Sunday, 11 September 2016

World Cup (Exhibition) Game 2: Canada 5, USA 2

1)  I'm not buying the Nick Kypreos-cheerled scrumfest, the 'intensity' of Friday's game, which really means lots of illegal hitting and shoving and slashing and other uncalled penalties.  The hosts and analysts have been trumpeting that the tournament will be played on NHL ice, with NHL rules and NHL refs, with the implication that this is an advantage for Team Canada, certainly, but also for the average fan.

But I'm already sick of the constant pushing and shoving after whistles.  And if I had to compare, the style and pace of play at last spring's World Championships, or the last Olympics in Sochi, produced a much more pleasant viewing experience for telespectators, more free-flowing hockey and less nonsense after whistles.

2)  Alex Pieterangelo was horrible, relatively, during Friday night's game.  He proved the axiom that right-handed defencemen can't play on the left.  Alex Pieterangelo developed his game playing major minutes on the right side and never had to shunt over to the left, and it showed.  Gap control, controlling the puck along the boards but being forced to go with weak backhands, losing the puck, turning it over, getting caught in no-man's-land, he looked awful, in comparison to the defencemen who played for Canada in 2010 and 2014, and who were essentially flawless.

3)  I bet the brass is second-guessing itself a little bit about not taking on Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie of the Flames instead of Jason Bouwmeester,  Jake Muzzin, and trying Alex Pieterangelo on the left.  Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie were the reason the Flames traded away Jay Bouwmeester in the first place, and the numbers prove that the youngsters were ready to take over.

4)  Mark Giordano is a a superior defenceman to Jay Bouwmeester, in my opinion, and according to most objective measures.  If the brass wanted flexibility though, they could have chosen T.J. instead, who's a leftie who normally plays on the right with Mark Giordano.  T.J., able to play both sides, could have given Mike Babcock an easier time building his lineup.

5)  Jake Muzzin I'm not too familiar with, and I understand the idea that he'll form a good pairing with Drew Doughty, since they know each other and play together often, but really, he's like Marc Méthot to Erik Karlsson, a nice partner for a special player in terms of the NHL, but not in a best-on-best setting.  We're losing too much juice with Jake Muzzin that familiarity doesn't begin to make up.

6)  Since we're talking about it, the problem with a defenceman playing on his 'off' side isn't strictly limited to having to play the puck more on his backhand.  It also has to do with knowing your area of the ice, being aware of your gaps, your angles.

Also, some players just pivot better on one side than on the other.  I know as a left-handed defenceman, when skating backwards, I pivoted to my left, towards the boards, a lot easier than to my right, towards the centre.

When I was playing the left side, facing an attacker, if he wanted to try going past me on my right, that's the side I hold my stick, in my right hand, and could cover a lot of area with a sweep and a pokecheck of my stick.  Also, my partner was on my right, and could jump in and help if someone tried to go through the middle.

But if I had to play on the right, it jumbled everything up.  I couldn't make a strong pivot or  a crossover  to my left and then a bodycheck along the boards, the boards were on my right, my pokecheck side.

Alex Pieterangelo is learning this now, playing at a very high level.  He looks lost out there.  All his little tricks, his go-to moves that he polished over the years, they're all off, they're not working for him on the left.

7)  That character singing the national anthems, was that a Pokémon?  I've never seen one before, glad the NHL is trying to engage the youth, and teaching me new things.

8)  If Ryan Kesler merited a five-minute major and expulsion from the game for boarding for his hit on Shea Weber on Friday night, yet John Tavares' hit on Ryan Kesler in the first minute of tonight's game wasn't boarding, then I don't really understand the rule.  I'm not being snarky, but rather being honest.  I don't get it.

9)  Seeing Steven Stamkos trying to dish off to Logan Couture on a 2-on-1, when Corey Schneider was still trying to slide across and wasn't set, is another illustration that players aren't really certain of their roles, in this tourney, and generally when these teams get put together.  If this happened while Mr. Stamkos was playing with the Lightning, he would have pulled the trigger, taken a good shot, rather than try to defer to his All-Star linemate.

Pssst!...  Steve... You're an All-Star too...  Shoot next time.

10)  I'm glad Blake Wheeler found his game only after the Bruins traded him away.

11)  Hey, if Team Canada needed a leftie defenceman, why not Nathan Beaulieu?  He's got loads of mobility and speed, and could have disguised his lack of a slapper by feeding whichever rightie he played with, whether Drew Doughty, Shea Weber or Brent Burns.

12)  The Sharks provide the first goal for Team Canada.  Brent Burns breaks up a US rush by James van Riemsdyk with a poke check, Joe Thornton ends up with the puck in the offensive zone, who feeds Logan Couture in front of the net, who converts on a backhand up high.

13)  Good hit from Joe Thornton on Ryan Kesler.  If you're going to take a penalty, don't make it a cheesy hooking call in the offensive zone Lars.  Make it count.  Getting a good lick on Ryan Kesler is worth a two-minute penalty.  Especially given the circumstances of the previous night.

14)  The US' first goal is again on a deflection.  Braden Holtby had no chance on it, like Carey had no chance on the first goal last night.

15)  John Carlson scores on a 5-on-3 to make the score closer, 3-2, after Team Canada had jumped to a 3-0 lead.  I think I'm missing the boat on John Carlson, everyone raves about him, and I know nothing about him, never pay attention to him when he plays.

16)  I'm a doubting Thomas on Jay Bouwmeester, obviously, but so far he has a goal, and then makes a gutsy play, diving in front of a Dustin Byfuglien slapshot and getting a big block.  Let's give the guy a chance maybe?  Without admitting to anything personally, having to walk back my hot takes?  Deal.

17)  JVR chewing on his fluorescent green mouthguard during a mild scrum in front of Braden Holtby's net.  Yo, JVR, this would be a good time for you to leave that mouthguard in between your teeth, right now, when someone might jab their glove right in your kisser.  Either get a mouthguard that fits properly, or lose the nervous chew on half of your mouthguard, it's not doing you any good if it's not in between your teeth properly.

18)  During a break in the action, or on the bench, even in the dressing room between periods, Shea Weber should unload the mother of all crosschecks into Brad Marchand's rotten teeth.  Just to get a head start on the regular season, take an early lead.

19)  There's a saying in car racing that there's no substitute for cubic inches.  In hockey, there's no substitute for talent, for snipeyness.  On the Tyler Séguin-assisted Matt Duchene goal, I thought the play, the rush was stillborn, since Tyler Séguin started off a little slowly, had T.J. Oshie all over him.  But he protected the puck with his big body, and dished the puck off with a nifty backhand.  Matt Duchene one-timed it past a defenceless Corey Schneider.

This wasn't a gritty character goal.  This wasn't a goal that Rob Zamuner or Kris Draper was going to score, or set up.

20)  Agree with Dave Randorf and Gary Galley, Duncan Keith is a huge loss for Team Canada, both in the way his pure skill is subtracted from the team, and in causing that domino effect on the left side of the blue line.  Duncan Keith was the most impressive defenceman in 2010 and 2014, with Shea Weber and Drew Doughty right on his tail.

21)  The game in Columbus gave me pause, I was a little worried at the ponderousness of Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton, but I'm reassured now.  If Team Canada plays anywhere near how it should, it should breeze through this tournament, certainly against the US, who don't have the talent to compare.

22)  I'll vote thumbs up on Shea Weber's scrogging of T.J. Oshie as the final horn sounded.  That kid is an aggravation, he deserved a thorough shaking.

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