Crosby scores on Miller

Five questions ahead of U.S.-Canada semifinal showdown

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1. Will the revenge factor work in the Americans’ favor?

“Everyone knows the history of the two teams in Vancouver,” said Sidney Crosby, referring to the 2010 Olympics when the U.S. beat Canada in the preliminary round, only to lose in the gold-medal game. “They’ll be motivated.”

It was the Canadians who were especially motivated four years ago, with all the pressure of hosting the Games on their home ice. Anything less than gold and they’d have experienced something similar to what the Russians are experiencing right now.

According to American forward David Backes, beating the Canadians was “something that was on our list” coming into Sochi.

“We’ve got 13 returners, which are guys really on a mission to avenge our loss in Vancouver in the gold-medal game,” he said.

Watch the game live online Friday at noon

While Backes didn’t want to overstate things — “the team that loses this isn’t shamed out of the tournament,  or anything like that” — he clearly hasn’t forgotten the disappointment he felt when Crosby scored the golden goal.

2. Will the Canadian forwards start scoring?

Given the depth of talent up front, it’s somewhat extraordinary that only four Canadian forwards have managed to score in four games. Crosby remains goalless, as does Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz, Rick Nash, Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Toews, and Patrice Bergeron — all of whom have received a considerable amount of ice time from coach Mike Babcock.

Not that they haven’t had their chances.

“I mean, we were all over them,” Crosby said after Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Latvia. “To get that many shots and that many good quality chances, it was tough to not see it go in.”

The next day, Crosby was again forced to answer questions about his lack of statistical production.

VIDEO: Will Canada raise its level pf play vs. U.S.?

“If the chances are there, you can’t really do much besides make sure you focus on putting them in. I don’t think I’m second guessing anything,” he said.

“I’m playing and reacting, trusting that it’s going to go in and sometimes it feels like it’s not going in very easily, but usually it takes one and they all start going in. I think that’s kind of been the theme with our entire team. We’ve been right around there, doing a lot of good things and we just have to trust and keep doing that until eventually the pucks start going in in bunches.”

There also seems to be a sense among the Canadians that playing the U.S. — as opposed to European sides like Norway, Finland, and Latvia — will be a better fit, style wise.

“Looking at some of the teams we played, they focused first and foremost on checking us and making our lives miserable in the offensive zone,” said Toews. “It just seems like you need one, two or three plays to go right for things to work against those teams. Tomorrow, I think we can check well, we can concentrate on our defensive game and try to make them make mistakes.”

3. Will the American forwards keep scoring?

“I think the Americans have scored really easy in the tournament,” said Babcock. “The puck just seems to go in the net for them, so they’ve been a good team. I don’t think they’ve had a match-up, besides the Russians, where they were beat at all. They’ve just beat everyone big time.”

Phil Kessel has led the way for the U.S., with five goals in four games. Backes has three goals. Dustin Brown and Paul Stastny have two each.

Against Canada, however, the Americans will face a team that’s surrendered just three goals all tournament long, and one that features arguably the best blue line in the world as well as two of the most celebrated defensive forwards, Toews and Bergeron, in the sport.

VIDEO: Highlights from U.S. win vs. Czech Republic

“We are not going to try to outshoot a team like Canada,” said U.S. coach Dan Bylsma. “We are going in with a blue-collar mentality, to outwork them. We want to win a low-scoring game, a 2-1 game.”

4. How will the American defense hold up?

Against the Russians, Ryan Suter was on the ice for almost 30 minutes, with Bylsma shortening his bench to defend a team with a dangerous top six.

Well, the Canadians not only have a dangerous top six, they have a dangerous top 12. Even after losing John Tavares, all four lines are still filled with NHL all-stars, and that can’t be said for any of the teams the U.S. has faced so far.

Suter should play a ton again Friday, as should Ryan McDonagh. But the difference may be in the performance of a youngster like Cam Fowler or Kevin Shattenkirk, or a veteran like Brooks Orpik or Paul Martin.

If the Americans were going to have an Achilles’ heel in Sochi, a lot of people thought it would be the blue line. So far, that hasn’t been the case. But the U.S. hasn’t seen anything like Canada.

5. How will the goaltending story play out?

Because, really, what big hockey game doesn’t end with at least some talk about the goaltenders? Jonathan Quick and Carey Price have both been solid so far. The former has a .935 save percentage in three games; the latter has a .941 save percentage, also in three games.

“When I’ve seen Quick make some big saves early, he seems to become unbeatable,” said Drew Doughty of Quick, his teammate in L.A. “That’s why we’ve got to get one early on him. The only way we’re going to score on him is that we’ve got to get pucks up high, and we’ve got to get screens in front, and tips. He’s going to make the easy saves every time. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

VIDEO: Highlights from Canada’s win vs. Latvia

As for Price? “He’s an unbelievable goalie, so skilled. He’s awesome, and he’s come up big when we needed him. And it’s tough for a goalie to play with only 15, 16 shots. It’s not easy, and he’s done an unbelievable job.”

Still, both Bylsma and Babcock have left themselves open to considerable second-guessing given the guys they relegated to the bench. Ryan Miller was brilliant for the U.S. four years ago in Vancouver, and his numbers this season in Buffalo are better than Quick’s in Los Angeles. Roberto Luongo, meanwhile, won gold for Canada in 2010, and he’s got far more big-game experience than Price, even if all those big games haven’t gone particularly well.

Bylsma and Babcock would’ve been left open to second-guessing whichever goalie they went with, but that won’t make the debate any less heated should one of Quick or Price perform poorly on Friday.

Lindholm in Sweden, won’t report to Ducks until contract signed

Hampus Lindholm
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Yesterday, we passed along news of Hampus Lindholm‘s contract demands — reportedly eight years, at least $6 million per — and news that the prized young d-man has been training in Sweden.

Now, his agent has confirmed Lindholm won’t be leaving Sweden until the deal gets done.

“Our plan is to report to the team once we have a contract signed,” said Claude Lemieux, per the O.C. Register. “Until then Hampus is training in Sweden.”

The 22-year-old is currently skating with SHL club Rogle BK, the same team Lindholm played for prior to getting drafted sixth overall in 2012.

The Ducks are already two games into their preseason schedule, and will play their third on Saturday in Arizona. From there, Anaheim has four exhibition games remaining — against the Kings, Oilers and two against the Sharks — before opening the regular season on Oct. 13 in Dallas.

Lemieux confirmed to the Register that they’re working on a “long-term agreement” for Lindholm, adding that both he and Ducks GM Bob Murray are “working on getting this resolved ASAP.”

The Ducks certainly need Lindholm in the lineup. He led all blueliners in goals last year, with 10, and averaged 22 minutes per night, second only to Cam Fowler on defense.

Penguins to visit White House next week

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12: The Pittsburgh Penguins pose for their photo with the Stanley Cup after their teams 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will visit President Obama at the White House on Thursday (Oct. 6).

These White House visits don’t always occur during the preseason (the 2015 champs from Chicago went in February, for example), but as you might have heard, there’s an election in November.

This will be the Penguins’ second visit with President Obama. They first met him after winning in 2009, during his first term. That visit actually occurred in early September, before the Pens even reported to training camp.

“With the Steelers and Penguins, I guess it’s a good time to be a sports fan in Pittsburgh,” Obama said during the visit.

“I was complaining about this,” he then joked. “It’s been a while since Chicago won anything.”

The next year, the Blackhawks won their first Cup since 1961.

Hossa going ‘year-by-year,’ as his contract begins to dive

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 09:  Marian Hossa #81 of the Chicago Blackhawks talks to a teammate against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on February 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Sharks defeated the Blackhawks 2-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Marian Hossa has one of those long-term, back-diving contracts they don’t let players sign anymore.

When he signed the 12-year deal, all the way back in 2009, it was generally assumed he’d retired before it expired. (Remember, the NHL didn’t have the “cap recapture” penalty then; that was brought in a few years later.)

This season, his salary dips to $4 million, from the $7.9 million he was paid in the first seven years of his deal. After that, it’s just $1 million in each of the final four years, per General Fanager.

So, does the assumption that he’ll retire before his contract expires still hold?

“I go year-by-year right now and I try to not focus on five years,” Hossa said, per the Chicago Tribune. “At this point, you never know what can happen. You know, too many injuries or these things can slow you down. Or anything can change. But right now I feel pretty good so I try to go for it.”

Hossa can still play, make no mistake. His point production fell dramatically last season, and it remains to be seen if he’ll skate with Jonathan Toews in Chicago’s top six, or if he’ll be knocked down to the third line. But anyone who watched him during the World Cup knows he can still play.

That being said, at 37, he’s one of the oldest players in the NHL. In fact, last season, there were only 10 forwards who were older, and that list will only grow shorter this season.

So, will Hossa play five more years, until he’s 42? It will be incredible if he does. And if he doesn’t, will the Blackhawks incur a recapture penalty? Or will some sort of injury allow them to escape it?

That all remains to be seen.

“My goal is to play to where I can play my level,” he said, “and if not, go from there.”

Related: Quenneville thinks Hossa ‘could be’ the next Jagr or Selanne

Landeskog to remain captain under Bednar, his third head coach in Colorado

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 17:  Gabriel Landeskog #92 of the Colorado Avalanche looks on during a break in the action against the Montreal Canadiens at Pepsi Center on February 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Canadiens 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Per the Denver Post, new Colorado head coach Jared Bednar has informed Gabriel Landeskog he will remain Avs captain this season.

It’s a speech Landeskog has heard before.

Originally named captain back in 2012 under then-head coach Joe Sacco, Landeskog retained the “C” when the Avs fired Sacco in favor of Patrick Roy, and now retains it again over the third coaching change of his young career.

“It needs to be said that I respected Patty on and off the ice and I enjoyed working with him for three years,” Landeskog said, per the Post. “But I’m really exited about having Jared here. It feels like he brings in a lot of fresh air and comes in with a lot of optimism about this group.

“It feels like he believes in us.”

Landeskog is certainly one to watch this season. His game has gone in a bit of a strange direction since capturing the Calder in 2012, marked by a steady decline in offense (from 65 points in ’13-14, to 59 in ’14-15, to 53 last year) and an increase in disciplinary issues.

The 23-year-old was suspended three games in March for a “reckless and irresponsible” cross-check on Ducks d-man Simon Despres. Landeskog was visibly upset about his actions, especially given his leadership role and the fact the Avs were battling for their playoff lives.

But there were signs of a somewhat reckless player prior to the Despres incident. Last November, he was suspended two games for a dangerous hit on Brad Marchand.

These incidents could be why there was some question if Landeskog would retain his captaincy under Bednar.

On that note, one thing to mention — while Landeskog will keep wearing the “C”, it sounds as though there’ll be changes under him in the leadership group. Bednar said the alternate captain positions, previously held by veterans Jarome Iginla and Cody McLeod — are up for grabs.

The assistant captains and what we do with the rest of the group will be evaluated and then we’ll make decisions on that later on and whether it’s two guys, four guys, all the things that we want to consider as an organization,” Bednar said, per the Post. “We’re going to take the camp to evaluate it, just as we evaluate their play through camp and exhibition.”