As I look back at the 2010 Olympics, there are so many feel-good stories for the entire world. Lindsay Vonn, Apolo Anton Ohno, and so many others.
However, every time the Winter Olympics come around, I have only one true interest: ice hockey. While the women’s tourney is always interesting, most Olympic periods, it has Canada facing off against the United States with one team generally blowing out the other.
Men’s hockey is also usually minimally competitive, but not this year. This year, teams were strong, fast, and in some cases very surprising.
I personally learned five things from the men’s tourney.
1. Favoritism Is Not for the Betting Man
Team Canada and Team Russia were the two favorites coming into this tournament. While Canada did finally prevail, the favorites for the tourney were massive underachievers. Leaving Russia aside, the Czechs and Swedes were poor performers based on their world status.
Goaltending was mediocre at best and the offense was remarkably inconsistent.
2. Crosby 2, Ovechkin 0
Alex Ovechkin may very well be the scoring champion in the NHL for the next five years. He may break the record for goals scored in a season one day. He has a Calder trophy, Hart trophy, and many other awards coming his way. Regardless of all of his accolades, Sidney Crosby still has what he covets: a Stanley Cup. And now, an Olympic gold medal.
Crosby achieved in two years what many players do not achieve in a whole career in the NHL. He is one of the best players on the planet and the hero in his home country. Say what you want about his character, but he is one of the faces of the new NHL and is making the game of hockey great.
3. Experience Often Trumps Talent
When the Olympic rosters were released, people from all countries griped and groaned in their own way about players that were over-the-hill. Sergei Fedorov, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Drury, and Peter Forsberg all were questionable choices headed into these Olympic games.
While Fedorov and Forsberg were of little consequence, as their respective teams underperformed, Niedermayer and particularly Drury were vital to their teams’ success.
Niedermayer was half of the top defensive pair for Canada. Drury was one of the top three players in the tournament in terms of blocked shots, but more than that he was a vital veteran catalyst for a young team with a lot of heart.
4. For the Moment, Hockey Is King, around the World
This tournament is possibly the best since Lake Placid in 1980 and an amazing improvement over the Torino tourney four years ago. The viewership around the world for the gold medal game was fantastic and a great improvement for hockey viewership, particularly in the United States.
Hockey pales in comparison to football, basketball, and baseball in the United States. It isn’t as commercialized, and therefore not as visible as the other major sports. Furthermore, most Americans outside of Detroit do not realize that no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since Montreal won it all in 1994.
Hopefully, the United States and the world will take good notice of the playoffs this year. And may it be a great playoff year. This is also a great intro into my last topic...
5. Ryan Miller Is a Stud
Yeah, he’s actually probably the best goalkeeper in the league right now. If not the best, a close second to Luongo. I am a Penguins fan and I want them to defend their title. However, Buffalo has now become the most dangerous team in the East, at least to me.
Washington has a lot of firepower and New Jersey has the experience, but Miller gives Buffalo the edge on raw talent and determination. With an Olympic medal and MVP under his belt, he is primed for a fantastic finish to the season. If Buffalo can manage just two to three goals a game with him between the pipes, the Sabres have a chance in every game.
Miller could be the difference between a first round elimination and a chance to go to the Conference finals.