Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Golden Effort

It's been since 2004, but the United States has finally struck gold at the World Junior Championships, beating arch-rival and northern neighbor Canada 6-5 in overtime on Tuesday night. A Canadian win would have given them their 6th straight gold, a tournament record, but their efforts were thwarted when John Carlson, on loan from the Hershey Bears of the AHL where he has notched a goal and 23 assists in 29 games this season, beat Canada keeper Martin Jones.

It was a historic win for the United States, undoubtedly. It raises the same old questions: does the United States fan base even care? And what does this mean for the future of U.S. hockey?

While it is foolish to think the United States has caught Canada as far as player development, this is certainly a big step in the right direction. While Canada is 27-6-3 versus the U.S. at the WJHC, it is certainly a mark of how the United States has come along. Their only loss in this tournament was a shootout loss to Canada, proving that the U.S. can indeed play with anyone. But what will it take to prove that the U.S. is catching Canada in player development? It will take more than a medal here and a medal there, for sure. A strong showing at this February's Olympics (and by strong showing, we mean a gold medal) and perhaps another strong showing at next year's World Juniors, which are on U.S. soil in Buffalo, N.Y., are crucial to the future of U.S.A. hockey. While the U.S. has no doubt proved they are among the best of the best at the world stage, supremacy is always the aim here in America, and consistant top finishes are the only way the U.S. will garner the respect it wants.

The win should be savored by American fans, no matter their interest in the best under-20 kids in American hockey. The last victory was six years ago and featured Ryan Kesler, Nigel Dawes, and tournament MVP Zach Parise. Parise is on the 2010 Olympic team, so the 2010 Championships may only be a sign of things to come at the ultimate stage--the Olympics.

Here is Carlson's game-winner:

No matter your interest level in the tournament, how great is it to see 15,000 Canadian fans silenced almost instantaneously?

Moving back to the NHL, the Capitals have named Alexander Ovechkin their 14th team captain in their history. This got me thinking about Capitals history; did you know that between their first two seasons in the NHL they were a combined 19-126-15? That's dreadful. Their first captain was Doug Mohns, who actually played for the Bruins from 1954-1964. He retired after that dreadful season with the Capitals at the age of 42. Enough about Doug Mohns; back to Ovechkin. This is a logical choice for captain after the departure of Chris Clark shortly after Christmas. Tom Poti and Mike Knuble will remain assistant captains, but the Ovechkin choice is just plain logical for the Caps--they can give more responsibility to their franchise guy and keep things going in the right direction. Ovechkin, barring injury, is going to leave a mark on the Capitals like someone like Steve Yzerman left on the Red Wings--a consistent leader and a player of superstar caliber who stays it out with one team for his entire career. There isn't enough of that in the NHL these days. Oh, and Tomas Fleischmann was moved to center for those of you interested.

Other quick hits:

Our predictions were wrong last night and by a lot. I'm not sure how I could ever pick against the Blackhawks, but they beat the Wild last night, 4-1. The Bruins also smoked the Senators, scoring four times in the first period and getting a big night from Blake Wheeler offensively.

Bryan McCabe scored twice in the first period last night against his old team, but the Panthers couldn't hold off the Maple Leafs as the Leafs rallied to up-end the Cats, 3-2.

It's not a well-kept secret that I don't like Alexander Burrows after his hair-pulling incident last season, but he netted a hat trick last night and the Sedin twins combined for five assists as the Canucks blasted the Blue Jackets, 7-3. Ken Hitchcock had some colorful comments to Canwest News when asked if he was worried about losing his job:

We have got a plan and we are willing to stick with it and if it costs me my job then it costs me my job, but there’s a plan.

Unfortunately for Hitch, it may just do that.




This match-up may not be the most intruiging in the standings, but it does pit two over-achieving franchises and it also is the first head-to-head showdown between 2009 first overall pick John Tavares and 3rd overall pick in Matt Duchene. It should be an interesting battle for those with NHL Center Ice.

Prediciton: Avs, 5-3

Signing off for today. Mike Nick will be back later with his Altantic Division outlook. Make sure you follow us on Twitter as well!

1 comment:

  1. No matter your interest level in the tournament, how great is it to see 15,000 Canadian fans silenced almost instantaneously?

    I love that line, and that was great to see.