Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Sky Is Falling?

Canada was shut out by Finland today, their second consecutive 2-0 loss in the Round Robin.

I didn't catch the game today, so I'm hoping others will be able to comment on Canada's performance.

Yesterday, the Canadians looked undisciplined and uncreative on offense, which isn't a promising sign of things to come. Unless the Swiss slip up against the Italians, Canada's Tuesday matchup against the Czechs should decide 3rd place in the pool. Win or lose, Canada is facing a tough Quarterfinal matchup against the undefeated Slovaks, or strong Russian or Swedish squads. They better get their act together in a hurry, or it will be at best a 5th place showing for the defending champs.

Two thoughts from the US-Sweden game:

• Henrik Lundqvist looked amazing in net. If he keeps this up, he can steal any game for the Swedes.

• We have a new winner for most absurd rule in sports: The rule in International Hockey that calls a penalty on a player who touches the puck after he's lost his helmet. That's right, if your helmet comes off, for whatever reason, you will get a minor penalty for playing the puck. This happened to Doug Weight seconds after his helmet was ripped off by a Swedish player, and a couple of short minutes after the Swedes intentionally shot the puck into the American bench while killing a penalty - which, unlike in the NHL, is allowed in International Play.

I can understand if there is concern for the safety of a player when his helmet comes off, but the way to address that is to whistle the play dead immediately, or if the helmetless player touches the puck. Penalizing him for putting forth the effort to keep playing is ridiculous.

Anyway, back to my original point to close:

Canadians: Is the sky falling? Discuss.


At 4:28 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

The penalty was actually for not leaving the ice, not for touching the puck. If the helmet comes off, you have to leave the ice. What was annoying about the call was that the filthy Swede pushed it off Weight's head, full-well knowing he would have to leave the ice on a powerplay. It's an awful rule, but Weight isn't playing in the NHL either. He should actually use the strap under his chin for more than decoration.

As for Canada losing, I am torn. On the one hand the Canadians played stupid, refusing to dump the puck in against the Finnish trap (which started from the beginning of the game) and taking some questionable but avoidable penalties (see Chris Pronger). On the other hand, I thought the ref allowed the Fins to play physical while calling things on the Canadians. That really made the Canadians apprehensive, and it showed. The Canadians defence looked lost, too, not knowing how to clear the puck out of their own zone. Ultimately, the Canadians played an awful game. Having played in the NHL, they should know how to break the trap. Other than Doan, Luongo and Draper, the Canadian team vanished.

Is it a coincidence that Canada has lost two games reffed by Europeans?

The post-game was very interesting. Elliot Friedman was already asking the "was this team ever good enough to win?" questions.

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Thanks for clarifying on the rule, it's still stupid, but not quite as stupid as I originally thought.

I can't comment on today's game, but I thought the refs in the Canada-Swiss game weren't being lenient enough to both sides. The only one in the third period that was questionable was the Pronger one, which you pointed out.

Are they playing Sakic, Iginla, and Gagne together? That line had a monster tournament in 2002, so it would be silly not to have them out there together, even with Sakic hurting.

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...

I honestly have a hard time understanding international tournaments where NHL players are involved. On one hand you have the Swiss team who have played over 100 games together and only three players who play in the League. Their talent is less (except in net), but their experience playing to together as a team is far, far greater. To me, a team made up of the best players in the world should beat the Swiss hands down, every time, but I wonder if this is becoming less the case.

Getting back to the point of the post, yes, the sky is falling. All of my original enthusiasm for this team has dwindled. The Canadians look completely listless, no game plan, no focus. To answer Friedman, of course they had the potential to win, but in this type of one-and-done tourney, its all about preperation and leaders who are able to execute the plan and keep everyone on task. To this point the Canadian team has lacked all of these things, and are unlikely to gain them over the next game against the Czechs. I predict they fall in the quarters, to whomever it is they play.

Alas, I will have to listen to every Canadian sports journalist lament the fall of the Canadian program over the next four weeks or so. All the while in the back of my mind, that in reality this Canadian team was every bit as good, if not better, than any other club in the tourney. They just seem to lack cohesiveness as a group (although I understand that that makes them a lesser team in this case).

On a lighter note, did anyone else see Yao Ming do the electric bugaloo with the rest of the West All-Stars' starting five? I believe there was also a symphony playing Crazy Train at the time. (What is going on here?)


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