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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    PHT Morning Skate: Stevens sees similarities between the Wild and those great Devils teams

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    –In a Q & A with NHL.com, Minnesota assistant coach Scott Stevens says this year’s edition of the Wild reminds him of the stingy Devils teams he played on. “It reminds me very much of the Devils in how we play. We definitely love to protect the middle of the ice. We might give up a few more shots, but we give up a lot of those perimeter shots and hopefully our goaltenders know where the shots are coming from,” said Stevens. (NHL.com)

    –Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has shown that he’s got the hockey thing down, but his “Call of Duty” game has come a long way, according to teammate Mitch Marner. (BarDown)

    –Many expect the Canadiens to try to land a top two center between now and the trade deadline, but in an interview with TSN 690 radio, GM Marc Bergevin says “you can never have too many defensemen.” If you listen to Bergevin, it sure sounds like he wants to add a mobile defender to play with Shea Weber. (TSN 690)

    –The Chicago Blackhawks got some solid production from Vinne Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero in last night’s win over the Avalanche. You can watch the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    –How much would you pay for a young NHL superstar’s game worn jersey? The jersey Auston Matthews wore during the first period of the Centennial Classic sold for an incredible amount of money. (Yahoo)

    –Will we see Patrik Elias return to the New Jersey Devils this season? The 40-year-old underwent cartilage replacement surgery on his knee during the off-season, but he doesn’t seem willing to close the door on his NHL career just yet. Elias wants to make a final decision on his playing career by next month. (USA Today)

    –Going through a scoring slump is never fun, but going through a scoring slump when you’re the captain of the Montreal Canadiens might be one of the more unbearable things in professional hockey. Max Pacioretty was able to overcome a slow start thanks to some big-picture thinking. “At the end of the day, look at the life we have, look where we’re playing. I love playing here so much, and the fact I’m able to be the captain here, it sounds cheesy, but what’s better in life right now? I’ve got a family, I’ve got an awesome team, I’m the captain of the best franchise in the world,” said Pacioretty. (NHL.com)

    Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

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    Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

    Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

    Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

    So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

    As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

    Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

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    People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

    Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

    In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

    “He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

    Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

    Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

    Is this time different?

    Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

    Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

    While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

    Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

    He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percentage in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

    Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

    In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

    Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

    The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

    Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

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    For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

    On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

    The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

    The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

    The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

    Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

    Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

    (It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

    This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.