This is Michael Russo's 18th year covering the National Hockey League. He's covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005 following 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. Michael 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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From the Canada Hockey Place, where the Switzerland beat Belarus in a shootout and Canada crushed Germany. Slovakia-Norway fans are flooding the arena now. Czechs and Latvians are playing at a different venue.
The USA will play the Swiss at 2 p.m. CT Wednesday live on NBC. The Swiss needed a shootout to beat a scrappy Belarus team this afternoon, and the Swiss plays the US tough in the tournament's first game and took Canada to a shootout. So they won't be a cakewalk, especially with Jonas Hiller in net and former Wild players Hnat Domenichelli (three points) and Julien Sprunger (two goals) playing well. Roman Wick leads the Swiss with five points. Hiller's played four games and has a .897 save percentage and 2.80 goals against average, but that's bogus because shootouts count in there.
The Americans were loose today and heard Brian Burke's honest words Tuesday loud and clear. Coach Ron Wilson informed them Burke wasn't pleased at Tuesday's practice, then informed them that no No. 1 seed's won gold since 1988.
You can read the article in the paper, but lots of good stuff from today's availability. Lots of real good quotes on the US side, from David Backes to Brooks Orpik to Patrick Kane to Erik Johnson to Bobby Ryan and on and on and on.
Now Chuck Fletcher's just got to trade for two of them and I'll be a happy beat writer. It's all about the quote for moi.
The Germans might have awoken a sleeping giant tonight with Canada. The red and white just trounced 'em. Even when it was 1-0, it felt like 10. When it was 3-0, it felt like 30.
Roberto Luongo was barely tested, no matter was the "Louuuuuuuuuuuuuuu" birds would have you think.
Canada outshot Germany 39-23, with Jarome Iginla scoring two more goals (hat trick early in the tourney), Eric Staal having three assists, Duncan Keith playing great (two assists) and Sid the Kid scoring one. The Iginla-Staal-Crosby line (newly assembled) looked great.
Shea Weber, who's got the hardest shot maybe in the NHL, took a howitzer tonight that went through the netting and out so fast, nobody seemed to realize until they went to video review. Well, NBC's Eddie Olczyk noticed. He saw it with the naked eye because as he told me during the second intermission, "I ate a pound of carrots last night."
Now Canada faces powerhouse Russia with one going home. You can read the article on that, focusing on Sid the Kid vs. Alex the Ovechkin.
Couple good quotes:
Babcock on starting Luongo over Brodeur: "I think his bank account shows he’s a pretty good goalie. I know every time we play him, he puts up this wall.”
On picking Sidney Crosby to take a penalty shot over Rick Nash, who was hauled down (Olympics you can pick anyone to take penalty shot): "It's just math. The stats show Crosby has a better chance to score than Nash."
Luongo on replacing Brodeur: "Twenty years from now, if we win, nobody will remember who played goal, but they will remember that we won."
Iginla on Russia: "We can play rough and tough style, too. I'm not worried about that. We imagine it'll be physical and intense. I can't wait."
Wild owner Craig Leipold is in the house, and he doesn't look stressed. No rolled up game notes at least. The NHL's brought in all the Board of Governors for an all-expenses trip here (except food and nightcaps, I think).
Wild resume practice Wednesday. What's the Wild? Vikings scribe Chip Scoggins will be there to cover for me.
OK, that's it for me. Talk to you Wednesday.
From the building formerly known as GM Place, the USA women are currently leading Sweden 5-1 after two periods.
I just got back up from the Brian Burke press scrum, and the American GM lit into his team like all smart coach/GM's would do after a big win that did in fact accomplish nothing other than a simpler path (would avoid Canada, Russia or Sweden to gold-medal game if they're in it) to the ultimate goal.
Some Burke highlights:
--"I’m not happy with the way we've played to this point. … We have to play significantly better. We need all hands on deck. We’re playing with about 10 guys carrying us. … Thank god there are some guys pulling on the rope, but we need everyone pulling on the rope."
Injured? "As far as I know he's healthy. Stupid, but healthy."
Couple other items:
--Roberto Luongo will likely get the start tomorrow vs. Germany
--NBC will televise live Wednesday U.S. game on NBC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What an honor! USA-Canada on MSNBC was third-highest rating in MSNBC history (8.2 million people).
--Wild's Antti Miettinen on why he sat on the bench in full uniform and didn't play a shift vs. Sweden: "I played like [expletive] the first two games. That’s why."
So like I said, U.S. will win.
Man, what a game! NHL superstars in an Olympic setting, that was an amazing hockey game as the undermanned, underestimated, undereverything U.S. beat the Canadians in enemy territory.
Just a gritty, gritty performance, and yes, one that needed a marvelous goaltending performance from Ryan Miller. He was sensational, especially in an opening period when the Americans were outshot 19-6 and a final 3 minute in which he was peppered.
Jamie Langenbrunner, from Cloquet, scored the winning goal by deflecting Brian Rafalski's shot by Devils teammate Marty Brodeur and screened Brodeur on two Rafalski goals. Zach Parise great game. Ryan Kesler, so good, Wild fans might actually grow to love him -- until that first Canucks-Wild game again.
Chris Drury, the guy Brian Burke was so heavily criticized for taking, scored a huge goal and was terrific on the penalty kill.
"Ever since I was a Sabre fan, Drury scored big goals," said Patrick Kane.
Mike Babcock said after the game that the Canada's goaltending had to be better, which opens the door for Roberto Luongo starting Tuesday against Germany.
Indirectly (a turnover led to a faceoff and Rafalski’s first goal) or directly (second and third goals), Brodeur’s puck-handling played a part in the United States’ first three goals. Remember, Brodeur partially got the start over Luongo because Luongo is one of the NHL’s weakest puck-handling goalies.
With Sweden beating Finland, the U.S. will play the winner of Switzerland-Belarus on Wednesday
Winner of Canada-Germany plays ... Russia Wednesday. U.S would avoid Canada or Russia until a possible gold-medal game. Basically, Canada, Russia, Sweden will get to all beat each other up. How about possibly Sid vs. Alex in the quarters with one going home?
Antti Miettinen didn't play a shift tonight. I'll tell you why in Tuesday's paper -- or you can go to my twitter to find out.
OK, that's it. You can read the game story and notebook in Monday's paper for tons more info/quotes on the U.S. victory and Russia's win over the Czechs.
Not to make you jealous, but look at my press box seat for one of the great international hockey days in the history of the world:
The press box stretches entire lower box from faceoff circles to faceoff circles. Just think of the money being tossed out the window to house us here? So thank you to the IOC.
It's been an amazing experience and today will hopefully live up to the hype.
Had a fun day yesterday covering ski jumping. First, it was nice to be outside. Second, these fearless people that soar into the air are amazing to see in person. I hurt my foot walking up to the bottom of the hill. These guys at 92 kph soar 110 to 140 meters in the air?
How do you even muster up the guts to do that the first time? I get nervous stepping off a curb.
That Swiss star, Simon Ammann, who won his fourth gold medal, is a beast. He's so good, they dropped the starting gate down four slots basically so he wouldn't fly into the crowd.
OK, hockey next. Enjoy the games and I'll be back later. For real time updates and smart aleck comments, follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib,
Good evening from Vancouver, early morning back in the Cities. Coming to you from the building formerly known as the GM Place, where I just watched the Finns beat Germany 5-0 behind a 24-save effort from Niklas Backstrom.
It was Backstrom's first-ever Olympic appearance. He didn't dress in the 2006 Olympics in Turin. Backstrom's best saves were a suave glove stop on a Manuel Klinge first-period breakaway, a doormouth second-period shot by Sven Felski, a second-period breakaway stop on Marco Sturm and third-period point-blank chances by Kai Hospelt, Jochen Hecht and Thomas Greilinger.
Teemu Selanne, playing his fifth Olympics, got an assist on Kimmo Timonen's second goal and is now the all-time leading Olympic scorer in history (37, passing Vlastimil Bubnik of Czechoslovakia).
No points for Mikko Koivu or Antti Miettinen.
Most productive day I had at the Olympics thus far because I actually did some non-work stuff. Woke up bright and early and took a long walk around Richmond. Dropped off my laundry (although I have no clue when I'll be able to pick it up since I'm in the mountains all day Saturday and at hockey all day Sunday). Went to Zellers to buy new gloves since as usual, I lost one (I'd rather lose two) and then came to the rink and got here by 10:30 for puck.
Reported on, then wrote a column/feature, a last-second notebook on how the heck you pronounce Marek Zidlicky's last name (here's that story), wrote my Sunday advance on USA-Canada game and now I've just completed watching my third hockey game.
It's now 11 p.m.ish local, I've got about an hour's commute back to my hotel, a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call staring me in the face and a 6 a.m. bus up to Whistler, then another 45-minute to hour busride apparently to Whistler Olympic Park, where I'll take in ski jumping and hopefully write a good feature on the two Americans who advanced to the large hill first round.
Zidlicky had three assists tonight against Latvia. He now leads the tournament with four assists in two games. Remember, he led all defensemen in the '06 Olympics with four goals. Marty Havlat, as you can read in the notebook, did not play much as he seemed to take a back seat to Jaromir Jagr (10:10 of ice time for Havlat, and taken off the power play).
His parents, Slava and Hanna, apparently (I didn't see it) were also interviewed on the Jumbotron before the game.
"How, they speak no English?" said Havlat.
Through a translator, of course.
OK, I'm going to skip a day of hockey on Saturday and go up to the mountains again and cover that ski jumping, but I'll be back at the hockey rink for a huge Sunday featuring the last three Olympic finalists -- Sweden vs. Finland, Canada vs. U.S. and Czechs vs. Russia.
Lastly, if you read my story in Saturday's paper (here's the link) on just what type of rabid atmosphere has been at these games, this is a picture Nicklas Olofsson emailed me of he and his friends.
Fiona Alexander, Johan Lindell, Nicklas Olofsson and Jess Lucas
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