Hockey Canada fires back at IIHF article

The IIHF World Championships, held every summer (during the NHL
playoffs) that is supposed to feature the top talent from around the
world. Usually that’s the case, except when the players that are invited
are still in the playoffs or have some sort of injury that prevents
them from playing.

This season, a number of players have bowed out
of the Worlds, generally citing overall fatigue after a long season —
that included the Olympics — and likely a wholly disappointing playoffs
exit.

Szymon
Szemberg delivered a scathing attack
on those players that have
declined to play this season, saying that they have forgotten “what
brought them riches and fame”. He singles out a number of players, most
notably Sidney Crosby, who he says have no good excuse for not
attending. Tired? Ha! That’s just a wimp’s way out. Here are some
excerpts from his article:

You have heard this many
times before: “It’s an honour to represent your
country. I feel proud every time I put on the jersey.”

Well,
pride and honour seem to be very selective qualities. When a player
wants to play – in the Olympics, for example, where he finds the stage
big enough and the setting appealing enough – he talks about pride and
honour.

Tired is a divorced mother with two young kids who double
shifts as a
nurse assistant and cleaning lady to make ends meet.

Why is a
22-year-old Sidney Crosby tired when a 34-year-old Ryan Smyth is
answering the bell for his country despite having represented Canada at
the Worlds already on eight occasions?

He goes on to
question the decisions of Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas
Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, Mark Streit, Niklas Backstrom, and Alexander
Steen, among others.

Deciding to single out Sidney Crosby, by far
the most polarizing name in hockey, was sure to draw the ire of some.
Before I get to my thoughts on this mess, here’s
Hockey Canada’s reaction:

Sidney Crosby‘s
the guy they singled out — he’s played in two finals (in 2008 and
2009), he’s played in the second round of the playoffs (this year), he’s
played in the Olympics for us,” said Salmond. “I don’t think it’s fair
to single him out. We respect where he is and we respect what he’s done
for us and I think what he’ll do for us in the future.”

Canadian
team captain wasn’t too happy either:

“I don’t think it’s fair to mention him,” said Whitney. “Obviously,
any big tournament would like to have one of the world’s top players,
(but) the IIHF doesn’t understand how hard the NHL is, how hard the
schedule is. …

“I think (the IIHF) should concentrate more on making it more
appealing for guys like (Crosby) to want to come over here and play.”

In principle, I can see where the Szemberg is coming from. The IIHF
goes to great lengths to put together some extremely competitive and
well-run international tournaments each season, and it’s frustrating
when the world’s best players turn them down.

Yet this is also a case of biting the hand that feeds you, as there
is likely zero chance the IIHF Worlds get any recognition without the
NHL players that attend each season.

This year, a good number of players invited to the Worlds played an
82-game season, in the Olympics and participated in the playoffs. I
don’t care if that player is 18 years old, that’s a heck of a lot of
hockey. With training camp starting in September, these players have
just a few months off to recuperate and take some time off. Some players
are able to continue to play or fight through injuries to play, but
that doesn’t mean they love the game any more than ones that turned down
a chance to play.

This is also a great chance for non-Olympic players to represent
their country internationally, with players like Steve Ott having a
blast in Germany.

As far as Crosby goes, if there is one player that no one should
question his loyalty to Team Canada it’s him. This is the guy who is the
savior of Canadian hockey, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime at
the Olympics. Pointing to Ovechkin and going “See!!” isn’t the same,
especially when you consider how things went for him and Russia in
Vancouver.

I understand the message, sort of, but that was far from the right
way to go about sending it.

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    Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

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    Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

    As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

    I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

    Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

    Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

    “Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

    (Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

    So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

    Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

    Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

    Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

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    One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

    The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

    Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

    That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

    St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

    Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

    The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

    The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

    * – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.

    WATCH LIVE: Game 2 for Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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    P.K. Subban certainly made his presence felt to begin the Predators’ series vs. the Blues. Leon Draisaitl stole the spotlight in helping the Oilers beat the Ducks in their Game 1. Who will step up in Game 2 of each series? We’ll find out soon.

    Here’s what you need to know:

    Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues (Preds lead 1-0)

    Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

    Check out the highlights from Nashville’s 4-3 win in Game 1.

    Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks (Oilers lead 1-0)

    Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

    Check out the highlights from Edmonton’s 5-3 win in Game 1.

    Hagelin might be available for Penguins in Game 2

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    WASHINGTON (AP) Carl Hagelin could be bringing his trademark speed back to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup.

    Coach Mike Sullivan said Hagelin will be a game-time decision to return for Game 2 against the Washington Capitals on Saturday night after being out since March 10 with a lower-body injury. The lightning-quick wing took part in a full-contact practice Friday and has progressed far enough in his recovery to be an option to play.

    “He brings that element of speed, his ability to stretch the ice, his pursuit game, forces turnovers all the time and we can create a lot of offense off of it,” Sullivan said. “He’s a good penalty killer, he’s a solid two-way player, so we can use him in a number of different capacities, but I think his speed certainly helps us play the type of game that we want to play and we’re a more competitive team when he’s in the lineup.”

    Hagelin called it a “step in the right direction” but said it’s difficult to determine if he’ll feel good enough to play.

    “You always want to play,” the 28-year-old Swede said. “It’s always hard to say, but out there today it felt good. It felt like I was moving, and I’m excited, that’s for sure.”

    Pittsburgh leads the best-of-seven second-round series 1-0. The Penguins are a much stronger team with the return of veteran wing Chris Kunitz and Hagelin, whose speed could make it even more difficult on the Capitals.

    “He can put teams back on their heels,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “He doesn’t need a lot of room to make a play. … He can help in a lot of different areas.”

    If Hagelin is cleared to return, Sullivan says it will be a difficult decision who comes out. Depth is one of the Penguins’ strengths, so it’s incredible that former first-line wing Conor Sheary could be the odd-man out after being demoted to the third line and struggling in some areas.

    “We know Conor has a much better game, and that’s what we’re trying to help him get to,” Sullivan said. “The last couple I don’t think have been his best, but certainly he’s a guy that’s played a lot of really good hockey for this team.”

    So has Hagelin, who was part of the famed “HBK” line along with Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel during Pittsburgh’s 2016 Stanley Cup run. He had 16 points in 24 games last season.

    “Haggy’s a great two-way player,” Kessel said. “He’s a fast player out there. He brings speed, and he’s a smart player out there. Whenever you get a guy like that back it’s big for your team.”

    It’s especially big if Hagelin can get his wheels back right away. Being out of the lineup for six weeks makes that a challenge but one he’s eager to undertake.

    “Speed should be there,” Hagelin said. “You don’t know that till you’re in the game. “That’s what’s fun about hockey. You go out there and usually you feel like you pick it up right where you left off.”

    More AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey