NHL and Olympic Hockey Notes: Ritter's Rants

Mark RitterSenior Writer IFebruary 13, 2010

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 01:  Hayley Wickenheiser #22 of Team Canada looks on during the game against Team USA at Scotiabank Place on January 1, 2010 in Ottawa, Canada.  (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf appears to be on the mend. Question is, will he be  at the level he needs to be to participate in the Olympics? There is no margin for error here; Steve Yzerman can ill afford to take any risks with his roster. With that in mind, Getzlaf should be left off of Canada’s final list with Philadelphia Flyers Jeff Carter—who has four goals in his past three games, taking Getzlaf’s roster spot.

In the end, selecting Carter is the right thing to do.

With just 21 games remaining, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot of work to do just to get out of the bottom five in the standings. Through 61 games the Leafs have accumulated just 49 points, good enough for 29th overall.

The Columbus Blue Jackets currently own the “coveted” 25th spot in the standings, sitting a staggering 10 points ahead of the Leafs with 59. The Blue Jackets sport a 6-4 record in their past 10 games, while the Leafs have gone a disappointing 2-6-2.

Realistically, the Leafs looked to be doomed to a bottom-five finish. If the Blue Jackets play .500 hockey the rest of the way, they will finish with 79 points. To put things into perspective, the Leafs would have to earn 30 points in their final 21 games, which equates to approximately 15 wins—something that will be next to impossible to accomplish.

Congratulations, Boston Bruin fans! It appears as if you will get that coveted top-five pick from the Maple Leafs after all.

Heading into the Olympic break, the Philadelphia Flyers appear to be headed in the right direction. The Flyers have won three in a row and are now 6-4-0 in their past 10 games.

Flyers fans seem more than a little concerned about their goaltending now that Ray Emery has been told to rest for three weeks. It appears as if the fans of the Orange and Black can’t see the forest for the trees.

Michael Leighton—who will assume the No. 1 goalie role in Emery’s absence, has been every bit as good as Emery this season. In fact, Leighton has allowed more than three goals just twice since he was claimed off waivers by the Flyers in December.

Through 17 games with the Flyers, Leighton has earned a record of 11-3-1 to go along with his tremendous .924 save percentage and exceptional 2.20 goals against average. What more do you want, Flyers fans? The kid is good, better than Marty Biron and Turco have been playing that’s for sure.

In the end, it was inevitable; Wayne Gretzky was going to light the Olympic Torch in Vancouver. Say what you will about the others who were under consideration for the honor, none of them are as well known, as accomplished, or as important to Canada as the Great one.

Selecting Gretzky was the right choice—involving the likes of Donald Sutherland, Anne Murray, Nancy Green, Steve Nash, Catriona LeMay Doan, Rick Hanson, and Bobby Orr in the indoor lighting was a classy move by the organizers, once again illustrating Canada’s sharing nature and togetherness.

While I will agree that Canada’s Olympic hockey team will be under a ton of pressure to win gold, it will not be much different for the likes of Russia, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Team USA. All of these countries have high expectations, and all of them are expected to compete for a medal, with Russia and Sweden expected to compete for the coveted gold.

In the end, every country will be under tremendous pressure; the team that does the best job dealing with that pressure will likely win it all.

With all the attention being placed on Canada’s men's team, I felt it was important to make mention of the woman’s hockey team. If all goes well, Canada will meet Team USA in the gold medal final, a tilt that will be filled with as much respect as hatred.

These two teams do not like each other, something that has been on display on numerous occasions in the past.

Led by Hayley Wickenheiser, Canada’s women’s team has a very good chance of bringing home a gold medal; something they have accomplished in each of the past two Olympics (2002, 2006). Comparatively, Team USA won gold in 1998 (beating Canada), silver in 2002, and a surprising bronze in 2006.

The women’s tournament may not be deep in overall talent, but any match involving Canada and the United States is sure to keep both nations on pins and needles. Don’t miss it...

Until next time,

Peace!