What's On Tonight
This evening, the Canadiens will be hosting that Crosby Kid and his Penguins of Pittsburgh. The game will also be Michel Therrien's return to the Bell Centre. Despite all this intrigue, I won't be watching. World Junior Semi-finals will be on instead.
Canada, backstopped by Leafs prospect Justin Pogge, will be facing Finland, backstopped by Leafs prospect Tuuka Rask. Canadiens prospect Carey Price might watch the game from home.
In the other game, the U.S. will be facing Russia.
The Finns might be knackered after downing the arch-rival Swedes 1-0 in OT last night. Canada should be a very safe bet to make the gold medal game. For the Finns to stand a chance, they will have to play a very safe defensive game and hope Rask can steal another game. The US-Russia match-up, on the other hand, features the two most talented teams and has the potential to be a beaut.
Here and there on the mighty internet I have seen some discussion of Canadian spectators demonstrating behaviour that is perceived as hostility to the US team. In case this becomes a story during/after the US-Russia game, I'll try to explain it pre-emptively (no pun intended). There are a couple of reasons fans might boo the US in this tournament:
1) Rooting for the underdog. Everyone loves an underdog, and this year the Americans brought the best team. Plus, Team Canada stands a better chance against the underdogs than the tournament favourites.
2) Political Animosity. You know, booing at a sporting event is a pretty harmless way to show displeasure with another nation's foreign policy. Freedom of speech and all that. The same fans who love Bobby Ryan in Owen Sound and Robbie Schremp in London might boo them in a US uniform. It's nothing personal against the players or the team, and certainly not against the American people. It's simply a political statement. If you think the rink is the wrong place to make such statements, then go ahead and lobby to eliminate national anthems from sporting events - the practice started during wartime in an effort to drum up national morale. If it's OK to push patriotism during games, it's OK to protest the same.
It seems like Team Canada's Habs prospects have followed the same curve as the big league team - a start with lots of promise, followed by a sharp nosedive. Carey Price (mentioned above) didn't even make the team. Guillaume Latendresse is in Coach Sutter's doghouse and hasn't played. The lone bright spot is Kyle Chipchura, who is fulfilling his potential of being large and solid defensively. He should be an adequate replacement for Chad Kilger someday.
With Montreal's lack of defensive depth exposed this season, Luc Bourdon sure would make a nice Hab. He's been Team Canada's best player thusfar, which is a great source of pride for the province of New Brunswick. Since Don Sweeney's retirement, the NHL has been bereft of NBers for the first time in many years. Right now, Gordie Dwyer (from my hometown!) is our best hope to crack a lineup this season. Once Bourdon makes the jump, it looks like we'll be set for awhile. But then again, I recall watching a rock-solid puck-moving defenseman from the 1996 WJHC team named Nolan Baumgartner... He was expected to be a stud blueliner and now he only has a job because of the salary cap...