JonasHillerSwitzerland

PHT’s Pressing Olympic Questions: Can Switzerland still sneak up?

1 Comment

How long can someone be an underdog?

We’re about to find out.

Switzerland heads to Winter Olympics pegged by many as the tournament darkhorse, a squad capable of pulling upsets and possibly getting into medal contention. There’s just one problem: Switzerland might actually be too good to sneak up on anyone anymore.

“Things have changed quite a bit,” Vancouver defenseman Raphael Diaz said, per NHL.com. “I’m in the NHL and my country has more NHLers now, and I really think Switzerland is recognized as a better team.

“I’m sure other countries notice that and they prepare harder, so I’m not sure we can surprise them.”

As Diaz mentioned, Switzerland’s firmly established itself both in North American and abroad. Eleven Swiss players have appeared in NHL games this season — three fewer than Slovakia, for comparison’s sake — and that group includes veteran defenseman Mark Streit, Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller and Minnesota forward Nino Niederreiter, the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history (fifth overall, 2010).

Internationally, Switzerland has been coming on strong as of late.

The Swiss won silver at the 2013 World Hockey Championships, medaling for the first time since 1953. They recorded wins over the Czech Republic (twice), Canada and the U.S. before falling to Sweden in the gold medal match, and this was no pushover tournament — Henrik Sedin and Paul Stastny made the all-star team, while Steve Stamkos and Ilya Kovalchuk led the Canadian and Russian teams in scoring.

For Canucks defenseman Yannick Weber — who missed the Worlds to injury, but will be playing in Sochi — the result was historic.

“It was phenomenal for Swiss hockey,” he said, per The Province. “It’s not the Olympics and people here [North America] don’t take it as seriously, but it’s still a good tournament and some of the best players are there.

“We’ve had some success in the past, beating one of the big teams once in a while, but going to that final and pretty much dominating every opponent, it helped Swiss hockey have confidence.”

The problem for Switzerland, though, is that it no longer holds minnow status. Opponents are aware of how good the Swiss have been in international competition, especially on the Olympic stage. In Vancouver four years ago, Switzerland took the Canadians to a shootout and lost a pair of hard-fought, two-goal games to the Americans.

Opponents have also likely done homework on how to beat Hiller, arguably Switzerland’s most important player.

The Anaheim goalie, enjoying a banner campaign in which he was a star of the month in December and star of the week in January, will likely carry Switzerland in these Olympics. He memorably posted 43 saves in the shootout loss Canada four years ago that stood as one of the tourney’s best performances, and his stellar play this year (25-9-4, 2.34 GAA, .917 save percentage, four shutouts) is key, because he’ll need to keep slamming the door in Sochi.

The Swiss don’t have a ton of offense — Niederreiter (11 goals, 29 points) and New Jersey’s Damien Brunner (nine goals, 17 points) will carry the load — and generally tend to play in low-scoring affairs, taking a conservative approach while frequently clogging the neutral zone.

Hiller’s aware of how vital a role he’s going to play.

“Our players can play with anybody in the world, and goaltending can always win a game,” he said, per the Globe and Mail. “Sometimes goaltending can equal out a lot of other things that a bigger team might have going for it.

“We need our best game out of everybody to have a chance to compete with the big teams, and hope that they don’t play their best. But if you have that game and the other team doesn’t, who knows?”

Ex-NHLer Kevin Stevens pleads guilty in drug conspiracy

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 31:  Kevin Stevens #25 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Washington Capitals during the 2011 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game on December 31, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

BOSTON (AP) A two-time Stanley Cup champion hockey player from Massachusetts has pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge.

The Boston Globe reports (http://bit.ly/2grdpkl ) 51-year-old Kevin Stevens entered the plea Thursday in a Boston federal court to a charge of conspiring with another man to sell oxycodone.

Prosecutors say Stevens and another man were involved in a scheme to sell the painkiller from August 2015 through at least March 2016 in several cities. A plea agreement says Stevens was responsible for 175 pills containing 30 milligrams each of oxycodone.

His attorney says Stevens has battled an addiction to painkillers for many years.

The Pembroke native played 15 seasons in the National Hockey League, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992.

‘I’m going to stick up for myself’: Price has no regrets when it comes to incident with Palmieri

Leave a comment

Seeing Carey Price lose his cool in last night’s game against the Devils was pretty shocking given his calm nature, but the Habs goalie had no regrets after the game was over.

“I got run on the first goal and I wasn’t going to take another one,” Price said, per the Montreal Gazette. “I got fired up, I guess. I’m going to stick up for myself now.

“It seems to be the nature of the league, to go hard to the net, run the goalie and score the goal. You have to stick up for yourself once in a while.”

Price’s actions might seem a little crazy on the surface, but when you consider the amount of times he’s missed games with various knee injuries, you kind of understand his frustration.

Remember  this incident with Rangers forward Chris Kreider? Well, Price also took matters into his own hands with Kreider the next time they faced each other (it was a little more subtle than last night’s episode).

A knee injury also forced him to miss most of last season, and I don’t have to remind you what happened to the Canadiens while he was gone.

As for Palmieri, he saw nothing wrong with what he did.

“I mean, it’s just a hockey play,” Palmieri said after the game.

“I’ve done it probably 50 to 100 times in my career. You got to the net and whether it’s a trip or push, you lose an edge. It’s going to the net and that’s where you score goals.”

In case you didn’t know (Price admitted he didn’t), there is a rule about goalies using their blocker to target an opponent’s head.

Here’s the wording from the NHL rule book:

51.3 Match Penalty – If, in the judgment of the Referee, a goalkeeper uses his blocking glove to punch an opponent in the head or face in an attempt to or to deliberately injure an opponent, a match penalty must be assessed.

51.4 Fines and Suspensions – There are no specified fines or suspensions for roughing, however, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 28).

Price being suspended seems highly unlikely, but the league issuing a fine isn’t out of the question.

PHT Morning Skate: Ben Bishop loves chowing down on delicious carbs

3 Comments

–Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is a creature of habit when it comes to his game day meals. One of the things that’s consistent in his diet is the overload of carbs. Bread, pasta and oatmeal, Bishop eats it all on game day. Here’s a deeper look into his diet. (Sports Illustrated)

–Speaking of carbs, did you know that Alex Ovechkin always dreamed of becoming a pizza delivery boy? Okay, maybe not, but this Papa John’s commercial of him failing miserably at being a delivery guy is still pretty funny. (Top)

–The Edmonton Oilers made a huge move last off-season when they shipped Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. The Oilers are currently in first place in the Pacific Division, but that doesn’t mean the trade has worked out well for them. (Sportsnet)

–Wayne Gretzky will appear on an episode of the Simpsons on Sunday evening. NHL.com provides us with a look at his appearance. “People argue about a lot of things, but they never argue about who’s the greatest hockey player. It’s always him,” Al Jean, who’s an executive producer on the show. “I don’t think there is anybody better at anything than Gretzky is as a hockey player. He had a lot of great stories, and it was a real pleasure to meet him.” (NHL)

–Oilers sophomore forward Connor McDavid has been fantastic this season, but “The Great One” still doesn’t think he’s the top player in the NHL. “Is Connor a great player? Absolutely. Does Connor have an opportunity to be the next Crosby? Absolutely. Right now, Sidney deserves to be known as the best player in the game,” Gretzky told ESPN.com.

–Yesterday, we told you that Blackhawks emergency goalie Eric Semborski will be getting his own Topps hockey card. Now, Puck Junk gives us the inside story on how the idea for the card came about. “It all came together pretty quickly,” said Mike Salerno, App Producer of Topps Skate. “We saw the situation in Philadelphia unfold over the weekend and thought it would make for a fun and unique card.” (Puck Junk)

Video: Max Domi hurt after big hit, fight with Garnet Hathaway

5 Comments

Dave Tippett insists that, even though he suffered an upper-body injury, Max Domi has to play with the sort of edge he showed tonight.

But, yeah, that edge left him bleeding this time around.

As you can see from the video above, Domi and Garnet Hathaway engaged in a fierce fight after a hit by Domi. The Arizona Coyotes forward left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury, and is now considered day-to-day. The price of doing business?

Domi grabbed an assist during the game, so maybe this will be the sort of thing that helps him get back on track.

Speaking of back on track, the Flames are now on a five-game winning streak while the Coyotes dropped their sixth in a row as Calgary won 2-1 in overtime. Chad Johnson remains brilliant, Mike Smith keeps getting Arizona points (they may or may not actually want in the long run) and, hey, Dougie Hamilton is still a Flame: