Jagr: Czech Republic might be old, but we can still win


If you combine the United States, Canadian, Russian, and Swedish Olympic rosters, you would end up with just two players over the age of 35. Daniel Alfredsson on Sweden and Canada’s Martin St. Louis, who joined the squad as an injury replacement.

The Czech Republic has four players alone that are in their late 30s and early 40s in defenseman Marek Zidlicky and forwards Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr, and Petr Nedved. They have a total of 12 players that are at least 30.

So it’s fair to call the Czechs a veteran squad, but Jagr doesn’t think that should be seen as a potential weakness.

“I don’t think it really matters,” Jagr told the Bergen Record. “All the players who play there, we play the same kind of minutes like everybody else in the NHL. You shouldn’t get tired because you play three games there. We are used to it.”

Jagr added that being slower isn’t necessarily a disadvantage either, particularly on the larger international ice. For one thing, he argues that it’s the team that controls the puck that ultimately dictates the tempo of the game. He thinks that the big rinks puts an even greater emphasis on puck possession as it’s that much harder to force a turnover.

The Czech Republic isn’t one of the leading candidates to win a gold medal, but they certainly can’t be dismissed either. They’ve been assigned to Group C with Sweden, Switzerland, and Latvia.


Czech stunner: Hudler, Vrbata snubbed from Olympic roster

Nedved’s ‘strange’ life takes him to Sochi

Pasha’s back: Datsyuk returns from 14-game absence tonight


The Red Wings and Russia’s Olympic team are getting a big return tonight in Florida, as Pavel Datsyuk will play for the first time since the 2014 Winter Classic.

Datsyuk, who’s missed the last 14 games with a knee injury, will be a huge boost to a Detroit team that’s played reasonably well of late, winning four of its last seven while collecting 10 of 14 points. It’s also a great sign for Russia, as Datsyuk — who’ll captain the club in Sochi — gets tonight’s game against the Panthers and Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay under his belt prior to departing for the Winter Games this weekend.

Datsyuk’s had a tough season health-wise, missing seven games earlier in the year with a concussion. But when healthy he’s been his usual dynamic self, scoring 15 goals and 32 points in 35 games.

Earlier today, Datsyuk practiced on a line with Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson. That trio is expected to stick together as the Wings look to beat Florida for just the second time this season (this will be the fifth time the two have played.)

Olympic odds: Crosby, Ovechkin co-favorites for MVP


Canada’s Sidney Crosby and Russia’s Alex Ovechkin are the favorites to win tournament MVP at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, according to online oddsmaker Bovada.

Crosby and Ovechkin both came in at 7/1, followed by U.S. forward Patrick Kane, at 10/1. The field looks like this:

Alexander Ovechkin (RUS)         7/1
Sidney Crosby (CAN)                7/1
Patrick Kane (USA)                    10/1
Evgeni Malkin (RUS)                  12/1
Henrik Lundqvist (SWE)             15/1
Henrik Zetterberg (SWE)            15/1
Zach Parise (USA)                     18/1
Tuukka Rask (FIN)                     18/1
Ryan Miller (USA)                      18/1
Ilya Kovalchuk (RUS)                 20/1
Roberto Luongo (CAN)              20/1
Jonathan Quick (USA)               25/1
Jonathan Toews (CAN)              25/1
Steven Stamkos (CAN)              25/1
Semyon Varlamov (RUS)           25/1
Carey Price (CAN)                     30/1
Pavel Datsyuk (RUS)                 30/1
Phil Kessel (USA)                      30/1
John Tavares (CAN)                   30/1
Sergei Bobrovsky (RUS)            35/1
Erik Karlsson (SWE)                  40/1
Antti Niemi (FIN)                        40/1
Niklas Backstrom (FIN)              40/1
Henrik Sedin (SWE)                   40/1
Ryan Getzlaf (CAN)                   40/1
Ryan Kesler (USA)                     40/1
Daniel Sedin (SWE)                   40/1
Corey Perry (CAN)                     40/1
Patrick Sharp (CAN)                  50/1
Daniel Alfredsson (SWE)           50/1
Joe Pavelski (USA)                      50/1
Marian Hossa (SLO)                  50/1
David Krejci (CZE)                     50/1
Alexander Steen (SWE)             75/1
Marian Gaborik (SLO)                75/1
Rick Nash (CAN)                       75/1
Loui Eriksson (SWE)                 90/1
Mikko Koivu (FIN)                      90/1
Valtteri Filppula (FIN)                 100/1
Jaromir Jagr (CZE)                    100/1
Jussi Jokinen (FIN)                    150/1
Teemu Selanne (FIN)                  150/1

Some quick thoughts:

— The MVP doesn’t always come from the gold medal-winning team. In fact, the last two MVPs (Miller and Finland’s Antero Niittymakki) were on the silver-medal winning sides; the last guy to win MVP and gold was Canada’s Joe Sakic in 2002.

— Toews (25/1) led Canada in scoring at the ’10 Games in Vancouver.

— Karlsson (40/1) leads all NHL defensemen in scoring (53 points) and should play huge minutes on the Swedish blueline.

— If Quick gets the nod over Miller for the U.S. No. 1 gig in Sochi, he’s really good value at 25/1.

— Just a reminder that Finland won bronze in Vancouver, silver in Turin and silver in Nagano. The Finns always seem to be in medal contention, but I wouldn’t recommend betting on Niklas Backstrom because, you know, he’s not on the team and stuff.

Switching Wings: Nyquist to replace Franzen on Swedish Olympic team


On Monday, the Swedish national team replaced one Detroit forward with another.

Gustav Nyquist was named as an injury replacement for the concussed Johan Franzen, according to the Detroit Free Press. That makes it 11 Red Wings named to their respective national teams for the Winter Olympics in Sochi: Nyquist, Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk (Russia), Tomas Jurco (Slovakia), Tomas Tatar (Slovakia), Jonas Gustavsson (Sweden), Jonathan Ericsson (Sweden), Niklas Kronwall (Sweden), Daniel Alfredsson (Sweden), Henrik Zetterberg (Sweden) and Jimmy Howard (United States).

Nyquist, 24, has been in fine form as of late, notching a hat trick and an assist in a 5-4 OT loss to Washington on Sunday. Nyquist now has 12 points in his last eight games and 22 in 30 this season.

A fourth-round pick by Detroit at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Nyquist made the Swedish team as an injury replacement over the likes of Nashville’s Patric Hornqvist and Washington’s Marcus Johansson, both of whom were shortlisted to take Franzen’s spot.

TGIF: Four NHL games to watch this weekend, and the Super Bowl


Halford note: This is usually Brough’s bag, but he’s en route to Sochi so you’re stuck with me. Let’s do this.

Saturday: Philadelphia at Los Angeles (4 p.m. ET)

Dry Island reunion party! Though to be fair, only a handful of Flyers remain from the team Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were dealt from three years go, so it’s more like a get-together luncheon than full-on reunion. Probably still be open bar though. Anyway, I mentioned this on Twitter last night but it bears repeating: Claude Giroux’s back-check (sorry, “back-check”) on Daniel Winnik’s shorthanded goal wasn’t the best:

Saturday: Ottawa at Toronto (7 p.m. ET)

Battle of Ontario! Still fun to watch, but this rivalry has lost its edge in recent years. There used to be a time when Sens-Leafs would guarantee either a bench brawl, spitting allegation or a Toronto player taking out one of Ottawa’s Swedes (be it Tie Domi on Magnus Arvedsson, or Mark Bell on Daniel Alfredsson.)

Of course, Ottawa’s Swedes also had a history of taking out Toronto players. *cough* Alfredsson on Darcy Tucker *cough*

(BTW, the fact Tie’s Domi hit on Martin Havlat is basically footnote here illustrates how dirty this rivalry used to be.)

Saturday: Chicago at San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET)

I should stop writing every intro this way! But in this instance, the exclamation point is warranted — ‘Hawks-Sharks is a really good matchup. The ‘Hawks skunked the Sharks 5-1 in San Jose in the first meeting this year but the Sharks returned the favor three weeks ago, winning 3-2 (in a shootout) at the United Center for their first victory in Chicago in three years.

There is an issue at hand for San Jose, however. With Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture out of the lineup, the team is struggling to score:


For you math majors, that’s seven regulation goals in six games. Yeah, the Sharks ran into a brick wall named Ben Scrivens in Edmonton, but they failed to do much against Calgary (the NHL’s third-worst defensive team) or the Jets, who allow 2.87 goals per game.

Sunday: Detroit at Washington (12:30 p.m. ET)

NBC’s Game of the Week! (Can’t stop, on a roll.)

Here’s a question: Could any team be less enthused about NHLers participating in the Olympics than Detroit? I know the Blues and ‘Hawks are sending 10 players to Sochi compared to Detroit’s nine (now that Johan Franzen is out), but the Blues and ‘Hawks are somewhat healthy whereas Detroit is like one big human bruise. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are banged up, Jimmy Howard’s knee has been an issue and Alfredsson turned 41 in December. If there’s one team that could use a break to recharge the ol’ batteries and gear up for a playoff push, it’s the Wings. Instead, they’re sending over 39 percent of their active roster to Russia for two weeks.

Sunday: Super Bowl XLVIII — Seattle vs. Denver (3:30 p.m. ET)

Football predictions on a hockey blog! After very little deliberation, I’m taking Seattle by a score of 24-20. In a somewhat related story, my hometown of Vancouver has become a Seahawks mecca in recent weeks. Heck, even the New York Times wrote about it. It’s gotten to the point where people that previously had zero interest in football are getting curious. Like my wife, who yesterday asked me “what’s up with that Richard Sherbert guy?”