What have the Olympics done for me, in terms of observing this unique competitive landscape? They've drilled home how a 12-team Olympic hockey tournament, while at times amazing and heartwarming, is still ultimately a glorified beer league:
- There are some absolutely stacked teams who really have no business being in this division except that there aren't enough peers to make a decent-sized group.
- There are some absolutely hopeless teams who have at most a handful of great players and then a bunch of anonymous ones.
- That latter group can only steal a win if they get a great performance from those stars, and also their goalie.
Watching Austria because of Islanders players Michael Grabner and Thomas Vanek has helped me see this. (They have THOMAS POCK logging top minutes on their blueline!) Watching Slovenia under Anzar Kopitar has helped, too; Slovenia's monumental victory came against Slovakia, a former semi-contender that has had an awful tournament.
Anyway, here are how the three Islanders players have fared through the completion of the three-game preliminary round:
- Grabner's first goal (from Pock, naturally) in Austria's 3-1 win over Norway was another nice play in a tourney filled with them for the speedy Islander. For a guy who has been largely snake-bitten this year for the Isles, it's nice to see him get some points in big minutes for one of the lightweights.
- Tavares continues to play well in a limited role (plus power play work), so I'm not worried about him. It looks like Canada envisions a role for him in each ensuing game. Rick Nash, with a team-low 10:05 per game? Not so sure. Hee hee.
- This doesn't relate to the Islanders at all, but Blake Wheeler's assist for USA's fourth goal against Slovenia was cool and hilarious in its COZO-like nature. (For the unfamiliar, COZO is the LHH term for a Comeau Offensive Zone Orbit named after the famous Blake Comeau.)
- This also doesn't relate to the Isles: I don't know who the organists are for Olympic hockey, but I was impressed he organ-rendered "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode as well as "House of the Rising Sun" during U.S.-Slovenia.