Edmonton Oilers Tattoos
Chuck Haynes, Troy, Ohio
Edmonton Oilers Tattoos
Chuck Haynes, Troy, Ohio
Team Russia took care of business Thursday afternoon in the World Cup of Hockey to set up another showdown in an epic rivalry.
Saturday night will mark the 146th time Canada has met Russia (or in its previous incarnation, the Soviet Union) in international hockey. You might be surprised to learn that through all the Olympics, World Championships, World Junior Championships, World Under-18 Championships, Canada/World Cups and Summit Series – including the one in 1974 against between the Soviets and Canadian players in the World Hockey Association – the Soviets lead the series 77-57-10 with one no decision. (That was, of course, in the 1987 World Junior in Piestany when both teams were disqualified because of a bench-clearing brawl.)
Some have been epics, others not so much. But there are no two countries with as much rich history between them in this game than Canada and Russia. So it is only fitting that they’ll meet again in the World Cup of Hockey semifinal Saturday night. Russia clinched that meeting with its 3-0 win over Finland in their last game of the preliminary round. The win deprived hockey fans of what would have been an intriguing game between Canada and Team North America, but Canada and Russia is always a good consolation prize.
Imagine that, people were actually cheering against another meeting between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, another chapter in the cold war on ice between these two countries. They’d better not disappoint. And they probably won’t. Canada enters the team as the decided favorite because they entered the tournament with that status and have done nothing to unseat themselves of it since it began almost a week ago.
But it’s a one-game meeting, eh? And, you know, anything can happen. Perhaps nobody knows that better than Evgeny Kuznetsov, who stepped in as Russia’s No. 1 center between Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko when Pavel Datsyuk missed the Finland game. Kuznetsov has only played against Canada twice, but they were doozies. In the gold medal game of the 2011 World Junior Championship, the Russians overcame a 3-0 deficit with five third-period goals to win the gold medal. Kuznetsov had three assists in that game and was joined by current teammates Tarasenko, Dmitry Orlov, Nikita Zaitsev and Artemi Panarin on that team. The next year in the semifinal, the Russians took a 6-1 lead on Canada, only to give up four third-period goals to hang on for a 6-5 win. Kuznetsov had three goals and an assist in that game en route to being named MVP of the tournament.
“It’s always nice to play against Canada,” Kuznetsov said. “The whole world knows the best players play here. We just have to accept the challenge and show these guys what we’ve got.”
And of course there’s Sid vs. Ovie, Chapter Whatever. Both players will spend the next two days downplaying the importance of it. And for Ovechkin, it’s probably a good thing, since Crosby’s teams have pretty much taken Ovechkin’s to the cleaners in every meaningful competition. Crosby’s Penguins have won both second-round playoff series against Ovechkin’s Capitals and both those victories were part of Stanley Cup championships for Pittsburgh. In international competition, the two have gone nose-to-nose and it hasn’t even been close. The Canadians are 3-0-0 in those games and have outscored the Russians by a 19-5 margin, once in the World Juniors, once in the World Championship and once in the Olympics. In fact, Crosby has been on some kind of tear wearing the maple leaf on his sweater. Going back to Canada’s loss during the preliminary round of the Vancouver Olympics, Crosby is 22-0-0 with Canada since then.
“It’s Canada against us and it’s not about two players,” Ovechkin said. “Of course it will be special, but it’s most important to get a victory and move forward. It’s two teams with a great history. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be a great game.”
Ovechkin hopes that familiarity with the Canadian players from meeting them so much in the NHL. “We’re not going to be seeing them for the first time,” Ovechkin said. “We play against them almost every day.”
But it will be anything but just an everyday game for the Russian and Canadian teams. If Datsyuk comes back into the lineup, it could be the last time we ever see him play on a North American ice surface after a Hall of Fame career. These games are the kind that forms legacies. Ovechkin has won World Championships with Russia, but he has yet to come up with a meaningful victory in a best-on-best competition.
When asked whether this would be a big moment in his career, Ovechkin said, “I have too many big moments. It’s up to us to beat Canada and be in the final.”
Joffrey Lupul hasn’t played for the Maple Leafs since February 2016, and it appears he won’t be with the team come October after a physical exam reportedly revealed he’s not fit to suit up.
The past two seasons of Joffrey Lupul’s career have been disappointing, to say the least. The veteran winger has missed more than 60 games since the start of the 2014-15 campaign, has all but lost his top-six role when healthy and hasn’t been the same player since his 22-goal, 44-point campaign in 2013-14.
Things aren’t getting any better for Lupul, either.
According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, Lupul, 32, has reportedly not been cleared to take part in Maple Leafs’ training camp and will be placed on the injured reserve when the season begins.
The nature of Lupul’s injury is unknown, but it could potentially be tied to the sports hernia which caused him to miss the final 31 games of the past season. Lupul suffered the injury on or around Feb. 6, and didn’t suit up for a single game in the next two months.
That Lupul has been sidelined with the ailment might not bode well for the rest of his time with the Maple Leafs, unless he can battle back from the injury and find his way back onto the roster. Even while he was with the team, though, Lupul watched as his job slowly slipped out of his grasps. After starting the past season off with games of 17 or 18-plus minutes of ice time, Lupul’s final handful of games in Toronto this past season were highlighted by games of 13 minutes of ice time, and he even took part in games where he skated little more than 10 or 11 minutes.
That his job was already being taken over by younger players doesn’t bode well, but it’s especially worrisome for Lupul considering the number of young players who will be coming into camp and battling for roster spots. Players such as Kasperi Kapanen, Mitch Marner, Connor Brown, Nikita Soshnikov and Zach Hyman could all be fighting for roles on the right wing, potentially replacing Lupul in the process.
Lupul’s contract makes his playing situation more difficult, too. He is set to earn $5.25 million in each of the next two seasons, and that’s a high price for the Maple Leafs to pay for a player who seemingly doesn’t factor into either their short- or long-term plans. Lupul’s high price tag doesn’t help the Maple Leafs in their attempts to move him, either, and there has been plenty of speculation that Toronto has at least tried to send Lupul elsewhere.
The Maple Leafs will announce their official training camp roster Thursday, and Seravalli reported that it’s expected Lupul’s situation will be addressed by Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello.
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Marc-Andre Fleury will take the starting job for the Penguins to start the season, but under some unfortunate circumstances as Matt Murray suffered a broken hand during North America’s game against Russia at the World Cup.
The Pittsburgh Penguins might be thankful they didn’t ship out veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury ahead of the coming campaign after Matt Murray’s sparkling post-season run, because when the season starts, the young netminder will find himself on the sideline.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford announced Saturday that Murray, 22, suffered a broken hand during round robin play for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey. The injury is enough that Murray will almost certainly be out for the entirety of the pre-season, and the 3-6 week timeline for recovery could potentially see Murray miss the first month of the regular season. Just how severe the injury is, though, hasn’t yet been determined. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey, Rutherford said Murray has yet to meet with Penguins doctors.
If Murray is sidelined for the whole six weeks, he could miss the entire month of October and a dozen or more games. If the injury persists beyond the six week period, there’s a possibility he could miss an additional three games in the first week of November.
Murray’s injury came during North America’s tilt against Russia on Sept. 19, a game that Murray started but did not finish after allowing four goals on 19 shots in a 4-3 loss. All four goals against Murray came in little more than six minutes of action.
The exact moment Murray suffered the injury is hard to pinpoint, but he said post-game that it was only a minor injury and he had simply “jammed his thumb,” according to the Canadian Press. The injury was taped during the Sept. 19 game and Murray did continue to practice after suffering the ailment. However, he didn’t suit up in North America’s final game of the tournament, watching on as the young guns team closed out their tournament with a thrilling 4-3 overtime win against Sweden.
Murray was set to push Fleury for the starting gig this season, and there was a chance Murray could once again overtake his veteran counterpart for the bulk of the starts, just as he did during the post-season. Murray was remarkable in the playoffs, posting a 15-6 record, 2.08 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and one shutout en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup in his rookie season.
Murray’s performance in the playoffs shouldn’t have come as much of a shock, however. He showed signs of his incredible talent throughout his rookie year in the AHL — he was the league’s top goaltender and rookie of the year in 2014-15 — and posted a 9-2-1 record, 2.00 GAA and .930 SP with one shutout in 13 appearances during the regular seasons for the Penguins.
With Murray on the shelf, though, the Penguins will turn to Fleury as their definite No. 1. There are much worse hands to be dealt than that. Fleury was one of the Penguins best players during a difficult first half of the season under former coach Mike Johnston, and Fleury continued to excel under Mike Sullivan.
Fleury had to battle through concussion issues during the 2015-16 campaign, but he managed to post a stellar 35-17-6 record, 2.29 GAA and .921 SP to go along with five shutouts. Statistically, it was one of the best seasons of Fleury’s career, and it came in the first season of his new four-year, $23-million deal.
Murray’s injury will also have an impact on the backup situation in Pittsburgh, as one of Tristan Jarry or Sean Maguire will almost certainly be brought up as insurance for Fleury while Murray is out of action.
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Winning seems to follow Corey Perry around and if Canada can take home the World Cup championship, he'll join a very exclusive group.
In case you’re wondering, Corey Perry keeps all his championship rings and gold medals locked in a safety deposit box. It must be a really, really big one. “I don’t travel with them,” Perry deadpanned as Team Canada prepared for its semifinal game against Russia in the World Cup of Hockey. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with them. We’ll figure something out when I’m done playing.”
Perry has not only a chance to add another bauble to his collection, but he also has an opportunity to join a miniscule group of players when it comes to winning championships. Miniscule, as in one. In all of the history of the game, only Scott Niedermayer has won a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal, World Championship, World Junior Championship, Memorial Cup and Canada/World Cup title. Perry can join him if Team Canada can win three more games in the tournament. Perhaps he and Niedermayer, a former teammate with the Anaheim Ducks and a special assignment coach with the Ducks, can compare their hardware when he returns to Anaheim.
Like Niedermayer, winning follows Perry around. And like Niedermayer, Perry has been a huge part of the championship teams on which he’s played. When asked if there are any similarities between the two, Perry’s Anaheim teammate Ryan Getzlaf cracked, “Yeah, they skate the same.”
He was joking. Niedermayer is one of the smoothest, most effortless and efficient skaters the game has ever seen. Perry, on the other hand, skates as though he’s on a personal mission to do as much damage to the ice as possible. But the results are undeniable. It all started for Perry in 2005 when he barely made Canada’s WJC team during the NHL lockout and scored seven points to help Canada win the title. Later that season, after scoring 130 points for the London Knights, he added another 38 in 18 playoff games to lead the Knights to the Memorial Cup. Two years later he contributed to the only Stanley Cup he has won in his career. He then won gold medals with Canada both in Vancouver in 2010 and in Sochi in 2014 before becoming the 27th member of the Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and World Championship) when Canada won the world title last spring.
Perry is well aware that he’s on the cusp of history. Not surprisingly, he hasn’t given it a lot of thought. “Obviously, I’ve heard about it and I kind of know what’s at stake,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s just a matter of going out and playing hockey. I don’t worry about it. You don’t know if it could ever happen again, but I just go out and let the chips fall. It would be a tremendous honor for sure and it speaks volumes of the teams that I played for and guys I played with.”
It also speaks volumes of his contribution to those teams. Playing on what is essentially the third line on the left side of Jonathan Toews and Logan Couture, Perry has a goal in the tournament, mostly because he hasn’t been getting many looks. He has just six shots in the tournament, while Toews has 10 and leads Canada in scoring with three goals and an assist. The best thing about this for Perry is that he was not initially part of the group that was named to play in the World Cup and was added to the team when Jeff Carter had to pull out with an injury. But Hockey Canada knows what Perry is all about and appreciates how he has always answered the call for his country, so it was a pretty easy decision for both sides.
“The times I went (to the World Championship in 2010, 2012 and 2016), the season kind of ended abruptly and I wasn’t planning on sitting back and relaxing for another month or so,” Perry said. “It’s a great time and anytime you get a call, if you can go, I go and I want to be a part of that team.”
What Perry is on the cusp of accomplishing is something rather special. Sidney Crosby, who has won everything but a Memorial Cup, lost to Perry’s Knights in the final in 2005. Wayne Gretzky hasn’t done it. Nor has Mario Lemieux, nor Team Canada teammates Toews or Patrice Bergeron. They've all come close, but none of them has a safety deposit box with quite as much variety as Perry.
“It’s important to have winners, period,” said Team Canada coach Mike Babcock. “If you look at our group, we have a lot of determined people that have been in a lot of good situations and have learned how to win and expect to win. And in the big moments in your life, the best of the best deliver and they think they’re going to deliver. They don’t know why, but in their heart and in their mind they know they’re going to do it.”