Sunday, January 2, 2011

It's the all Portland Winterhawks, all the time show

The games: Winter Classic. Canada vs. Switzerland (World Juniors).

About the Classic: Kudos to the Washington Capitals and Eric Fehr for getting it done. Boo to the NHL Network for making it all about the weather. So it rained and the puck bounced a little. Get over it. In Oregon, we do everything in the rain. Except wear fashionable attire.

Maybe they should have followed Washington's fine example and used a different goaltender: Biggest bummer of the night was watching a bad goaltending decision by Marc-Andre Fleury that allowed Eric Fehr to score the second Caps goal of the night. The Pens never looked like they fully recovered from that, and down came their game in front of 68,000 some odd fans on their home ice. As my little cousins like to say, it was a really big ouchy. The Pens have entered a mini-skid at the worst possible time. But I do feel good for the Caps that they are entering an upswing at the best possible time. Plus, how awesome would it be to be John Carlson? Last year he was scoring the winning goal for the US at the World Juniors and now this. Nicely done.

It's the Portland version of the Russia vs. US 1980 Olympic game: It was the all-Winterhawks game as Nino Niederreiter and Sven Bartschi (Team Switzerland) faced off against Ryan Johansen and Team Canada. Ryan is also Nino's linemate. Final score: Canada 4, Switzerland 1. Ryan goes back to his hotel as player of the game, having scored Canada's game tying number after Switzerland claimed an early lead, and pretty much setting up or assisting every other goal or chance. One of the TSN broadcasters (Pierre McGuire, I believe) said "whenever he's on the ice, something's happening." The win sets up a re-match/showdown between the US and Canada. Any self-respecting junior hockey fan will find a way to feign illness, personal emergency or other fake event to get out of work and watch it. Switzerland gets the dubious honor of playing the loser of the Finland vs. Russia game for placement at 5th or 6th place.

Oh, the irony: The power play on which Ryan scored happened because Sven was in the box for slashing.

Don't quit your day job on the forward line: Nino finished the game in the penalty box, after getting an unsportsmanlike penalty for trying to stop Zach Kassian's empty netter. Last year, he was the breakout star of this tournament. This year, he spent the last minute or so of crucial game on the bench. Hey, it's hockey. Nobody said it was fair. But Nino rarely takes an unsportsmanlike penalty, so it was especially hard to watch. On the other hand, it's a sign of his passion and commitment to doing all he can to try and help his team.

Anything was possible: Before he left for the tournament, I asked Nino what he thought the outcome would be if Switzerland ended up facing Canada. He struggled to come up with an answer and then said "Why not Switzerland? Anything is possible." Thanks to Switzerland's early goal and Benjamin Conz' stellar goaltending, for a time, it was. But alas, Canada is on a mission to avenge it's gold medal loss last year and they very nearly lost the chance to do so in the game to Sweden. And nothing much was going to stand in their way. Maybe the Swiss coaches didn't know that if you want to win, you have to feed Nino a chocolate snack every hour, on the hour.

The quirk:

Today, nearly all the match ups in the NHL involve a past or current Portland Winterhawk:

Dallas (Brenden Morrow) vs. St. Louis (Brett Ponich, 2009 Entry Draft)

Columbus (Ryan Johansen, 4th overall 2010 Entry Draft) vs. Nashville (Taylor Aronson, just signed a three-year entry level deal with the Predators)

Chicago (Marion Hossa, Mac Carruth, drafted 191st 2010 Entry Draft) vs. Anaheim (Luca Sbisa)

Phoenix (Jason LaBarbera) vs. Minnesota Wild (don't think they have a Winterhawk on board, but Mac is from there. Close enough).

Philadelphia (Braydon Coburn, who still has his Oregon number on his cell phone) vs. Detroit (former team of Marion Hossa).

Vancouver (Stefan Schneider, currently playing with AHL's Manitoba Moose) vs. Colorado (Troy Rutkowski, Luke Walker, currently playing with AHL's Lake Erie Monsters).

New York Rangers (Brandon Dubinsky) vs. Florida Panthers.

No wonder I'm annoyed and I bought a lot of food that's bad for me at Trader Joe's: Inside of a week, the Hawks gained a great new player and lost 2, they lost our New Year's game, the Pens lost the biggest game of the year except for the Stanley Cup final on their own ice and Sven and Nino didn't unleash an underdog win over Canada. Not exactly the week I was planning. But Ryan did get 'er done with Canada, Craig Cunningham scored a hat trick for Portland, Teal Burns and Spencer Bennett are on fire in Vancouver, and the Canada vs. USA rematch awaits. Now...what's a good excuse for leaving work tomorrrow around 4? Think, think, think.

Next up: The outcome of the USA vs. Canada game and updates from any further blockbuster trades for the Winterhawks (WHL trade deadline is January 10).

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