Game 1 highlights and what to look for on Saturday
Outfoxed themselves – Munich started backup goalie Robert Kristan to open the series against Bratislava and while the young Slovenian didn’t perform poorly, his teammates did. It could be that when they were told Kristan was starting, the message they got was that this was going to be an easy series. So none of them played. The result was a 4-0 Bratislava win. The Eagles outshot the Fox 37-14, won 38 of 62 faceoffs and had all but 2 players register at least one hit. Bratislava’s Marian Hossa was the best player in the game, scoring 1 goal off 7 shots and getting an assist. Game 2: Look for Jonathan Quick to start in goal for the Fox and look for the fans in Munich to cheer when he skates onto the ice first. Chances are, they’ll also be cheering at the end of the game.
Greek Power – Madrid entered the series having won 19 of their last 21 games. But their momentum stopped when they hit a brick wall in Athens. And two Kronwalls as well. Niklas and Staffan were both plus 3 in the game and each had 3 hits. Cam Ward stopped all but one of Madrid’s 24 shots and Jason Pominville was the leading scorer in the game, getting a goal and two assists. Game 2: Madrid’s top line of Joe Pavelski, Gabriel Landeskog and Rick Nash was uncharacteristically poor on Thursday. They didn’t do well against the Backes-Pominville-Hartnell line and they didn’t do well against the Kalyvas-O’Reilly-Oshie line. They will do better in Game 2. Ryan O’Reilly played very well for the Greeks in Game 1. If he keeps that kind of play going, Athens will advance.
Smurf Power – Berlin dominated their Swiss visitors right from the opening faceoff and Smurf goalie Jimmy Howard was perfect. Bern was outshot 13-4 in the first period and were able to improve as the game went on, but Berlin piled on in the second with four goals. The top line of Logan Couture, Loui Eriksson and Ryan Callahan accounted for three of the 5 Berlin goals. Game 2: Jason Spezza, a star performer for Bern over the last three seasons, was held without a shot and he was beaten often in the faceoff circle. He will have to do better for the Bears. But his chief nemesis most of the night was Couture, who scored 3 points and was generally outstanding. There is no chance that Couture will take his foot off the pedal on Saturday. If Berlin is looking for an area of their game that needs to get better, they can look at the shots blocked column. Matt Carle blocked one and forward David Krejci blocked one, but that was it. Bern players blocked 13 shots in front of goalies Mike Smith and Jose Theodore in the loss.
Letang leads – Paris defenseman Kris Letang was named the first star and Zurich goalie Brian Elliott wasn’t up to the challenge provided by the world champs. Those outcomes were exactly what Paris fans wanted to see in Game 1. Zurich desperately needs Elliott to play well and give them some confidence and that performance didn’t do it. Zurich, which is loaded with talented offensive players, was only able to get two pucks past Tuukka Rask. Paris, meanwhile, got 3 goals from their defensemen (2 from Letang). Game 2 – Rouge Eiffel star Evgeny Malkin had a poor game. He was minus 2 and only 11 of 27 in faceoffs. And he still managed to collect 2 points in the win. Look for him to play a better game on Saturday, which means the Lions are in trouble.Game 1 featured some heavy hitting. Letang had 7 hits himself, but that was nothing compared to the 9 that Zurich defenseman Janne Niskala produced. The teams will be en garde, tempers will be short, and discipline will be preached by Zurich coach Paul MacLean and Paris coach Michel Therrien.