Team Russia Looks as Good as Gold…

The ice hockey tournament begins tomorrow and after long consideration I’ve made my pick for who will win the gold medal. In looking at all of the rosters I feel that the Russian squad is poised to win their first Olympics gold medal in 18 years, mainly because of their firepower and their strength in goaltending.

Up front the Russians can throw two lethal lines at their opponents with any combination between Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Semin and Maxim Afinogenov. In my mind it doesn’t matter how you combine these six and they are still the scariest two lines in this short tournament.

Finishing out the bottom six forwards will be familar names gone from the NHL, but in active duty for the Russian league — the  KHL: Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Alexei Morozov and Alexander Radulov. All players who are capable of taking over a game when they are in a groove.

The Russians will be led on the blueline by the always-steady Sergei Gonchar and the underrated Andrei Markov, with solid depth provided by Fedor Tyutin, Anton Volchenkov, Dmitri Kalinin & Denis Grebeshkov. Gonchar will be the key player here — his passing and work on the power play will go a long way in determining the difference between evenly-matched teams in elimination games.

In goal Evgeni Nabokov, the backbone of San Jose’s great regular season success over the last three seasons, will begin as the starter, but if he should falter they can still turn to Washington’s Semyon Varlamov (who proved last postseason that big games don’t faze him) or Ilya Bryzgalov, who has pulled Phoenix from the ashes of the NHL to fourth in the West with 19 games left. Between the three of them, most likely Bryzgalov or Nabokov, they have the ability to shut down an explosive, high-powered team a tad more than some of the other goalies in the tournament — including Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist.

I think the gold medal game will be Russia vs. Team USA, final score 5-2 Russia.

Canada will win the bronze medal game 4-3 in ot against Sweden.

Hope that I am wrong…but I won’t be…

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Devils-Senators Postgame Quotes [11.25.09]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Wednesday’s 3-1 Devils win over the Senators:

Niclas Bergfors:

There was an odd bounce on your goal, was that an easy one to score?

“Yeah, I was a little bit surprised to get it there. I just took the shot and it went in.”

Are you happy with how the team bounced back after going winless in the last three?

“I think it was good; it was a tight game. We never really had them (put away), but with hard work, I think we kept them from getting really good (scoring) chances. It was a good team effort.”

Ottawa didn’t have any power plays tonight, was discipline a big part of the game tonight?

“Yeah, they have good players, top players, so they are really dangerous when they get the man-advantage. We were good.”

You grew up in Sweden, what was it like to play against Daniel Alfredsson and was/is he some one you looked up to?

“Yeah, a little bit. He was winning a lot with the Swedish national team, so of course I definitely have respect for him. I’ve never met him though, only played against him.”

Martin Brodeur:

Talk about some saves you made tonight…

“They had a couple of good chances; we had a couple of breakdowns and they got some high tips, but I was able to be in good position. The puck was hitting me (tonight).”

Do you guys have to have a good stretch with all of these home games coming up?

“We have to, I think. It’s a huge advantage to play at home, and we have to take it somehow. It’s not an easy thing to do, but an easy thing to say — I think we have to play a certain way in our own building. We’re playing to get all these points and that’s going to translate into home-ice advantage hopefully, in the playoffs, if we do get there. It’s important to play at home, and the way Jacques likes to coach at home and stuff.”

Did you get a souvenir from tonight’s game for the newest member of your family?

“Yeah I got the puck. Hopefully he’ll be happy later on.”

Brian Elliott:

Bad luck on the first goal that caromed off of the boards on a dump-in?

It’s just a case of bad luck, I guess. I don’t know if they planned that or what, but it was a good play (for them) I guess.”

Do you think they have a home-ice advantage there, a home-glass advantage?

“Well if they know it has a tendency to do that, if you’re going to dump it in, why not try it and see what happens. Something that we’ll learn from and when we come back here (on Dec. 18) we’ll know about for sure.”

Chris Campoli:
Your thoughts on the game tonight…

“I thought it was a hard-fought game; they played typical, Devils-style hockey where they like to sit back and have you come at them. We kind of played into their hands a bit that way. We didn’t create a whole lot (offensively) and anytime you do that, and make a couple of mistakes that they capitalize on, they are a tough team to beat.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Why are you laughing?

“I’m laughing because I’m late, I was in a meeting.”

What did you like about the win tonight?

“The third period – I think we were better with the puck. We started to move the puck, better passes which was a lot better than what we were doing in the first and second periods. I think in the 1st and 2nd (periods) we turned the puck over a lot and every pass the guys received on the backhand, they couldn’t handle the puck. Most of them on the forehand couldn’t handle the puck. But we got a win (smiles).”

You said when the injured players get back you will move Patrik (Elias) back to wing, might you change your mind after tonight’s game?

“I’ll see at that time. He’s playing much better now (than when he first came back), he’s getting better as a player, as a center, making better plays. He’s in control right now, which is good. Now, when the other guys, the centers, come back, I’ll see. Because I know a guy like Patrik that can play center and wing, and has a lot of talent – I know that when that talent is put on the wing with a decent center (alongside him) he could be really effective. He doesn’t have to do all that work that a center-man will do: work with the defense down low, you know, prepare all the plays offensively.”

Based on the way Marty played tonight, will he start Friday afternoon in Boston?

“We haven’t talked about this yet. We mentioned it last week, but tomorrow we’ll solve that problem.”

Would you agree that he saved the game in the third period tonight?

“Definitely a couple of times; he played really well.”

Which one of the kids from Lowell impressed you the most?

(Matthew) Corrente played really well for his first game on defense, he was poised. He did certain plays that a five-year veteran defenseman does. I was impressed, he played good minutes too (8:54). Besides him, defenseman (Tyler) Eckford, different position for him playing forward tonight, but he was fine, nothing special, but we wanted him for the power play (2:44 of 7:57 played on PP). Timmy Sestito, he’s very steady, he works hard, and I can use him on the wing. To me it’s a lot easier for a center to go on the wing — left or right doesn’t matter — he’s been a pleasant surprise in a way. He’s doing the job, solid defensively. We don’t have a lot of offense but one thing at a time.”

How was Dean McAmmond tonight?

“He’s getting better – I liked him tonight. He made one play that I didn’t like around our net there, a turnover, but you can see he raised his game right after, and that he was upset. He’s a guy that I have confidence (in) when I put him out on the ice. Matt Halischuk is pretty much the same thing: he’s young, he’s learning and a lot of it is a matter of confidence when you put the kids on (the ice).”

How do you think Niclas Bergfors played tonight?

“I think he played good. He still had long shifts and I’ve been telling him about this and I’ve told him; it’s the 20th game and I think twice a game so that’s like 40 times, but he’s going to get it. He needs to take shorter shifts.”

What You Need to Know…

Here is the link to my latest ‘What You Need to Know’ on NYCSN:

http://nycsportsnews.com/articles/details.htm?id=1017

This week’s highlights:
St. Louis steals the show in Sweden, the Islanders Sharks and Ducks pick a captain, and Maxim Afinogenov finds a new home…