Despite an MVP-campaign from Ryan Miller, the Sabres have struggled of late. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
A few wondering hockey thoughts to tee up the weekend.
• The first live NHL game I saw after watching the Olympics was the Carolina Hurricanes at the Toronto Maple Leafs. Let me just tell you, that’s not the cure for a Games hangover.
Though maybe I shouldn’t be mocking the Canes, winners of seven straight now. But is that a good thing or a bad thing for a team that would look pretty awesome next year with Eric Staal, Cam Ward and a top-three draft pick coming up the pipes.
• Wonder how many calls Nashville GM David Poile fielded on Dan Ellis before the deadline. The pending-UFA goalie has decent numbers this year and I can’t imagine the asking price would’ve been sky-high.
Maybe Poile just wanted to keep both goalies in his midst to strengthen the Preds’ chances of making the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.
• Like most, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Buffalo thanks to its perpetual underdog status. But that team is lucky the talent level in the East falls off so precipitously after the top few clubs.
Otherwise, I’d be talking about how the Sabres – who have just three wins in their past 15 outings – better wake up soon before that No. 9 seed gets any closer in the rearview mirror.
• Just to indulge the Olympics one more time, I absolutely loved the exchange between Vancouver Canuck teammates Roberto Luongo and Pavol Demitra after Canada narrowly escaped a Slovakian semifinal comeback thanks to a big save by Luongo on Demitra in the dying seconds.
In case you missed it (Olympic footage is a bit harder to find online than regular highlights, so we’ll rely on words here) Luongo and Demitra went chest to chest while giving each other hearty slaps on the shoulders as they met in the handshake line. They exchanged words and at one point Luongo’s face lights up with a laugh, seemingly to say, “I can’t believe that was you I stoned on the doorstep!”
It was a great moment between two NHL teammates; it also perfectly articulated a difference between NHL battles and Olympic competition that had previously never occurred to me.
I think had those two been teammates for a number of years, then met in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final as adversaries, there wouldn’t have been such a warm embrace in the immediate aftermath of one winning and the other losing. I think it would have been a quick handshake and knowing nod of the head with any further discussion saved until there was an opportunity to share an adult beverage together after the wounds had healed over more.
It’s almost like the Olympics are a win-win scenario for players in the sense the high of gold is probably as good as any out there, while the loss isn’t quite as crushing as the feeling of going through two months of playoff hockey, only to come up short. Or at the very least, the gut-punch doesn’t linger as long.
Demitra, in the exchange with Luongo, even seems to be cracking a little smile himself.
Then again, the look of absolute devastation on Zach Parise’s face while receiving his silver medal undoes a lot of that logic.
Not to mention the haunting image of Wayne Gretzky sitting alone on the Canada bench in Nagano after never getting his chance in the ’98 shootout loss to Dominik Hasek and the Czechs…
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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