Sunday, February 16, 2014

Oshie Can You See!

Watching hockey as an expatriate in a country where the game isn't on the public's radar can often be a challenge, especially during the Olympics. Here in South Korea the television stations tend to broadcast only the events in which South Korean athletes participate, and often only the parts of the events in which South Koreans are actually doing something until the powers that be determine that different events featuring different countries are important enough to dedicate airtime. This means we get a lot of speed skating and figure skating until the medal rounds come along. I'm not really complaining because these things tend to happen during the Olympics in America as well, and watching Kim Yuna do her thing is never boring. However, it can be aggravating when all three of the sports stations are showing endless highlights of South Korean athlete X sprinting around in short-track speed skating while the rest of the world is watching the best hockey game to come down the pike since the United States met Canada in Vancouver, and you are unable to get to a computer or one of the ten expatriate bars in this country that have managed to MacGyver together a live feed.

For me this meant following the game as scrolling text on my phone with the ESPN Gamecast until the delayed version of the game was eventually shown on television late last night. This was about as fun as playing Oregon Trail in the 80's. Thankfully Jonathan Quick didn't die of dysentery, and the team didn't starve because Dan Bylsma failed to shoot enough squirrels. On to the thoughts...

1. I've watched the GIF of Jonathan Quick going beer league on his own net about 1000 times and I can't really see the kind of intention that everyone is crying conspiracy is seeing. From one perspective it looks like Quick is hammering the post with his leg, because he is. It also looks like Quick tries to push off the post with his glove, because he does. However, what I also keep seeing over and over again is a flailing goalie sliding over trying to cover the post, ramming into the post after losing his stick, then trying to push off the post in order to get out of his net. Goalies hammer their own nets. It's a thing they do. Unless a goalie is playing in a league that uses shallow spikes that are inserted into the bottom of the posts to hold the net in place (raising my hand), or heaven forbid the league doesn't have spikes and the keeper has to spray water from his water bottle on the bottoms of the posts in hopes of freezing the net to the ice (raising my hand again), they are going to jump on those things in times of trouble like a jungle gym because they are held in place very securely by rubber or plastic pegs. The Russians lost in round eight of the shootout after failing to score during the remainder of regulation and overtime. They had opportunities. Rather than pointing at a situation which was reviewed upstairs by a crew of officials and covered by IIHF rules as the cause of their demise, how about they instead try and figure out how a crew of defensemen barely old enough to shave mostly put the clamps on what might be the world's best power play. Remember what I said in my last blog about the Russians coming apart under immense pressure? Um, yeah.

2. Sergei Bobrovsky is one of my favorite goalies but when the book on this tournament is written it should include a chapter entitled "Airing Out the Unmentionables. The Ventilation of Sergei's Five Hole".

3. Chincy Hollywood Reporter moment! Ahem.

Until now T.J. Oshie was more or less a guy on the Blues who pitched in and worked hard. But after he pulled a Buster Bluth on the bench after missing his first shootout attempt he'll need to try even harder to stay invisible from the ladies! Get it?! They like him now because he scored all the goals in the shootout thingy!

Okay I'm done.

4. Next up for Team USA is Slovenia which managed a shocking upset of Slovakia, a team which doesn't really seem to care anymore. The game is probably happening right now which means you shouldn't be reading this because I'm so late in posting it (I live on the other side of the world, and Koreans stay up really late on the weekends, damnit!) The Slovenians feature Anže Kopitar, who I still think is a werewolf, and are sporting sweaters that sort of, kind of have Vancouver Canucks colors. That's enough to motivate me to cheer for their public humiliation. Ryan Miller makes his return to international ice because it is important to keep him involved since Jonathan Quick is probably wanted by the Russian authorities.

Until next time.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Show in the Snow

It's been quite some time since I last shot a blog into the aether, but just for kicks I thought it might be nice to relive the good old days with a few missives from the abyss as Team USA tries to exorcise the demons of four years ago when that guy who plays for the Penguins accidentally won the gold for Team Canada.

Here are a few thoughts after the Americans drop kicked the Slovaks in their opener at the games in Sochi.

There's fast and feisty and then there is Team USA buzzing Jaroslav Halák and Peter Budaj like they ran over a hornet's nest with a lawnmower. The Russians and Canadians better have an answer for this or the world is in for two glorious weeks of GIF's on Buzzfeed of a shirtless Patrick Kane doing keg stands on top of the Olympic torch.

I always find the first couple games of any Olympics involving Ryan Kesler to be an exercise in acceptance since I spend every minute of every hockey season staring at him on NHL Gamecenter like he threw my new bike off an overpass right after spray painting his name on my dog.

Branko Radivojevič is my all time favorite foreign hockey name. It has a good cadence and it sounds like he runs an illegal cockfighting ring in Bratislava. He. Will. Cut. You. Also, nobody seems to remember that he played in the NHL for the Wild, Flyers, and Coyotes. Specifically the announcer on my Canadian feed who at one point during the game said "Branko Radivojevič gets a taste of an NHL bodycheck". Because he never played in the NHL, see. It didn't happen. Got it?!

Watching Paul Stastny eat an apple with two of his front teeth missing on the left side of his mouth is something I need to see in my lifetime. There has to be some kind of sideways gnawing thing going on followed by a decent amount of unintentional gold prospector-like whistling. And the Avs might trade him? Come on! Put him in a room with Ken Daneyko, record the conversation and find a way to weaponize it. Heeeyssgghhhtthhhhsshhhhhkksskssksssss!!!

Zdeno Chara on NHL ice- terrifying. Zdeno Chara on international ice- pylon.

I lost a bet with a friend/Maple Leafs fan shortly before the Super Bowl when the Avalanche lost to the Leafs at the end of their six game winning streak (when does that happen?!). Anyways, I had to use the Toronto logo as my profile pic on Facebook for two weeks. I was able to take it down shortly before the Broncos found a way to publicly humiliate me, my family and the state of Colorado for the 500th time. When I lost the bet I mentioned to my friend that the Leafs logo had better not taint the Broncos with it's stink. Now that I have presented the evidence I think we can all agree that the real culprit in that bloodbath was the Leafs. My point here is that Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk owe me at least ten gold medals.

Finally, has any other team in the history of hockey been under as much pressure as the Russians? I mean besides Team Canada every year since 1642. I think this, solid American goaltending and the fact that most of the Russian forwards don't like to backcheck will be the keys in the matchup this weekend. Sure, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk, Malkin, Radulov and their plucky band of KHL veterans who were presumably included due to some vague Olympic salary cap issue look very scary, but isn't that what makes them entirely beatable? They have to win. They must! Team USA? A medal would be great but I wouldn't demand that Zach Parise be sent off to a Siberian mink factory if they lost. I'm proud of Team USA and I wish them the best. One loss for the Russians and that team has the potential to shimmy and collapse like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Here's hoping for a strong wind!