I apologize in advance for taking up this much space with worthless ramblings.  You needn't bother reading, I'm mostly just writing this to get it out of my system.  That Olympic hockey tournament was the best pure heroin of hockey there ever was, and now it's over, and I'm supposed to pretend I care about the Islanders tomorrow.  Fuck.

So I need to get all of this out of my system so I can get back to enjoying the Blackhawks and NHL hockey again.  Endless BS, after the jump ...

- I decided to add the USA flag to my profile during the middle of the Olympics.  I figured it would be fun for a few days and eventually the Americans would bow out gracefully and I'd go back to using nothing.  But after what that team did I just can't bring myself to do it, so it's going to stay for a while.

- I missed the whole second half of the Olympics with hockey fever, I barely even watched the NBC broadcast.  I usually enjoy the Olympics and I watched the whole first week, biathalon, ski jump, moguls, all of it.  But I got so caught up in the hockey by the second half that I missed the rest.  I would get out of work and then it was curling until hockey came on and three hockey games at night.  I got home today and there was nothing, no curling, no hockey, it's just over.

- The speed, the pace, the intensity of those games, even the blowouts was unreal.  Here's the difference, all the players in the Olympics, even the marquee players in the top countries wanted to win like nobody's business.  In the past this was just an exhibition for them.  In the past it was just good fun but they had a NHL team to go back to so they gave the same effort as an NHL All-Star game.  Not this time, and it showed.  (except Russia (except, except Ovechkin v. Jagr))

- How is Getzlaf so fucking bald?  He's 24.

- USA hockey isn't that far away.  Sure they'll probably have a let down in Sochi, and they definitely overachieved here, but they didn't play run and hide hockey, they went and attacked everyone including the big boys.  Team Canada is just unreal.  That's a collection of future Hall of Famers, almost all of whom are in their prime or just entering it.  Only Pronger, Niedermayer and Boyle are legitimate Old Balls.  Team USA was Miller, Kane, Parise, a few genuine up-and-comers and a few "who the hell are these fucking guys".  They had no business beating Canada or taking them to an overtime in what was a home game for them, literally and figuratively.

- the US stole the win from Canada in the prelims.  It's true, it happens and I'm not going to apologize for it.  Canada outplayed them but the US won.  But in the rematch I thought the US outplayed Canada, at least in regulation.  And there were stretches early in the first, the whole back half of the 2nd and especially late in the 3rd where the US was able to do whatever they wanted except score.  Canada certainly didn't have the same jump but the US played with a lot of confidence and were able to dictate their will.

- what I was most impressed with was the poise once the US recovered the puck in their own zone.  Canada featured full blown superstars on offense and nobody would have blamed the shell-shocked US defenders if the first chance they got their stick on the puck they lofted it to safety.  Instead they showed time and time again that they had incredible poise and were able to work the puck out of their own zone and keep possesion.  It was impressive.

- also, while the US couldn't get much offensive zone pressure in the first Canada game, by the finals they were able to carry the puck through the neutral zone and into Canada's end at will, especially Kane and Kesler, and even Kessel and Pavelski.  The US improvement against a much improved Canadian team was really something special.

- the US had nothing left in overtime.  They were getting beat to every loose puck and frankly the skill advantage of Canada worked better for them in 4 on 4.  The US didn't really threaten and even if Miller makes that save we would have needed a lucky bounce (or just any shot near Luongo) to have beat them before the shoot out.  But considering the way we played for the first 60 we earned it.  And it would have been nice to put an end to the "This is Our Game" condescending bullshit.  I sitll can't find it in my heart to hate Canada, but I had more than enough of that condescending crap.

- I didn't realize it until I watched the replay but we didn't get a bounce to go our way all night.  I guess we used them all up against Finland.  That's the way hockey goes.  But it made the replay that much more difficult to watch knowing what the outcome was when you see time after time where every 50-50 battle the puck bounces to the one safe place for Canada.  I guess we got a little bit of good fortune on the last goal, but at that point there had been such sustained pressure that something like that was bound to happen, and Canada had already made their deal with the devil in the closing minutes of the Slovakia game.

- the Parise line had it's least effective game in the final.  I don't know if that was because they were up against the Toews line all night or if they just never found a rhythm, but they weren't very effective.  Kane's line could create at will, and really for the first time in the tournament.  Kane's line did well against Canada the first time, but that was largely because of Kesler who was everywhere in that game while Kane was just ok.  But the second time around it was the Kane line, and they became the top line in the roation by the third period.

- can't say enough about the kid from Buffalo.  The signature mental image for me that I still see when I close my eyes is with about 2 minutes to go when Crosby gets loose on the breakaway.  It's great that Kane caught him and it's great that he was able to poke the puck away and keep it just a 1 goal game, but what sticks out are those first few strides from blue line to blue line.  I've seen people run from the cops, I've seen people run after the ice cream man, but I've never seen anyone hustle like that.  There was no quit in that kid, he wanted to win more than anything.

- I love that it burns Kane's ass to lose that game and I love that he wants to go to Sochi for "revenge".  I love that he says he's going whether the NHL ok's it or not.  Sometimes I've wondered if he has the fire in the belly, now we know.

- I could watch Brooks Orpik blow people up all day long.  It must be fun to be a Penguins fan.

- Which is worse, the headlines that said Luongo answered his big game critics or the ones that blew Crosby for the only decent shift he'd had in about a half dozen games?  Please.

- That pairing of Rafalski and Suter wasn't perfect, but man they had a hell of a tournament.  They were the team's plus/minus leaders by a wide margin and made some great passes.

- I knew Tazer was good, but I didn't see that coming.  Wow.  He probably wasn't at a loss for confidence, but there really isn't a barometer to measure yourself quite like tihs.  I'm sure he thought before that he was a great player if only he could get the opportunity to prove himself.  Now he knows, there's no doubt about it.  I'm guessing he goes to a whole new level, and just in time for the playoffs.  I'll take this if the trade off is the whole fatigue issue.  I'll take it in a heartbeat as a Blackhawks fan and what it means for him for the rest of the season and beyond.

- As far as the whole "fatigue" thing, I don't want to make it sound like I don't think it's an issue, but I think it's overblown.  If a more capable and more confident Blackhawks team can end a playoff series or two in 4 or 5 games instead of 6 or 7 I think the late spring rest pays for itself.  And really the only one I'm worried about is Keith, and you'd have to question whether or not we were riding him for too many minutes a night anyway, even if there was no Olympics.

- I loved seeing Jack Johnson cheap shot some Canucks to end the first period.  One of their future HOF'ers did the same thing to us at the end of the 2nd period in the first game and didn't get a penalty on reputation alone.  I love the fight in that kid to give it right back.  For how young he is, and for how skinnylittletwerp-ish he looks I loved the way he was ready to go toe to toe with the much bigger Canadians.  Christ that was a big fucking team.  When Iginla's one of your small guys ...

- Erik Johnson in a few years is going to be ridiculous.  I think he screwed up on the Tazer goal so he wasn't without his mistakes, but there were so many times he had a look-at-that moment that you had to stand up and notice.

- How much did the smaller ice help USA and Canada and hurt Sweeden and Finland?  Maybe, maybe not, but it hardly got a mention in the press here while I'm sure it was topic A in the European press.

- Ryan Fucking Miller

- Adam Burish says we had to let Canada win because all they really have is beer and hockey.  Well I'm an American and all I want is beer and hockey so let Canada have Paris Hilton and Burger King.  I want to beat Canada's best at hockey and go get drunk.

- The ratings were ridiculous.  Of course they were, this is the most exciting game, played at the most exciting level with the best players in the world with national pride at stake.  How could they not be.  Only the NHL could fuck this up.

- Also, maybe the players get a stiped and some schwag, and of course they get lodging and meals but for the most part their Olympic salary is a number pretty close to $0.  Those guys fought like hell, put their body in front of everything and played their hearts out for nothing but pride so the crooks at the IOC who screwed the City of Chicago could get rich.  Hockey players are proud athletes.

- Now the NHL gets to take all of this good will and piss it away by making hockey as hard as possible to find on tv.  NBC can't hold a candle to how bad the NHL treats televison hockey.  At least sometimes it's on broadcast (and I don't have the same hate for McGuire that everyone else does) but the rest of the time it's on shitbag fucking Versus which I'm pretty sure is an imaginary network that I can never seem to find at home or in a bar.  Even for the people who pony up for the Center Ice package get blacked out of half the games they want to watch.

- Speaking of Center Ice, I'd like to see a study that says that business model is the way to go.  Maybe it is, and it certainly works for football where the demand is so high.  But for me the two most exciting tournaments in sports so far have been this past Olympic hockey tournament and every March Madness.  The common denominator is that half the fun of the tournament is watching endless exciting games all day.  Maybe the NHL makes more money off of Center Ice subscriptions than they would if they just made the games available for free and sold the ad rights, but I doubt it, and I'd like to see someone study it to find out.

- Fighting.  You can't come out of that tournament and not at least ask the question.  The most exciting two weeks in hockey had no fighting, so does that extrapolate to a full NHL season?  I'm not sure.  NHL playoff hockey has almost no fighting because the stakes are too high anyway, so would automatic suspensions really improve the way the game is played and policed in the regular season?  I don't think the Olympics is the right comparison, but what it does certainly show is that neither the skill of the game or the advantage of playing physical declined.  The teams in this tournament that played the most physical had the best outcomes.  You don't need a 3rd grade playground mentality to govern a physical sport to have it played at it's very best.  Besides the NFL already proved that.

- The NHL will end up in Sochi, but they're going to hold out for a while until they get some concessions.  Even Sports Center can only show still images instead of highlights on their Olympic recaps, it's why their coverage is so anemic.  Only NBC has the rights to Olympic video and highlights so there's no incentive for the NHL network to cover the games the way they do day to day or even the Winter Classic.  The Winter Classic is played on NBC and yet the NHL network runs about 2 days of nonstop coverage.  Imagine if they were the one stop shop for all the Olympic highlights this year, even if NBC and it's family of networks still had exclusive broadcast rights to the games themselves.  It would be a whole different ballgame and an opportunity for the NHL to make some ad revenue off an Olympics that gets the NHL's most valuable asset (its talent) for free.  That dynamic has to change before the NHL agrees to do it again.  Since NBC's Olympic broadcast contract is up again it's the perfect time for them to flex their leverage, and they're coming off the high water mark for international hockey.

- also, this was the perfect set of circumstances to have the best possible outcome for the NHL.  The games were played in a North American time zone, on the smaller NHL size ice and the two countries that host all of the NHL cities were the two finalists, with the outcome somewhat in doubt after the USA's upset in the prelims.  Almost none of that will be true in Sochi, just like it wasn't in Torino.  They caught lightening in a bottle this time and the NHL better take advantage of the situation because they're unlikely to have it happen next time.

- Has anyone looked at the map to see where Sochi is?  Safety and security are always an issue ever since Munich but they couldn't have picked a town in Russia any closer to some of the world's hot spots.

- You know what's on Late Night tonight?  It's not bobsled, it's not speed skating, it's not ski jump.  It's Leno.  Jay fucking Leno.

- What's the next anthem going to be like at the UC?  How are you going to treat Ryan Miller the next time the Sabres walk into the building?  Backes the same way?  I'm going to have a hard time going back to hating guys like Kesler and Backes.  I'm sure it will only take a game or two, but it won't happen instantly.  Each time a Team USA member plays against the Hawks at the UC they should run a little highlight reel during a break in the 2nd period just to acknowledge the effort.

- Olli Jokinen - American-born player Adam Burish has your name written down in his locker.  He's going to beat Ben Eager to the punch, so to speak.

- Are we sure this tournament is really over?  Does anyone even understand the Olympic rules?  Did anyone read the book?  I'm pretty sure there's a losers bracket play in game with Latvia at 11 tonight.  I'm sure of it.

- I wonder what Vikingstad is up to right now.  Shouldn't CNBC be covering this?

- No injuries, or at least nothing major.  Considering the way every player went all out with shot blocking and hard checking we're probably pretty lucky, but I'll take it.

- Hockey's had young stars before, Gretzky was a teenaged legend, but there's a lot of top level young talent in the world.  Here's a list of players 25 or under: Crosby, Getzlaf, Nash, Perry, Richards, Toews, Doughty, Seabrook, Weber, Kane, Kessel, B. Ryan, Stasney, E. Johnson, J. Johnson, Suter, Halak, Backstrom, Malkin and Ovechkin.  How does that lineup not go to Sochi?

- I guess now I have to put all this out of my system and try and pretend I give a shit about beating the Islanders and who our goalie is.  I can at least care a little about beating NY, it helps us get into the playoffs and winning the Cup is still the goal.  This junkie hangover will wear off eventually and NHL hockey will move to the forefront in a few days, hearing the anthem and Pat Foley will help.  But I can't wait for Wednesday's trade deadline so we can get back to bitching about the goalies we have instead of playing pipe dream GM.

Sorry for wasting up all the space.  If you're still reading this I pity you and you have my most sincere apologies. 

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