Boy oh boy is Milan Kraft looking like a draft jewel! He shows up at the World Junior Championship and dominates. Kraft ended the tourney with 5 goals 7 assists in 6 games. He helped the Czech Republic win gold, and he is a major piece in the building of the future for the Pittsburgh Penguins who seem to be rejuvenated with new coach Herb Brooks. Jaromir Jagr loves the offensive freedom. Kraft can be the total package when he adds weight to his frame, and a little knowledge defensively. Other than that, he is one year away from playing with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL for a few games before a call up to play with the best there is, Jagr. Alexander Zevakhin has been playing superb hockey also, collecting 5 points in 5 games, with fairly limited ice time. Alexander needs to mature up and play harder, he seems out of shape at times gasping for air after a bad shift. He plays like Pavel Bure at times, and Andrei Kovalenko at others.
It seems as though Craig Hillier is never going to get his chance like J-S Aubin. He needs more confidence and ice time in the parent league. Hillier plays like Martin Brodeur when he is confident, but most of the time no one has confidence in him, thus leaving him no confidence in himself. He can be a regular goalie when and if he is called on. Hillier should just wear number 13, because that is how his career has turned out to be. Lucky at times and unlucky at times sums it up nicely.
Andrei Maximenko has not been living up to expectations with the Soviet Wings this season. Despite playing on a line with 17 year old phenom Sergei Soin, Andrei has had almost no impact in Russia’s second league this season, with only 5 goals in 30 games.
Ryan Barnes has returned from his 25 game suspension in the OHL. He has 8 points in 11 games with Barrie, and it is hoped he will continue to develop his offensive game.
With Manny Legace in Detroit for most of December, Jason Elliott took over the starters role in Manitoba of the IHL. Despite his tremendous play, Elliott reassumes his backup role now that Legace is back with the Moose.
Henrik Zetterberg, the leader of Sweden’s second line, had a strong WJC. Zetterberg was a +3 and finished with 3 goals and 2 assists in 7 games.
Tomek Valtonen was a -2 and finished with just 1 goal on 14 shots in 7 games for Finland at the WJC. He was benched in the last game.
Aren Miller recorded his second career shutout recently, stopping 34 shots for Cincinnati after missing 9 games with a broken finger. He has stopped 69 of his last 70 shots.
Philippe Audet, after a horrendous start, has 18 points in his last 18 games with Cincinnati of the AHL. Audet averaged around 3 shots per game through December.
Jiri Fischer, who was assigned to Cincinnati on a two-week conditioning stint, has 2 assists, is a -2, and has taken 8 shots in 4 AHL games.
Maxim Kuznetsov, playing with Cincinnati, will miss at least four weeks undergoing knee surgery. Read more»
The two semi-finals (USA-Czech Republic; Canada-Russia) were both even and entertaining. The Czech Republic got a very early goal by Michal Sivek against Team USA, and then showed off their defensive skills to keep the americans from tying the game. The Czech defense was easily the best of all the teams. With two goals seperated by only a minute and a half in the second period, the Czechs killed all american dreams of a place in the final. Still the americans fought bravely, and managed to get a goal early in the third period, but the Czechs scored the winning 4-1 goal in the empty net after a very foolish attempt to dribble on his own blue-line by american defender Jeff Jillson. Team USA owned the game, but the result wasn’t unfair, as the Czechs played an outstanding defensive game, and had a great goaltender in Zdenek Smid, who won MVP honours for his performance.
Canada vs. Russia was the second semi-final, some considered it to be the “real” final, saying that the team that won this game would have no trouble at all defeating the Czech Republic in the final. The game was the best of the tournament. Brilliant technique from the russians faced off against the physical Team Canada. Valeri Khlebnikov scored the important first goal for the russians after a magnificent display of technique. Oleg Smirnov made it 2-0 on a breakaway, but the canadians refused to give up and clawed one back by Dany Heatley, brilliantly assisted by Brandon Reid. 3-1 to Russia came early in the third period and decided the game for the russians. It finally ended 3-2. Read more»
The Czech Republic won the goldmedal after a penalty-shootout in the most
boring game ever played in the Skellefteå Isstadion. Congratulations to the
Czechs for winning, but seeing two teams prioritize defense above all and in
doing so decide not to forecheck, not to hit, not to attack with more than
two forwards at the time is so boring that I, and surely most of the people
attending, wished that I had just stayed at home and watched a Jeopardy
rerun. The highlight of the game was when the music-guys played
Elvis-impersonator Eilert Pilarm during a stoppage of play.
The bronze game was more entertaining, with Canada pulling off a
well-deserved win after a shootout. The Canadians looked disinterested in
the first period and didn’t have much emotion after the Americans had earned a
1-0 lead after the first period. Checking winger Willie Levesque scored the
goal shorthanded after Canada made some sloppy plays during their powerplay.
The Canadians looked more fired up for the second period, and they started
hitting the Americans more frequently, but also ran into penalty-trouble.
The Canadian penalties in the first period came from laziness and not being
up for the game, but those in the second period came from being aggressive,
though it should be noted that Swedish referee Christer Lärking sent
Canadians to the penaltybox for clean hits as well. The Americans got their Read more»
Team USA beat Sweden with a great team-effort in the quarterfinals, but could for some reason not find that game in the semis. The Americans are very good when they are playing with the lead, but not so good when they’re behind, and today they fell behind almost right away. Defenseman Pat Aufiero (Rangers) made a poor pass along the offensive blueline which was intercepted by the Czech’s and powerful center Milan Kraft (Pittsburgh) was sent in on a breakaway. Rick DiPietro made the initial save, but could not control the rebound which was jammed home by winger Michal Sivek (Washington). The US then had to put the pressure on to tie the score, and the offensive game has not been the strength of the American team this tournament. Energy, teamwork and dedication has, but the US even lacked this quality today. There were players who had their worst games of the tournament, already mentioned Pat Aufiero, goalie Rick DiPietro among many others, and few players who raised the level of their game. Winger Dan Cavanaugh, a Flames pick, got into the tournament on a banana-peel after defenseman John Liley injured his shoulder in the final exhibitiongame before the tournament. Cavanaughs icetime has increased every game, and he was given a chance to play with USA’s top offensive weapons – center Jeff Taffe and winger Barrett Heisten (Buffalo) today and did not disappoint. Cavanaugh was the Americans best forward showing good teamwork, good skating ability and very good passing ability. Cavanaugh got the Americans only goal on a rebound after setting up the play with a nice f Read more»