Sochi hockey notebook: Bylsma keeps steady hand
SOCHI, Russia — Amid apparent panic on the Canadian and Russian fronts regarding line changes, strategy and the like, Dan Bylsma has carried a comparatively cool hand for the United States.
His forward lines have stayed mostly steady, his defense pairings about the same, and his reliance on Jonathan Quick has paid off. Quick, predictably, got Bylsma's nod Tuesday for the quarterfinal noon Wednesday against the Czech Republic.
The top forward lines will be Zach Parise-Ryan Kesler-Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk-Joe Pavelski-Phil Kessel.
Safe to say his players have appreciated the approach.
“We're getting stronger with every game,” defenseman Paul Martin said. “That's how we feel, and I think we're feeling that together.”
Other teams are noticing. After the Czechs beat Slovakia, 5-3, on Tuesday to qualify for the quarters, the Czechs' Jakub Voracek called the Americans “the best team in the tournament.”
Malkin blanked again
Evgeni Malkin continues to skate relentlessly, to no avail. And his scoreless showing in the Russians' 4-0 flatliner of a qualifying victory over Norway on Tuesday might have been his low point, with two shots on goal, an ill-advised penalty and several giveaways while the score was tight.
Russia has no time to rest. Finland is next in the quarterfinal Wednesday.
After splitting Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz for Canada's final round-robin game, coach Mike Babcock reunited them for Tuesday's practice in advance of the Wednesday quarterfinal against Latvia.
Babcock was adamant it had nothing to do with Crosby or Kunitz. Both have been heavily criticized in Canada for their showings to date.
“We're just trying to get everyone going as best we can,” Babcock said.
Not that the Finns needed a reminder to play tight defense — that's been the national hallmark — but it'll be particularly incumbent to do against all the Russians' snipers.
“What you're seeing right now is that one goal is so huge,” Finland's Jussi Jokinen said. “If you're a guy who's supposed to score and you get a chance, you've got to put it away.”