Lessons Learned at the Olympics

Michael Gasparino@gaspoCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2010

Maybe it's just me, but when I hear 'Finland,' I think of the Monty Python song .

I should probably think about Teemu Selanne or Saku Koivu or Mikka Kiprusoff, because those guys could very well knock off the U.S. in the semifinals this afternoon.

Finland is a funny team. When the Olympics roll around, all the talk is about Russia, Canada and Sweden, with an eye on the pesky Czechs and some "can the U.S. do it?" thrown in for good measure. No one talk about Finland. And yet, they're almost always in medal contention.

It could be a pitcher's duel with Ryan Miller against Kiprusoff, but this whole Olympic tournament has been dominated by the netminders. Roberto Luongo has stepped in to help rescue the Canadians, Jonas Hiller was the top goalie in the tournament until the Swiss were dispatched in the quarters, and Jaroslav Halak has been outstanding for the Slovaks.

Just ask Russia how important goaltending is. Yvgeni Nabokov was about as effective as an umbrella in a hurricane against Canada the other night, but blame the coach for (a) not pulling Nabokov after the first period, or (b) not giving Ilya Bryzgalov—who has 32 wins and six shutouts for Phoenix—a shot at starting.

There are a few other lessons we've learned at the Olympics thus far, and here's hoping some of them find their way back to the NHL.

- More action, less commercials . How awesome has it been watching these games with commercial breaks that are shorter and less frequent? Will never happen with the NHL, so enjoy it while it lasts.

- I was disappointed that the Olympics weren't being played on the big ice , but I have to say the pace of these games has not disappointed at all. Lots of up and down, exciting play, which has more to do with the talent level and motivation than it does with the dimensions. It's playoff hockey every game.

- Mark Streit is a terrific hockey player . Islanders fans have known this for a while now, but his Olympic performance, logging mega minutes every night, only seals the deal. Tons of talent. Can't say enough about that pickup by Isles GM Garth Snow.

- Can it be this simple? Three points for a regulation win, two for a win in OT or shootout, zero if you lose. Since the shootout isn't going away in the NHL—Howie Rose can call it 'Home Run Derby' all he wants, it's just too popular—I'd amend that to one point if you make it to the shooutout, but I'd extend the OT to 10 minutes. Done.

- Love those Slovakia jerseys . I'm biased, because I'm half Slovak, but they are sharp. So are the Slovaks, who I will be pulling for big-time against Canada. Hey, Ziggy Palffy is on the team!

I have a confession to make: I was rooting for Russia against the Canadians. I know, I won't be invited to any more cocktail parties at Mike Milbury's house, but I was, if only to bump the "home team" out of the games and level the playing field a bit.

What a waste for Russia. Incredible amount of talent on that team—it just never came together. Blame the coach, blame the KHL-related politics, blame the goalie, but the bottom line is that the superstars came up short. The power play was miserable. How is that even possible with Malkin, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk, and Gonchar out there at the same time?

No guts, no glory. Is there a word in Russian for 'backcheck?' Apparently not.

One final lesson, which is really more of a confirmation. Milbury and J.R. Roenick are tools. Their defense of Dan Boyle for slew-footing Alexander Semin was mind-boggling. Could Semin have laid off the hard hit at the end of a lopsided game? Sure. But he just finished his check, which the Canadians did all night, which is the kind of hard-nosed hockey someone like Milbury normally respects.

Milbury and Roenick as NBC's primary hockey analysts? They can surely do better than that.

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