Hello from Vancouver!
I am back home after a tremendous three weeks in Russia, which was capped off by a gold medal for Team Canada thanks to their 2-0 win over Finland on Sunday in Moscow.
For me, three things stood out about the gold-medal game:
• The Canadians were able to completely turn the tables on Finland, the team that had controlled during the 4-0 loss in the preliminary round. Canada played a near-perfect defensive game by staying aggressive, outshooting the Finns 33-16 and limiting quality scoring chances, even with Mikko Koskinen pulled for the last minute of the game.
Patrik Laine had three shots on goal. As far as I remember, there was really just one sequence in the second period where the Finns looked dangerous.
• Going into the tournament, the biggest concern about Team Canada was the young defense. Chris Tanev was the veteran of the group at age 26, with 295 NHL games on his resume. But the Canadians wrapped up the tournament with five shutouts in 10 games and only 11 goals against.
That's a level of stinginess that reminded me of the Canadians' efficient journey to gold at the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. But this happened without the likes of Duncan Keith or Drew Doughty, or even Brent Burns and Jake Muzzin, who anchored the blue line at the 2015 World Championship in Prague. The result bodes well for Canada's future in international competition. It'll be exciting to watch these defencemen come into their primes—and the young forwards like Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, Mark Stone and Mark Scheifele made big contributions, too.
• Chris Tanev played more than any other Canadian in the third period of the gold-medal game, logging 8:37 of ice time, and was second to Morgan Rielly for the game. He was on the ice for Matt Duchene's empty-net goal, scored with one second left on the clock, so he was part of the crew that was assigned to protect the one-goal lead with six Finnish attackers on the ice.
After the game, I asked Connor McDavid—who really doesn't like to talk much about his own accomplishments, even when he scores a gold medal-winning goal—if he could name an unsung hero among his teammates.
"It's tough to single one out," said McDavid, before adding. "I think one that comes to mind is Chris Tanev. He was unbelievable defensively and all over the ice. It was the whole group effort. We had 23 guys who were just amazing."
I see Brendan Gallagher has also added his voice to the chorus of praise that Tanev is receiving:
Tanev finished the tournament with one assist and a plus-eight. Two of his nine shots on goal in the tournament came in the gold-medal game.
If there's a weakness in Tanev's game, it's that shot, which doesn't have the same snap as the NHL's top offensive defensemen.
That may change this summer:
I love hearing this. Sounds like the experience in Russia has given Tanev more confidence and maybe helps him to really believe that he can be a well-rounded No. 1 defenseman in the NHL going forward.
After the season we've had here in Vancouver, it's really nice to wrap up the World Championship on such a positive note—and with a development that bodes well for the Canucks next season.
Gulutzan Interview with the Flames
One other news item that surfaced while I was in the air yesterday: for all the concern about Utica Comets' coach Travis Green potentially latching onto an NHL coaching gig next season, it's assistant coach Glen Gulutzan who has caught the eye of the Calgary Flames.
Calgary GM Brad Treliving has been in Russia with Team Canada, but Ben Kuzma
of The Province
reports that the Flames have asked the Canucks for permission to interview Gulutzan, but not Green.
“I haven’t really talked to anybody about this because I don’t think it’s fair for the team that’s doing the interview or the person who’s up for getting interviewed,” Benning told Kuzma on Tuesday.
“But I can say they (Flames) asked for permission and have talked to him (Gulutzan) and if he doesn’t get the job, we like Glen and he’s going to be back with our group.
“He does a good job and this (interview) is just part of the evolution and the process to allow him to be an NHL head coach again one day.”
Green's name has been connected with the vacant head-coaching job in Anaheim, but there's no word yet on whether or not he will be interviewing for the position.
The other note from Kuzma's conversation with Benning comes with regard to Rollie Melanson's replacement as Vancouver's new goalie coach:
"Current goalie consultant and former Canucks stopper Dan Cloutier is the favourite, an announcement hasn’t been made. 'We’re working through that right now,' said Benning."