Going in to this year's World Championship tournament in Germany, Team USA did not appear to be particularly strong on paper. Appearances proved true when Finland beat the Americans 3-2 on Wednesday sending Team USA to the relegation round while Finland, Germany and Denmark advanced from Group D.
Team USA will now play a relegation round robin starting on Saturday with the other cellar dwellers to try to avoid being relegated to second tier status next year with no participation in the Tournament that features the top sixteen national teams in the world.
So far, the traditionally powerful France team is the only team in the relegation round with the US. Italy and Kazakhstan must win today or they will be the other two teams in the losers bracket.
What makes this situation particularly bitter for USA Hockey is that this fiasco comes on the heels of the US winning the World Junior Championship and the World Under 18 Championships in recent months. In addition to those victories, Team USA took Canada into overtime in the gold medal game at the Olympics where all the best of the best players from around the world participated.
The World Championships are often an odd bird because they are played when the Stanley Cup playoffs are still in full swing with many NHL players unable to participate. However, with 14 teams eliminated from the playoffs and eight more done by the first weekend of the international tournament you would hope to be able to pull together a representative team for the US to be be competitive.
With the exception of Canada, Russia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, most of the teams are populated primarily by players that are not NHL caliber. So with these ingredients, it is unbelievable that the US can't manage to pull it together to finish in the top twelve and at least advance to the second round.
Hopefully, the team will have enough pride to go to the relegation round and set out to sweep the other weak sisters of the poor so save some face in light of their poor showing that got them there to begin with.
The one saving grace in the tournament is that television coverage has been so scarce in the States that few folks other than hockey die-hards actually know of the embarrassment that Team USA has suffered.
World Championship Round-Up...
In addition to the US failure, three other games were held on Wednesday. In another collapse, Switzerland beat Canada 4-1 in a huge upset. It was their first win over Canada in 76 years of World Championship hockey. At least Canada won their other two games and live to move on to the second round.
In the other two games, Germany beat Denmark 3-1 and Latvia beat Italy 5-2.
Here's today's schedule:
Russia - Belarus 9:15am
France - Norway 9:15am
Kazakhstan - Slovakia 1:15pm
Sweden - Czech Republic 1:15pm
Last Night's Playoff Action...
The almost unbelievable happened last night at the final game in Mellon Arena when Montreal dominated a surprised Penguins team that resulted in a 5-2 victory for the Habs that sent them to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1993.
Montreal scored 32 seconds into the opening period of the game on the power play that came from a senseless boarding penalty by Sidney Crosby ten seconds into the contest. Marc-Andre Fleury was pitiful in goal as he allowed four unanswered goals on 13 shots before being yanked five minutes into the second period.
From that point on, Pittsburgh played somewhat better but it was too little too late for the home team. When Brian Gionta pushed the score to 5-2 with ten minutes left, it was all over for the Penguin's shot at returning to the finals for the third year in a row.
Anyone who is a true hockey fan, has to be excited about Montreal's return to the conference finals. The excitement and enthusiasm of the Hab's home crowd is good for the game and brings the second original six team into the final four with the potential for a third should Boston win their game seven on Friday.
In the other game last night, Philadelphia continued to play like a team on a mission as they defeated Boston 2-1 for their third win in a row over the Bruins.
Michael Leighton, starting his first NHL playoff game ever, appeared to be on the way to a shut out until Milan Lucic scored with a minute left. The Bruins could do nothing more as the Flyers forced game seven that will be held Friday night in Boston.
Tonight (and Saturday) will be the first day(s) without a game in a while, so this will give everyone a chance to catch up on other things for a change.
In Pred Nation...
Jogn Glennon writes that the Preds expect more from Colin Wilson, Cody Fransen and others next season.
The Nashville Predators won an award for being a top corporate philanthropist in Nashville. Next time folks try to run the Preds out of town, they should remember that aspect that would be lost.
The Predators also announced the signing of 2008 seventh round pick Jami Lajunen to a three year entry level contract. Terms were not announced. David Boclair points out that he is only the third seventh round pick to sign with the Preds in their history. Cap Geek is reporting a $615,000 cap hit if he plays at the NHL level.
Preds.com also has the Memorial Cup schedule with Ryan Ellis's and Gabriel Bourque's teams highlighted. They will oppose each other on Tuesday, May 18 in the round robin tournament. Inside Predators brings the news that every game will be on the NHL Network in the US.
As Jim Diamond reported last night, the Preds will now draft 18th in this summer's NHL Entry Draft since Montreal defeated the Pens.
Smashville Sports puts a wrap on the Pred's season.
The Predator's ECHL affiliate, the Cincinatti Cyclones came back from a 3-0 series deficit to win the conference finals with a 1-0 win over Reading last night at the US Bank Arena. They will now move on to the ECHL Kelly Cup finals against the Idaho Steelheads. The series will begin Friday at the Qwest Arena in Boise, Idaho.
Forechecker has a look at ex-junior coach and pervert Graham James. There is more at the CBC on how they tracked him down and what he had to say.
John Glennon has the news of NHL players jerseys from the Olympics being auctioned by the NHLPA to benefit Haiti relief.
Section 303 has a concert review from the Ryman as part of their "We Are Nashville" series. They also are giving a way a trip to Nashville in a contest co-sponsored by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Around the NHL...
Newsday has an exclusive story that says that the Met's COO Jeff Wilpon has confirmed meeting with the Islanders Charles Wang about building an arena in Queens to house the Isles. B D Gallof gives commentary on the news.
Heather McWhorter gives her wrap-up to the GOG city council meeting on Tuesday night. Also from @IceEdgeDJ: Ice Edge has just retained a constitutional law expert from Yale Law School to investigate Goldwater claims. (Healy to advise.)
Someone from Winnipeg was not happy with the Coyotes staying in Phoenix.
Quote of the night on Wednesday from @stevelepore: The Penguins defense has been weaker than David Shoalts' journalistic standards.
Is Chris Chelios done after his Chicago Wolves bowed out in game seven on Tuesday night? The NYT Slapshot says Chelios claims that he was 99% sure that he was not returning. I'm betting on the 1% that he returns. The Detroit News also has a story.
Matt Reitz analyzes the candidates for the Lightning GM job.
Steve Lapore guesses at this weekend's broadcast schedule on NBC. More speculation late last night indicated that the Western Conference Finals will start Sunday on NBC. Further confirmation came from Fear the Fin.
Stel Lapore also has good news for the NHL on the ratings front during the playoffs.
Troy Brouwer's goal in the Hawks win over the Canucks was good medicine for his dad who is recovering from brain surgery.
Chris Wassel showed us where we could buy a “Sulking, belligerent and grossly over-rated goaltender who can’t stop a beach ball, seeks new gig.”
Odds and Ends....
Are you tired of Facebook? Four geeks are starting a new social site that lets you control your information. Is Diaspora the next big thing?
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass