Well, the Penguins Olympians are in Vancouver and ready for their first games… All of the Penguins representatives will be in action today, as Brooks Orpik and the USA kick off the tournament this afternoon against Switzerland. Sidney Crosby and Marc Andre Fleury will take the ice at 7:30 as the Canadians meet Norway, and Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar will hit the ice at 11:55 EST as the Russians meet Latvia.
Here are my top five Penguins related story lines during the games…
This dynamic duo combined to score 11 goals and 11 assists as they helped Canada win gold at the 2005 World Junior Championships. The two then combined for 16 goals and 16 assists as they helped Canada finish fourth in the following year’s World Championships. Many have longed to see them again skate on the same line, some hoped it would happen via trade at some point, but it looks like International Tournaments will provide our only opportunity. They just have a great feel for each others game and I fully expect them to combine with Rick Nash to be one of the highest scoring lines in the Tournament.
Sure, the Russians are playing Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Semin on their top line, but the pairing that I am really looking forward too seeing is Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk. Many Penguins fans have openly wondered what Kovalchuk would look like skating on a line next to Malkin and the Russian National Team is going to give us a glimpse. Kovalchuk is one of the best goalscorers in the world — combining that with Malkin’s playmaking skills could be magical for Russia. I think these two could outscore Russia’s top unit five on five… just saying…
3. The Importance of Brooks Orpik
Injuries have elevated Brooks Orpik on the Team USA depth chart. He is now the number two defenseman for the team and will be asked to play huge minutes for the National Team. I think that he will shine in this role. He has gotten better in each of his years in the league and is quietly becoming one of the best defensemen in the National Hockey League. He is now shy when it comes to the physical part of the game, makes a great first pass and is used to playing off the rush. Though many around the league already appreciated Orpik, this really could be a coming out party for him… his play combined with that of the USA’s goaltending could determine if they medal or not.
4. Will Marc Andre Fleury get any playing time?
We all know what Marc Andre Fleury is capable of, as we watched him play a big role in the Penguins Stanley Cup victory last spring. However, he hasn’t been playing his best hockey of late and it could have effected his status in regard to playing time in the Olympics. The initial goaltending rotation has been released and Roberto Luongo is going to start for the Canadians this evening, with Marty Brodeur going in their next game. I fully expect Marc Andre Fleury to be the back-up tonight and to get some mop up time if the Canadians pull away early. A good showing in that mop up time could determine if he gets to dress moving forward. Could he earn himself a start?? We shall see…
5. Can Crosby and Company Medal?
I would think that anything less than a gold medal in these games would have to be looked at as disappointing for Canada. A loss would be especially tough for this group of youngsters that have have had their share of successes with Hockey Canada over the last 5 or 6 years. An Olympic gold medal is one of the final items missing from Sidney Crosby‘s resume… he and his teammates are going to want to get that medal this year, as it could be the last in which NHL players are involved in the games. They have the horses to win this race, but in a one and done situation, anything is possible. They have all got to be at their best if they want to secure Canada’s second gold since 1952.
If you are missing your fantasy hockey fix during the Olympics, our friends over at the Pens Blog have got your fix. You can sign up for their Rinkotology game until 3:00pm this afternoon. The cost is 10.00 American dollars, but it is going to be a blast. Select one individual from each nation in the tournament to round out your roster. Then watch as your team competes for the coveted Pens Blog Rinkotology belt and cold hard cash!
You will be competing with the likes of myself, Greg Wyshynski from Puck Daddy, local radio heroes Mikey and Big Bob, plus many of your friends and family!
Get more info here… be sure to let the boys know where you found out about the game…
Team Finland @ Versus.com
In case you all didn’t know, I am covering the Finnish team’s run to the Gold for www.versus.com. You can read my daily blogs on the Fins here:
Looking forward to tonight’s games… share your Rinkotology rosters and game picks in the commenst! More later…