Monday, February 22, 2010

Post-Olympic Look

Odd as it may sound, the NHL is back in action next week. With so many NHLers attending the Olympic Games in Vancouver, there is the potential for some players and their respective teams to take a slide, either towards the end of the regular season or in the playoffs. Any team whose goaltender is also his country's starter will be playing more than those who have the break. I'll skip some teams that don't seem like serious playoff contenders.


Let’s face it: If Ryan Miller keeps playing this way, Tim Thomas’s time in Vancouver will be as if he was on a beach in Maui. Chara is conditioned well enough that these extra games, even playing the likes of Russia, should be ok. Of all the Bruins players in need of rest, Partice Beregron is at the very top. Unfortunately for him, he’ll be relied on for key minutes in Vancouver. B


Let’s face it, Bufflao’s changes at a long playoff run rest squarely on Ryan Miller’s shoulders. Seeing 45 shots from Team Canada will most surely be felt and these extra Vancouver games could rob him of some energy come playoff time. C


Jarome Iginla’s game doesn’t suffer from extra games but MIikka Kiprusoff’s does. The up-and-down goalie will have to somehow conserve something in Vancouver in order to give the Flames a chance to even make the playoffs in a tight Western Conference. As with all teams whose starting goalies are also Olympians, extra games do them no good. C


Kane, Toews, Keith and Seabrook are getting tons of ice time for their respective teams. One can wonder how having 4 important pieces to a Cup contender a few games older come the second round and beyond will affect their game. The fact that they’re all young helps. B-


All of the Wings’ Olympians are, to put it bluntly, ageing. Come playoff time, they will be feeling their legs more than young Chicago, Colorado and Vancouver and face an uphill battle to keep up. Of all the Cup Contenders (and being in 10th place in the West, who knows if they even are one anymore), Detroit is hurt the most by these games. D


The only thing worse than having a goalie as an Olympic starter is having physical players as key parts of those teams. Doughty, Brown and Johnson are all integral to LA’s success and each is relied to provide grit and a physical presence to their Country’s team. C


Halak has been standing on his head for Slovakia but you can’t tell what all those shots will mean come April. Also, Markov’s early season injury would probably have been better suited seeing some rest that playing key minutes for a medal contender. C


Callahan throws his body around, Gaborik’s body has been thrown around, Lundqvist stands on his head and Drury looks better with Tam USA than in the NHL. All signs that you could be hurting come playoff time. C


Team USA’s Langenbrunner and Parise and Russia’s Kovalchuk are being counted on for huge amounts of ice time and Martin Broduer finally starts to show his age. Something tells me NJ might be wishing their players declined Olympic invites come the first round of the playoffs. C-


Alfredsson is no longer a young man and probably would have benefitted from some R&R and Volchenkov’s shot-blocking style dictates that he’ll be nursing bumps and bruises all season long. B


Bryzgalov should be a bench warmer, barring some huge change on Team Russia. While it isn’t Pina Coladas on the beach, rest in Vancouver while still practicing with NHLers is a good deal. A-


Sid the Kid, Gonchar, Gino and Brooks are all vital cogs of their nations’ run for gold. They’re logging lots of ice time, drawing other teams’ hardest defenders and seeing a lot of tough hits. Only Malkin gets a rest while playing with Ovechkin and Semin. B-


The team with the most Olympians also has the most to lose come NHL playoff time. Mentally, having Heatley, Thornton and Marleau is the easiest in terms of not having to readjust back to the style of your linemates. But having Nabokov starting for Russia will take its toll on the goalie. C


All of the Canucks vital players are on various Olympic teams and, with Broduer’s stinker of a game against Team USA, Luongo will most likely be between the pipes for the rest of the tournament. These players should fare well with some extra games, but the lack of travel helps those Olympians even more. A-


Alex Ovechkin has come to Vancouver in search of blood. Instead of waiting for defenses to come at him, he’s attacking other teams. Caps fans should be a little concerned that he’s throwing his body around so much, but should also be relieved that any little injuries he may have had seem completely healed. Alex Semin gets to stay out of the thick of the action, dishing to Ovie and Gino. And like Bryzgalov, young Varlamov gets to rest while practicing with NHL talent and is aided even more by getting the opportunity to learn from the great Tretiak. Something tells me this team will have multiple medal winners come back to DC and will be fine, conditioning wise, for a long playoff run. B+

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