Olympic implications on the stretch run
It was a pretty universal sentiment the morning after: Canada-USA was an instant classic. The NHLers, whether they'll be back to contest the gold medal in Sochi or not, gave outsiders and newcomers the kind of show that makes people hockey fans in the first place.
As Deadspin's Barry Petchesky so perfectly put it in his comforting of deflated American fans, "it hurts because you care."
But the gold medal is yesterday's news, right? We've still got a Stanley Cup to award in 2010 and if Olympic performances are any indicator, some teams will be better suited for a run than others.
Chicago — The Blackhawks are built for a Cup run this season anyway, but it must be pretty nice to be a Chicago fan right now. Jonathan Toews was Canada's best forward of the tournament, while blueliners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook logged invaluable ice time in some of the most high-pressure games they'll ever see.
On the American side, Patrick Kane played great against Canada, while Slovakia's Marian Hossa was the second-highest scorer in the tourney with nine points in seven games. But most important, none of the Hawks' big guns got hurt.
Los Angeles — Drew Doughty was a breakout player for Canada in the tournament and the offensively inclined defenseman looked super-confident in the medal round. Coupled with the fact his American blueline buddy Jack Johnson also gave a stellar performance and captain Dustin Brown got to experience real pressure for the first time as a pro, you're looking at a young, but poised, Kings team heading into its first NHL postseason since 2001-02.
Vancouver — It's a mixed bag for Canucks fans. On the positive side, American Ryan Kesler proved himself on the world stage as a top-notch two-way threat and played big when his team needed him the most. Conversely, Roberto Luongo wasn't exactly a world-beater, was he?
Bobby Lou was the goalie of record for Canada's gold-medal victory, but he was the second-best man at his position in the game and even Kesler pointed out in a second intermission interview the Yanks knew Luongo was fighting the puck. Any worry "good" won't be good enough once the Western Conference playoffs roll around?
San Jose – Oh, Sharks fans ... I want to believe, I really do. But once again your goaltender (Russian Evgeni Nabokov) came up lame in the biggest game of his season to date, getting thrashed by Canada in the quarterfinal. Also, despite playing with his San Jose linemates all tournament long, Joe Thornton's stat line was underwhelming, to say the least. "Big Joe" tallied just two points in seven games and was a minus-1 for the Olympics. Only one other Canadian was a minus and that was 13th forward Patrice Bergeron (minus-2).
Both Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley played pretty well, but what happens if Thornton's line comes up against Anaheim, Nashville or — perish the thought — Detroit in the first round this year?
Washington — Alex Ovechkin is a fun, dynamic guy and all, but based on Olympic outcomes, in what scenario do the Capitals beat out the Penguins in the East? I guess as a Caps fan you just hope someone else knocks Pittsburgh out before a potential rematch of last year's classic tilt.
While Sidney Crosby wasn't always visible during the tourney, he was there when Canada needed him most, both in the shootout against Switzerland and in overtime vs. the Americans. Ovie, on the other hand, folded like an umbrella during the quarterfinal against Canada.
Phoenix — Your goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, should have been Russia's starter and played amazing when given the chance. Most of your best players got to rest during the break, including warhorses Shane Doan and Ed Jovanovski. Enjoy the playoffs, Phoenix fans — it may last more than one round for you.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column — The Straight Edge — every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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