OGDB 4.0: NOW IT MATTERS

Jason Gregor
February 19 2014 01:27AM

ready_2_rumble

After three rather uneventful preliminary games, we finally get to the games that matter and Canada ends up with the easiest quarterfinal opponent in Latvia. Give the Latvians credit, they scored three goals on the stingy Swiss yesterday and were deserving of their 3-1 victory, but their Cinderella run ends today.

Had Canada lost to Finland they would be playing Russia, and the angst and excitement would be much higher, but I think we will have to wait until Friday to be excitedly nervous about a game.

While I'm giving Latvia no chance, the Canadian players won't be looking past them. Canada's forwards are horny for goals, and I expect we'll see quite a few of them break out offensively.

I believe people have made a bit too much over the offensive woes of the forwards. It is three games, and while you'd like more goals from the forwards, only the USA and Finland are averaging more goals per game than Canada.

Yes, only three forwards have scored a goal, but the D-men have picked up the slack. You can expect that trend to be reversed in the next few games. Canada's forwards are simply too good not to start scoring.

Here is a quick look at Canada's production:

Player GP G A  PTS SOG TOI/G
Drew Doughty 3 4 1 5 8 18:00
Jeff Carter 3 3 1 4 11 13:50
Shea Weber 3 2 2 4 5 21:00
Patrick Marleau 3 0 4 4 7 15:13
Ryan Getzlaf 3 1 2 3 5 13:36
Patrice Bergeron 3 0 2 2 5 13:13
Sidney Crosby 3 0 2 2 5 15:43
Jamie Benn 3 1 0 0 7 12:14
Duncan Keith 3 0 1 1 7 21:00
Alex Pietrangelo 3 0 1 1 7 18:45
Corey Perry 3 0 1 1 6 14:18
Jonathan Toews 3 0 1 1 4 16:52
Jay Bouwmeester 3 0 0 0 4 17:27
Marc-Edourd Vlasic 3 0 0 0 3 15:13
John Tavares 3 0 0 0 5 12:31
Chris Kunitz 3 0 0 0 4 12:25
Rick Nash 3 0 0 0 7 10:05
Matt Duchene 2 0 0 0 4 13:50
Patrick Sharp 2 0 0 0 0 12:04
Martin St.Louis 2 0 0 0 5 11:52
Dan Hamhuis 2 0 0 0 2 6:55
P.K Subban 1 0 0 0 0 11:41


Many are suggesting that Babcock give his top players more minutes, however, he didn't do that in 2010 and Canada still won gold. Icetime and juggling lines are pretty much the same as what we saw in Vancouver.

“We’ve changed our lines, in my opinion – same at last Olympics – too much,” Babcock said yesterday, however, that didn't stop him from switching them up again for today.

He seems to be having an internal battle with himself over line combinations, but I get the sense he wants to stick with some of the new combinations, especially those that get off to a good start today.

LINEUP

Kunitz-Crosby-Bergeron
Marleau-Toews-Carter
Benn-Getzlaf-Perry
Sharp-Tavares-Nash/St.Louis

Matt Duchene will be a healthy scratch, while Nash and St.Louis will rotate on the 4th line. There isn't enough icetime to get every player involved to the level they are used to, so the fourth line will need to find a way to contribute in 10-11 minutes.

Keith-Weber
Vlasic-Doughty
Bouwmeester-Pietrangelo
Hamhuis

Subban will sit and Hamhuis will likely spend most of the game on the bench. I'd rather have Subban as my 7th D-man, but considering how little icetime the 7th D-man will get, I'm not sure it matters. Babcock wants his D pairs to have a left and right shooting D-man, so the only way Subban could play is if he replaced Weber, Doughty or Pietrangelo. That isn't happening.

Price

Neither goalie has faced much rubber. Canada has allowed the fewest shots in the tournament so far, 58, and I doubt Price will be very busy today.

QUICK HITS

  • I like that Babcock is going back to Kunitz and Crosby. Kunitz knows how to play with him, and just because they didn't score for two games doesn't mean they won't moving forward. Kunitz was better vs. Finland and his style of play is better suited in grinding games like we will see when Canada faces the USA, most likely, in the semi finals. Kunitz hasn't been nearly as bad as people suggest, he is just the easy target.

  • Here is the TOI amongst forwards when Canada won gold in 2010:
    Crosby 16:56, Nash 15:46, Marleau 15:36, Eric Staal 14:50, Toews 14:38, Getzlaf 14:00, Heatley 13:50, Iginla 13:40, Joe Thornton 13:35, Perry 12:52, Mike Richards 12:42, Brendan Morrow 11:04 and Bergeron 6:27.
    Babcock had eight forwards with 13:40 or more of TOI/game, so far this year he only has five, and one of them, Duchene, isn't dressing. I suspect you will see him give more icetime to a few lines the rest of the way.

  • Canada got a lot of production from their blueline in 2010 as well, just not as many goals as we've seen so far. Keith, Weber and Boyle had six points in seven games, while Pronger added five.

  • Iginla had five goals in 2010 while Crosby, Heatley and Perry had four.

  • Toews led the team in scoring with 1-7-8 and Iginla 5-2-7, Crosby 4-3-7, Heatley 4-3-7 and Getzlaf 3-4-7 all averaged a point-per-game. Canada has five players at a PPG clip so far this year.

  • Latvia only has 1 active NHL player, 20 year old Zemgus Girgensons for the Buffalo Sabres. Oskars Bartulis and Kaspars Daugavins were in the NHL recently, while 41-year-old Sandis Ozolinsh last played in 2008.

  • I don't foresee any upsets in the quarterfinals, but if I had to pick one it would be the Czech Republic knocking off the USA. I think we will see CAN/USA and RUS/SWE in the semis on Friday.

  • I'm amazed at how quickly people have overreacted and often over analyzed Canada's play thus far. I'm not sure what people expect from Crosby, but I think he has played fine. Here is one example of some fans taking Crosby's struggles a bit too far...

    "Why can't Babcock give up the Crosby experiment and give his attention to guys that are producing. Let's face it, Crosby isn't a factor internationally. His point production in 2010 and now proves it. His "Golden Goal" was him hacking at a loose puck," John

    I guess nine points in 10 Olympic games thus far is brutal. John, you might want to watch the replay of his goal again. He displayed a bit more skill than just "hacking at a loose puck."

    John isn't the only one going overboard. I've read comments suggesting Babcock will use Crosby's line in a checking role moving forward because they are struggling.

  • Hopefully after today's victory people will be able to exhale and get excited about the semi finals, rather than stress about who isn't scoring. I can't wait until Friday.

THIS MORNING....

Madara-Malmane-swimwear-Andres-Sarda1

***That is Latvian Madara Malmane***

GAME DAY PREDICTION:
Canada's forwards emerge from hibernation and trounce Latvia 6-1.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Someone will freak out that I'm not giving Latvia enough respect and that anything can happen in a one game elimination. I guess, but consider this. If you wanted to make $100 on Canada to win you would need to bet $5,500. I'd say the odds Latvia wins are essentially zero.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Crosby scores a goal and adds an assist to quiet those worried about his play. For good measure Kunitz scores as well.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 


Ddf3e2ba09069c465299f3c416e43eae
One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 v4ance
February 19 2014, 02:06AM
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Crosby may be playing fine but I can't shake the feeling that Team Canada short changed themselves by picking a less than optimal player in Kunitz. For all the talk of the "chemistry" that Kunitz supposedly has with Crosby, or the Perry/Getzlaf combo, I have seen little evidence of that so far. None of the forwards are scoring, but we should still see some 5 bell chances generated between Crosby and Kunitz?

I have this dire feeling that in a critical game, maybe not today, that we'll need a gamebreaker who could be skating beside Crosby who makes a key play to score in a tight contest.

Instead in my nightmares, I see a loss for Team Canada, going down to defeat while we are still waiting to see that mystical chemistry between Crosby and Kunitz on the international stage.

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#2 MessyEH
February 19 2014, 04:30AM
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I need everyone to be like a bunch of fonzies today. And what's Fonzies?

Cool.

be cool honey bunnies, be cool.

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#3 bwar
February 19 2014, 05:25AM
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I feel bad for Duchene, plays solid yet gets trumped by "chemistry" which has yet to result in anything this tournament.

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#4 Bi-Curious Gord
February 19 2014, 05:26AM
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Has everyone started laying the groundwork for not being at the office on Friday? Should be a doozy.

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#5 Eulers
February 19 2014, 05:26AM
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So relieved to be playing Latvia instead of Russia or even Switzerland!

I think the defence are scoring so much because many teams have been playing the '5 defenceman' strategy against Canada leaving a lot of room for the defence over the forwards.

Finally, Crosby on his worst day is still going to draw a lot of attention from the opposition which creates space and for his line-mates and the other lines.

I'm guessing most Canadians aren't going to work too hard at 10MT/12ET today...

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#6 Citizen David
February 19 2014, 06:45AM
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I was losing my mind when I saw Kunitz not playing on Crosby's line against Finland.

I'll state the facts: Kunitz is a very good hockey player. Being a very good hockey player is not good enough for Canada, great players got left off the roster. The only reason Kunitz was selected was to play with Crosby. That was the reasoning behind his selection. Hockey Canada strikes again

Also I don't know if I'd call Finland beating Russia an upset. Very easily could happen.

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#7 Retsinnab5
February 19 2014, 07:09AM
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Go Canada Go!

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#8 Lofty
February 19 2014, 07:26AM
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Closest thing to playoff hockey for Oil fans... Gonna enjoy this.

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#9 HardBoiledOil
February 19 2014, 07:31AM
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^me too, but i'm starting to miss the NHL, so the Olympics can end anytime now.

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#10 Fresh Mess
February 19 2014, 08:04AM
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HardBoiledOil wrote:

^me too, but i'm starting to miss the NHL, so the Olympics can end anytime now.

Personally I would be happy if the NHL adopted this ice size and these rules. Or if the NHL was just absorbed into a international league. This is much better hockey IMO.

I'm not shocked that Finland knocked out Russia. Too many me-first players on that team. Finland has talent and they play as a team.

Canada should scratch Crosby eh? I hadn't heard that one. My god, that's a doozy even for Oilersnation.

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#11 Puck JammeR!
February 19 2014, 08:32AM
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Gregor, any bets with Spector on this game? I mean you gotta give him odds, but still...

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#12 Josh cOILER aka DSF aka Spydyr.....
February 19 2014, 08:42AM
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Is that guy in the yellow superman shirt you Gregor????

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#13 Oiler Al
February 19 2014, 08:46AM
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YOu all like watching 4 guys standing still across the blue line waiting for the attack, then you have 8 guys in front of the blue paint banging the puck.... great hockey on the big ice.

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#14 Mack Strong
February 19 2014, 08:50AM
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Great game by the Finns!

Even I was doubting our team after we squeaked out a win against the Finns but now that you see how they dealt with Russia…they are a legit Gold Medal threat…

Elliot Friedman pointed out something i feel is very important…after the game all the Russian players rushed through the media center except Ovi…that must have been the hardest interview to take yet he did it and faced very tough questions especially after losing on home ice in a game that you now have no chance at a medal!

Not an Ovi fan but he definitely bumps up in my books after that show of class…

Hallsie would look better on Crosby's left than Kunitz…just saying...

Go Get'em boys….!

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#15 Boys on the Short Bus
February 19 2014, 09:27AM
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Horny for goals...really?

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#16 oil4life
February 19 2014, 09:39AM
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should bench kunitz and play duchene on crosby's wing and maybe swap tavares and bergeron. then that 1st line would be sweet.

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#17 Doctor Smashy
February 19 2014, 09:41AM
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I was slammed a few days ago (for good reason) because I said Doughty looked bad in the first game...after watching the Finland game I realized it was Keith (surprisingly) that was slowing down with the puck and taking too long to make a pass. Doughty has been amazing. I want someone to hammer him every time the Oilers play the Kings (he seems to destroy at least twice every game) but wow is he ever a good player. I hope we find a way to get the puck through the neutral zone before the wall gets set up...we should be capable of scoring off the rush. If we just try to set up nice every time I worry we are going to be shooting at stacked-up Latvians...

There has been much discussion about "the swarm" in Oilerland since the start of the season. Is this the system that the Swiss, Latvians, Finns, etc play? How can Canada have so much trouble getting the puck through (and into the net)? There has to be a solution...I don't think I can take a close game against Latvia...

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#18 DisappointedFan
February 19 2014, 09:47AM
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Jason,

The reason why so many people are "frustrated" with Crosby is because of all the hype on him. Over and above that Team Canada clearly lowered themselves to Crosby's wishes to get Kunitz on the team. So if he can't produce points with his "friend" then people would have liked to have seen someone more qualified be in that spot.

I personally don't see how anyone can begin to think that more ice-time should be given to Crosby/Kunitz, if they were lighting up then by all means toss them 20 minutes a game. If not then find people who will get it going. Getzlaf and Marleau had some chemistry with Carter, give them the start and see how they do.

You're looking at elite level athletes who are (should be) all starters on their respective teams I don't think you're going wrong putting any of those lines out there.

(Except for Rick Nash and Patrice Bergeron, keep them off the ice)

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#19 anon
February 19 2014, 09:55AM
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Hey Jason,

I know that you're decent human being and respectful of others so I question the use of the photo at the top of this post.

The kid in the yellow shirt looks like he has Downe's Sundrome. Is this really something you want to poke fun at?

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#20 I tried it at home
February 19 2014, 10:18AM
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"Canada's forwards are just too good not to start scoring." It seems to me I heard that about the Oilers too.

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#21 Doctor Smashy
February 19 2014, 10:31AM
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I like the Latvian's game so far...they've got balls - they're taking chances and look really confident. I wonder how much Nolan has to do with that. Nedved and Jagr are getting a lot of press for being old and still good...Ozolinsh is 41....still a good player.

Good game so far!

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#22 Doctor Smashy
February 19 2014, 10:33AM
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Yup...the Latvians are playing to win. Too many of the 'lesser' powers play not to lose. Nice goal by Darvins....

There could be a LOT of goals today.

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#23 Wonger
February 19 2014, 10:36AM
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anon wrote:

Hey Jason,

I know that you're decent human being and respectful of others so I question the use of the photo at the top of this post.

The kid in the yellow shirt looks like he has Downe's Sundrome. Is this really something you want to poke fun at?

Have some class Jason! Poking fun at people with Down Syndrome is NOT COOL!

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#24 Rob...
February 19 2014, 10:45AM
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@Wonger

So you both would like to ignore the fact that the dude in the picture is thoroughly enjoying his superhero costume, and likely thinks he could kick arse? Grow a thicker skin and re-read the words on the image. Those words don't say 'What an idiot!', or worse, they say 'It's go time!', which likely captures what that guy is thinking and is relevant to today's game.

If you are embarrassed by Downe's Syndrome, or those who have it, perhaps you're the ones with problems you should work out.

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#25 Taylor Gang
February 19 2014, 10:47AM
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DisappointedFan wrote:

Jason,

The reason why so many people are "frustrated" with Crosby is because of all the hype on him. Over and above that Team Canada clearly lowered themselves to Crosby's wishes to get Kunitz on the team. So if he can't produce points with his "friend" then people would have liked to have seen someone more qualified be in that spot.

I personally don't see how anyone can begin to think that more ice-time should be given to Crosby/Kunitz, if they were lighting up then by all means toss them 20 minutes a game. If not then find people who will get it going. Getzlaf and Marleau had some chemistry with Carter, give them the start and see how they do.

You're looking at elite level athletes who are (should be) all starters on their respective teams I don't think you're going wrong putting any of those lines out there.

(Except for Rick Nash and Patrice Bergeron, keep them off the ice)

You make it sound like Crosby "asked" Hockey Canada to put Kunitz on Team Canada, and that couldn't be further from the truth. They put him on the team because of the chemistry between them; anyone who is half sensible knows that. The thing is though: Crosby is the best player in the world. Why would they just assume that Sid could only play with Kunitz when he could be playing with players much better than him?

Hockey Canada definitely dropped the ball on that one.

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#26 @Oilanderp
February 19 2014, 10:51AM
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Goo Canada!

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#27 Wonger
February 19 2014, 11:03AM
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Rob... wrote:

So you both would like to ignore the fact that the dude in the picture is thoroughly enjoying his superhero costume, and likely thinks he could kick arse? Grow a thicker skin and re-read the words on the image. Those words don't say 'What an idiot!', or worse, they say 'It's go time!', which likely captures what that guy is thinking and is relevant to today's game.

If you are embarrassed by Downe's Syndrome, or those who have it, perhaps you're the ones with problems you should work out.

Fair enough! I guess I took it the wrong way and reacted angrily! I apologize to Jason Gregor and everybody! Now if Canada can just finish and score some goals..............!!!

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#28 Jesse
February 19 2014, 11:15AM
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Clearly Canada does not know how to play on Olympic size ice.

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#29 Johnnydapunk
February 19 2014, 11:18AM
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I don't know about anyone else, but this game is not exactly relaxing it watch.I just don't trust Price in net to make that save if needed.

31-9 shots in goal, just like watching the Oil in disguise...

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#30 Will
February 19 2014, 11:19AM
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Your predictions are not coming true. This is a good game. Latvia is being outplayed for most of it, but look really dangerous every time they gain the zone.

It's like watching the Oilers play the Sharks. They are dominated for most of the game, the Goalie is bailing them out, and yet if they can get in the offensive zone with possession, anything is possible.

It's scary watching a team with nothing to lose.

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#31 Richard
February 19 2014, 11:21AM
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KLowe fault his is Schleprock.

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#32 Ole
February 19 2014, 11:34AM
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I wonder what the Oilers would look like if they hired Nolan instead of Eakins.

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#33 Air on Egg blood
February 19 2014, 11:34AM
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Anybody else thinking that young Kristers Gudlevskis would be a great goalie prospect to acquire from Tampa Bay?

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#34 Zack
February 19 2014, 11:36AM
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Canada will lose to Latvia but it will be a moral victory for Canada since they out shot them

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#35 TonyT
February 19 2014, 11:39AM
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I actually like the way this Latvia team plays. They're winning me over. Has Canada even finished more than a handful of checks or are they going for Dallas Eakins' "perfect game" with a no-hitter?

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#36 Randy
February 19 2014, 11:42AM
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@TonyT

Klowe is a cancer anything he anything associated with him means losing

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#37 Johnnydapunk
February 19 2014, 11:50AM
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Latvia seems to be playing the trap, or as MacT called it in the 2006 playoffs "The Responsible Forechecking System" and it seems to be working...

This is away too tight of a game.

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#38 Taylor Hall's Knee Brace
February 19 2014, 11:52AM
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this OGDB thread delivers

Latvia playing like hero's

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#39 DisappointedFan
February 19 2014, 11:54AM
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@Taylor Gang

You contradict yourself there bud, besides your negligent remarks about "anyone who is half sensible" as though you think I am somehow uninformed.

But regardless, you can say Hockey Canada made the decision separate from anything Crosby had to say, but we all know that's not true. Either way, Hockey Canada still dropped the ball and they shouldn't have tried to cater to Crosby's needs.

Now looking back at his stats from the last Olympics he looks great. But he played a very spotty absent tournament in terms of consistency. He had a great first game in their 8-0 win getting 3 assists. Next game he only shows up for his two shootout attempts, completely absent the rest of the game. Game three, on the ice for 4 goals against, completely absent all game, but does net one. Game four, blow out game, definitely not a game changer. Game five, Canada blows out Russia, Crosby makes no impact, no points. Game six, close game to Slovakia, no impact again, completely absent, no points. Game seven, no impact all game, two shots, and he scores a no look slide into the net.

My point is, for the BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD you'd think he would make more of an impact than just hopping on points night against Norway and for 30 seconds in OT.

He plays pretty well in the soft eastern conference. It's no wonder he's not a difference maker elsewhere.

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#40 meh...
February 19 2014, 12:23PM
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Anybody can win one game.I wouldn't like the Oilers chances against Latvia in a seven game series. They might sweep the Oil 4-0.

Never thought I would type those words...

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#41 Doctor Smashy
February 19 2014, 12:23PM
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@TonyT

No kidding. Latvia plays a great game. It isn't just that they are hitting alot...their timing is perfect. They have a lot to be proud of....(I say with 11 seconds to go...anything could happen).

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#42 Sevenseven
February 19 2014, 12:33PM
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anon wrote:

Hey Jason,

I know that you're decent human being and respectful of others so I question the use of the photo at the top of this post.

The kid in the yellow shirt looks like he has Downe's Sundrome. Is this really something you want to poke fun at?

That is a young Rob Ford.

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#43 Taylor Gang
February 19 2014, 12:48PM
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DisappointedFan wrote:

You contradict yourself there bud, besides your negligent remarks about "anyone who is half sensible" as though you think I am somehow uninformed.

But regardless, you can say Hockey Canada made the decision separate from anything Crosby had to say, but we all know that's not true. Either way, Hockey Canada still dropped the ball and they shouldn't have tried to cater to Crosby's needs.

Now looking back at his stats from the last Olympics he looks great. But he played a very spotty absent tournament in terms of consistency. He had a great first game in their 8-0 win getting 3 assists. Next game he only shows up for his two shootout attempts, completely absent the rest of the game. Game three, on the ice for 4 goals against, completely absent all game, but does net one. Game four, blow out game, definitely not a game changer. Game five, Canada blows out Russia, Crosby makes no impact, no points. Game six, close game to Slovakia, no impact again, completely absent, no points. Game seven, no impact all game, two shots, and he scores a no look slide into the net.

My point is, for the BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD you'd think he would make more of an impact than just hopping on points night against Norway and for 30 seconds in OT.

He plays pretty well in the soft eastern conference. It's no wonder he's not a difference maker elsewhere.

Just because he isn't producing doesn't mean he isn't having a positive impact on the team. He creates momentum for the other players with his scoring opportunities. Besides, it's not like he's hemmed in the d-zone whenever he's on the ice...

Also, that isn't contradicting to say that "anyone who is half sensible knows that" just because you aren't part of that group. I just don't think you can say that Hockey Canada catered to Crosby's needs, WHICH IS YOUR OPINION, and then call it fact.

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#44 DisappointedFan
February 19 2014, 01:02PM
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@Taylor Gang

Have you watched the games, he's been a ghost out there. Once in a while you hear a spurt of action but otherwise it's nothing. You don't make an impact as the best player in the game ghosting around the ice.

Actually two different relations in that sentence but I can see how you may have missed that. I called it "fact" where? It's an informed decision based on the interviews and commentary given by Hockey Canada and Sidney Crosby on the topic. I think you may need to take a step back from the ol' keyboard for a breathe of fresh air bud.

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#45 #ThereGoesTheOilers
February 19 2014, 01:06PM
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Boys on the Short Bus wrote:

Horny for goals...really?

I'm not sure about this either. Thornton isn't even on the team...

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#46 vetinari
February 19 2014, 01:06PM
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So.... Team Latvia... better or worse than the 2013-14 Oilers????

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#47 TonyT
February 19 2014, 01:08PM
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I honestly don't know what to think of this roster they put together. They've controlled the play through the cycle but have yet to really look dangerous to my eye. Yzerman and Babcock assembled a bunch of two-way forwards and have produced some of the most boring hockey I've ever seen. This isn't a knock on the players individually (expect for Kunitz, Sharp and Nash) but I wonder if a team like Latvia gave them this much trouble, how will they respond when Brown and Backes are the ones doing the hitting? Oh yeah, that Kessel guy looks pretty good too.

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#48 **
February 19 2014, 01:10PM
Trash it!
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That latvian goalie....

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#49 **
February 19 2014, 01:12PM
Trash it!
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#ThereGoesTheOilers wrote:

I'm not sure about this either. Thornton isn't even on the team...

Hey, Jason Gregor's gotta make a living.

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#50 risto siltanen's slapshot
February 19 2014, 01:15PM
Trash it!
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vetinari wrote:

So.... Team Latvia... better or worse than the 2013-14 Oilers????

their ahl goalie's better than ours. defence might be better too.

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