Friday, February 12, 2010

Canada's Olympic Hockey Line-Up

Okay, I know this is a movie blog. But for the next few weeks, I will spend at least as much time, if not far more, watching hockey at the Olympics. I do believe that Team Canada is the best team in the tournament this year, and I have complete faith that they will bring home the gold on home soil. And not to question Mike Babcock, or tell him what to do, but if I were making up the lines for Team Canada this year, this is how I would do it.


Line 1: Rick Nash, Sidney Crosboy, Jarome Iginla
Line 2: Patrick Marleau, Joe Thoronton, Dany Heatley
Line 3: Jonathan Toews, Eric Staal, Mike Richards
Line 4: Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Brendan Morrow.
Extra: Patrice Bergeron.

To me, this lineup gives you the best of both worlds - both offensively and defensively. Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla are the type of snipers that Sidney Crosby, always more of playmaker, should fit well with. They also have size and speed, which will allow Crosby more room to manuever. They'll get in the corners and dig the puck out, and take abuse in front of the net. You need a goal, they'll get it.

The second line is a no brainer. Marleau, Thornton and Heatley have been tearing up the NHL all season long in San Jose, and I think they can do the same thing at the Olympics. With Thornton, and especially Marleau, on the line, you can also match them against some of the other teams top lines and get good defensive work out of them as well - and the oppurtunity to turn it around and score goals.

The third line is a kind of mixture. With Staal and Richards, you have two solid two way players. While they certainly can score, they are also good in their own zone, making a solid checking line. Throwing the youngster Toews on the line provides a little more speed and skill as well. This line can score.

The fourth line is really your checking line. I know that Perry and Getzlaf are talented offsensive players on Anaheim, but they just as good in their own zone. Morrow is one of the best defensive forwards in the league. You're going against Russia, and need someone to shut down Ovechkin and Kovulchuck, these guys will get it done. The problem comes if Getzlaf is hurt enough that he cannot play. Then you have some options - Jeff Carter, who is flying in in case they need him, fits in well here - but you could also slot in either Staal or Richards and not lose anything.

Don't take my placing Bergeron in the extra slot as an insult towards him - although I may have been more inclined to pick Carter in the first place. But Bergeron is a gifted offensive player, and has a little more experience than someone like Toews. If Toews doesn't perform, Bergeron fits in nicely there. If one of the people are the top two lines, Bergeron can fit in there. You are behind and need a goal? Sub in Bergeron for Morrow, and you have another scoring line. He is versatile, and while he would get less ice time than any other forward if I were running things, he could still play a key role in this tournament.

Pairing 1: Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger.
Pairing 2: Drew Doughty, Dan Boyle.
Pairing 3: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook.
Seventh Man: Shea Weber.

I know some think that Niedermayer and Pronger are a little too old for this tournament this year, but the bottom line is they are both experienced, smart defensemen, who rarely make mistakes and are great at moving the puck up the ice. They also have great shots from the point. They went young on defense this year, and I like that, but I still think that Niedermayer and Pronger will carry the largest load of any of the defensive pairing.

With Doughty and Boyle, you have two great offensive defensemen. Put these two on the power play together, and the other team won't know what hit them. But both are also very smart in their own zone, and make plays to move the puck out quickly. Yes, they are your weakest pairing in their own zone, but they are still great. I have no worries about 19 year old Doughty performing at this level. He is the real deal.

Keith and Seabrook are your shutdown pairing, who I expect to log a lot of ice team when we have the lead, or when the other teams top line is out there. They have played together in Chicago for a few seasons now, and know each other well. Every team needs a shutdown pair of defensemen, and in these two I think Canada has the best of the tournament.

Again, I mean nothing bad by putting Shea Weber as the seventh man. He is a big, defensively minded, physical defensemen, who would fit in well on the shutdown pairing, if something happens to Keith or Seabrook. But he also could be slotted in for either Boyle or Doughty if you have a defense battle going on, and want to beef up on the back end. Again, he may get less ice time, at least in my line-up, but could still be pivotal.

Starting Goalie: Roberto Luongo.
Back-Up Goalie: Martin Brodeur.
3rd Man: Marc-Andre Fleury.

An extremely hard choice. As much I think the other major contenders have great goaltender - Mikka Kipprusoff for Finland, Ryan Miller for USA, Henrik Lundquist for Sweden, Evgeny Nabokov for Russia, Tomas Vokoun for the Czech Republic, even Jaroslav Halak for Slovakia, I would still take Luongo or Brodeur as my starting goaltender over any one of them. What tips the balance for me to Luongo is that Brodeur is getting older, and he isn't quite the goalie he used to be. Whereas Luongo is in his prime, and playing in Vancouver, where he knows the fans, he should be doubly pumped. Of course, we probably won't actually find out who is going to be the true started until next weekend. The first two games, next Tuesday and Thursday, are against Norway and Switzerland, and I expect that both goalies will get a start. But by next Sunday, when we play USA, the starter will be set. I cannot wait.

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