Archive for International Hockey


Team USA: The Gold standard?

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Bobby Ryan. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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.

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McDonagh, Callahan, Stepan make Team USA

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2014 World Juniors kick off today

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The 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship kicked off this morning, with Canada dominating Germany by a score of 7-2. The other game that is currently underway is Russia against Norway, with the Russians leading 10-0 in the second period (not on TV). USA faces off against the Czech Republic today at 11:30.

The Rangers have two players in the tournament this year: Brady Skjei (USA) and Pavel Buchnevick (Russia). Buchnevich currently has a pair of assists and 2 PIMs in the Russia game.

We will have full recaps of the Ranger prospect performances (at least of the games we can watch) as the tournament progresses. We will be using the 2014 WJC tag.

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Could be better, could be worse.

As Olympic orientation camps get under way this week, many of the new unis that the teams will wear are being unveiled.  On Tuesday, Nike revealed the uniforms for the 2014 American Squad, to mixed results.

The jerseys continue the trend of Edge® style moisture wick design, however, these two have something of a euro influence, perhaps more common on the football pitch than in the hockey rink.  The two-tone design of the white jersey clearly displays this quality more prominently, but both are seemingly soccer influenced.

The patch is evocative of the 1932 USA jersey, used in Lake Placid.  This is where it starts to get weird, however.  The cheap, screen-printed look of both the navy-on-navy stars and the faux-lace neck area leave much to be desired, in my opinion.  Why not just have a real tie on the neck? Read More→

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Nieves, Skjei make final USA evaluation roster

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Boo Nieves (2012, 2nd) and Brady Skjei (2012, 1st) both made it to the final round of cuts for Team USA for the World Juniors. The team still needs to be cut by six forwards and four defensemen (and a goalie), so Skjei and Nieves haven’t made the roster yet. Skjei was one of the final cuts last year for the WJC team, but he has been impressive this year during the tryouts. Nieves has also been impressive despite not being invited to the tryouts last year. Both still need to play well during the final evaluation to make the roster, as neither are shoo-ins.

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Things are a little slow here in Rangerland as we count down to the pre-season, so I thought I’d tackle a more global topic.

Not withstanding the (now completely predictable) labor squabbles of recent years, the NHL has consistently investigated and implemented ways to improve its overall on-ice product.  They aren’t plagued with the constant felony arrests of the NFL and NBA, nor the drunk driving and steroid issues of MLB.  Most of the athletes are humble professionals who respect the game and the fans.  Now, the NHL is not without its problems.  There have been several nagging issues that have persisted through rule changes, new committees, summer R&D camps and beta tests in lower leagues.  The most demonstrative examples include not enough goal scoring, concussions and obstruction-type penalties.

Now, all three of these major problems could be solved by one simple solution, and it’s not one anyone around the league wants to consider, myself included: moving the NHL to olympic sized rinks.  I know what you’re thinking, I don’t like it either.  It seems borderline sacrilegious.  The NHL has always played on North American sized rinks.  It’s what has differentiated the NHL from the Olympics and the inferior European leagues.  We like the physicality, the fighting, the hard-nosed style of play that comes along with the smaller rink, but consider each league problem…

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