OLYMPIC HOCKEY ROUNDUP: Pavol Demitra’s Ridiculous Shootout Winner Against Russia

Before we get to a couple quick points about Olympic Hockey so far, check out ( / rewatch) this clip of Pavol Demitra’s shootout winning goal in Slovakia’s 2-1 win over Russia last night (click on the pic below to watch – Demitra comes on at 1:55, but be sure to check out the amazing super slo-mo at 2:41):

Some thoughts on the first few Olympic games:

— During NBC’s postgame of Canada’s shootout win over Switzerland, one of the analysts (forget who) waxed poetic that Mike Babcock’s decision to re-use Crosby in the shootout was his statement to Crosby that “you’re gonna be the one who has to carry us to Gold.” I understand that Crosby’s become the personification of Canada’s ravenous Gold medal addiction, but the idea that Crosby or anyone else has to carry the goddamn Canadian Olympic Team — a squad comprised of 15 or so of the world’s top 25 players — is hilarious, and foreshadows exactly how bad the anti-Crosby firestorm is gonna be if this team loses in the Elimination Round.

For this reason, while I’d love to see the U.S. go all the way, I’m thinking it’d just be a lot easier on all of us if Canada wins so we don’t have to deal with a 3.8 million square mile chunk of land pissed off at the Penguin captain for the rest of eternity. The East Coast of the U.S. is plenty big enough.

Moving along…

— The goaltending for just about every team has been beyond sensational so far. I can’t remember the last time I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing every single quality scoring chance just not go in the net over and over again. I know the goalies themselves are excellent (Hiller played amazingly last night, as did Halak), but with the finishing talent on these squads and the short amount of coaching time these teams have had to prepare for the games, I would’ve expected higher scores. But man, goalies are really, really, really good in 2010.

— Russia went 0-5 on the power play against Slovakia after failing to score on their first five power plays against Latvia Wednesday night. (Sentence you’ve never heard before alert!) How does a team with this much offensive talent manage to struggle with a man advantage? They can throw Ovechkin, Malkin, and Kovalchuk on the ice at the same time — that’d be the power play line you’d select if your team was the entire NHL.

— Not news, but Zdeno Chara is really, really good. Outside Marian Hossa and injured-Gaborik, Slovakia’s forward contingent is basically the list of dudes I wanted the Penguins to trade for in 2001. Also, Marian Hossa is wearing “M. Hossa” on the back of his jersey, while his brother Marcel is wearing just “Hossa”. This differentiates nothing.

— Interesting, although not surprising, that Canada’s going with Marty Brodeur against the U.S. All things being equal, I feel like Luongo’s the stronger goalie at the moment, but because they’re so close and that Canada could win with either one, Babcock’s shrewdly hedging his bets in case the team falters. If they lose with Brodeur, they lose with Brodeur, but if they start Luongo and lose, Babcock’s immediately buried in an avalanche of “How can you bench the NHL All-Time wins leader who’s super Canada Luongo pressure big game ahhh!!!!!!!!” That will be the headline of the Canada Gazette the following day, verbatim.

— It’d be funny if the Red Wings fire Babcock if he fails to get the gold.

— It’s pretty stupid that every team advances to the elimination round in the Olympics. I don’t have a better idea offhand — a FIFA World Cup “only the top two advance” system might place too much emphasis on the groupings — but as it stands now, huge triumphs like Slovakia’s win over Russia aren’t really that significant. Winning all three games just lets a team avoid playing one extra game and beating Norway, Latvia or Belarus.

— Finally, and most importantly, I happen to play hockey with dudes from Canada, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and have an ex-roommate from Sweden. Anyone whose team gets eliminated by the U.S. is getting this on their Facebook wall immediately:


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