Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday: Canada/US for WJC Gold, Winter Classic ratings in and more...

Though it's not quite as sexy as a Canada/Russia finale, the Gold medal match between Canada and the US at the World Junior Championships in Saskatoon Tuesday is a pretty decent compromise. The New Years Eve round robin tilt between these two was as drama-packed as the last two times the teams met, and you know the US will be eager for redemption. Canada will be without Travis Hamonic for Tuesday's contest. The Islanders draft pick was hit from behind by Switzerland's Jeffery Fuglister and suffered a separated shoulder. As part of the shut down D along with Marco Scandella, his presence will be missed. Canada will need to show much more discipline than they have shown, or it will come back to haunt them. Too many foolish, and selfish penalties from the likes of Nazim Kadri among others. Overall it's been a good tournament I think, with some minor complaints. I am stunned at the lack of sellouts there. In a hockey mad province, it's mind-boggling to think people actually went "Switzerland? Nah. I'll pass." It's Team Canada for cryin' out loud. The Swiss emergence in this tournament was a pleasant surprise, but what's with Finland and Russia in this tournament? Big time disappointment.

The Winter Classic was either a hit or a bust depending on who you talk to. From the optics of the settings, Fenway Park was an amazing choice for the location. Whoever decided the Bruins should have played the Flyers though, should be fired. Apart from the last 5 minutes and the OT, the only exciting moment came when Daniel Carcillo and and Shawn Thornton deviated from Lord Bettman's script and threw down in a pretty spirited scrap. Why wasn't the most exciting player in the NHL not playing in this game? Alexander Ovechkin is amazing to watch (apart from his dud of a performance in Vancouver this year) and with the opportunity to showcase the game in a picture postcard setting, viewers got Chris Pronger trapping the afternoon away. The ratings are down just over 10% from last year's match. It's a lock that Ovi will be in there next year, and it will likely be against the Rangers, though Yankee Stadium is booked for a bowl game. The NHL has also said it wants a 2nd game in Canada, with Calgary rumored to be the front runner (and we know that they would likely want the Canucks for this one) to host one at McMahon Stadium.

Random notes: NHL 3 stars of the week are NJ's Jamie Langenbrunner, Dallas' Loui Eriksson, and Tampa Bay's Mike Smith... The Leafs season gets worse as Mikhail Grabovski is out 6 weeks with a fractured wrist, and Wayne Primeau 2 to 4 with a knee injury... Dion Phaneuf returned to the Flames' practice today after missing the remainder of the 3rd, but Craig Conroy apparently hasn't gone on the road with the team... No surprise that Vancouver's Henrik Sedin is the NHL's 1st star of the month for December. Hank lead all scorers with 5-20-25 in 15 games, had multiple assist games in 6 straight and points in all but one of Vancouver's games. The top 3 was rounded out by Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov and Chicago's Patrick "20 Cent" Kane. No word on whether Kane has plans to assault Bryzgalov to take over 2nd... and finally, from the Team USA phone conference, your Brian Burke moment of the week: "You go to Vegas a week before this tournament, and there won't be a penny bet on us. We're not manufacturing underdog status." Yeah, Wayne Gretzky called, he wants his motivational speech/welcome distraction back... I think I just threw up a little in my mouth reading that.

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