Dear America (or the eight people that will read this),
I feel like I owe you an apology. When I wrote to you three weeks ago imploring you to get excited about Olympic hockey, specifically team USA, I forgot to tell you about one big thing. That is the Dan Bylsma flop.
Bylsma is the coach of my Pittsburgh Penguins and I know his teams well and when he was named coach of team USA I was excited but also concerned. You see for all of the success (2009 Stanley Cup, 2011 Jack Adams winner) he has had as Penguins head coach the past few seasons have ended in meltdown come playoff time.
The problem is that the expectations get built up that even I have a hard time to see them coming. I was hoping that it wasn’t just him as the coach either. Since there were only two Pens on the roster (sorry about Orpik by the way, woof. Also I feel bad for Paul Martin who broke his hand prior to the Canada game.) I thought maybe it was the players who had been responsible. Unfortunately with a whole different group of players the same result happened.
Friday and Saturday’s results brought me back to last year’s Boston series and it was something I hoped I never had to relive. Last May the Pens trounced Ottawa in Game 5 of the 2nd round 6-2 and looked like the best team in the tournament. Then 10 days later the Pens had collapsed in Game 2 on their way to scoring 2 goals in four games while getting swept by the Bruins. This CBC montage sums it up best…
Fast forward to this past weekend and it was literally the same thing. America had been the highest scoring team with 20 goals through the first four games and put up a goose egg in the final two contests. The Canada game felt like a slow death by quicksand but Canada did that to everyone. The Finland game was particularly embarrassing because after a solid 20 minutes the US team just collapsed and lost 5-0. The players comments after the game didn’t help Bylsma either talking about how the team was “passive.”
While it can’t be all his fault it is hard not to see the similarities. (Kane didn’t help by missing on two penalty shots. Then again Bylsma chose him over Parise on the first one soooo…) The good news for you non Pens fans is that it is no longer your problem. Today we officially split off and go our separate ways as our respective teams try to win the Stanley Cup.
Now I don’t think his coaching performance should have anything to do with his tenure with the Pens. Malkin also had a rough Olympics while Sid, Kunitz, Matta and Juice all come home with medals. But if the Pens don’t lift the Cup in June many will have not one but two black marks to point to as why he shouldn’t come back next season.
I might be one of those people but we should also be careful what we wish for. The Caps got rid of Bruce Boudreau and haven’t been the same team since (currently fighting for a playoff spot). Meanwhile Boudreau is coaching the top team in the league out in Anaheim. So it is a fine line that GM Ray Shero must walk. I am glad it is him and not me. (There will be many obstacles the Pens have to overcome to win the Cup specifically injuries to Dupuis, Letang and Martin. O and MAF is still our goalie so that could snap the wrong way at anytime.)
Now will someone please send me a link to this letter in May prior to the Boston series so I curb my enthusiasm before the puck drops? Sometimes I get so excited I forget what I know is about to happen. (This letter was basically written to my future self. Just prepare for the worst with the Pens and enjoy summer. The warm weather sounds so nice right now.)
1. Canada was dominant defensively and this is their “Golden Generation”: They gave up a total of 3 goals in six games and basically grinded through the tournament to victory. That was their plan all along and while a majority of their forwards struggled to score (that was a theme for every non USA team) they played everything tight and won gold again. This should not be surprising since a majority of this group help win five straight World Junior titles from 2005-09. Add in the 2010 gold and Canada has re-established itself as the best hockey country in the world. It sucks.
2. I am happy for Sid, Kunitz, Olli and Juicy: They are my guys and I am happy they all got medals. I am happy for Sid because of the absurd pressure he is under in Canada. I was happy Kunitz scored in the gold medal game as a big middle finger to all that said he shouldn’t be there. (Which some of the criticism is warranted.) I am happy for Olli because he is 19 freaking years old and won an Olympic medal. When I was 19 I finished 3rd in a beer pong tournament and thought I accomplished something. And lastly I am happy for Jussi because the Hurricanes paid part of his salary to win a bronze.
3. The NHL hates promoting itself: Did anyone see one advertisement for the outdoor games in Chicago and Vancouver this coming weekend? I streamed a lot of games online so I might have missed it but I didn’t see one over the weekend during the medal games. You would think that the NHL and NBC would want to promote those games. I guess not.
4. NHL Players in 2018?: I hope so. America has some really good young talent with Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba, Brandon Saad, Beau Bennett and John Gibson. I would love to see these kids get a shot. (Canada has Nate McKinnon and Connor McDavid coming so its not going to get any easier.)
5. Russia lost because they have inferior coaching and traffic cones on D: If you hear someone say its because they were a group of individuals then you have permission to stop listening to that person. If that is the case then the same thing can be said for team USA.
6. #Teemuforever: He was named MVP of the entire tournament. Yes that is correct and I think we all expect him to be there in 2018.
7. Finland Goalie Factory: That article is long but take sometime and understand how a country of 5 million people produces as much quality NHL goalie talent as USA and Canada.
8. Injuries will affect NHL teams: Big stars like Zetterberg and Tavares are probably done for the season. There were many others that will affect the playoff race.
9. Nicklas Backstrom suspended for gold medal game for… allergy medicine: That is weird.
10. I still love Phil Kessel: It is hard not to. (Altho I will do it easily if the Pens play the Leafs 1st round of the playoffs.)
11. NHL Hockey> Olympic Hockey: Outside of the US-Russia game, just about every Olympic game was boring as hell as teams packed it in and played defense. I look forward to much better hockey being played down the stretch in the NHL.