As we all start to crawl back from the various activities we used to pass the time during the offseason, be it career, family time, or the mistress of another sport (hi Tigers), I'd just like to say hello once again to all of you here and tell you how much I'm looking forward to another season of Red Wings hockey. But first, we have to get through the World Cup of Hockey. Let's dive in shall we?
The view from the top of the Verizon Center is majestic, no hockey banners fluttering in the breeze (not even the Southeast Division Champion banners were up, I was appalled!), the faint aroma of spilled beer and crushed playoff dreams, the comforting whir and swish of the zambonis as they lumber elegantly about the ice, yes it's good to be back.
Tonight we're here to see Justin Abdelkader take on Team Finland and our old friend Valtteri Filppula. Abby is already in mid-season form having taken three roughing penalties in Saturday's loss against Canada, let's see what he has in store for his Finnish foes.
We had an interesting coaching match-up as Lauri Marjamäki is known for his no fuss, no drama style while Torts is known for many things including his intensity, bluntness, and his cherished porcelain horse, Horselain.
The Game Begins
The puck drops and the half-full Verizon Center is eager to start the U-S-A chant. The first period it looked like USA and Finland were fairly evenly matched, with Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick taking care of business in goal. T.J. Oshie would open scoring early in the period with a quick goal to put USA up 1-0. That was it for scoring in the first, a few blown chances for each side, including a breakaway for Patrick Kane at the end of the period, would keep this a close game going into the second.
USA Shows Their Stuff
The second period is where USA started running away with it, they really seemed to have Finland's number. Every time a Finnish player had the puck, a USA player would bully his way in to break up the play. Finland couldn't get anything going no matter what they tried. USA scored early in the second, shortly after the end of their powerplay, to make it 2-0. It was a great play all around, Ryan Kesler got the goal with assistance from Blake Wheeler and Max Pacioretty. A few minutes later, Derek Stepan gets a chance in all alone and makes it count. USA goes up 3-0 and it seemed the score would only continue to climb with Finland getting shut out. Overall, USA forwards did a nice job getting the Finnish players tied up with each other trying to track them down.
Finland Fights Back
The third period started with both teams flying, an intensity that would carry through to the end of the game. It seemed like two new teams were on the ice. Finland was fighting hard to get back in the game and they would get their chance. Justin Abdelkader takes a penalty with ten minutes to go and Finland makes him pay for it with Patrik Laine getting the goal with assists from Sami Vatanen and Aleksander Barkov. A few minutes later, Jonathan Quick loses his stick, goes to grab it and slides slightly out of position and Jussi Jokinen puts the puck in the net to bring Finland within a goal with under five minutes to go.
Wow, what a final two minutes. Ryan Kesler goes off for a delay of game penalty and Finland gets a huge powerplay opportunity. The dozen Finland fans could not have been more excited. Pekka Rinne vacates his net giving Finland the 6-4 advantage, they pressed USA hard but to no avail. With echoes of U-S-A! echoing around the Verizon Center, USA salutes the crowd and skates away with the 3-2 victory.
Your three stars were Patrik Laine, Derek Stepan, and first star Ryan Kesler.
Extra! Extra! Abdelkader Not Bad!
So how did Abby look? Well, he looked pretty much exactly ok. He and David Backes showed some chemistry together with Dustin Byfuglien not really helping. Abby did take a penalty but nobody was surprised, except maybe being surprised it took him until the third period to do so. One place Abby stood out was on the penalty kill, he was solid.
That was the view from the top row of the Verizon Center, how did things look to those of you watching at home?