Switzerland forward Roman Wick, left, and forward Luca Cunti react on the bench in the closing minute of play against Latvia in the third period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Latvia won 3-1 to advance to the quarterfinals. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Stunned Swiss left lost for words, looking for answers


Defense and stellar goaltending can take you far, but without anything else to back them up, eventually they will prove to be insufficient.

That’s the reality Switzerland is coping with after its 3-1 loss to Latvia. That defeat denied the Swiss entry into the quarterfinals for the first time since the 2002 Olympics and hurt their aspirations of building off of their silver medal showing in the 2013 World Championship.

“It’s crushing. … A little bit of a loss of words right now,” defenseman Mark Streit told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.

“It’s a huge disappointment for Swiss hockey.”

Switzerland only allowed one goal in the round robin, but the squad couldn’t get anything going offensively. Certainly the Swiss are known more for their defensive game, but they also had a couple noteworthy skilled forwards in Damien Brunner and Nino Niederreiter. Neither player had a point in this tournament.

“I don’t know,” Brunner said. “Sometimes you click, sometimes not. We just had nothing going on.”

Goaltender Jonas Hiller, who was the team’s best player with a 0.67 GAA and .971 save percentage, was similarly dejected after his hard work went to waste. He suggested that the talent is there, but the team might not have been putting forward a complete effort.

So while Latvia celebrates its historic win and prepares for a daunting match against the Canadians, the Swiss will be left to put the pieces back together and wait for their next opportunity to show that they’re more than just a team that can frustrate goal scorers.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

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Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From NHL.com:

Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.

Stepan to miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs


Derek Stepan is out 4-6 weeks with broken ribs, the New York Rangers announced today.

Stepan was hurt Friday on a controversial hit by Boston’s Matt Beleskey. The Bruins’ forward did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check, despite admitting it was “maybe…a little bit late.”

At any rate it’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.

The Rangers host Carolina tonight.

Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’

Price to miss minimum six weeks, so no Winter Classic for him

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Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.

That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 28-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.

On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.

Related: The latest on Price’s injury