With exception to the Czech Republic-Sweden matchup yesterday, men’s hockey got into full swing today, and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ participants were certainly noticeable.
Pens’ and Team USA head coach Dan Bylsma captured his first Olympic win, as a result of his team’s 7-1 beating over Team Slovakia. Hardly having to sweat a single-minute, the Americans disposed of Slovakia pretty easily, which is surprising given how well the Slovaks’ performed in the 2010 Winter Games.
Seven players from the Pens are entered in the Olympics, and every one of them saw their respective teams’ win.
Here’s a rundown of how each player did:
Defenseman Paul Martin – one shot, even rating
Defenseman Brooks Orpik – plus-3 rating
Forward Sidney Crosby – two shots, plus-1 rating
Forward Chris Kunitz – two shots, even rating
Forward Evgeni Malkin – three points (1G, 2A), plus-2 rating, five shots
Defenseman Olli Maatta – one goal, minus-1 rating, three shots
Forward Jussi Jokinen - two points (1G, 1A), even rating, six shots
First and foremost, Malkin is a beast. Leading Russia in scoring for their game against Team Slovenia, Malkin picked up right where he left off in the NHL – making a huge impact.
Setting up the first tally, scored by one Alexander Ovechkin, Malkin potted one of his own a few minutes later, and then assisted on Ilya Kovalchuk’s power-play goal in the second period – which turned out to be the game-winner.
Malkin, and Russia, are under immense pressure considering they’re the host for the Games. And the fact they didn’t fair so well in the last Olympics shoulders a more pressing need to compete. But, so far, so good.
As for the two Finns, Jokinen and Maatta, they played tip-top as well. In terms of Maatta, nothing seems to faze this kid. At 19-years-old, Maatta continues to play like a skater in his prime, and fascinates me in every facet of his game.
Jokinen was fantastic himself. With the way he’s producing, I keep asking myself why in the world the Carolina Hurricanes gave him up for next-to-nothing (conditional draft pick). Tying for the team-lead with six shots, Jokinen definitely made the Austrian’ goalie, Bernhard Starkbaum, work to stop his pellets.
Although both Crosby and Kunitz failed to register a point, they still managed to create opportunities for their team. Up against a shockingly stubborn Norwegian squad, I expect Crosby and Kunitz to get on the stat-sheet in their next game.
Americans’ Martin and Orpik barely had to move a muscle, after their teams’ drubbing of Slovakia. However, overall, they played a sound defensive game. Both of them rarely put the USA in bad positions, and they displayed responsible puck management.
Now that each team has experienced one outing, the next set of tilts should get interesting.
Canada will play tomorrow at noon against Austria. And since the Austrians’ surrendered eight goals to Finland, it enforces my point that Crosby and Kunitz will inevitably produce.
Finland also is on at noon Friday, set to take on the stingy Norwegians. This is arguably the more intriguing matchup for tomorrow, considering how well the Fins’ scored in their first game, and how diligent Norway performed in their 3-1 loss to Canada. Should be a 90-minute nail-biter.
But the best contest out of them all won’t come until 7:30 a.m., Saturday. That’s when Malkin takes on his NHL’ head coach, two of his Pens’ teammates, and the rest of the Americans. Russia will face-off against the USA, which figures to be an all-out slugfest until the end.
Folks, hang on, because Olympic hockey is just getting started.