The Greeks opened there season on the road and they were in tough against the Stockholm Spartans. But the new faces on the team were undaunted, maybe it was the ignorance of the rookies or the calm confidence of the vets. Or maybe, just maybe this group of players know something that we don’t. Athens burst out of the gates in the Spartans home opener, tallying 5 straight goals, including 3 on the PP.
TJ Oshie led the charge with 2 goals, clearly showing what he can do if healthy, which was not the case last season. Team captain David Backes (who led all Greeks last season with 40 goals and 41 assists for 81 points in 82 games) pitched in with 2 assists but it was a player who was making his EURO debut who really had the coaching staff talking. Rookie Center Vadim Shipachyov, taken 5th overall, tallied 1G and 1A in barely 9 minutes of ice time. “That kid is something special, his vision and his hockey IQ are like wow! And he is only going to get better” said the young centermans RW Nathan Horton.
Number 1 overall pick Staffan Kronwall also had a solid game, while not as flashy as his fellow rookie, Staffan logged a solid 21 minutes in his debut and doled out some bone crushing hits while blocking shots on route to helping his team keep the Spartans off the scoreboard during 4 PP attempts. When asked about his younger siblings performance, Nicklas Kronwall (also playing his first game for the Greeks) had this to say “Staf took a couple of dumb penalties, he has to learn to play hard but not recklessly. But I am just being tough on him cause he is my brother. It isn’t easy to come into the EURO and play 21 minutes against the opposing team’s top lines. He did alright.”
Also making his Greek debut was RW Jason Pominville who came over to help round out the top line, pitching in with an assist in his debut, the veteran RW assessed his performance “I am trying to just fit in here, trying to learn the system, I think it was a good first game and I hope we continue to get better”.
Prior to the game many nay Sayers were worried about Marcel Hossa playing second line minutes, so the coaching staff were keeping a close eye on him, but the younger Hossa showed that he can play, in fact he led all Greek skaters with a +2 and was second in shots with 4 to Shipachyov’s 5.
All in all there were a lot of good things to take away for the season opener, the only negative came in the 3rd period when the Spartans score 2 shorthanded goals, leading to Scott Hartnell’s team worst -2. The talented and e Rugged LW was playing the point on the 2 PP unit and his inexperience there cost him. “We are asking Scott to do something he isn’t used to doing” said coach Tortorella, “we are testing out different combinations. I won’t throw him to the Wolves just yet, he is a great player, lets wait and see how he does next game before we make any hasty decisions”.
Fans won’t have to wait too long to see that next game, the Greeks hopped on a plane immediately following their win and headed home where they are set to open their home schedule against cup finalist Copenhagen. Hopefully the jet lag and the strain of a second game in 2 nights won’t adversely affect the teams performance, but if the first game in any indication of what we can expect this year, it should be a fun ride!