Highlight of the Night: Ryan Kesler vs. Dustin Brown
By: Ryan Kennedy
Jan 14, 2014
Team USA likely wasn't pleased to see Vancouver's Ryan Kesler drop the gloves with Dustin Brown of the Kings, but for the rest of us it was a star-studded smashfest.
As Rory Boylen pointed out in his recap last night, Team USA likely wasn't pleased to see Vancouver's Ryan Kesler drop the gloves with Dustin Brown of the Kings, since both will be participating at the Olympics in Sochi, but for the rest of us it was a star-studded smashfest.
Kesler definitely earns the 'W' in this tilt by jerseying Brown early, but the Los Angeles captain got the last laugh as the Kings skated off with a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal by – you guesed it – Dustin Brown.
Down Goes Brown: Five times a team avenged a round robin loss at the World Cup
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 21, 2016
The history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped, so don't worry just yet. Unless you're Team USA.
We're two games into the round robin portion of the World Cup, and we've already seen a handful of upsets, with favorites like Russia and the United States already tasting defeat, and in the case of the Americans, already being eliminated. With one game to go and some of the four playoff spots still up for grabs, fans around the world are no doubt panicking over the games their teams let get away.
But while the round robin is obviously important – you have to make the playoffs to win the whole thing – it's worth remembering that the results of individual games don't necessarily tell us much as much as we might think about what will happen in the playoff rounds.
In fact, the history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped down the line. So in an effort to calm some nerves, here are five times that overreacting to a round robin result would have steered you wrong once the eliminations games began.
1976: Czechoslovakia 1 – Canada 0
In the first ever round robin game in Canada Cup history, Canada made a statement by crushing Finland 11-2. They went on the beat Sweden and the U.S., and they closed out the round with a win over their arch-rivals from the Soviet Union, winning those three games by a combined score of 11-3.
But in between, they dropped a surprising decision to Czechoslovakia. Vladimir Dzurilla outduelled Rogie Vachon at the Montreal Forum, turning aside all 29 shots he faced in a 1-0 win. The game was an instant classic, described at the time as one of the best ever played.
The two teams finished at the top of round robin standings, setting up a best-of-three final. But there was no repeat of Dzurilla's heroics – Team Canada blitzed him for four goals in the first period of the opening game, sending him to the bench and paving the way for a lopsided 6-0 win. Game 2 was more entertaining, with Canada jumping out to a 2-0 lead just three minutes in before a Czechoslovakian comeback set the stage for Darryl Sittler's tournament winner in overtime.
1981: Canada 7 – Soviet Union 3
By 1981, the Soviet Union was coming off a relatively rough stretch of international play. They'd won their usual Olympic gold in 1972 and 1976, but been upset by Team USA's Miracle on Ice squad in 1980, lost the 1972 Summit Series, and failed to even make the final of the 1976 Canada Cup.
When they met Canada in 1981 in the final game of the round robin, both teams were undefeated and battling for first place. The game was tied at 2-2 heading into the third, but Canada erupted for five straight goals in what ended up being a 7-3 laugher. Even with star goaltender Vladislav Tretiak sitting out due to illness, the result was an embarrassing one for the Soviets.
Both teams won their semifinal game to advance to a one-game winner-take-all final in Montreal. With Tretiak back in goal, most fans expected a closer game. Instead, they got an even bigger blowout. But this time, it was the Soviets who ran up the score, earning an 8-1 win and handing Canada what still stands to this day as its most embarrassing international loss.
1984: Soviet Union 6 – Canada 3
Three years after their impressive win, the Soviets looked even more dominant through the round robin portion of the 1984 tournament. Heading into a final game showdown against a struggling Team Canada, they were sporting a 4-0-0 record and looking to wrap up the tournament's top seed. They went on to smother their rivals in an impressive 6-3 win, finishing the round robin with a perfect record and dropping Canada down to fourth place.
That set up another meeting between the two nations in the tournament semi-final, held just three days later in Calgary. After being held to just 17 shots in the round robin, Canada exploded for 41 in the rematch. But Soviet goaltender Vladimir Myshkin stood on his head, and had his team in position to win with a 2-1 lead late in regulation. It took a late goal by Doug Wilson to set up overtime, where Paul Coffey's lunging breakup of a Soviet 2-on-1 set the stage of Mike Bossy's sudden death winner.
Canada went on to sweep Sweden in the final to claim the tournament. It marked the third straight time that the eventual Canada Cup champion had avenged a round robin loss on the way to their title.
1987: Czechoslovakia 4 – Canada 4; Sweden 5 – Soviet Union 3
The 1987 Canada Cup marked the first time that the eventual champion went undefeated through the round robin. That would be Canada, who beat the Soviets in a three-game classic punctuated by Mario Lemieux's historic winner.
But while Canada didn't have any losses to avenge on their way to the title, they weren't perfect in the round robin. And the first blemish came in their opening game, when a rusty Canadian squad blew a third period lead on their way to a 4-4 tie with Czechoslovakia. That was a disappointing result against a team that had gone 0-4-1 in the previous tournament, and raised questions as to whether Canada could defend their crown. Meanwhile, the tournament's other favorite had a disappointing opening of their own, as the Soviets gave up three goals in the first eight minutes while dropping a 5-3 decisions to Sweden.
Both powerhouses recovered well, with each winning three straight before facing each other in the round robin finale and skating to a 3-3 draw. That set up a pair of semifinal rematches, with Canada facing Czechoslovakia and the Soviets drawing Sweden.
This time, the favorites took care of business. Canada started slowly but pumped home four straight goals to take a 5-3 final, while the Soviets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before eliminating Sweden by a 4-2 score. That set the stage for a final that still stands as perhaps the best international hockey series ever played.
As a side note, the Czechoslovakian goaltender for both of those games against Canada was a 22-year-old kid that most North Americans had never heard of. He eventually made it to the NHL three years later, and turned out to be pretty good. He even got some revenge against Canada at an international tournament over a decade later.
2004: Russia 3 – USA 1; Sweden 4 – Czech Republic 3
Canada didn't have to avenge any round robin losses on their way to the 1991 title, and the United States likewise was a perfect 3-0-0 under the new World Cup format before winning it all in 1996. Canada repeated that feat in 2004, making it four straight Canada/World Cups that have been won by a team that didn't suffer a loss during the round robin. Yes, that's right – it's now been 32 years and counting since a team lost a round robin game and still managed to win this tournament. Wait, this is supposed to be about giving teams that lost in the round robin hope. Forget everything I just mentioned.
But we can still find a couple of revenge games in the 2004 round robin, thanks to that year's, um, interesting format. The tournament featured eight teams, and the playoff round featured… eight teams. Yes, everyone made the playoffs in 2004, with the round robin settling the seeding and nothing else.
That format actually gave us a few interesting moments, like top-seeded Finland needing a goal in the dying minutes to edge winless Germany 2-1. And it also set up a pair of interesting rematches. In the round robin, the defending champion Team USA had dropped its first two games, to Canada and Russia. In the latter game, they fell 3-1 while being outshot 45-21. The 0-2 start didn't hurt their playoff hopes, because of the whole "everyone makes it" thing, but it certainly put a dent in their confidence.
Meanwhile, the Czechs dropped their opener 4-0 to Finland, then fell behind by the same score to Sweden. They came back to at least make that game a respectable 4-3 final, but other than running up the score on Germany in the finale, they didn't come out of the round robin with much room for optimism.
But in the opening round, both teams got a chance at payback, and both took it. The Czechs looked like a different team, shelling Mikael Tellqvist and Team Sweden in a 6-1 win. The Russia/Team USA rematch was a closer affair, with both teams going back and forth, but the Americans held on for a 5-3 win.
Both teams went on to lose in the semifinal, although the U.S. blew a late lead against Finland and the Czechs took Canada to overtime. Canada beat Finland in the one-game final, the year-long NHL lockout began the next day, and the World Cup hasn't been seen since. Twelve years later, we're finally getting another look at the tournament, and another chance to see a tough round robin loss avenged in the playoffs.
At least, that's what teams like Russia, Finland and North America are hoping.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
Rumor Roundup: Canadiens GM Bergevin listening to offeres for Beaulieu
By: Lyle Richardson
Sep 19, 2016
The Canadiens could continue to shuffle their blueline by moving out Nathan Beaulieu for help on the left wing, while the Islanders are in a tough position with restricted free agent Ryan Strome still unsigned before the team-imposed deadline.
Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin shocked the hockey world in June by swapping popular free-wheeling blueliner P.K. Subban for the more defensively responsible Shea Weber. With training camp opening later this week, he might not be done tinkering with his defense corps.
Francois Gagnon of RDS (via The Score's Craig Hagerman) reports Bergevin said he's fielded offers for rearguard Nathan Beaulieu. The Habs GM said he wasn't shopping the 23-year-old, but added it's his job to listen and evaluate offers from rival teams that could improve his club.
Beaulieu isn't on the same talent level as Subban, but he has potential as a second-pairing defenseman. In his sophomore campaign last season, he finished with a respectable 19 points in 64 games. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder has upside and an affordable contract ($1 million) for 2016-17.
What Beaulieu might fetch for the Canadiens and how to replace him on the blueline are two key issues for Bergevin. NBC Sports' Mike Halford points out the Canadiens are thin at left wing beyond first-line Max Pacioretty, so perhaps Beaulieu could be dangled as bait to address that need.
One option could be Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane. His recent off-ice legal issues sparked trade speculation this summer, and the Sabres are always on the lookout for good young players. However, Bergevin will likely pass on that potential headache.
The Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers have depth in wingers and need blueline depth. It's believed both clubs prefer a top-pairing puck-mover, so Beaulieu might not interest them.
Halford also suggests promising Mikhail Sergachev, selected ninth overall in this year's draft, could replace Beaulieu if he proves NHL-ready in training camp. Placing that much pressure on the 18-year-old Sergachev, however, could prove a costly gamble for the Canadiens.
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR ISLES, STROME
The clock is ticking on restricted free agent winger Ryan Strome's contract negotiations with the New York Islanders. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports the Islanders policy of cutting off contract talks with unsigned RFAs when training camp opens, implemented under previous owner Charles Wang, remains in effect.
If Strome's still unsigned after that date, a rival club could be tempted to ink him to an offer sheet. However, Isles GM Garth Snow told Brooks he doesn't rule out matching an offer for Strome beyond that cut-off date.
Strome managed only 28 points last season, but had a 50-point campaign in 2014-15. If he's still unsigned after Sept. 22, a GM seeking a young playmaker with upside could contract Snow with a trade proposal.
If Snow is willing to entertain a trade of Strome, perhaps he should give the Canadiens a call. They're lacking depth at left wing and Strome can skate on either wing. The Habs are reportedly listening to offers for defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
World Cup notebook: Crosby puts an impressive streak on the line
By: Ken Campbell
Sep 23, 2016
Sidney Crosby has won 22 straight and his only concern is making it 23...Swedes must be smarter...Carey Price on beer league hockey.
Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby is on something of a roll lately. Not only did he win his second Stanley Cup in the spring, he enters the World Cup of Hockey semifinal riding a 22-game winning streak in a Canadian uniform dating back to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
Since losing 5-3 to USA in the last game of the preliminary round, Canada won the next four games en route to the gold medal. Crosby’s teams then went 6-0-0 in Sochi and 9-0-0 in games in which he played in the 2015 World Championship before going 3-0-0 in the World Cup. Crosby has nine goals and 20 points in those games, including the golden goal in overtime in Vancouver and a goal in the 3-0 win in the gold medal game in Sochi.
“I didn’t even know about that until today,” Crosby said. “Those don’t really matter going into tomorrow, right? It’s all about tomorrow right now.”
SWEDES CAN’T PLAY ‘STUPID’
Swedish defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said his team can’t afford a repeat of its play in the final pre-tournament game when it lost 6-2 to Team Europe, the same team it plays in the semifinal Sunday afternoon. “We played a really stupid game,” Ekman-Larsson said. “We turned over too many pucks at their blueline, at our blueline, all over the ice. When you do that against a team with that much skill, you’re in big trouble.”
Team Europe coach Ralph Kruger said that late in that game, Frans Nielsen pointed to the Danish shoulder patch flag and reckoned he had lost to the Swedes about 200 times during his career. He then said how happy he was to finally beat them. The Swedes know they’ll be playing an opponent motivated by a desire to knock off one of the world’s hockey powers.
“I said right from the beginning I thought it would be great for the guys on Team Europe to have a chance to beat some of these teams,” said Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson. “Good for them. I wish then all the best, except for on Sunday.”
During his media scrum yesterday, Canadian goalie Carey Price seemed a little perplexed by a question from Marc-Andre Perreault of TVA Sports in Quebec. Perreault asked Price why Canada always comes into these big games saying it’s just another game when clearly there is so much on the line.
“Because that’s what it is,” Price said. What followed was this rather interesting exchange:
Perreault: “But in my beer league, when we play Maggie’s Corner Store, we get all excited.”
Price: “I don’t know. Maggie’s Corner Store must be pretty good, huh?”
CANADA, TEAM EUROPE WILL KEEP IT PREDICTABLE
Exciting hockey doesn’t always win, but boring hockey almost never loses. And that’s why Team Canada and Team Europe will continue to play predictable hockey for the rest of the tournament.
“I don’t like to feed my family on hope. I like to feed my family on know,” said Team Canada coach Mike Babcock. “I don’t like surprises, not on Christmas, not on my birthday. So I don’t want it anymore. I want it under control.”
Team Europe, meanwhile, won’t be in the mood to trade chances, either. “We’re playing a boring style of hockey, but it’s proving to be a successful one,” said Team Europe captain Anze Kopitar. “We’re proud of it and we’re going to keep doing it.”
BUT TEAM EUROPE WILL BE FAST
If there was one thing we learned about Team Sweden from its game against North America it was that the Swedes had all sorts of trouble handling the speed of the under-24 team. Team Europe is considerably older, but coach Ralph Kruger is keenly aware that it will have move quickly in order to win.
“There’s no question that we really need to be a strong transition team,” Kruger said. “We’ve created a lot of offense out of that. And (Sweden) is probably the best in the world at just defending and staying within their structure right through an entire game. We need to be patient with that. I’m expecting a one-goal game and we need to find our advantage like we did against the Czechs. It will be a similar game at a higher level and we’re going to have to pick it up."
With the return of Carey Price in goal, and an improving forward group led by Alex Galchenyuk and the addition of Alexander Radulov, the Canadiens should make it back to the playoffs.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season. Today, the Montreal Canadiens.
THN's Prediction: 3rd in Atlantic
Stanley Cup odds: 22-1
Key additions: Shea Weber, D; Andrew Shaw, LW; Alexander Radulov, RW; Al Montoya, G; Mikhail Sergachev, D
Key departures: P.K. Subban, D; Lars Eller, C; Tom Gilbert, D; Victor Bartley, D; Ben Scrivens, G
-Is Alex Galchenyuk a No. 1 center? Sweet lord, yes. It took the Habs long enough to figure out, but they got there eventually. Galchenyuk was one of the few bright spots in last year’s cratering, and a combination of skill and vision led the youngster to his first 30-goal NHL campaign. Galchenyuk still needs to improve on his faceoffs, but with a win percentage of 47.9 percent last season, he’s not that far off the mark. Should coach Michel Therrien attempt to claw back Galchenyuk’s development, the Habs would regress to being a team with three second-line centers, and that’s just not going to cut it.
-Will the Habs regret the Subban-Weber trade? Maybe not immediately, but eventually they will. Weber is older and appears to be declining in effectiveness. He’ll still be a No. 1 defenseman short term, but there will be diminishing returns from there. Plus, trading the charismatic Subban did nothing to change the image of the Canadiens as a cold, personality-killing franchise. In the meantime, enjoy Weber’s bomb point shots and surly corner work, Habs fans.
-What kind of impact can Alexander Radulov have? Based on his reputation, Radulov is probably a little underhyped right now. The mystifying veteran says he has matured since his curfew antics got him benched in Nashville a few years ago, and his numbers in the KHL haven’t tailed off one bit. At 30, he’s no youngster, but he knows how to put the puck in the net and how to operate on the NHL’s smaller ice surface, so there won’t be much of an adjustment period – assuming he stays in line discipline-wise.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
The Montreal Canadiens looked like the best team in hockey last October. Then Carey Price went down and suddenly they weren’t. They were a train-wreck, and it proved every doubter of the previous season right; the team was nothing without Price.
What was interesting though was that their underlying numbers were actually decent despite the tumble. The team got incredibly awful goaltending that consistently held them back, but the team in front wasn’t playing that bad, they just weren’t getting the results.
This year they’ve got Price back and that alone adds about seven points back to this team putting them right back into the playoff mix. They’ve still got two stars up front, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, a lethal duo that rivals almost any in the league.
The latter may not seem like a star-calibre player, but he’s been quietly putting up elite numbers for the Habs the last few seasons. He’s bred from the same cloth as super-pest Brad Marchand, who finally got noticed last season for the actual talent he has. Expect Gallagher to have a similar breakout this year into the public conscious.
The team made two big additions up front that should provide a spark to the rest of the forward group. Andrew Shaw is a moderate upgrade over Lars Eller and the addition of Alexander Radulov provides a big boost to the top six (if his talent translates well to the NHL and meshes with the team that is). Montreal actually has a decent ensemble of talent at forward, especially if Daniel Carr and Sven Andrighetto can get a bigger role.
The back-end on the other hand is mostly unremarkable and the big trade didn’t help. P.K. Subban is an all-world D-man in his prime while Shea Weber is a former all-world D-man no longer in his prime. He’s still good, but he’s lost a step over the past few seasons and isn’t the same player he once was. His influence on shot attempts continues to decrease and while he’s usually been good at getting the most out of those attempts, even his goals percentage is trending down.
The trade was a large misstep, especially with the age discrepancies, but Montreal definitely still has the talent to compete right now. They’ve got a very good shot at making it back to the playoffs this season, although if Price gets injured again or Weber declines any further that obviously changes.