Monday, May 21, 2012

How to Know If Your Players Checked Out Early

The IIHF Hockey World Championship Tournament has finally concluded. I caught bits and pieces of games, and did my best to follow my Red Wings. There's always something about international hockey that feels like I'm watching a completely different sport to me. I don't know if it's that I don't recognize all the names, or if it's the bigger ice surface. I think what it really is, is that despite it being 2012 and the Cold War having been over for 20 years now, watching international hockey on television looks like I'm watching old reels of the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.

A lot of North American hockey fans who are watching the Worlds because their team took an early exit from the playoffs (or never even got there) are feeling the sting from watching their players excel in the tournament. Valterri Filppulla, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, and Pavel Datsyuk all had lackluster performances in terms of goals and points against Nashville. Filppula: 0 goals, 2 assists, Franzen: 1 goal (scored off his ass), 0 assists, Zetterberg: 2 goals, 1 assist, and Datsyuk: 1 goal, 2 assists in 5 games against Nashville.

Their Worlds statistics? Filppula: 4 goals, 6 assists in 10 games (10th most points), Franzen: 4 goals, 5 assists in 7 games (13th), Zetterberg: 3 goals, 12 assists in 8 games (3rd) and Datsyuk: 3 goals, 4 assists in 10 games and a Gold Medal.

Even in the World Championship, American goaltender Jimmy Howard has to make short handed saves.
Some have alleged that NHL stars may have duffed their play, especially if they were facing daunting odds, in order to hasten their exit so they could flee to their IIHF teams and possibly win glory at the World's Tournament. I've scoured the records of interviews, press conferences, Tweets and previously unpublished comments that may indicate certain players' focus was not on their performance in the NHL, but instead on the World's Tournament. These quotes are completely, 100% true and accurate, although I did clean up the wording for players for whom English is a second language.

  • John Tavares: "I'm really looking forward to playing hockey this May."
  • Evgeni Malkin: "You know what really makes playing right now special? Knowing that I'm going to have a high quality goaltender behind me."
  • Max Pacioretty: "I think my team will benefit greatly from the fact I'm not drinking my meals through a straw right now"
  • Henrik Zetterberg: "A great part of hockey this time of year is how much players respect each other so you don't have to worry about cheap shots and stuff happening after the game ends"
  • Jordan Eberle: Tweeted: "Fans should enjoy this team. We don't rely only on young goal scorers. We've got a great mix of young talent and veterans"
  • Ryan Getzlaf: "I want to squash the rumors right now that I skipped practice yesterday because I'm a pompous, self absorbed player. I missed practice because I was up late checking out European flight prices. But I learned my lesson. Next time I'm using Kayak.com"
  • Johan Franzen: Told local media it was odd to experience a post season where he suffered a horrible injury to his face. 
  • Cam Ward: "I have this tradition where I like to take my goal scorers out of a congratulatory drink. It'll be nice to start that back up again soon"
  • Valterri Filppula: "The team needs me to score goals and put up points, and I'm fully prepared to do that for them"
  • Alex Goligoski: "Once again, I have to be the one American guy on the team who nobody believes is an American because of my last name. I'm from Grand Rapids, people!"
  • Niklas Kronwall "It'll be nice when the media and fans react with shock and surprise when I destroy some hapless forward on the blue line again" 
  • Pavel Datsyuk: Confused a lot of reporters with his broken English when he explained he was looking forward to playing with Gino Malkin. Most dismissed it as an esoteric Russian pronunciation of "Gustav Nyquist" 

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