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USA Hockey: The Inside Stuff

By Mark Purdy
Thursday, February 18th, 2010 at 2:07 pm in Uncategorized.

I also posted this on the Working The Corners blog, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to duplicate here:

Hey, WTC citizens — Sorry about the issues with the earlier blog address I gave you . . .where the Merc’s Olympic reporters were supposed to post extra stuff from our coverage. As has been mentioned, there have been a lot of glitches in the blog situation the last few days and that blog was having its issue. So I decided to come here instead with any hockey stuff I pick up — assuming that’s okay with you guys. If you shout me down, I’ll go back inside my Olympic bubble.

Maybe I should first let you in on our hockey coverage plans: Obviously, El Almond and I are here covering a lot of events — but our intention is to have one of us at every USA hockey game and as many of the Canadian games as possible. And then, next week when it goes into the medal round, we want to cover every quarterfinal game as well as the semifinals and finals.

You might have seen my column on the USA team the other day after its opening victory over Switzerland — or maybe not. My ego isn’t big enough to believe everyone reads every word I write. But basically, I said that the USA looks better than I expected and that the young players–the Americans have the youngest roster here — bring a special energy onto the ice. That’s not happening so much today because right now, the USA leads Norway by just 3-1 after the second period. Almond is covering the game as I journey to the men’s figure skating finals across town. But I’ve been monitoring it on television. The Americans are passing up too many shots, in my opinion. Joe Pavelski is doing hard work in front of the net and has had a few good looks . . . I think the other players need to follow his example.

Two other things I thought you guys might want to know: Ron Wilson, the former Shark coach many fans loved to hate (or hated to love, more accurately) seems to think that one factor (if a minor one) in the tournament will be how smoothly the NHL players on all the teams adjust to international rules. As you can see, there is no trapezoid area behind the goalie, which should give an advantage to a great puck-handling ‘tender like Canada’s Martin Brodeur. There’s also no standing in the crease — if a ref catches someone doing it, the puck comes out of the zone for a faceoff. Also, if your helmet falls off, it’s a penalty if you keep skating and touch the puck. And the no-touch icing, of course. Oh, yes. And one more: A player who gets into a fight will not just be tossed out of the game, he will also have to sit out the following game. (I don’t expect this rule to even come up.)

It also seems to me that so far, Wilson is being more patient with his line combinations than Mike Babcock was with Canada. John Tortorella, one of the USA assistants, told me: “You don’t want have a knee-jerk reaction because you need to get out of their way and let them play out a little bit. But it’s a fine line in terms of waiting too long to make a move, also.” I’ve been remembering that quote while watching the USA’s top line fail to really light up the scoreboard. By contrast, Babcock shook up his top line quickly when Canada failed to score in the first period against Norway and moved up Jarome Iginla onto the line with Sid Crosby.

Finally, figured you Shark-ists would love this note: I made contact with Pavelski’s parents before the Switzerland game. THey were all sitting halfway up in the lower bowl, behind one goal, wearing USA Pavelski jerseys. Joe’s wife, mom and dad, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandma, aunt and sister are all here and plan to stay through the weekend. And, yes, they definitely are from Wisconsin. Half an hour before the noon faceoff, I am happy to report that Joe’s mom and dad were both enjoying a beer. (I was jealous.) Joe’s dad, a self-employed painter, declared: “The Molson is pretty good–almost as good as Point Beer back home.”

If you guys have questions you’d like me to answer about the Olympic hockey tournament, send them along to me at mpurdy@mercurynews.com . I don’t always have time to read all the comments on WTC but am happy to keep the Mercury News part of it going while Pollak is on Olympic break

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