2009-05-08

Live blog: Canada v. Sweden


Semi-final day at the World Championships, and what's not to like? Russia-USA on now, followed by Canada-Sweden (noon MDT on TSN, not rebroadcast on tape delay until 1:30 a.m. -- believe it or not TSN is showing a rebroadcast of something called the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 during late prime time, an event which will have already just been shown on TSN2 for all those NASCAR buffs in their audience. Meanwhile people with day jobs will be left in the lurch for the IIHF World Championship semi-final. Sheesh.)

I'll be watching both games live, and doing updates on the Canada game here during the intermissions, with briefer entries in the comments section during the action. Do drop in and join me there.

Quarterfinal review -- Canada 4, Latvia 2

TSN just showed a weird stat that the four quarterfinals collectively produced 0 goals in the first period and 17 in the second. Say what? I watched much of the Canada-Latvia contest on tape delay, and while it was far from Canada's best game they got the job done against a Latvian group that hung in admirably. The 48-23 margin in shots -- including 22-4 in the decisive seond period -- suggests Canada was fully deserving of their 4-2 edge on the scoreboard. The Latvians twice cut a two-goal deficit in half, and had golden opportunities to do so again late in the third when Canada ran into penalty problems for the second straight game. Of particular interest was a rare 6-on-3 advantage the Latvians enjoyed with about 4 minutes left, but Chris Mason and the Canadian penalty-killers held the fort. Major contributors were Shea Weber (26:13 TOI, 6½ minutes more than any other defenceman) and Marty St.Louis (22:09, 5 minutes more than any other forward).

Pregame -- Canada 0, Sweden 0

Unlike the other three combatants today, the Swedes have no current Oilers, but do feature Oilers past (Dick Tarnstrom) and future (Linus Omark, pictured above and at right). I caught some of Omark's flashy skills at that Millennium Place prospects camp, but nothing that foreshadowed the big splash he made this year in the SEL not to mention Youtube. Young Lee-nus has also done himself at the proud at the Worlds, where he leads the Swedes in scoring with 2-8-10.

A key player for the Swedes on the back end is the old war horse Kenny Jonsson, who logs major minutes, contributes on the scoreboard (3-3-6) and leads the tourney by a wide margin in plus/minus (+12).

Canada will continue to rely on excellent special teams, including an awesome powerplay that has been clicking at 43.9% on 18-for-41. The PK unit has been solid allowing just 4 goals on 39 opportunities (89.7%), including a couple of extended 3-on-5s and even that 3-on-6. Only Austria of all countries has a better PK rate, while Canada's PP is far ahead of the pack. Of particular interest today is Sweden, who rank middle of the pack in both categories at +8/-8.

Thanks largely to special teams and goaltending (combined .948 Sv%), Canada leads the tourney in both GF (39) and GA (12).

To paraphrase the old saw about statistics, all of the above and $7.75 will buy you a beer at Rexall Place. Or it would, if Rexall were (ahem) open for business.

***

Update: Lindy Ruff has shuffled his top two lines, moving Shane Doan on to the Spezza line and bumping Heatley to the port side. Derek Roy assumes Doan's former spot with Stamkos and St.Louis, with MSL presumably lining up on the starboard side. The explanation was that the Ottawa duo needed to be shored up defensively. That's what Doan already Was doing with the Tampa tandem. Speaks volumes about the wonderful two-way game that Marty St. Louis brings to the table, but is less complimentary of Spezza and Heatley. The one constant in all this is that whatever line Shane Doan winds up on, he will help.

Game ON.

***

First intermission -- Canada 1, Sweden 0

Terrific first period. Both teams are flying, Canada a little higher and full value for the lead. What a beautiful goal it was, with tournament scoring leader Marty St.Louis burning Mattias Weinhandl along the end wall with a quick inside move, darting behind the net and drawing Weinhandl, the front-of-net defenceman, and the goalie to their right before slipping a back feed to Derek Roy lurking at the nearside post. With no defenders in sight, Roy merely had to make a high-skill play of taking the pass off the back of the cage, pull the puck just in front of the goal line, and roof one over a lunging Gustavsson from a very sharp angle. A sweet goal, especially for me. (I have "owned" both St.Louis and Roy long-term in my keeper league hockey pool, and am a big fan of both.)

Roy was flying all period, later making a superb play to receive a wayward pass outside the blueline, cut sharply to beat his man, drive wide and slip a seeing-eye pass through to Spezza for a dangerous deflection that Gustavsson did well to stop.

At the other end Roli was suctioning up pucks, wrapping himself around them and waiting for the whistle, secure in the knowledge that Canada has 3 guys in the top 20 in faceoffs, Sweden none. A couple of nervous moments in the late going though, especially when he failed to hold a muffin with a couple of seconds left in the frame.

On the blue, the impressive Drew Doughty has been paired with another fine youngster, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, with both getting Top Four minutes while Chris Phillips has been placed with Braydon Coburn on what seems to be the third pairing. The studly Shea Weber and Dan Hamhuis are clearly the top pair.

***

Second intermission -- Canada 3, Sweden 0

The comments section is rolling now so I'll keep this brief. Things continue to go well, with rapid fire goals by Horcoff at evens followed by Roy on the PP. Roli playing well. Swedes were bringing it at the end of the period, and will have a partial PP to start the third. Huge kill required ... I don't get the sense the Swedes are done, 3-0 or no 3-0.

***

Postgame - Canada 3, Sweden 1

Objects in the mirror were much closer than they appeared, as the Swedes carried their momentum into the third, dominating play in the Canadian end for shifts at a time. The Canadians seemed a step slow to loose pucks and had a terrible time clearing the zone. Inevitably the Swedes capaitalized with a goal 6 minutes in, as the Spezza-Heatley combination got burned yet again. As PDO mentioned, that pair has been on the ice for every ES goal against but one in the tournament, as well as the 1 shortie against Latvia. Great on the powerplay but ...

The Swedes continued to bring it as my knuckles whitened. The turning point was a penalty to Roy around 9 minutes in, which the Canadians killed far more effectively than they had been killing the clock at evens. The game stabilized at that point as the Candians raised their effort to match the Swedes, winning more puck battles and earning a far better distribution of zone time. Heatley and Spezza languished on the bench for the most part, as can be seen in Lindy Ruff's distribution of ice time:

20:41 Fisher
19:22 Horcoff
16:01 Zajac
15:44 Roy
15:39 St.Louis
13:28 Lombardi, Stamkos
12:33 Doan
12:00 Upshall
10:53 Heatley
10:49 Spezza
10:36 Armstrong

While we're at it, let's look at the blue, where the new pairings achieved a clear hierarchy:

24:12 Hamhuis
23:28 Weber
22:10 Doughty
21:58 Vlasic
13:39 Coburn
12:13 Phillips
00:00 Schenn, Kwiatkowski

Any thoughts that Drew Doughty was being protected by Phillips can safely be dispelled. He has a poised all-ice game that is reminiscent of a young Raymond Bourque in that both looked completely at home in the NHL from Day One. Doughty has responded to his first World Championships by posting a creditable 8 GP, 1-6-7, +5 at age 19. Clearly Lindy Ruff likes what he sees; it's interesting to compare ice time for Doughty and fellow high draft pick (and fellow stud) Luke Schenn.

To finish the ice time review, Roloson played all 60 minutes between the pipes and delivered a strong performance with 25 stops. While Mason still has the statistical edge, Roli (2.20, .936) has faced the stronger opponents. Lindy Ruff has an interesting decision to make Sunday.

Speaking of Sunday, Oil Droppings will once against host a Game Day Thread. After an early-morning appetizer of Omark and O'Sullivan, the Gold Medal Game gets underway at half past Noon MDT. Canada-Russia, the classic rivalry, the rematch of last year's overtime thriller. The winner will be the first country to win 25 World Championships.

66 comments:

Bruce said...

First semi-final review: Russia 3, USA 2

A terrific contest which was literally not decided until the last second when the Americans made a great play to set up Patrick O'Sullivan, only to have the young Oiler "sniper" fire high and wide of the target from point blank range. The good news was that POS led all American forwards with 22:30 TOI, but did little with it (0 shots).

The Yanks have at least three forwards I absolutely covet as the type of player Oilers badly need. Unfortunately, I don't suppose Dustin Brown, David Backes, or Drew Stafford will be pried loose from their existing clubs anytime soon, as they are the type of players who are coveted everywhere.

The Russians were led in every way by Ilya Kovalchuk, who had an outstanding performance with a goal and an assist, a +2 rating, and a phenomenal 25:57 TOI, fully 50% more than the next closest Russian, either forward or defenceman! I am finally warming to Kovalchuk after years of indifference/dislike; he wears his emotions on his sleeve, but that can be a good thing. It sure was today.

Second in ice time at 17:19 was the Peripatetic Predator, Alexander Radulov. Radulov fired the decsive shot on a late-game powerplay, and his Fleury-esque celebration that followed eventually took him all the way to his own goal line. On his knees. Certainly left the impression that he was very happy to stick it to the Americans, and it's hard to argue that sentiment.

A little over-the-top with time on the clock, though, and the Americans came within an ace of evening the count.

Bruce said...

One more decidedly odd thing was that game continued the medal round trend with no scoring in the first period and 4 goals in the second. That's now 0 first period goals and 21 in the middle frame through 5 sudden death games. I don't think I've ever encountered (or at least, noticed) anything quite like that before.

PDO said...

Canada has been on for 6 ES goals against and one shortie against.

Heatley and Spezza were both on for 5 of those ES goals and the shortie.

That's amazing.

Careful saying Horcoff has been good in a shutdown role... he's getting crucified for not scoring by the usual suspects, even though he hasn't spent a second in an offensive role.

Sean said...

Know of any live feeds?

Bruce said...

PDO: Thanks for coming, it was getting lonely in here. Good find on those GA stats for Heatley-Spezza. So far so good today, with Doan taking care of business as expected, including an absolutely hellacious open-ice hit.

The Helicopter Line (no wings!) of Horcoff-Zajac-Fisher has been A-OK to my eye in the (parts of) games I've seen. Horc and Fisher have been the premier penalty-killers. At evens they're not scoring but are carrying the play on the forecheck, and have been reliable in the defensive zone. I'd love to see stats like QualComp and ZoneStart on these guys but as a long-time Horc fan, it seems to me pretty much business as usual.

Traktor said...

PDO:

Regardless of the role he has played Horcoff has looked mediocre at best in this tourney.

There's a reason why Zajac took his 3C gig.

PDO said...

Trak:

Honestly, I haven't seen much of the tournament. I've seen him basically used like Madden, so I don't really care about the scoring... that would be gravy for Canada. Really, the only time Canada has scored period is on the PP... the entire team has had offensive issues at 5v5.

From what I've read, he's had issues on the dot, and that is why he was swung onto the wing?

Surprising, given he did pretty well on the dot last year, but sample size and all that.

PDO said...

And, while he lost the 3C gig to Zajac, he certainly didn't lose his ice time which has consistently been high, nor being #1 option on the PK.

So Ruff must like a good chunk of the things he has been doing.

HBomb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HBomb said...

Regardless of the role he has played Horcoff has looked mediocre at best in this tourney.

Hey look kids, there's Big Ben! And there's Parliament!

PDO said...

Okay, is there some sort of Greasemonkey script that alerts everyone when the name Horocff is said that I'm not aware of?

Doogie2K said...

That save looked uncomfortable just there.

Doogie2K said...

Someone say something about Horcoff not scoring?

Bruce said...

Hey, my first Big Ben post. As I see it, Horc is the only LH shot on the Helicopter Line so he defaults to the port side. It's to his credit that he's vesatile enough to do the job on the wing, where he got his early-career training from Craig MacTavish.

SCORE-COFF!!!!!!!!

PDO said...

Geno.

He was just saving it for when we needed one.

Traktor said...

In before Horcoff and die!

Doogie2K said...

SCORE!

That was fast.

PDO said...

In before Horcoff and die!... I'm actually so sad I didn't think to say that. Hah.

Looks like Scorecoff opened up the floodgates eh?

Are Spezza and Heatley the two most one-dimensional players in the league? I mean, they're tearing this tournament a new one on the PP, but when it's evens they're getting wrecked.

HBomb said...

For all the "Heat" that Dany takes as a one-way guy, who here wouldn't take him as LW for Horcoff and Hemsky?

Didn't think so. Guy has deficiencies, but he's an elite finisher. Exactly the type of 1LW I'd want for the Oilers, given the choice.

I'd also settle for Kovalchuk.

Bruce said...

Derek Roy with a second roof job from a bad angle (the first is described in the first intermission segment on the main post). He's really got his hands going today. His feet too. Derek's a fun player to watch when he brings his A game.

PDO said...

HBomb, I'd take him, but only because he doesn't like carrying the puck.

I've been extremely underwhelmed by him... moreso Spezza, but both of them are just trainwrecks any time the puck isn't in the offensive zone.

HBomb said...

Roy's out of the same class as Horcoff - second tier (i.e. 19-36) in the league in centers, good player who immediately becomes a depth player on a team like this, and has the skill-set to contribute in a variety of ways.

Glad to see those two generating some offense today.

Oh - anyone want to set an over/under on Shea Weber winning the Norris? I think he and Bouwmeester are going to do their fair share of battling over that trophy once Lidstrom and Niedermayer retire (although they'll still have the Pronger and Chara types to contend with).

Bruce said...

HBomb: The 3H line sounds good. Horcoff would do for Heatley what Spezza doesn't do.

Unfortunately, the guy who is constantly rumoured to be moving on (here?) is Spezza, not Heatley. I'm much less of a fan, he's got some great skill but also some huge warts which don't seem to be diminishing with age.

Doogie2K said...

@Hbomb: I'll lay down money that Weber wins a Norris before Phaneuf.

Bruce said...

Man, is Vlasic any good?

PDO said...

Doogie:

Problem being, Phaneuf already has a nomination because of the idiots who actually do the voting.

Weber is likely already better than Phaneuf ever will be.

HBomb said...

Bruce: Spezza is a guy I'm not a fan of. He'd be a terrible fit with Hemsky. Heatley though, you'd live with the deficiencies, because he might just score 50 with Ales on his opposite wing.

D2K: Note I didn't even mention Phaneuf in that discussion. The guy is not worthy of being discussed when talking about the Norris OR the Olympic Team at this point.

Like I said to Bruce earlier in the week - Weber IS what the media THINKS Phaneuf is.

HBomb said...

Pop quiz: you're Steve Yzerman and you have to name your Olympic Team blueline today. Who's your seven d-men?

HBomb's Answer (previously posted):

Pronger Niedermayer (veteran saavy)
Bouwmeester Weber (future Norris winners)
Seabrook Keith (ready-made shutdown pairing)
Green (D-man goal-scoring freak)

Also in running: Boyle, Regehr
Not considered: Phaneuf

Traktor said...

Hbomb: Where would you rank Todd White on your list of centers?

HBomb said...

Traktor: 3rd tier. 37-54.

Doogie2K said...

Like I said to Bruce earlier in the week - Weber IS what the media THINKS Phaneuf is.Which is precisely why I mentioned him. He has the only nomination so far, but like I keep saying, he's not even the best D on his own team.

Traktor said...

Hbomb: Who would you rather have, Kesler or Horcoff?

HBomb said...

D2K: Phaneuf may be the most overrated player in the NHL right now.

In fact, I'd say it's not even close. The body of work does not justify the hype in the least.

And the Norris nomination was pure horse-shit. Even Flames fans know that.

PDO said...

Hbomb:

Sub in Regehr for Bouwmeester, but play him with Pronger, and you have mine.

It's on NA ice. Let Pronger know he's only playing 20 minutes a night and watch kids get blown up all game long.

Goods times are had by all.

PDO said...

HBomb, haven't you heard?

Phaneuf hurt his hip in training camp. That's why he can't progress as a player and was on for the most goals against of any defenseman in the NHL.

IF his hip was okay, he'd be back to destroying 4th liners on open ice hits that put him out of position and getting caught with a dumb look on his face after PK goals where he's standing around doing nothing!!

Doogie2K said...

Was that game against Finland really 15 flippin' years ago? I remember that shootout.

HBomb said...

Traktor: I'll ask this - could I have both?

Because, sadly (and I use that term because we could have had him at 22nd in 2003), Kesler is the walking definition of the guy we need at center behind Horcoff and Gagner right now. Big, nasty right-handed center.

One or the other though? Horcoff.

Bruce said...

Doogie/PDO: HBomb and I had the Phaneuf v. Weber discussion in the comments section of the Canada-Finland post. I'm sure they've been compared ever since they paired up in the 2005 World Juniors. To my eye Weber was better then and he's better now. A stud at both ends of the rink and on both special teams, but a stud with far fewer brain cramps than the Ugly Monster.

Other studly blueliners on that 2005 team included Braydon Coburn, Cam Barker, and Brent Seabrook. And (sigh) Danny Syvret.

HBomb said...

PDO: You are preaching to the damn choir.

This here is a guy who has NOT bought into the Phaneuf hype-machine from minute one. And I'm not about to until I see some results that support the hype, some steak to go with the sizzle, some cattle to go with the hat...you get the idea.

Bruce said...

And the Norris nomination was pure horse-shit. Even Flames fans know that.I would suggest Especially Flames fans know that. If they're paying attention.

Traktor said...

"One or the other though? Horcoff."

Crazy.

I'd give Horc a slight edge in passing/play making but other than than that Kesler trumps Horcoff in every area, especially the grit department.

Then again I've been saying Fisher is the superior center for years and he plays a very similar style to Kesler.

HBomb said...

Bruce: You know what's amazing?

Mike Green didn't make that 2005 team, even though he was eligible.

And all he did this season was score goals at a freakish rate for a d-man.

The guy I like that doesn't get enough credit is Coburn. He's turned into a nice stopper D-man in Philly. How Don Waddell wasn't fired on the spot for trading him for Alexei f'n Zhitnik is beyond me. That's "not getting Getzlaf for Pronger" bad right there.

HBomb said...

Traktor: Kesler had a "career" year this year and scored 59 points. Horcoff's gone over 70 once and was on pace to hit that plateau in 2007-08 before injury.

Three years from now, you may be right. But right now? Horcoff's the proven power-vs-power guy with a better history of offensive production. Grit? Kesler's one of the grittiest guys in the damn league, so of course there's no comparison there.

Ribs said...

And (sigh) Danny SyvretSyvret! Finished 2nd in scoring for D-men in the AHL this year with 57 points. He even managed to be +7. Take that! Robbie.

PDO said...

Then again I've been saying Fisher is the superior center for years and he plays a very similar style to Kesler.Except Horcoff is significantly superior defensively to both, being he actually plays the other teams top line rather than having a rep for doing it while Alfie or the Sedin's take care of business.

Bruce said...

This game is a l-o-n-g way from being over.

And before I can hit "publish", Sweden scores.

The team in blue has absolutely Owned this period.

Doogie2K said...

Holy crap, where was the D on that goal? How do you have two guys that open in the low slot like that?

Bruce said...

This game will be easier to win if we played 6 minutes in each zone rather than all 20 in one. Doan of all people lost about three battles along the boards there resulting in a tunover before the red line, and the Swedes just came right back in again.

Sean said...

That's "not getting Getzlaf for Pronger" bad right there.I'm not gonna defend the trade but Lowe was in a position when he had to trade Pronger whereas why Waddel wanted to trade Coburn is beyond me.

Traktor said...

"Horc actually plays the other teams top line rather than having a rep for doing it while Alfie or the Sedin's take care of business."

How did that go for him this year? I think his PTS/60 was sandwiched in between Smack and Reddox.

He certainly didn't do as well as when he had Reasoner and Stoll taking the brunt of the tough minutes but he certainly gets the rep for it.

Bruce said...

I haven't been this nervous with a two goal lead since last year's gold medal game. Egads.

Bruce said...

Great PK shift from Horc there, worked his ass off for 30 seconds and made a real heads-up change on a sliver of an opportunity to get fresh legs out there.

HBomb said...

How did that go for him this year? I think his PTS/60 was sandwiched in between Smack and Reddox.

Yet he still outscored going head-to-head with the other team's best.

He certainly didn't do as well as when he had Reasoner and Stoll taking the brunt of the tough minutes but he certainly gets the rep for it.

Calling bullshit. Having options in Stoll and Reasoner helped greatly (i.e. #10 didn't have to take EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DEFENSIVE ZONE DRAW), but for their tenure here, Horcoff was still the number 1 tough minutes option nine nights out of ten.

Saying otherwise is a flat-out line and is akin to those people who talked about Peca doing such a great job as the shut-down center in the 2006 playoffs (he wasn't the guy going head-to-head with Joe Thornton and Henrik Zetterberg, last time I checked).

Doogie2K said...

I haven't been this nervous with a two goal lead since last year's gold medal game. Egads.Game 4 of the WHL Eastern Conference Final. It's not every day you see a team hock up a 5-0 lead to barely hang on for the 6-4 win.

Doogie2K said...

Did Heatley just make a defensive play there? I wasn't paying attention.

Bruce said...

Oh c'mon, Coburn for Zhitnik is a much worse trade. That was like trading an old Smid for a young Pronger. No other assets either, just one-for-one. Moreover, Zhitnik had 3 years left at $3.5 MM per; Coburn had three years left for $3.5 TOTAL.

Probably the single worst theft of the new millennium.

Bruce said...

OK, let me rephrase that: that's like trading Tommy Albelin for a young Chris Pronger. :)

Bruce said...

Bonehead pass by Armstrong there.

Bruce said...

Another bonehead pass into the slot, this time by Fisher. I'm on the exact same page as Dave Reid on this one. Those are chances you take when you're down by two, not when you're ahead.

Bruce said...

Yeah!!! Horc notches the game winner, Roli builds a brick wall between the pipes, and Canada rolls on to the Gold Medal Game.

Go Canada! Goilers!

Black Gold said...

Horcoff was looking a little violent along the boards there with about 1:30 left to go.
Certainly more violent than effective, haha. He definitely looked like he hasn't had to break out as a winger since about peewee hockey.

Black Gold said...

Not that he had a bad game, but his last shift stood out for me.
Has anyone watched much of USA and POS?
I see he's getting points and a ton of ice time, but how's he looking..

Bruce said...

BG: That whole last period was a huge battle for the puck, much of it along the boards and blueline in the Canadian end. On that last shift Horc at least was holding his own in there, even as he couldn't get it cleanly over the line; neither could a whole bunch of Canadians under similar circumstances all period as the Swedes really poured it on. But he battled hard, never got beat nor gave the puck away at any point, eventually took part in the breakout, made the safe shoot-in and change. It was a hard shift of defensive hockey, the clock ticked down, no scoring chances resulted, and the puck was cleared.

Canada was in trouble until they raised their effort to match the Swedes' and at least saw-off the ongoing puck battle. Horc's last shift was an example of such a saw-off; it was way more effective than it was pretty.

Black Gold said...

it was way more effective than it was pretty.

What a perfect way to describe everything 10 does. :)

Bruce said...

BG: Yup.

Jonathan Willis said...

I only watched from about the halfway point of the second period on, but I was focused on Omark and from what I saw:

- he was out mostly against the St. Louis, Roy and Stamkos line
- the coach tossed him out for defensive zone draws; it was pretty much an even split between off. zone and def. zone.
- he can cycle and he's very strong on the puck; he was winning battles against much larger players
- he's crazy quick to pass; doesn't hang on to the puck when he's in danger, which both helps maintain possession and promote longevity
- he doesn't mind the danger areas
- he cheats for offense big-time
- he wasn't being used on the powerplay

Of course, that's based on half an hour of game; does that match what other people have observed?