Register Thursday | June 27 | 2019

Anything can happen if you’ve got a good goalie

What in the name of Gordie Howe's elbow is going on?

Good morning friends! Only one thing on my mind today: Men's hockey. All the hockey people are looking for a reason for all the upsets so far in the tournament. After only a day and a half of games, there have been some real surprises. Yesterday, Slovakia beat Russia, 5-3. More surprisingly, Latvia tied the United States 3-3. Then this morning, Switzerland beat the Czech Republic, 3-2. So far, Italy has not managed to beat anyone, but the way things are going...

What in the name of Gordie Howe's elbow is going on? It's easy-when you are as old as I am, you've watched a few hockey games in your day. Any time a little team comes up and smacks a big team in the forehead, there is only one reason and that's goaltending.

When the Czechs won in 1998, it was because of their great goalie, Hasek. They lost to the Swiss today, without that great goalie. The Swedes were beaten by Belarus in 2002 (where is Belarus now?) because of a goal that I could have stopped, even if I'd already been curling/drinking for a few hours. Now they have a goalie who isn't made of cheese. In the World Cup, the Slovaks got beat because Peter Budaj was a junior league goalie. Now that he's been playing pro for a few years, he can handle the heat. And the Slovaks can score as good as anyone.

It's easy to put down the Latvian and Swiss teams, made up of mostly European league players, with only one or two NHL players. The trick is, they've got those "real" pros in net. Arturs Irbe and David Aebisher are both goalies who've played in the NHL against all these Americans, Czechs and Russians (but Irbe is back in Europe now, I think). They have no problem stopping the best players in the league, so it's not really a surprise that they have been able to hold their own.

The American goalie, Robert Esche, has been injured all year-he's not going to help them much. The Russian goalies aren't their best, but they should be ok. I'll tell ya though, they don't make Russians like they used to. They used to be like robots. Now they are more like frat-house party-boys.

Canada has good goalies. Finland has good goalies. That means they are less likely to get beat by one of these upstart teams, but their forwards are still going to have to score. All the teams in this tournament, except maybe Italy and Kazakhstan, have an even shot at winning the thing.

The Italians, though: their goalie is also a former NHL player. Jason Muzzati might look like he plays with Dave Bidini (a fellow who has written a fine book about hockey. I am going to attach a link to it here), but he can do ok. I wonder why the Italians didn't recruit, say, Roberto Luongo? That might have made things interesting. Or Mike Ribeiro, Hnat Domenicelli, Dino Ciccarelli (ok, maybe he's too old now).

Well, back to the watching. My, my, the Swedes and Russians are fighting! Who'd have thought that? Who do you give a penalty to when both sides are diving like it's the summer Olympics?

It seems Canada has been winning about a medal a day. Who will it be today? Yesterday it was short-track speed skater Anouk Leblanc-Boucher, and her teammate Kalyna Roberge may collect a medal as well on an appeal. Apparently the Japanese skater took her skate off the ice.

It looks like it will be speed skating again. The men's pursuit team will get at least a silver medal. Beckie Scott got disqualified in the 10k classic cross country. No news yet as to why. Jasey Jay Anderson (who names their kid Jasey Jay?) got disqualified in snowboard cross-very exciting to watch, too bad the Canadians did not win.