Germany on Saturday, obliterating them 10-1. It was nice to see the Canadians dominate in every aspect of the game so thoroughly, but I couldn't help but feel bad for the Germans. After the second goal they very uncharacteristically lost their composure and Canada just kept coming. Staal with 4 goals, St. Louis with 5 assists and even Spezza with a goal.

The real game to watch this weekend was this afternoon's tilt between Team USA and Finland. The Americans go into the final frame with a 2 goal lead but completely melt down after a bizarro world goal review gives Finland a shred of hope. Ville Koistinen puts one through the side of the net and the goal review judge calls it a legit goal (he was later fired...seriously). The Americans are absolutely incensed (and rightfully so) and proceed to completely melt down. James Wisniewski takes an absolutely idiotic penalty when he hits Tuomo Ruutu well after the whistle and the comeback is complete.

The game gets even crazier as the final whistle blows.

At the end of the game there was a melee with players getting into physical confrontations, including a fight between David Backes and Anssi Salmela, who was bloodied. Both received match penalties...

Matt Greene and Antti-Jussi Niemi both received leaving the bench penalties and game misconducts. Teemu Selanne was assessed roughing minors; Dustin Brown was assessed a checking to the head and neck minor and a misconduct...

For Jokinen, Backes, and Salmela, their match penalties draw an automatic one-game suspension. All three will miss their team's next game, and their actions are subject to automatic review which will take place on Tuesday, the day before the quarter-finals...

Jokinen and Salmela will be lost for Finland's next game against Canada to decide the winner of Group F. Backes will be lost for Team USA's game against Norway....(IIHF)

It gets even crazier when you consider that if Team USA loses to Norway tommorow then it will be Norway who moves onto the quarterfinal. We all know that Norway should not be taken lightly.

All of this does have some consequences for Canada's game against the Finns on Monday. Firstly, the Finns are second in the pool with 11 pts (to Canada's 12) so this matchup affects who will place first in the pool.

This is not the first time the two teams have met in this tournament. The Finns beat Canada in and exhibition game 4-2 and a very consistent effort. Finland put in a pretty consistent effort today against Team USA today, outshooting them 45-22, and except for a heroic effort from Robert Esche (Player of the Game for Team USA)it would have been a much different game.

Here's a quick overview of Finland's ice time leaders:

Ville Peltonen - 109:41/5 = 21.94 - 1-3-4 +1
Saku Koivu - 41:13/2 = 20.61* - 0-2-2 +1 played only 2 games
Mikko Koivu - 101:12/5 = 20.24 - 3-3-6 +1
Teemu Selanne - 95:43/5 = 19.14 - 3-2-5 +1

Other notables:
Antti Pihlstrom - 54:09/5= 10.83 - 1-2-3 +5

Ossi Vaananen - 82:39/5 - 0-1-1 +1
Ville Koistinen - 80:41/5 - 1-1-2 +3
Janne Niskala - 75:53/5 -0-2-2 +2
Annsi Salmela - 74:14/5* - 0-0-0 +0 - suspended

In net the Finns have one of the most successful goaltenders in the tournament thus far. Niklas Backstrom is second only to Pascal Leclaire in SV% (.946), has a 1.50 GAA.

Finland has been one of the most consistent teams in this tourny and has followed Canada's footsteps. They beat Germany by 3, Norway by 1, Slovakia by 1, Latvia by 1 and Team USA by 1. Sound familiar?

This is Canada's last game before the elimination round. TSN at 1:20, or at

Additionally, Mirtle has had a couple of interesting thoughts about the tournament and I keep meaning to link them. Read them here, here, here and here.


If you watched the Dallas Stars face the Detroit Red Wings yesterday, or if you watched any highlight shows, you'll be familiar with Mike Ribeiro's 'slash' on Chris Osgood. If you didn't catch it, watch the clip below.

The NHL announced today there will be fines for Steve Ott, Mike Ribeiro and yes, even Chris Osgood, but there will be no suspensions.

Now, I'm not going to claim that Mike Ribeiro was in the right here. Clearly this was the act of a desperate and very frustrated man, and in no way is a two hand slash to the chest acceptable.

That said, what Chris Osgood did was simply an embarrassment. The way he went down one would have likely concluded Osgood had taken a hit to the head or blown an ACL, and the way he stayed down implied there was no chance of him possibly returning to play later in the series, let alone happily answer reporters questions after the game. Christ, I thought he was due in ICU for at least a month. I would hope somebody at least provided Osgood with a band-aid.

"I do have a lot of padding up there but it got me in the side where I didn't have much," he said of the Ribeiro slash. "It did hurt a bit.

"It was kind of a full swing right to the side. But I'll be fine, I'm sure. A little sore, but I'll be fine." (TSN)

Is Osgood going for an Oscar or a Cup?

Forget the fact Osgood gets paid to take 90MPH pucks off his chest for a living, that slash wouldn't have hurt a man without an Ironman-like chest protector.

Again, what Ribeiro did was classless and I would have fully supported a Ribeiro suspension, but there is no way the league can look at the incident on replays and ignore the triple lutz that occurs right after the slash. Ribeiro made himself look bad, Osgood made the game look bad and practically dared the league to support his clown act.

Good on the NHL for washing their hands of the whole incident.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Team Canada World Hockey Championships 2008 - Norway Is No Joke

For all those Canadians who were feeling smug about the Swedes getting beaten by Switzerland, here's your wakeup call: Those European teams that used to simply be punching bags for Canada and Russia are now legitimate hockey teams. Outside shots to win any game, but they are in every game.

Norway and Germany beat out Slovakia in Group C and Switzerland won it's division (hey, we knew they were good when they beat Canada's freaking best on best team in Turin 2006).

Make no mistake, Norway is no pushover. Still, it shouldn't have been that close.

Despite the fact this team is 4-0, right now, I think they've become a great example of a flawed philosophy. We all know who the top line is, Nash, Getzlaf and Heatley, and rightfully so, with so much talent on the team and so many duplicate player types, take a look at the icetime breakdown for forwards. The following list has the ice time for Canada vs. Norway in the first column, average TOI/G in the NHL regular season in the next column, and the difference between the two in the third.

Jason Spezza - 6:52 (20:40) - 13.8
Jason Chimera - 5:28 (17:29) - 12.01
Jamal Meyers - 5:07 (15:55) - 10.8
Eric Staal - 12:07 (21:38) - 9.52
Martin St. Louis - 16:09 (24:17) - 8.13
Jonathan Toews - 10:44 (18:40) - 7.93
Patrick Sharp - 11:01 (18:46 ) - 7.75
Shane Doan - 13:18 (20:45) - 7.45
Derek Roy - 14:46 (20:58 ) - 6.2
Rick Nash - 14:51 (20:29) - 5.63
Dany Heatley - 16:33 (21:44) - 5.18
Chris Kunitz - 11:56 (16:54 ) - 4.97
Ryan Getzlaf - 17:43 (19:38) - 1.92

In terms of TOI vs. Norway I can understand the justifications here. We get the 'scoring' line, plus the two ultra small but ultra versatile (to steal from Maguire) players in Roy and St. Louis getting the most ice time. For my money, by the way, no one is creating more chances offensively than Rick Nash.

This is the next group of 5, and besides Staal, I think this is the group that get's it done in the two way game. Despite this we haven't seen much actual offence from them, nor have we really seen their physical side.

Finally, we get the 'grinders' (and Spezza) who are supposed to play a physical and create energy.

Now let's reorder this list by pts scored.

Jason Chimera - 5:28 (17:29) - 12.01 - 0-0-0
Jason Spezza - 6:52 (20:40) - 13.8 - 0-1-0
Jamal Meyers - 5:07 (15:55) - 10.8 - 0-1-1
Patrick Sharp - 11:01 (18:46 ) - 7.75 - 1-0-1
Jonathan Toews - 10:44 (18:40) - 7.93 - 1-0-1
Eric Staal - 12:07 (21:38) - 9.52 - 0-2-2
Shane Doan - 13:18 (20:45) - 7.45 - 0-2-2
Martin St. Louis - 16:09 (24:17) - 8.13 - 2-1-3
Derek Roy - 14:46 (20:58 ) - 6.2 - 1-2-3
Chris Kunitz - 11:56 (16:54 ) - 4.97 - 1-3-4
Ryan Getzlaf - 17:43 (19:38) - 1.92 - 0-6-6
Rick Nash - 14:51 (20:29) - 5.63 - 3-4-7
Dany Heatley - 16:33 (21:44) - 5.18 - 6-4-10

Here is a line graph of ice time difference vs. production:

The pink line represents the difference in ice time between a players TOI/G avg in the regular season, while the blue line represents points scored. As is clear, the less time difference, the higher level of production. Of course, this could be due to the fact less ice time difference represents greater ice time total. So below is a graph comparing minutes per game in the tournament vs. production:

We can see there is still a correlation there, but to me, without doing any sort of actual statistical analysis, the ice time line is actually fairly stable or at least somewhat spotty, while the point scoring line trends upwards. Now don't get me wrong, there is a correlation, just to my eye, it doesn't seem as strong.

Now I've admitted that the energy line doesn't have the job of scoring, so judging their effectiveness by points alone is a bit unfair, but to my eye, especially with Spezza on that line, they are not grinding down teams, playing them physical or using their speed effectively. (A flaw on my methodology would be comparing time difference between regular ice time and this game in particular rather than tournament avg TOI/G, but I just don't want to redo it, and this game in particular was particularly disturbing to me).

To be fair to Team Canada, they outshot the Norweigians 53-16, and I think Norway maybe had 3 scoring chances the entire game (congrats to Hansen on a beautiful shorthanded breakaway in the second, an absolutely clutch goal by the Norweigian) and Pal Grotnes, the Norweigian goaltender played the game of his life...still...

The only good news is that I have seen Canada put in very similar lacklustre efforts in this tournament and still come out on top in the end.

A final note: The Canadians need to watch their sticks, high sticking penalties are absolutely killing them.

Canada said they had learned their lesson after barely taking the Americans. Did they?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Fuck You Dion

Seriously though, I can't blame the guy. I'm just jealous.

You know, I would apologize about this post because I'd prefer to stay out of player's private lives altogether, but I'm pretty sure the both of them froliking in front of the cameras like that is just their way of mocking me.

Team Canada World Hockey Championships 2008 - Entertainment

With those beauty 76' heritage jerseys on, you knew it was going to be a barnburner, but the ending resembled the end of game 3 against the Soviets in 87' more than Sittler's game winner against the Czechs in 76'.

Team USA had the unfortunate opportunity to test whether Heatley Nash and Getzlaf actually had chemistry or it was artificially created chemistry through poor opposition.

Turns out the trio appear to be able to get it done against real opposition as well.

Dany Heatley scored with 10 seconds left in the first period as well as 47 seconds left in the third to bury Team USA 5-4.

It came down to the wire, but it really shouldn't have had to. Team Canada jumped up to a 3-0 lead only 18 seconds into the 2nd, but allowed Team USA to crawl back into the game twice. First Jay Bouwmeester loses Zach Parise in front of Canada's net, and then a sloppy defensive change Canada allows Patrick O'Sullivan in on a breakaway. Both Team USA players, to note, were on that underdog 2004 World Junior team that beat Canada for the gold.

Derek Roy scored early in the 3rd to give Canada another 2 goal advantage, but Pierre Maguire called it in his pregame when he said Team USA's tournament best PP would be a factor. After Team Canada neatly killing off a trifecta of penalties in the first period, the American PP was huge in the third, scoring on two consecutive PPs to tie the game. Heatley looked like a goat on the tieing goal when he took a really unnecessary roughing penalty.

From then on it was a lot of back and forth, and Jason Chimera had probably the absolute best chance of the period, firing the puck high on a glorious open net opportunity, but in a scene that I personally found a little bit reminiscent of Lemieux's famous goal in 1987 in game 3 of the Canada Cup, Getzlaf, Nash and Heatley, along with Jovonovski rushed the puck up the ice and Heatley fired Nash's one timer pass through Craig Anderson to give the Canadians the win.

It's hard to identify the matchup game Torterella was trying to play against the Nash/Heatley/Getzlaf line. Judging purely by ice time, here is how Tortorella sees his defenceman:

Paul Martin - 22:31
Matt Greene - 17:51
Timothy Gleason - 15:37
Mark Stuart - 15:08
Tom Gilbert - 14:41
Keith Ballard - 12:38
James Wisniewski - 5:58

Note that this represents total ice time and is not broken into special teams or even strength.

Given that Nash/Heatley/Getzlaf all played about 15 minutes it isn't obvious who was assigned to who, and it's hard to judge if that line was scoring when it's assigned coverage was on, or when they were off. For instance, here is the lineup for Team USA on Heatley's first: 2 12 77 83 88 Here is the lineup on for Heatley's second: 5 17 22 23 29.

Where is when you need it?

Team USA for their part, had no problem identifying their top player: Zach Parise. He played 20:43, had a goal and assist and 5 shots on net. He was heavily counted upon in the third with 8:30 in ice time. I think for better or worse USA hockey is saying Parise is going to be the face of Team USA for some time.

The biggest question for me coming out of this win is whether Canada's victory was because they took Team USA too lightly, because Team USA is just that good, because Canada let up, or because in this tournament Canada is often just good enough. I just hope Canada does not believe they will win this tournament because of some notion of birthright.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Team Canada World Hockey Championships 2008 - The First Test

With all apologies to Slovenia and Latvia, they are both second rate teams, especially compared to Canada. Anze Kopitar played a terrific game for Slovenia, with a breakaway in the third that had the opportunity to bring the game within two goals, and Latvia played with a lot of heart as well. Their number one goaltender, Edgars Masalskis, had a bit of a meltdown early in the second to put the game totally out of reach, but either Canada played a poor 3rd period or Latvia played really well, because they were nearly matching Canada for chances. I suppose it's hard to criticize a team that wins 7-0, but Canada really lost focus in the third period.

Right now the top line for Canada is Dany Heatley, Rick Nash and Ryan Getzlaf, and there is a lot of talk about their amazing chemistry. Heatley has is 4-4-8 +6, Nash is 2-2-4 +4 and Getzlaf is 0-4-4 +5, and for those record keepers out there, Heatley has surpassed Steve Yzerman to gain the all time points lead for Canada in the World Championships with 40pts in 36 games (1 more than Yzerman).

Impressive counting numbers to be sure, but I would love the see the Desjardins numbers for this tournament for quality of competition vs the Heatley-Nash-Getzlaf line. I sincerely hope that they keep even half the pace they're on, but the idea of 'chemistry' against such lesser opponents is a bit suspect. Christ, I couldn't score a goal to save my life, but put me on a line with a couple of my teammates against a bunch of 8 year olds and I would look like I had fantastic 'chemistry.'

Next up for Team Canada is a pretty strong Team USA, and I say that because any team boasting Tim Thomas in net is going to be difficult to beat. I've never really written about Thomas, but he has to be one of the greatest sports comeback stories of all time. You can read the whole story here, but needless to say that making the NHL at 31 and becoming quite the quality goaltender is a singular accomplishment unto itself. The fact that by all reports he is a good guy and is more than willing to play for his country (appearances for Team USA in 95, 96, 98, 05) and I can't help but admire the guy.

The Americans don't have a pushover roster either. I like their defensive group: Keith Ballard, Matt Greene, Tom Gilbert, Paul Martin as well as the youngster James Wisniewski. Up front they boast youngsters Phil Kessel, David Booth, Patrick O'Sullivan, Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Peter Mueller, Jason Pominville (traitor), as well veteran and team Captain Jeff Halpern (who actually finished a +2 on Tampa).

Every team in this tournament has selected one game to wear a heritage jersey of their choice in honour of this being the 100th Anniversary of the IIHF World Hockey Championships, and tomorrow will be wearing the same jerseys worn from 1976-1991 at the Canada Cup, but it's specifically to remember that 1976 team that was famous as much for one great blueliner's last hurrah (Orr) as one great blueliner's coming out party (Potvin). That team is currently holding a reunion in Halifax.

For me, this game will be the best of the tournament. It's still prelim, so there aren't any real consequences to a loss besides positioning for the round robin portion of the tournament. No pressure, just good hockey. Coverage starts at 1:20MST/3:2oEST on TSN.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Team Canada World Hockey Championships 2008 - Differing Philosophies

Reading Dan Barnes' article today, it seems Team Canada is set on their philosophy of rolling 4 lines, no line matching and letting the chips fall where they may.

Some highlights:

Team Canada head coach Ken Hitchcock said he's going to throw his physical firepower out on the Halifax Metro Centre ice and not worry too much about who occupies the other sweaters.(Calgary Herald)

I'm not saying this philosophy WON'T work, Canada has so much talent, it's hard not to buy into this idea. But automatically assuming that whoever Canada puts out will be better than whomever the opposition will put out is both lazy and disrespectful. It's certainly not prudent.

"We're not going to spend a lot of time worrying on the opposition. You can almost get overwhelmed by the way they play. They play so much different than we do. I've seen it where we talk so much about them that we play tentative," said Hitchcock. "We're going to go out, put our Canadian game right out front and, if you can play and beat us, great. We're not going to go and back up and worry about defending in certain areas. We'll play the game we've got on the ice and, if a team beats us at our game, then so be it. (Calgary Herald)

Forgive me for asking this, but when have Canadians ever said, "well if our best doesn't beat their best by default, so be it?" NEVER. IMO part of Canada's success in hockey is because we refuse to accept losing under any condition. There are some points that Hitchcock brings up that fills me with some hope:

"We've got two high-pressure lines and two lines that are really strong in the two-way game. We wanted to really identify everybody and give everybody a role."(Calgary Herald)

Thank god...