MOOSE JAW, SK – It has been a great season so far to be a hockey fan; with this being an Olympic year and the extended break that the Olympics bring, the NHL games are coming thick and fast. And between living in a market with three teams, the excellent hockey coverage on NBC and NBCSN and the odd game on NHL Network, I get to watch hockey pretty much every day. I’m in Hockey Heaven.
The Rangers have played some solid hockey of late. The King has certainly been more regal lately, starting to look like the number one net-minder again. He was stellar in Chicago Wednesday night – Hank’s one the one blemish was getting beat short side for the Blackhawks second goal. But after that he was impeccably strong in net. Carl Hagelin scored the go-ahead goal in the third and the Rangers held on after that to secure the win.
Having the top four defensemen in McDonagh, Girardi, Staal and Stralman all healthy has been a big boost for the Rangers. And with Captain Callahan back in the lineup, the team is almost complete. Unfortunately, Derek Dorsett broke his leg last week blocking a shot, so they’ll be missing a bit of their edge for the next couple of months. But under Alain Vigneault they don’t exactly have a penchant for dropping the gloves anyway. C’est la vie.
In the standings, the Broadway Blues are now even on points with the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes and the downwardly mobile Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card spot in the east. They play 7 of their next eight games at home and hopefully will see their home form improve… because The Garden hasn’t been anywhere near the home fort that it should be. And the end of the month will be Hockey Heaven on Earth in NYC, with the Rangers playing the Isles and Devils at Yankee Stadium.. I’m kind of hoping for forty degrees and a driving rain for both of these games so the NHL will stop this money-grabbing charade and think twice in the future about watering down the brand and novelty of the outdoor game.
After the Stadium Series, it’s time for Olympic Hockey. The USA is drawn into a tough-looking group with hosts Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. It will be a different tournament on the big sheet in Russia. Ruskie Al Ovechkin has been having a good season but the goals have dried up of late. But look for him to put the biscuit in the basket frequently with the extra space and open looks on the Olympic ice. Defending gold medalists Canada are in a group with Finland, Norway and Austria. A lot of people out in Long Island are upset about the omission of Kyle Okposo from the USA team, but it’s an omission from team Canada that really made me happy. The thought of Claude Giroux being as close to Sochi as I am during the Olympics has me over the moon.
Group C is made up of Sweden, Switzerland, Latvia, and the Czech Republic. Team Sweden is basically the Detroit Red Wings plus Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin. The Czech team may need a few Hoverounds to get in and out of the arena. 41-year-old Jaromir “Jerry” Jagr is having a very good season with the Devils, so his inclusion in the squad makes sense. The puzzling selection for the Czechs is Petr Nedved, who hasn’t played any real hockey in seven years. He’s been coasting along in the Czech league for the White Tigers and now he’ll be heading to the Olympics while Claude Giroux watches from his couch (I’m still giggling). How bad is the state of hockey in the Czech Republic that a roster spot for the Olympic team goes to a 42-year-old guy who couldn’t make an NHL roster seven years ago?
It should be a good tournament. My prediction is that Russia beats Canada in the gold medal game. And Sweden beats the USA in the bronze medal game. I hope I’m wrong about the disappointing finish for the USA team, but I’m not optimistic about their chances on the big ice in Russia.
Thats it for me. Happy Hockey, everyone. Tune in tomorrow for Olympic Speed Skating hopeful, Junoir Blaber.