With no more NHL games scheduled for two and a half weeks, all of the focus will be in Sochi as our former teammates will become the opponent, playing for a handful of countries over two weeks for prestigious Olympic gold. Over the past week, there have been some injuries and replacements made which have had some implications for team relationships here in North America.
Dave and the boys did a great job here keeping the focus mainly on the Cally non-trade, as the New York metro area is most directly affected by Callahan’s agent and Glen Sather (and his cigars, I suppose). The two most important injuries to track were recent – Max Pacioretty – and a long time ago – Steven Stamkos. Seeing the correlation between the NHL and the Olympic selection is pretty eye opening in each case.
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DANIEL MALLARD/QMI AGENCY
Steve Yzerman named the 2014 Canadian team yesterday that will be competing to defend their gold from Vancouver four years ago. The country that touts hockey as its country’s sport – and, let’s be honest, a country that regards the sport so highly that it’s all over TV even in August – it’s no wonder that Yzerman and Co. had a very difficult task ahead of them in choosing this team.
The joke is that even selecting an all-snub team for Canada would be a difficult task, and that their second team would likely be a favorite over some other countries. Needless to say, expectations are extremely high for this squad. You can see the full roster here.
Again, with a roster so deep, it’s likely that you’re going to find a few serious snubs. The most glaring omission on this roster is Martin St. Louis, an absolute stud who, at 38 years old, likely won’t see another Olympic opportunity (unless he pulls a Selanne, and even still the depth of skilled Canadian won’t go anywhere). Apparently a snub is motivation for St. Louis, who put up two goals last night in the 3rd period to give the Lightning a win over the Jets, and probably had Yzerman shaking his head.
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Henrik Lundqvist, Carl Hagelin, and Mats Zuccarello will be joining Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, and Ryan Callahan (USA) in Sochi for the 2014 Olympic Games. Lundqvist and Hagelin will be playing for Team Sweden, and Zuccarello is the lone NHL player participating for Team Norway. Lundqvist and Zuccarello were expected to make their respective clubs. Hagelin was a bubble player, but Team Sweden went with speed.
Rick Nash is expected to make Team Canada this morning at 11am. If he does, the Rangers will be sending seven players to Sochi. (Update: Nash is headed to Sochi with Canada.)
Pavel Buchnevich and Russia were eliminated from the 2014 World Junior Championships this morning, losing to Sweden 2-1. With Buchnevich’s exit, the Rangers no longer have any prospects in the tournament. Sweden will face the Canada/Finland winner for the gold.
In six tournament games, Buchnevich finished with a line of 2-5-7 with 18 PIMs (most coming from his misconduct penalty against the US) and a +4 rating. Both Buchnevich and Brady Skjei (USA) had strong showings in the tournament.
Bobby Ryan. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
At the finish of the Winter Classic game played at the Big House in Michigan (and after Dion Phaneuf won a minivan…?), American viewers were treated with the revealing of the 25 men who will represent the red, white, and blue in Sochi next month. Before we all play armchair GM, there are a few things to remember: a) the depth of unbelievably talented players that the United States have bred over the past decades, and b) the management staff responsible for selecting this team and their view on how to coach it. “We did not pick the 25 best players,” general manager David Poile said. “We picked the 25 players we thought gave us a chance to win the gold medal.”
My dissection of this team bears a lot of variables. For one, I’ve never played hockey, nor have I ever managed a hockey club aside from my decent fantasy teams and a few very bad ones. I have, however, played lacrosse – a similar game from a systems standpoint – and I had the fun responsibility of managing a number of players regarding league guidelines and who would fit. Secondly, I’m human. It’s difficult to separate how you feel about a player from what they would provide for a team, which I believe had a stake in some of the selection process. Third, all of us fans are going to have differing opinions and they’re usually based on which team you bleed for. Please keep these in mind while you read ahead.
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Pavel Buchnevich (2013, 3rd) had a pair of goals as Russia eliminated Brady Skjei (2012, 1st) and Team USA by a score of 5-3. Buchnevich scored Russia’s second and fifth (empty net) goals, also nabbing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while celebrating in front of the USA bench. Russia advances to face the winner of the Slovakia/Canada game.
Skjei notched an assist on USA’s first goal, and finished with a +2 rating. He also notched a punch to the face of Buchnevich while he was celebrating the empty net goal. Awkward moment for the future teammates.
Team USA has released the roster for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics, and the Rangers will have three representatives playing for the red, white, and blue. Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, and Ryan McDonagh will all be heading to Sochi in February.
Aside from three straight USA wins, one thing that has been very nice to watch over the past few days is the impressive play of the Rangers prospects in action in the 2014 World Junior Championship. Both Brady Skjei (USA, 2012 1st) and Pavel Buchnevich (Russia, 2013 3rd) have had strong tournaments thus far, and have been key cogs as both teams look towards the elimination round.
Skjei notched an assist, his first point of the tournament, in USA’s 8-0 win over Germany yesterday. Skjei may not be a noted scorer, but his solid defensive play has made it easier on his defensive partners to join the offensive rush. USA is 3-0-0-0 with a game against Canada coming tomorrow.
Buchnevich added another assist, his fourth assist in three games , in Russia’s 4-1 loss to Finland this morning. Buchnevich is third on the team with his four points. Russia is now 2-0-0-1 with Sweden up next.
Yesterday both Pavel Buchnevich (Russia) and Brady Skjei (USA) were in action in the 2014 World Junior Championships, with both teams winning to improve to 2-0-0-0 for the round robin. Buchnevich (2013 3rd) notched an assist on the powerplay for Russia’s 7th goal in their 7-1 win over Switzerland. Skjei did not register a point and was a +1 in USA’s 6-3 win over Slovakia.
In two games, Skjei has no points and a +2 rating while playing strong defense. Buchnevich has 3 assists, 4 PIMs, and a +3 rating for Russia through two games.
Skjei and the USA face off against Germany this morning at 9am, looking to go 3-0-0-0 heading into their New Year’s Eve showdown with Canada, which could have first place in Group A riding on it. Russia has Finland on Monday before they face Sweden on Tuesday for –what will likely be– first place in Group B.
Both Ranger prospects participating in the 2014 World Junior Championships contributed to their teams victories this afternoon. Pavel Buchnevich (2013 3rd) had 2 assists and 4 PIMs in Russia’s 11-0 blowout of Norway. Brady Skjei was a +1 USA’s 5-1 win over the Czech Republic.
Skjei, who got comparisons to Ryan McDonagh on the air during the game, is a very fluid skater who is rarely out of position on defense. He kept his game very simple, putting pucks on net when he had the chance (the 4th USA goal came off a rebound from a shot of his that was deflected). The Rangers, according to the announce team, have been very happy that Skjei has been developing in the McDonagh mold. If you remember, McDonagh was not a noted scorer in college either.
The Russia game was not televised.