The World Cup of Hockey started Monday with a 4-0 Finland win over the Czech Republic. It continued yesterday with a 5-2 Sweden victory over Germany and a 2-1 Canada win over USA.
[Game 1] Mon: FIN 4 - CZH 0. The death of coach Ivan Hlinka is hanging over a talented Czech team. Finland outplayed the Czechs in the offensive zone, and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was rarely tested in the defensive zone. Niko Kapanen had a PP goal, and an assist, Saku Koivu had a goal, and former Shark Ville Peltonen had an assist.
[Game 2] Tue: SWE 5 - GER 2. The Swedes were simply too much for the German squad as Germany had trouble finding room to skate on the NHL-sized ice. Marco Sturm had yet another breakaway short-handed goal, but he was still a step slow after recovering from surgery. The announcers said he thought he was 85%. Mats Sundin had one goal and two assists, Holmstrom had a PP goal and an assist, and the line of Zetterberg-Naslund-Forsberg is going to be scary when it starts to click.
[Game 3] Tue: CAN 2 - USA 1. This game has resulted in the most email sent in, most of it having to do with Jeremy Roenick's breathless wrestling-style commentary. I have no problem with it. He is fired up, and it provides a fun atmosphere that differs from the usual broadcast. Team USA was worried about goaltending, but Robert Esche made 30 saves on 32 shots, and really held the team together in the first period. Canada got goals from Martin St. Louis [PP] and Joe Sakic [PP], USA got a goal from Bill Guerin with an assist from Scott Gomez. One controversial moment from the game came when the puck went off the netting before the first Canada goal. The play was not stopped, and the goal counted.
Thanks to those sending in articles. Ross McKeon of the San Francisco Chronicle has his world cup preview
online. ESPN has a well designed World Cup 2004
section. Visit the official website http://wch2004.com
, and the official Canadian
and USA Hockey
websites. Andrew's World Cup coverage
is also very informative.
My WC preview is below:
North American pool:
Marleau and Hannan were scratched for the first game, but they should play a role later in the tournament [Update: Jovanovski injured
]. Canada plays a physical game up front and on the blueline, they will rely on a wealth of offensive firepower [Lecavalier, Lemieux, Sakic, St Louis]. Canada has the best goaltending in the tournament bar none [Brodeur, Luongo, Theodore], even after Belfour withdrew due to injury. Having Canada instead of individual names on the back of the jerseys is cool, but the mustard yellow Canadian throwback color was frightening.
Many of the players from the last World Cup championship team 8 years ago still play a prominent role for Team USA and coach Ron Wilson. Up front this may not be a problem, but on the blueline it is a concern. Matthew Schneider declined to participate, and Hall Gill, Derian Hatcher and Jordan Leopold are not on the team due to injuries. Brian Leetch and Chris Chelios will both log a lot of ice time. The goaltending trio is young [Esche, DiPietro, Conklin], but all three had flashes of excellence this year. Esche looked solid in the first game, but Ron Wilson needs to find out which goalie is hot, and ride him as far as possible. Bill Guerin and Scott Gomez are the players who need to live in the crease.
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov made it official that he will not play for Russia in the World Cup tournament. He is still recovering from offseason knee surgery
. Nikolai Khabibulin [best name in hockey] and Sergei Federov, also declined to play for the national team. Russia is going to have to play defense by scoring more goals. That should not be a problem with Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Kovalev, Sergei Samsonov, Pavel Datsyuk and Alexander Ovechkin. Russia will rely on Anaheim prospect Ilya Bryzgalov in net. Not adding San Jose forward Alexander Korolyuk to the roster was a mistake.
I have been following Slovakia mostly because of the reports by Jes Golbez
. Slovakia took a hit with a recent injury to Peter Bondra, and their goaltending is untested [Budaj, Stana, Lasak]. Hossa-Demitra-Gaborik, and Zednik-Stumpel-Satan provide two solid lines that are going to have to do a lot of work for Slovakia. [Note: Injury riddled Slovaks face Canada
Sweden, Canada and USA are the three favorites in the tournament. The weakness for Team Sweden would have to be in net with Tommy Salo. He is a proven NHL netminder, but has struggled to do well at key times in the playoffs. In the first game against Germany he let in another long shot, and almost a second that went off his glove and was thrown in the net with a hand pass. San Jose Sharks forward Nils Ekman is in the lineup, but might be a healthy scratch. Forsberg-Naslund-Zetterberg has to be the most dangerous line in the tournament. Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson are two more NHL captains in the lineup. Norris trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, and former Shark Marcus Ragnarsson are on the blueline.
Finland's strength in goal is second only to team Canada. Former Shark Miikka Kiprusoff and current Shark Vesa Toskala will keep Team Finland in games and give them the opportunity to win. Saku Koivu, former Shark Teemu Selanne, former Shark Ville Peltenon, Olli Jokinen, and Calgary agitator Ville Nieminen will have to get it done on offense.
The story of the Czech team is the death of coach Ivan Hlinka shortly before the start of the tournament. The team has always had the knock of not being motivated enough to perform well consistently, and a lot of people were looking at Hlinka to address that. Tomas Vokoun should get the majority of minutes in goal, with Roman Cechmanek providing a solid backup. Jagr, Hejduk, Havlat, and Elias are going to have to lead the rest of the team by example.
Team Germany has the largest contingent of San Jose Sharks on their roster with Marco Sturm, Marcel Goc, and Christian Ehrhoff. Washington Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig will have to play inspired hockey in order to give Germany a chance to win games. Jochan Hect will also skate on the first line with Goc and Sturm. Germany is the underdog of the tournament, but a hot goaltender can steal a game. Stealing enough games to get into the later rounds of the tournament will be a challenge.
Other notes around the league:
- ESPN World Cup analyst Jeremy Roenick was asked during an intermission of the USA-CAN game: [Q - from Steve Levy] Have you ever bet on hockey? [A - JR] "... I would never do that". Later on in the interview he mentioned, "everything was on football." That is enough of an answer for me. For some writers looking to fill blank space during a lockout, it might not be enough.
- The Phoenix Coyotes continue to build an impressive team for a season that may never happen. After signing
free agent Petr Nedved [19 goals, 27 assists, 81 games], the Coyotes traded center Daymond Langkow to Calgary for defenseman Denis Gauthier and winger Oleg Saprykin. Additions in Phoenix this offseason: Devereaux, Gauthier, Hull, M. Johnson, Nedved, O'Donnell, Ricci, Saprykin.
- The Hockey Rodent
breaks down the x's and o's of the 5-2 German loss to Sweden.
- Anna from Sweden asks me if I have any photos of goalie Tommy Salo in a national jersey. No. Another fan did sent in this link to the official Swedish hockey media guide
[in English] which might be of interest. Also take a look at Aftonbladet
which is covering every minute of Sweden play. Salo made an appearance in San Jose with the Colorado Avalanche this postseason, but he did not start a game.
- Also an update on Danish hockey from an earlier post
, the author Peter Seeberg emails in his recommendations about where to go to watch the Denmark Super Best league. The name of that league is perfect.
Hockey in Denmark: If you go to Kopenhagen, R�dovre is the best venue,
Rungsted/Nordsj�lland ok, Herlev to be avoided. Odense, where I live, is
a couple of hours from Kopenhagen by train... always good atmosphere. In
Jutland, Herning and Esbjerg are interesting, Herning has always been a
force. Vojens, a small club now named "S�nderjylland" plays there, is
also interesting because of the atmosphere...a crazy place, especially
against local opponents like Esbjerg and Herning.
[Update] Jeremy Roenick offers up his own plan
for a CBA solution. I predict the "Roenick Ceiling" will be labeled a salary cap by the NHLPA and the scorn/ridicule will commence shortly. My solution is to have a cage match between Bettman and Goodenow with Brett Hull as the referee, and Don Cherry/Barry Melrose as the announcers. Winner take all. Just don't schedule it in Ottawa.
[Update2] Hi NHLPA! Hope you enjoyed the site.