As the second day of men's hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympics is about to begin, I'd like to reflect briefly on day one, which featured games by the three largest profile teams, Canada, USA, and Russia.
We also got a taste for NBC's Olympic programming and how the network(s) will treat many events.
Let's take a look and prepare for men's hockey day two:
We've been hearing repeated phrases about Team USA since the announcement of the roster at New Year's Day's Winter Classic:
- "They are very young."
- "They are a hard-working group."
- "They are well-rounded."
- "They are not favorites."
- "Do not count them out."
These were all proven true in their first contest together against Switzerland.
Team USA came out pretty sloppy, and struggled to get going in the first period against Switzerland.
Eventually, the team realized who they were: A gritty, hard-working and high-energy team, which explains why the so-called "fourth line" of Backes-Drury-Callahan-Ryan was widely regarded as the team's best of the game.
The line played a simple style of hockey: forecheck hard, go to the net, shoot the puck. It proved effective.
Most importantly, if the fourth line was the best in the first game, I can only assume that the rest of the lines will get better, which means good things for Team USA.
Oh, and David Backes is a beast. That's not as much informed reporting as it is biased rooting, but so be it.
As we in the United States were forced to watch the end of a women's curling match, as reported by Tab Bamford in his "Winter Olympics: The 10 Most Interesting Things We Learned on Day 5" article, the Canada-Norway game was joined in the middle of the first period, and most would have thought that the game would be well out of hand by then for the Scandinavians.
This was not the case, as Canada was unable to score a goal in the first period.
This is not to say that they were panicked, as the Canadians were well in control of the game and were playing at a comfortable pace.
Not to anyone's surprise, things started clicking in the second period, as they buried three in the second period, and five more in the third.
If Team Canada can find chemistry among all their lines, it could be a short tournament.
The Russians also displayed what was advertised: unrelenting firepower, exciting players, and a lot of personalities.
Russia simply overpowered the Latvians, who actually displayed some nice talent themselves and could be a handful for the rest of the pool.
But as we as NHL followers know, with Ovechkin, anything is possible.
Ovechkin netted two nice goals and was a physical behemoth all over the ice.
But in my opinion, Russian fans should be somewhat concerned with sloppy breakouts and passes all over the ice.
It seemed as though every skater for the Eastern European hockey superpower was trying to win the speed skating short-track race on every shift. Breakouts from their own defensive zone were as fast as I have ever seen, but passes rarely connected.
This type of sloppy play could be a problem against a bigger and more skilled opponent, but most of the forwards were able to make a quick turn and sticklift/pokecheck the Latvian forwards and resume the breakout from there.
The Russians need to realize that they are not on international ice, and that each of the puck-craving individuals need to work together if they want to take home a medal. No amount of firepower will be able to make up for sloppy play in the defensive or neutral zones against disciplined teams such as Sweden or Canada.
One of the most highly anticipated and highly promoted of the early Olympic events, Canada vs. Norway, the second men's hockey game of the tournament, was JIP—joined in progress—because a preliminary women's curling match went to extra rounds.
Supposedly the game was shown from the beginning on CNBC before switching back to MSNBC later. Furthermore, I have noticed that their online TV schedule has been off by 30 minutes for many hockey events, so let me take this opportunity to suggest to fans the best method of finding hockey games on TV:
Go to: http://www.vancouver2010.com/olympic-hockey-schedule-results/
This will tell you specifically when the events begin.
Then, go to: http://www.nbcolympics.com/tv-listings/zone=PT/sport=IH/index.html
This SHOULD tell you what channel to find it on, but as I have learned, go by the Vancouver2010 for the actual event start time if you don't want to miss the first period.
It is commendable that NBC would want to show the remaining decisive minutes of an event, as many would say that no event should have priority over another. But NBC has already taken a stance on what events will get prime time and network coverage, citing demographics and ratings as reasons, obviously.
The events are between the USA-Canada ice hockey game and some ice dancing competition on Sunday evening.
The hockey game in question is no doubt the most anticipated pool-play game of the tournament for the North American TV audience, yet NBC insists that they would get better ratings from ice dancing because of its heavy female following.
Puck Daddy had a terrific report of this incident:
So, I suppose, this makes sense, since obviously NBC knows exactly what should be on the air to make up their nightly prime time line-up as well as who should host "The Tonight Show". Oh wait, they have no idea.
Let's just hope hockey fans everywhere are able to find the games they want to watch and when they are LIVE, not delayed, throughout the tournament.
Kudos are due to their terrific, albeit strictly exclusive and intrusive advertisement-laden online video vault of all the hockey events, though to watch the games live you must have a major cable provider that carries the games as well.
Whether its Pierre McGuire or newly-appointed Jeremy Roenick, Mike Milbury is always arguing with someone during in-studio segments of their hockey coverage.
Yesterday, Mike Milbury was taking offense to the fact that Roenick was praising Ovechkin as the most exciting hockey player in the world, even though Webster's dictionary specifically states it.
Perhaps he was the producer of the highly controversial "Sid the Kid vs. Alexander the Great" video that portrays Ovechkin as nothing less than an attention whore and Crosby as the Patron Saint.
Perhaps NBC realizes that due to his infamy as a GM, Milbury is the equivalent of Matt Millen, who built the 0-16 Detroit Lions before being fired, and was then hired by the NFL Network as a commentator. Because of this, maybe they think they should have someone consistently expressing a contrasting opinion to Milbury's? Just a thought.