Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Posts about Olympic hockey

Crosby delivers gold to Canada; Wild news

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 28, 2010 - 9:07 PM

It's not often games live up to the hype, but I can't imagine covering a more exciting hockey game. Between the atmosphere and the type of hockey played and the mounted American comeback and the overtime winner, it was just a tremendous final display of these Olympics.

Just a thrill.

The Americans were obviously overwhelmed with disappointment, and most weren't taking solace in the achievement of winning a silver medal. Erik Johnson, for one, called it a "complete disappointment."

As Patrick Kane said, "You come here and you think of the feeling that it’s going to be winning gold, you don’t get it and then you’ve got to wait another four years to even have a chance at it. It stings."

But years down the road, the Americans will realize that they played right on par with a collection of Canadian superstars today. From a talent point of view, the Americans were severely overmatched. That's reality. As I wrote in my gamer, and I know it's just my opinion, I think Zach Parise is the only American that would make Canada's roster. Maybe Patrick Kane.

But during this two-week tournament, behind great goaltending from Olympic MVP Ryan Miller, young, fast forwards and an unsung blue line, the Americans came together marvelously as a "team," and that's why today could have gone either way.

As for detailed coverage on the game, I direct you to the newspaper stories. That's why I write em. Jim Souhan and I will have a final webcam up soon.

It was an amazing experience to cover this men's hockey tournament, and all of the Olympics quite frankly. I found the luge fascinating, especially documenting Tony Benshoof for three days. I marvelled over the ski jumpers and I enjoyed standing in a snowstorm waiting for Lindsey Vonn's first downhill training run to be cancelled.

Now, it's back to covering the Wild for me. And, ugh, on to Calgary. Normally I love Calgary, but man, I've been gone since Feb. 9. I want to go home.

Guess what? At 11 p.m. Sunday night, the NHL trade freeze will be lifted, so I'd suspect we'll see some deals consummated Monday that were agreed upon during the embargo. The trade deadline is at 2 p.m. CT Wednesday.

I talked to GM Chuck Fletcher Sunday morning and he said, "We have nothing imminent. Whatever we do, I think it would be closer to the deadline, assuming we even do anything."

You can read the story in Monday's paper, but if Marek Zidlicky isn't signed by Wednesday, it would be absolutely shocking if he is not traded. The priority is to sign him, but Fletcher made clear that Zidlicky is a significant asset in the same category as Kim Johnsson. And as you know, he traded Johnsson in the Cam Barker deal.

Lastly, all Olympics long, I've heard the English version of the Olympic theme song, "I believe," by Nikki Yanofsky. Lately, I started to hear the French version. I remembered back in December when we were in Montreal, Guillaume Latendresse told me his girlfriend, French Canadian pop star Annie Villeneuve, was in Calgary buried inside a recording studio taping the theme for the Olympics.

I looked it up, and the French version is indeed sung by Villeneuve. Here's both versions.

English:

 

French:

U.S. VS. CANADA: THE BIG DAY

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 27, 2010 - 7:44 PM

Well, the last two practices of these Olympics are over, and Sunday's 2:15 p.m. CT dream gold-medal matchup is a few hours away.

Like they did against Finland, look for the Americans to go right after the Canadians. Said coach Ron Wilson, "If Canada comes at us really hard, we'll have counter measures. But we're not going to survive if we hide in a foxhole, I can tell you that. We're not going to sit in a foxhole like we've seen some teams do in this tournament and wait for Canada to make a mistake (see Germany, Slovakia)."

Check out Sunday's paper for all the preview and advance material for the game.

From the NHL, here’s a closer look at the opponents -- a game which features the NHL’s brightest
stars on the world’s largest hockey stage.

CANADA; USA

Avg. Height : 74.1" (6'2"); 72.7" (6'½")

Avg. Weight: 208.6 lbs.; 203.7 lbs.

Avg. Age: 28.0; 27.0

GP (skaters): 11,155; 7,602

Goals (skaters): 3,148; 1,609

Assists (skaters): 5,284; 2,765

Points (skaters:) 8,432 ;4,374

Hat Tricks: 47; 13

Stanley Cups: 14; 7

LUONGO' MILLER

Height :6'3"; 6'2"

Weight: 207 lbs.' 174 lbs.

Age: 30; 29

Hometown: Montreal, Que.; East Lansing, Mich.

GP: 596; 316

Wins: 261; 176

Shutouts: 51; 17

GAA: 2.55; 2.58

Save Pct.: .919; .914

 

* The average age of both rosters combined (27.5 -- Canada 28.0, USA 27.0)
is younger than that of the NHL League-wide (27.6)

* 70% of the players on both rosters are under 30 (32 of 46)

* 90% of the players on both rosters are under 35 (41 of 46)

* There are eight players aged 23 and under (Drew Doughty, Patrick Kane,
Jonathan Toews, Erik Johnson, Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan, Jack
Johnson), all of whom were picked among the top five their respective draft
years (Crosby-Ryan-J. Johnson went 1-2-3 in 2005; E. Johnson, Toews and
Kessel went 1-3-5 in 2006; Kane went 1st in 2007 and Doughty went 2nd in
2008)

* Only one player on the Team USA roster ranks among the top 50 U.S.-born
players for career NHL games (captain Jamie Langenbrunner is 37th with 945)

* There are only three Team USA players among the top 150 U.S.-born players
for career NHL games (Langenbrunner, Chris Drury, Brian Rafalski)

* The average age of the gold medal finalists from the USA and Canada at
the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City was 31.55 (USA 31.7, Canada
31.4)

 

USA vs. Canada: The Rematch

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 26, 2010 - 11:27 PM

And ... exhale.

Not just the premature-celebrating Canadians in this hockey arena tonight who were chanting, "We Want USA!" the entire first 10 minutes of the third period, but NBC. You can bet the network was especially holding its breath those last frantic few minutes as the Canadians nearly got tied up.

With a few seconds left, NBC came one Pavol Demitra shot away from a United States-Slovakia gold-medal game. But Demitra, twice in the last few minutes with the game on his stick, couldn't bury the equalizer, and the gold-medal rematch everybody wanted is here:

Sunday at 2:15 p.m. CT,  Canada vs. the United States

And while the Americans waxed the Finns even though they took their foot off the gas the last few periods, the Canadians showed some real vulnerability tonight when the no-risk Slovaks finally decided to try to score. Playing the most conservative game in the history of the sport -- and I know conservative games -- the Slovaks finally forechecked in the third period and the Candians spent 10 minutes on its heels and nearly collapsed.

Canada can be forechecked, and as the Americans have shown during its 5-0 run to the gold-medal game, its got the speed to forecheck with the best of 'em. The Americans are confident, they haven't trailed in the tournament, they haven't been scored upon first in the tournament. 

Who knows where this game would have ended if Marian Gaborik had played the third period? The oft-injured scoring stud didn't play the final 20 minutes. As of right now, it's unknown as to why. He came into the tournament with an injury, and told me two days ago that he was getting injections to be able to play. Did he reaggravate his injury or suffer a new one?

We will see if he plays in Saturday's bronze-medal game against Finland. Miikka Kiprusoff is supposed to get the start over Niklas Backstrom, by the way.

As for U.S.-Canada, it should be a classic. Can't wait.

As for details on the US now, here's Saturday's game story/big picture look at the team

Here's the notebook on David Backes and Ryan Kesler, and odds and ends from today.

Some good American one-liners from today:

“I haven’t scored a goal from that far out in a long time.” – winger Ryan Malone on his easy open-net goal from inside the blue line after Kiprusoff’s early turnover led to Americans’ first goal.
 
“I think it was one of the best games in the tournament because I got to watch most of it.” – U.S. goalie Ryan Miller.
 
“It was a great goal. Why would they pull him?” U.S. defenseman Eric Johnson when asked if he was surprised Finland didn’t pull Kiprusoff after he scored to make it 3-0.
 
Talk to you Saturday after availabilities.

USA-Finland quotes

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 26, 2010 - 6:37 PM

This is raw, with typos, but here you go: 

Selanne
 
Its obviously very disappointing, very tough. When a game is over after 12 minutes, I don’t know what to say.
 
It’s frustrating and it’s tough. I’m very disappointed.
 
Yes. Stunned. This has never happened in my career on the national level. I don’t know what happened. You know?
 
First six minutes, it’s 5-0. You know it’s over and it’s going to be a long night after that.
 
It’s very disappointing. But you know, we didn’t deserve to be in the final if we played like that. We didn’t deserve anything.
 
Hagman
 
We didn’t a single one-on-one battle on the ice. They really came flying out of the gates.
 
Mikko Koivu
 
On Selanne, Saku last game tomorrow: It’s going to be tough. The things they gave to finnish hockey, to us younger guys, it’s up to us to give back to them what they deserve, and that’s going to be our effort. We’re going to give everything we have.
 
6-0 first period, so nothing to explain. You need to be ready in big games like this. We did everything right before the game and it just happens. It’s tough to find a reason why it happened.
 
Kiprusoff
 
It was a bad pass by me and they came pretty hard overall. When you give four goals like that in the first period, it’s tough to come back against good teams like that.
 
First goal? I thought they had first forechecker by me and I thought I can fake him and I tried to give easy pass for our guy, but he opened up and he was getting ready to get past there. I didn’t see he moved sideways, and real bad pass. You always have to take a second and look before you make passes like that, and I give tape-to-tape for U.S.A player and he used it.
 
Says he wants to start bronze
 
Miller
 
I think it was one of the best games in the tournament because I got to watch most of it.
 
I think we even took our foot off the gas trying to be conservative. But if we keep making plays and pushing like we did in the first period, we’re a tough team to hang with.
 
If Canada? Readjustment for both teams. It’ll be a little bit different game. We’ve seen each other once. That’s usually how it happens. You shake it up and see how things go. It definitely helped us in this tournament and maybe it helped them and woke them up a little bit. Who knows? Maybe that game was the biggest game for both of us.
 
Erik Johnson
 
We’ve got a lot of young energy and youthful enthusiasm.
 
It was a great goal. why would they pull him?
 
I don’t think anybody really gave us a huge chance coming in. I think we kind of relished the underdog role. We didn’t have any pressure of playing in our home country, having all the fans put expectations on us. But we all had expectations for ourselves and our team to do well. We’ve lived up to what we thought we could do.
 
It would be a dream come true. Along with winning a Stanley cup, an Olympic gold medal, they’re even with each other. It’s something ive dreamed about since I was a little kid, especially being from Minnesota, watching the documentaries and the movie, ‘Miracle,’ and Herb Brooks, and just the magic that brings to the State of Hockey and every little kid who watched it. It did to me. When that movie came out, I never thought it’d be a possibility that I could be there and do something like that. Now on Sunday I’ll have a chance to do that and your team can live on forever with that gold medal.
 
Parise
 
We’re excited for the opportunity. We’re not done. We still have a big challenge ahead of us.
 
We have some pretty proud individuals in our room and guys that have won on different levels and different stages. From a player perspective, you play games and expect to win. We don’t see ourselves as underdogs.
 
It’s really an opportunity of a lifetime right now. it doesn’t get much bigger than this.
 
Wilson
 
I want to help these kids realize their dream. Since they were born, they’ve all dreamed of 1) winning a Stanley cup and 2) winning a gold medal in the Olympics. If I can help these 23 young men accomplish that, that’ll be a great feeling for all us.
 
I didn’t know when it was going to end.
 
Scored first every game, haven’t trailed in any game
 
Start cautiously, so wanted surprise speed.
 
I hope we haven’t peaked two days too early. I haven’t seen them blink yet.
 
 
Patrick kane
 
On breaking out with two goals: "Like anything, I think it takes time to develop chemistry with certain linemates. I feel even at the start of the game, we were up 3-0 and I thought our line was playing really well and generating chances, and it was only a matter of time. I felt pretty good throughout the whole game. It would have been nice to put a couple of more (in), but it was definitely a starting point."
 
On the start: "It was a crazy 12 minutes to be a part of. I've never been a part of something like that. It seemed like we were scoring every shift, which is pretty amazing. Obviously a great start to the game. After that, we pretty much had to play defense and keep it safe."
 
On the game: "I feel we've yet to play our best game. Obviously that was a great 15 minutes for us, but it would have been nice to play a full 60. We've still got more in the tank I think. It was a greats start, an awesome win, an awesome feeling right now going to the gold-medal game . . . we're definitely coming away with a medal . . . but this team, all along, we knew we could win the gold medal and that's what our goal is still."
 
On facing Canada-Slovakia: "We did our job getting into the gold-medal game. To say we care who we play, I'd be lying to you. We just want to win the gold medal, it doesn't matter who it's against. From a fan's standpoint, you definitely want to see a USA-Canada game. Obviously we beat them once and proved ourselves, but at the same time, we don't care who we're facing."
 
On facing Canada/Luongo: "If we do, I've had my luck against him personally, so it's a goalie I wouldn't mind going up against. But at the same time, he's one of the best in the world, he's in net for Canada for a reason . . . he's playing great right now."
 
Jamie Langenbrunner
 
On the run to the gold-medal game: "It's been very special. It's been a great two weeks. We had a great vibe coming into this. We have a group of guys that really play for each other and it's been a lot of fun being a part of it."
 
On the confidence level of the team: "Our confidence level is fun. It has been since the opening of the tournament. We believed in our group. We had a focus of coming here to win the gold medal. I believe we can win a gold medal and now we've got that opportunity. We put a lot of work into these last two weeks, a lot of sacrifice by guys, and it's fun to have opportunity now."
 
Brian Rafalski
 
On leading the tournament in scoring: "I'm not forcing anything. It's just happening right now. I've been able to take advantage of some opportunities, playing with some great players. Everyone is moving the puck. No one is selfish. If there's a play to be made, guys are making plays."
 
On whether it's surprising to be in gold-medal game: "I don't know if it's a surprise, but obviously with the North American rink, guys are very used to that. It would be a different situation possibly on an Olympic-sized sheet, but who knows. It's the situation everybody is in and I think that's helped us."
 
NIKLAS BACKSTROM
 
ON COMING INTO A BLOWOUT
 
It's not what you want to happen or where you want to be but it's part of the game. You have to be ready to try and help your team. It's tough. We've been dreamining about the final and the gold for a long time. Then you basically get ten minutes and it's gone. It was a tough period for the whole team.
 
CAN US BEAT CANADA AGAIN?
 
I think so, for sure. It's a very good team. If they play like today, there's a good chance for that. I think their first period, they were really great. We didn't play that good. In the first period after the first couple minutes, everything went the wrong way for us.
 
ON TEEMU'S LAST GAME?
 
These players if it's their last game, they deserve a better finish than the game we had tonight. That's probably for the whole team something we need to step up and make it good game for them.

USA ahead 6-0 after 1 period on Finland

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 26, 2010 - 3:14 PM

Please note: Chip just put a fresh Wild blog right under this item.

Onslaught here in Vancouver after the US took a 6-0 lead into the second period on Finland. Miikka Kiprusoff surrendered four goals on seven shots in 10:08 of play.

Niklas Backstrom, in relief, gave up two on six shots.

Antti Miettinen and Niklas Hagman were minus-3's in six shifts. Mikko Koivu was on for one goal -- the sixth.

Through one period, Patrick Kane's got two goals, Ryan Malone one goal, one assist, Zach Parise one goal, one assist, Erik Johnson one goal, Paul Stastny one goal, one assist, Brian Rafalski two assists.

Kiprusoff started it off with terrible giveaway to give Malone an open-netter, and the rout was on.

More to come later

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