Since I said I was gunna try my best to do this weekly, I figure now is as good a time as any to start. There’s been a lot of talk over the past few weeks about the hockey rosters for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Seven players from the Pittsburgh Penguins made the Olympics. SEVEN! That’s a number to be proud of certainly and each one of those men richly deserves it. There were a couple players on the Penguins who did not make the Olympic cut, however. I’m gunna break this down for ya real good, and I’m gunna keep it short and simple since I’m running up against the midnight deadline here. Not gunna get into stats and in-depth analysis here. Just a general overview and my initial impressions.
THE LUCKY 7 & WHY THEY MADE IT:
Sidney Crosby (Canada) – He’s only the face of the NHL, the best overall player in the league, and quite possibly the world.
Jussi Jokinen (Finland) - It seems like he makes every goal he scores look phenomenal. It does seem like he isn’t as effective when he plays with third and fourth liners, but when he’s on the top two lines…watch out.
Chris Kunitz (Canada) – “Oh, but he plays on the same line as Crosby. Sid just makes him look good.” I’m here to call bullshit on that one, ladies and gentlemen. Chris Kunitz, aka the Honey Badger, is an outstanding hockey player. When he’s not scoring goals (and trust me, he scores his share) he’s doing all the little things right to not only make himself better, but his teammates too (yes, including Sidney Crosby, who will tell you that Kunitz makes him better too). If he wasn’t chosen for Team Canada, I would have been bummed. Great move by Yzerman and Co. Well earned by Kunitz.
Olli Maata (Finland) - This 19-year-old has just blown me and pretty much everyone else away by his play since moving up to the NHL. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: he is much better than Kris Letang (I’ll get to him later). I can’t wait to see how much better he becomes as he gains more experience at the NHL level. GREAT move by the Pens keeping him out of training camp.
Evgeni Malkin (Russia) - What can I say? Just a monster on the ice. Yes, he has his lapses, but doesn’t every player at times? I can’t see any NHL team ever turning down an opportunity to have this All-Star/Olympian superstar on their team.
Paul Martin (USA) – Remember him? He’s been out awhile due to injury, but he’s really come on strong since joining the Pens. He was pretty bad when he first started out here in the ‘Burgh (I think more than anything he just didn’t pick up the system as quick as people hoped..remember he came from Snooze Jersey), but he’s really turned his game around and consistently shows why he’s paired with Brooks Orpik in the top 4.
Brooks Orpik (USA) - Crazy Eyes himself. The longest tenured Penguin proudly represents Team USA as an at-times physical, shutdown force on the blue line, just like he does here in Pittsburgh. He’s such an honest guy, too. I always love listening to him talk to the media. He never gives you that run-of-the-mill, sports cliche bullshit. He tells it like it is, and backs up his words with his play on the ice.
THE UNLUCKY 4 and WHY THEY DIDN’T
Marc-Andre Fleury (Canada) - We all know he’s an amazing goaltender. He just needs to show that consistently in the playoffs, and let’s face it: he hasn’t. I think that’s why he didn’t make the cut, but if he keeps playing the way he’s playing now (beautifully) and brings that same level in the playoffs to possibly lead the Pens to another Cup, many should think differently.
Kris Letang (Canada) - This is a no brainer. He sucks! Makes countless mistakes on the ice, and the team always seems to play better without him. Bad move by Shero signing him to another deal. That money should have been used on a winger. Thank you, Jussi Jokinen, for seeming to click so well with Malkin and Neal. I love those three together. But Letang? Yeah, not a fan. When he’s injured (and that’s plenty often) I don’t miss him one bit, and I know Team Canada won’t either.
James Neal (Canada) - I’ve read in the papers that he may be having his finest season, but I think there’s some character issues here along with limited space on Team Canada’s star-studded roster. I think he has a better chance of making it next time around, and the suspension earlier this season didn’t help his case either. It’s never a good idea to skate into someone’s head, and it’s an even worse idea to say you didn’t mean to do it afterward. Watch the replay of Neal’s knee to the head on Brad Marchand. You’ll see what I mean. I still think he’s a great hockey player with one of the best shots I’ve ever seen and he should definitely make it next time, assuming he keeps up this high level of play.
Rob Scuderi (USA) – I’m putting him on this list because I think the guy is a great NHL defenseman. Scuds has won 2 Cups already, is steady, consistent, solid, and brilliant defensively. My mind harkens back to Game 6 against Detroit at Mellon Arena during the ’09 Cup Finals when he became Fleury for a second and kept that puck outta the net. HUGE moment. Staal couldn’t have been more right. He’s The Piece!
So there ya have it. Just kind of a brief overview of the Pens that made the cut this year, and the Pens that didn’t. I could get WAAAAAYYYY more in-depth about each player with stats and all that jazz, but I’ll save that for a rainy day. I’m looking forward to rooting for Team USA, although I don’t think they’re a match for Team Canada. Ryan Kesler and David Backes look to contain Crosby? Yeah, about that…