This is the first year in three that I didn't spend my New Year's Eve in Raleigh. Every year, the Hurricanes have a Dec. 31 home game, but obviously not this year. In the absence of the NHL, I've been watching the World Junior Hockey Championships , and I've been enjoying it.
Actually, I was disgusted with the first game that I actually got to watch all of. USA v Belarus. The Belarus team had played horribly throughout the round-robin, and team USA had been playing well. Not on that night. We failed to capitalize on power plays, including at least one five-on-three. We had sloppy passing in the neutral zone, we had way too many careless off-sides calls. Turnovers deep in our own zone, bad goaltending. Just bad. Although the score was 5-3, it wasn't even that close. One of our goals came on a shot that wasn't even a shot, so much as a dump-in from the blue line. Actually, though, we did get pretty decent goaltending out of Al Montoya .
Losing that game was kinda bothersome, but losing to the Czechs was not. They're a really talented team. I think the Florida Panthers will be really happy with their top pick from the 2004 draft, Rostislav Olesz , who has played really well. So has the overall top pick, Russia's Alexander Ovechkin , who will have a great career with the Caps.
The Canadians are probably the team to look out for, and the talk of the tournament has probably been the stellar play of young Sidney Crosby , who is only 16 (!), but is gaining comparisons to Gretzky, even by The Great One himself. He, Patrice Bergeron, and the Hurricanes top pick, Andrew Ladd have been lighting the lamp with ease. They should have no trouble making it to the finals.
I'll eagerly anticipate being able to watch the USA v Russia semifinal on Sunday night. We should be able to put up a good fight, if we get good goaltending, and if we can play the way we did against Sweden . I've been impressed with the play of the Sabres' top pick, Drew Stafford and Phil Kessel , who is just 17, and is supposed to be the USA's answer to Crosby.
The more I think about it, the more excited I get, but come Tuesday, it's all over. This is the only hockey worth watching until the NCAA frozen four. After that, nothing for a long time.
Anyway, ... Happy New Year!