Sunday, February 28, 2010

Going For The Gold

The outstanding Men's Ice Hockey tournament will wrap up this afternoon with the Gold Medal Game between the U.S. and Canada. These two squads met last Sunday, with the U.S. taking a 5-3 victory to finish group play undefeated.

Since then, the U.S. beat Switzerland in the quarterfinals Wednesday and trounced Finland in the semis on Friday, scoring six goals in the game's first fourteen minutes. Team USA continues to get superb goaltending from Ryan Miller, who bettered Switzerland's Jonas Hiller and Finland's Mikka Kiprusoff, the only other goalies in the tournament who have come close to Miller's level of play.

As for the Canadians, their loss to the U.S. and the point lost via a shootout victory over the Swiss in group play left them with the sixth seed. With Roberto Luongo replacing Martin Brodeur between the pipes, they beat up on Germany 8-2 on Tuesday, and then faced Russia on Wednesday. What many predicted to be the eventual Gold Medal Game entering the tournament was reduced to a quarterfinal game, and the expected heavyweight match between the two deepest teams in the tournament was a laugher, with Canada winning 7-3. In the semis on Friday, Canada jumped out to an early 2-0 lead over Slovakia, then withstood a late rally to take a 3-2 victory.

Last week's match up came one day short of the thirtieth anniversary of the Miracle on Ice; today's game comes on the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. winning gold at the 1960 Games. This is also a rematch of the 2002 Gold Medal Game, when the Canadians took gold on American soil. The U.S. looks to return the favor today.

It's tough enough to defeat a team like Canada once in this tournament, let alone twice. It's even tougher to do it when the gold medal is on the line and the entirety of the arena is behind the Canadians. But this U.S. team is talented, has had an outstanding run through this tournament, and has the best player at the most important position. That'll go a long way towards evening the odds, and anything can happen in a single game. Puck drops at 3:15 EST. Let's go USA!

Sunday Morning Link Buffet

Good morning, Fackers. Here are a few things to check out before the population of hockey fans in the country increases exponentially at around 3:00.

There are three features in the local broadsheets on Robinson Cano today. The first one comes from Mark Fiensand in the Daily News. The scribe talked to Brian Cashman about Cano's potential and Cash said:
He's already one of the premier guys in the game, but that's the only thing separating him from taking it to a whole other level. If he can be more selective at the plate, he could have a Hall of Fame-type career.
Like we've said before, Cano's ability to make contact with balls out of the zone makes it difficult for him to be patient. For him to get better, it would involve laying off of pitches he knows he can hit in order to wait for ones that he could hit harder. These decisions occur in a split second and are more a matter of intuition than choice. But maybe with some hard work he could make that jump.

The second and third Cano articles come from Bob Klapisch and Joel Sherman and are both about Cano "taking it to the next level" as well; each thinks Cano can step up to fill the void in the #5 slot in the line up left by Hideki Matsui. Sherman talks about improving Robby's production with runners in scoring position while Klapisch compares Cano to Dustin Pedrioa.

Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger talked with Jesus Montero about working on cars with his father and how that might translate to improving his skills as a catcher:
What about [working on race cars] makes it worthwhile for you?

I like to have fun. People teach me. I know already a couple of things. You have to do it perfect. If you do it wrong, the engine doesn’t work. Those engines have so much power. They have to be perfect for the race. So we try to pay attention every single time when we’re doing something. That’s why I like it.

How much of that translates to baseball, especially learning a position like catcher, where you’ve got to deal with a lot of details?

Catching is like a little bit more fun for me. It’s fun to control the game, to be behind the plate, calling pitches, to be like the third manager of the game. And it’s about having fun in the game, try to make my pitchers laugh all the time.
In the Post, Jorge Posada acknowledges the about the amount of catching talent in the Yankees' system (including Montero), but says he's is going to make it tough for them to take his place. Let's hope he's right.

Via Joe from River Ave. Blues, there is a quick story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Ross Olhendorf, Steven Jackson, Anthony Claggett and Daniel McCutchen sharing a house together in Bradenton for Spring Training. Sounds like a the four former Yankees are having a blast.

Chan Ho Park has arrived. Well, at least his stuff has shown up. [Update: Edwar Ramirez has been DFA'd to make room for Park]

A-Rod bumped up his $400,000 Mercedes Maybach while texting on his phone. He also reportedly broke up with the blonde Miami heiress he was dating. What a difference a year makes.

David Pinto at Baseball Musings takes a look at the Yankees offense and suggests that Nick Johnson's value might be maximized batting "second leadoff" or ninth. It won't happen but it's an interesting thought.