In what was my favorite Olympic Games in my young memory, there were a ton of major storylines that kept the presses hot and gave the broadcast crews plenty of filler material. From the death of a Georgian luger, to the unpredictable weather, to the incredibly strong performance of figure skater Joannie Rochette after the death of her mother, the 2010 Games will not soon be forgotten. While the Olympic hockey tournament was an incredible 2 weeks of hockey, Wednesday’s trade deadline will have the hockey world buzzing, and should help many American fans move on from their crushing overtime defeat at the hands of Sidney Crosby and the hometown Canadians. Before that happens, here’s 4 things that I didn’t see coming at the 2010 Games.
Alex “No”-vechkin – One of hockey’s most outgoing and enthusiastic stars, Ovie has been one of the most outspoken supporters of the NHL’s continued participation in the Olympic Games. That is, until he and the rest of the Russian team arrived in Vancouver. The Russians spent most of the tournament generally ignoring the media-at-large, reserving their comments for members of the Russian media. One of the few off-ice sightings of Ovechkin saw him knocking a camera out of a female fan’s hand, reportedly knocking her to the ground. Disappointing part was, that was just about all we saw of Russia’s greatest player, as he was held to only 2 goals and 4 points in the tournament, and registered a not-so-impressive -2 in Russia’s quarterfinal matchup with Canada. Thankfully for Ovie, his Capitals are still atop the Eastern Conference standings and look poised to make a serious run at the Cup this year.
Changing of the guard on Canada’s blueline? – The locks for the Canadian blueline heading into this tournament were household names like Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Dan Boyle. While Nieds turned in yet another string of solid performances and looked more like a 26 year old than the grizzled veteran he is, the real standouts on the Canadian blueline were youngsters Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith. Fans of the LA Kings might have known how good this kid was, but Steve Yzerman’s decision to select Doughty over high-scoring Mike Green was one of the most criticized decisions of the tournament. I doubt any of those critics will be making that argument any time soon, as Doughty and Keith finished tied for the team lead among defensemen with +6 ratings. The two were also some of the most called-upon players for Coach Mike Babcock in pressure situations. Throw in Shea Weber and that cannon of a point shot he’s got, and you got one hell of a young blueline to build on. Taking nothing away from Pronger (5 pts, +3) and Boyle (6 pts, +5), but the future of the Canadian blueline will certainly be passed into very capable hands.
Tore Vikingstad – The guy with the coolest name in pro hockey comes from Norway? Yes, and the mighty Tore also finished tied for 2nd in tournament goals with 4, giving him more goals than Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeni Malkin and Jaromir Jagr finished with. Good luck finding a Vikingstad jersey: Norway didn’t qualify for the tournament in time for Nike to mass produce their jerseys.
Burkie’s “other” Boys – If nothing else, Leaf fans should feel pretty confident with GM Brian Burke at the helm for the coming months. The team Burke put together for these Olympics was incredibly young, fast, physical and tough. The shining moment for the young American squad is undoubtedly their shocking preliminary round win over Canada. They got a little help from some not-so-Brodeur-like goaltending from Marty, but they certainly earned that win. Ryan Kesler’s empty net goal to clinch the game exemplified exactly the hustle and heart that Burke wanted on this team. In case you weren’t aware, this team had plenty of talent, too. Pat Kane, Phil Kessel and Zach Parise all possess lethal combinations of speed and scoring prowess: just ask Miikka Kiprusoff and the Finns, who got steamrolled in the first 13 minutes of the semi-finals. Any Canadian hockey fan that says they weren’t terrified of seeing Parise get another scoring chance in the gold medal game (after he sent it to overtime), is a bold-faced liar. Oh yea, they had the tournament MVP and potential Vezina winner between the pipes, too. Ryan “the Leaf Killer” Miller nearly took his domination of teams with the Maple Leaf on their chest to a whole different level. Thank God for Sidney Crosby.