So far, three of the four Olympians from the Colorado Avalanche roster have played through one of their games in the pool play stage. Colorado sent three skaters to the Olympics for three separate countries: Matt Duchene (Canada), Gabe Landeskog (Sweden) and Paul Stastny (United States). They also sent their goaltender, Semyon Varlamov (Russia).
Matt Duchene burst onto the scene this year as a force in the NHL. He has been a force in years past, but this year, he’s stepped his game up a notch, and it rewarded him with being selected to the most exclusive Olympic roster in the world. At one point this year, famed Canadian hockey analyst Don Cherry gave Duchene the title of best player in the NHL.
While it may be too soon to put that large of a title on Duchene, he has definitely shown that he has the ability to change games like few other players in the NHL. However, in Sochi, he’s going to have to wait to make an impact as he was one of the healthy scratches for Canada’s first match up in the Olympics against Norway. According to the coaching staff, he will, however, be in the lineup on Friday for the team’s matchup against Austria.
Gabe Landeskog was named not only to join the Sweden Olympic team, but was also made an alternate captain for the squad when he got to Sochi for the games. What an honor for a 21 year old making his first appearance on the Olympic squad. Landeskog is the captain for the Avalanche, and has previous experience as a captain from his time in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Kitchener Rangers.
Landeskog headed to Sochi expecting to play a third or fourth line role with the squad, but was placed on the top line during practice with Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings) and Alexander Steen (St. Louis Blues). In Sweden’s first game of the Olympics, Landeskog was credited with an assist on a goal by Zetterberg. Landeskog chipped the puck back up the boards to Zetterberg who stepped towards the front and put the puck in the back of the net.
Probably the biggest standout of the group of forwards in Sochi from the Avalanche so far has been Paul Stastny. Stastny is unlike Duchene and Landeskog as he has been to the Olympics before. He’s gone and knows what to expect a little more. He won a silver medal with the United States in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Now, like his American teammates, he’s hoping to bring home a gold medal.
For the Americans, it started out the right way with a thumping of Slovakia 7-1, on the heels of a 6-goal second period, 2 of which came from Stastny. Stastny is playing on the fourth line for the United States between Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens) and TJ Oshie (St. Louis Blues). At times, this was the most dominant line on the ice for the United States. Stastny’s first goal came was a cleanup goal in front of the net, as Pacioretty fired a pass to Oshie who put the puck on net, and the rebound came out to Stastny with a wide open net. That goal made the lead 3-1 for the United States. Stastny’s second goal came off a feed from Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues) who flew down the boards and threw a nice saucer pass to Stastny who put the puck home on the back post.
Semyon Varlamov did what was required of him to keep Slovenia outmatched in a game where they were outshot 35-14. Russia was able to come out of the game with a 5-2 victory. Varlamov was beaten once by a wrist shot over his glove and the second time was beat on a breakaway, which doesn’t happen very often.
Varlamov will probably be pretty upset with himself, having to only face 14 shots in a game is completely different from when he plays at home for Colorado where he normally takes on over 30 shots every night. I chalk up part of the couple goals he gave up to just that. He’s used to being involved in the game a lot more than he was in the first game of pool play. However, I believe since he was given the start for this one, he’ll probably draw the start against the United States for the game on Saturday, which should be a game more suited for his style of taking a lot of shots and staying invested in the game at every turn.