Monday, August 30, 2004


Yes, the 2004 World Cup of Hockey is underway, with this morning's matchup of the Czech Republic against Finland. Luckily Comcast gives me the choice between ESPN and the CBC, and since the Canadians have Chris Cuthbert and Greg Millen in the booth and in Finland, that's who I went with.

The World Cup here is being played with NHL rules. The rink in Helsinki had some minor differences, most notably the glass being lower and the rink being a tiny bit wider due to logistical impossiblities.

By the way, there's probably no way I can keep up game notes for all 19 games of the World Cup. It'd be nice and everything, but juggling it with Mariner game recaps and actually trying to have a life might be somewhat stretching it.

That said, I've been beyond starved for hockey.

The Finns looked great. Sean Burke was pretty much dead-on with his pre-game assessment of the Czechs and their body language. Chris Cuthbert and Greg Millen commented on the Czechs looking listless even at the morning skate. This seemed to carry through to the first period, with maybe the exception of Tomas Vokoun in goal, who kept the game from being anything worse than 1-0 in favor of the Finns. I saw only three really good chances for the Czechs to score in the period, two by Robert Reichel with linemate Martin Rucinsky, and one by David Vyborny. The Czechs really didn't have much sustained time in the Finnish zone outside of the final minute of play in the period. Other than that, the Finns pretty much camped out in the Czech zone, but probably should have had a ton more goals. Also of note is Cuthbert/Millen's observation of the Finns playing some sort of trap which was confusing the crap out of the Czechs. The Finnish goal was scored by ex-NHLer Jukka Hentunen. It's probably safe to say that the Czech players are still in shock over the death of coach (and ex-Flying V Canuck) Ivan Hlinka, but instead of using it as some type of motivation, they came out like they did today.

The Czechs have Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, and Milan Hejduk on four different lines. This is almost unfair.

Not much different from the first, except that the Czechs picked it up a bit and had some open ice at times to work with. Other than this, the Finns still had a lopsided advantage in the shot department, although as mentioned, Miikka Kiprusoff had a little more to do in the period. The Finnish team continued to pile up a good amount of pressure on the power play, but couldn't manage to find the back of the net.

The Finns lit the lamp early in the period. Jere Lehtinen battled for the puck behind the net and passed out to Saku Koivu, who beat Vokoun. Later in the period, some more grunt work in the corner led to Sami Salo getting a hold of the puck from the point and firing in the direction of the net. Niko Kapanen redirected the puck into the net. The Finns used some speed for their fourth goal, as Mikko Eloranta went top shelf off the rebound of a Miko Koivu (Saku's younger brother) shot. All three goals were scored in the first half of the third period.

This was only a round-robin game here, but the Czechs really didn't do much. They have all that offensive power, yet they only managed to get off something like 13 shots, with the Finns tallying well over 30 shots. Miikka Kiprusoff got himself a pretty easy shutout in the Finnish net.

As for the Finnish team, they look like they're sitting pretty. And that's without Teemu Selanne getting a hat trick or anything like that.

One tiny thing of note, current free-agent defenseman Teppo Numminen (Dallas Star last year) was back in action, appearing well after the heart condition that sidelined him last season.

I'm not really picking any teams to root for in this whole thing, just as long as none of the Canucks get injured. Marek Malik had a bad play on one of the Finland goals, but Sami Salo got the assist on the third goal. Martin Rucinsky was on the front line of the Czech team, along with Robert Reichel (Toronto); the two first played hockey together at the age of 5.

CBC's three stars: Niko Kapanen (Dallas), Saku Koivu (Montreal), Kimmo Timonen (Nashville). Three Finns.

In the studio for the CBC: Elliotte Friedman, Sean Burke.

In the studio for ESPN: David Amber, Barry Melrose. Basically with ESPN, if it's not John Saunders or John Buccigross as the lead man in the studio, it's crap. On another note, I have no idea who was in the play-by-play booth for ESPN, but I'm pretty sure I haven't heard that voice before. It sure wasn't Gary Thorne.

Chris Cuthbert is an ironman. He was at the Olympics for the duration, the Games just ended yesterday, and today he did the hockey game in Finland. He gets a short time off before doing the USA/Canada game tomorrow night. The dude is nuts.

Just for kicks, here's the CBC recap.

It's an off-day for the Mariners today, so if you're at all interested, tune in to the CBC (if you get the network) at 7 tonight and watch "The Stick," a one-hour documentary based on, you guessed it, the hockey stick.

Tomorrow on the hockey schedule, it's Germany and Sweden at Stockholm (10am), and the matchup people here are probably more inclined to watch, the USA and Canada at Montreal (4pm). The rest of the schedule, well, Jeremy took care of it.

Enjoy your Mariner off day, all.

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