Okay, as I promised in anticipation of a cool Sunday schedule of games including the big Canada-USA matchup (which you can read about it in my Sunday column in the Merc), here is a brief capsule of all eight Shark players’ performances so far. I’ve ranked them by their impact on the tournament so far, along with salient stats and some personal observations:
1. DANY HEATLEY (Canada) — He’s tied for the tournament points lead (4) with four other players and is tied for the goal-scoring lead (3) with Jarome Iginla of Canada and the fabulous Tore Vikingstad of Norway. Love that name. Heatley really is playing with as much intensity as anyone here. But so is the whole Shark Canadian (Sharkanucks?) contingent. Defensemen are finding it hard to stick with Heatley because of his size and strength.
2. PATRICK MARLEAU (Canada) — He’s got two goals and an assist in two games and has taken 11 shots in two games, more than anyone else in the hockey tournament except for Marian Hossa of Slovakia, who has already played in three games. From his body language, I can tell Marleau is geeked up about playing with the other great players from his country.
3. JOE PAVELSKI (USA) — Former Shark coach Ron Wilson is using Pavelski in all situations, which has surprised me some, but he’s fulfilled Wilson’s faith. Pavelski has won 19 of 28 faceoffs, second best percentage on the team. He has two assists and I think should have had another on one of the USA’s goals against Switzerland. His line, with Ryan Malone of Tampa Bay and Ryan Kesler of Vancouver, has also been the most versataile and reliable on the team.
4. DAN BOYLE (Canada) — He’s got two assists in the two games but is a plus 3, which ties him for the tournament lead in that category with 13 other players. I had a good interview with Boyle for Sunday’s column. Best quote I didn’t use but will definitely use next week if the situation is right. Boyle was saying he hasn’t seen much of the other Sharks here at the Olympic Village but added: “I know when we get back to San Jose in two weeks, there will be a lot of talking to each other about all this, especially from certain guys that have big mouths.” When I asked who that might be, Boyle laughed and said: “Dougie Murray, for one.”
5. JOE THORNTON (Canada) — Obviously, Thornton has been putting Heatley and Marleau into good scoring positions, even if the stats just show that Joe has one assist and a plus-minus number of zero over the two games. Thornton has won 14 of 23 faceoffs, the fourth best percentage among Canadian players and 15th best in the tournament. You get the feeling he’s going to have a breakout game . . . maybe against the USA?
6. EVGENI NABOKOV (Russia) — He’s only played one game, Russia’s easy 8-2 victory over Latvia. In it, he saved 18 of 20 shots against him but could have spent most of the game doing Sudoku puzzles because the Latvians didn’t press him much. After Russia’s overtime loss to Slovakia with Ilya Bryzgalov in goal, I fully expect Russia to go back to Nabby today against the Czech Republic — and I know Nabby well enough to know he’ll be upset if that doesn’t happen.
7. DOUGLAS MURRAY (Sweden) — He’s been a steady presence in Sweden’s two victories, over Germany and Belarus. Murray doesn’t have any goals or assists, but he’s stayed out of the penalty box and is averaging 12:26 of ice time per game. Sunday’s game against Finland should be a real test for the Swedes. And by the way, congratulations to former Shark Teemu Selanne for becoming the all-time Olympic points scoring leader by scoring his 37th point in Friday’s game.
8. THOMAS GREISS (Germany) — This should be a great tournament for the development of Greiss, the Sharks’ backup goalie. He started against Sweden and gave up two goals in 25 shots by one of the tournament’s top four teams. Greiss then sat for Germany’s loss to Finland but is back in net against Belarus as I write these words at the hockey arena. Midway through the second period, Belarus is leading, 2-1. Greiss allowed one goal on six shots int he first period and just gave up a bad second goal by committing too early on a shot and then being unable to slide across the crease because he was blocked by his own defenseman. A learning experience, I’m sure.
Most importantly, no one is hurt.
So. Onward to Sunday. I’ve got plenty of stuff in my notebook from media sessions with the USA and Canada teams today and would love to download them but . . . a man’s gotta get some sleep. I’m leaving the hockey arena to be back here as early as I can in the morning and . . . just so you know what it’s like at the Olympics, for no apparent reason, astronaut Buzz Aldrin just walked into the press room and is schmoozing at the table next to me. I shook his hand. Since I once played golf with Neil Armstrong (another story for another time), I have now met the first two men who walked on the moon and two-thirds of the first moon mission. Michael Collins, you’re next . . . sometime.
Enjoy the Sunday games.