My Olympic Hockey All-Star Team: A "No Crosby" Zone
I love the Winter Olympic Hockey Tournament, and this year I made an effort to watch every possible game I could.
After hearing about the Olympic All-Star Team, consisting of Ryan Miller (USA), Brian Rafalski (USA), Shea Weber (Canada), Jonathan Toews (Canada), Zach Parise (USA), and Pavol Demitra (Slovakia), I decided to name my own personal All-Star Team.
Yes, people will say I'm biased because I have four out of six players from Canada, and I'm from Canada. But I feel the four that I picked are all standouts and deserving, and no, you won't find any Sidney Crosby here, despite the country being thrown into Crosby Mania.
I have selected who I think the best goalie, two defencemen, and three forwards are and why they are deserving.
Goaltender: Ryan Miller (USA)
This is the easiest selection to make. After being the top NHL goalie for the Buffalo Sabres up to this point, people were wondering if he could step up in a high-pressure situation like this. The results were clear; he excelled in this environment.
Without a goalie of this magnitude, I could not see USA making it as far as they did. He was poised throughout the tournament, and I honestly don't think he gave up any "marginal" goals until Crosby sneaked the gold-winning goal by him from the bottom of the circle, a relatively bad angle.
He played steadily through Norway and the Swiss, only allowing a combined two goals through the two games. Than he ran into his first tough opponent, the eventual champions Canada. Facing 45 shots and some heavy pressure throughout the game, especially in the third, he remained poised and calm and turned them away on 42 of 45 shots, helping USA to a 5-3 win.
He maintained this consistent play through the quarters against the Swiss, gathering a shutout and making some remarkable saves along the way, and then allowed only one goal in a whupping of the Finns, 6-1.
Then came the infamous game today, where he played well once again, making some unbelievable saves and keeping it close right up the end.
First Defence: Drew Doughty (Canada)
When they announced his selection, I was surprised, frankly. Living in Eastern Canada, I had never been able to see him play much and really hadn't heard that much hype about him. But when I saw this 20-year-old play, I knew he was the real deal.
He has something that you can't teach: true hockey sense. He has patience with the puck and has an uncanny ability to make the right play with the puck in the right situations. He can do it all: shoot, hit, play solid defense, and also quarterback a rush, all the time being smooth with the puck and moving it efficiently.
All the hype coming in was about Scott Niedermayer, but when the international play exposed him for the defenceman he really was—being too old, slow, and inefficient with the puck—Doughty stepped up and shone. I would say he was Canada's best defenceman and maybe even the best in the tournament.
Remember this kid; he may well be the best defenceman in the NHL in a couple of years.
Second Defence: Duncan Keith (Canada)
People weren't expecting to see Keith split from fellow Blackhawk Brent Seabrook, but that's exactly what they saw. They saw him get more minutes than expected, and a lot of people were impressed, including me. He was their most effective shutdown defenceman this tournament and was calm under pressure, being trusted with big moment situations.
He is a very fast and physical D-man, and he moved the puck well, which is basically all you can ask from him. He played very sound hockey in all his games, and I am looking forward to seeing him become one of the league's elite defencemen.
First Forward: Zach Parise (USA)
Zach Parise has always been one of my favorite players in the NHL. The speedy winger from the New Jersey Devils shone through in the Olympics as well. His speed made him deadly on the wing, and he was as effective without the puck as he was with it.
His speed and skill set made him a threat that coaches were all over, and his presence made someone cover him, creating some odd man rushes. When he got the puck, you could almost guarantee something good would happen for the US.
He is also one of the premier two-way players in the league, being as effective in his own end as he is the opposition's end. He plays a very sound defensive game and makes it hard for other teams to move the puck around down low. His backchecking was astounding, and he was one of the X-factors that gave America a real shot to win gold this year.
Second Forward: Jonathan Toews (Canada)
Since scoring three times in a World Junior Tournament shootout against the USA in the semifinal three times in 2007, he has been a well-known name in Canadian hockey. He has been one of the most effective players on one of the NHL's elite teams this year, the Blackhawks, and really showed his stuff at this tournament.
He was the best faceoff man for Canada, winning almost every key defensive faceoff, especially against the USA in the gold medal game. He tied for the tournament lead in points with one goal and seven assists, totaling eight points.
The line of Toews, Mike Richards, and Rick Nash was one of their best, and he was a formidable opponent to hold off on the forecheck. He cycled the puck well, always was skating hard and giving it his all, and forechecked like a banshee. He played a great role as a setup man and played great defensively. He was one of those players that did whatever it would take to win.
He is a player that any coach would love to have on his team, and I can really see him being a leader on this team in the future.
Third Forward: Ryan Getzlaf (Canada)
Another large Canadian power forward, this guy did it all: scored goals, played good defense, delivered bone-crunching hits, won faceoffs, you name it. He really shone in a situation like this and excelled under the pressure. He was a great player for the team, all in all.
He can play every aspect of the game: playmaker, power forward, or goal scorer. He has a finesse touch, good puck-handling skills, and a great shot, combined with great speed and a physical toughness that make him and linemate Corey Perry very hard to play against.
When I watched him backcheck as hard as he could in an 8-0 game against Norway back in their first game, I realized how much he would do to win. I watch Russian players like Ilya Kovalchuk dog it back in a close game with Slovakia and then watched Getzlaf, with a bad ankle to boot, do everything he could to backcheck in a 8-0 game. Great heart, great player—expect great things from him.
Those are my picks for the Olympic All-Star Team. Obviously, everyone has their own opinions on the team, and feel free to leave your own picks in the comments below. I feel that these six stood out the most of all the players in the Olympics and deserve the recognition.
All in all, a great tournament, probably one of the greatest of all time. I can't wait for Russia 2014—only 1,460 days away!
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