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Kane: You couldn't ask for a better game

By Jerry Sullivan

SOCHI, Russia -- Buffalo's Patrick Kane spoke at length after the U.S. men's hockey team's dramatic, 3-2 shootout win over the Russians. Kane had a busy day, albeit with mixed results. He played 20:09 and had five shots on goal, including a failed breakaway midway through the five-minute overtime.

Kane had a gorgeous cross-ice feed to set up a goal by Joe Pavelski, giving the Americans a 2-1 lead midway through the third. He also struggled at times trying to make plays in the offensive end, especially early. He had a hooking penalty with one second left in the second period.

Here are some of Kane's comments from the mixed zone after the win:

On his play: 

"I thought I could have played a little bit better. Hopefully, I'll get better as the tournament goes on. It was nice to have some chances and set up that goal, for sure. But you always want to  get better as the tournament goes on."

On the atmosphere in the Bolshoy Ice Dome:

"It was amazing. I don't think anyone could ask for a better game. It was tight at the start, but it opened up as game went on, especially in the third period, and you saw some more chances. It was just a fun game to be a part of, fun to play in, great atmosphere and a great finish, too."

On his missed breakaway:

"I thought I had enough speed to try to beat him five-hole between the legs. Looking back, I thought I could have made a different move on it. It would have been nice to finish it."

Elaborating on his statement Friday that people would be crazy not to want the NHL in the Games.

"Yeah, it's great for hockey. People are waking up to watch these games, especially back in the States and Canada. It's great for hockey and we're glad to be part of it."

On trouble getting more open looks on offense:

"We're trying to work on chemistry a little bit. As you come from one team to another, you're used to playing with different guys, different systems. So hopefully, those will open up as the tournament goes on. But as the game went on, I found myself having more chances."

On T.J. Oshie in shootouts:

"He's got a repertoire of moves. I don't think the goalie knows what he's going to do. He's coming in slow and it looks like he has the same setup every time, but he makes a different move and I don't think
goalies really know what to expect."

To read the story:
http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/hockey/oshies-shootout-goals-lead-us-past-russia-3-2-20140215

To view a photo gallery:
http://www.buffalonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Site=BN&Date=20140215&Category=PHOTOGALLERIES&ArtNo=215009999&Ref=PH&Profile=1652

Russian coach says Quick tricked the refs

By Jerry Sullivan

SOCHI, Russia -- It was a great game, and as U.S. coach Dan Bylsma said later, the U.S. Olympic hockey team's 3-2 shootout victory over the Russians on Saturday had everything. Naturally, it had controversy.

With 4:40 left in regulation, Fedor Tyutin beat American goalie Jonathan Quick with a blast to the top of the net. But after a review, the officials waved off the goal, ruling that the net was off its moorings. It was only off a bit, and the Russian crowd howled in protest, but the call stood.

The call is automatic at the international level. If the net is dislodged, the play must be disallowed. The NHL judges those situations differently. If it's decided that the net wasn't off enough to affect the play, the goal is good. Not so in the Olympics.

Still, it was an issue with the Russians, who felt that Quick had nudged the goal intentionally to put the net off the peg a tad. One journalist told Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov that Quick is known for such tactics in the NHL and asked him if he had been aware of it.

"I haven't heard that," Bilyaletdinov said through an interpreter at a post-game coaches' press conference in Bolshoy Ice Dome. "It is up to the officials to judge, to observe goaltenders' behavior. He (Quick) tricked the officials and we lost. What can I do?

"I do believe it was a mistake by the referee," he said. "But it's my job to prepare my team for the next game."

Quick will start in net in Game Two

By Jerry Sullivan

SOCHI, Russia -- U.S. hockey coach Dan Bylsma said after practice here Friday that he will stick with the Kings' Jonathan Quick in goal for Saturday's big Olympic meeting with the host Russians and continue to use the Sabres' Ryan Miller as the backup.

I was a little surprised by the decision. All along, I'd suspected that Bylsma would rotate his goalies in the first two games and use Miller in the big spot against Russia to see if he still had the magic of 2010, when he led the Americans to the gold-medal game and was named MVP of the tournament.

"Jonathan will be starting in net tomorrow," Bylsma said in the practice rink at Bolshoy Arena. "He played real well in Game One. I thought there was a period of inactivity in that game, and he had to stay sharp, stay focused, and it was followed by two really big saves he had to make. I thought he played really well in the game."

Bylsma acknowledged Miller's great play in Vancouver, and his experience at this level. But he said Miller is his backup for the time being. 

"Jonathan Quick is a goalie who’s guided his team to a Stanley Cup and was a huge factor, and a guy who in the past 12 games, the last month, has a goals against just a shade over two and  a .918 save percentage," Bylsma said. "Those are great numbers. He's a great goalie. He was for us in Game One, and he's going to need to be in Game Two."

Miller has faced more shots and saved a higher percentage of them this season than Quick, who missed the early part of the year with a groin injury. Miller is 14-22-3 with a 2.74 goals-against. But he has a .923 save percentage. Quick is 16-13-2 with a 2.18 GAA, but a save percentage of only .911.

Miller had a 9-4-3 record and .940 save percentage from Dec. 10 to the end of January. He gave up 10 goals on 61 shots in his two February games before the Olympic break, which might have hurt his cause.

Still, coaches are known for switching during the course of an Olympics. If Quick falters, we'll see Miller in the net. At some point, Bylsma will want to find out if Miller can rediscover his form of 2010. If he doesn't, and the Americans falter, there will be lots of second-guessing.

Bylsma won't address Game Two goalie

By Jerry Sullivan

SOCHI, Russia -- U.S. men's hockey coach Dan Bylsma  answered every question but one after his team's resounding, 7-1, victory over Slovakia in its Olympic opener here Thursday. Bylsma still isn't ready to say who will be his starting goaltender Saturday against the host Russians.

"I am not going to answer that question and name our starting goaltender at this time," Bylsma said.

Jonathan Quick started the opener and saved 22 of 23 shots. He was solid, but did not have to be sensational. Slovakia had its scoring chances, but missed the net on some of the better ones.

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Bylsma would not say whether he had decided to split his goalies in the first two games at Wednesday's practice. The general assumption is that the Sabres' Ryan Miller, the MVP in the 2010 Games at Vancouver, will start against Russia.

The Americans were terrific in their opener, dominating a Slovakia team that had finished fourth in the 2010 Olympics. The U.S. speed and depth was apparent in the second period, as they scored six goals in a span of 13:51 to blow the game wide open. Paul Stastny had two goals and played a terrific two-way game on a line with Max Pacioretty and T.J. Oshie -- a line some would consider the Americans' fourth.

"Going into the game, certainly you could see the skill and talent on the top two lines," said Bylsma, the Penguins' head coach. "Zach Parise being on your third line is pretty good. But we talked about it going into the game that the line of Stastny, Pacioretty and Oshie could be our best line in this game, and it turned out to be that for us.

"Not only did they find themselves on the scoresheet," Bylsma said, "but every time they went over the boards they made something happen with their shifts and their offensive zone time. That's the kind of depth throughout your lineup that you need to have, and we do have."

The U.S. will face an opponent with extraordinary talent on Saturday when they play the host Russians, who have Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk on the roster, among others. Bylsma was asked how ready he would be for Malkin, who plays for him in Pittsburgh.

"Their team is very talented," Bylsma said, "maybe the most talented in the tournament with some of the star players they have. Evgeni Malkin, I've seen him do things where I don't know what he's going to do next or how he does it offensively with the puck.

"So to have a game plan or to tell someone what to expect, you might have to expect the unexpected against a player of that ilk. But again, there's more people on that line than just Malkin. Ovechkin, with that shot, the goal-scorer that he is. There's more than one or two players we have to be concerned with."

He also has to pick a goalie.

Buffalo's Slo-Mo Mike

By Jerry Sullivan

SOCHI, Russia -- The next time you watch a slow motion replay of a goal in an Olympic hockey game on NBC, you can be pretty sure the guy on the other end of the camera is a Buffalo guy.

Mike Mathews, a Tonawanda cameraman who runs his own production company, is operating a special 4K (super high definition/super slow motion) camera for both men's and women's hockey on NBC. It's the only 4K camera at the Olympics. Mathews handled the same camera for them at the Stanley Cup finals.

Mathews is spending a lot of time in the NBC broadcast compound between Bolshoi and Shayba arenas, the two hockey venues at the Olympics. They're keeping him hopping.

A 1974 graduate of the Nichols School, Mathews graduated from Syracuse University's Newhouse School of  Public Communications in 1978. In 1989, he founded Scene & Herd Productions, a full-service broadcasting, advertising and corporate communications production company. Mathews is executive producer and director of Scene & Herd.

Mathews is also a special events cameraman. He's a fixture at Bills home games in the fall.

"It is a special honor as a sports cameraman to be hired to help bring the incredible Olympic events to the whole world," Mathews told me Thursday. "And maybe being a full-blooded Greek --the people credited with creating the modern Olympic Games -- that feeling runs a bit deeper for me."

Don't Be So Quick About Quick

By Jerry Sullivan

SOCHI, Russia -- A lot of hockey fans are over-reacting to coach Dan Bylsma's decision to start Jonathan Quick as the U.S. goaltender in the opening game of the Olympic men's hockey tournament Thursday against Slovakia. People are getting hysterical and assuming this means Bylsma has decided on Quick as his No. 1 netminder over the Sabres' Ryan Miller.

I don't buy it. In fact, I believe it's just the opposite. By giving Quick the nod against Slovakia in the opener, Bylsma is setting the stage to use Miller on Saturday in a huge preliminary test against the Russians. I have strong suspicions that it'll be Miller's job to lose if he plays well against the host team and shows remnants of the Olympic magic that nearly carried the U.S. to gold in Vancouver.

Bylsma has been coy about the decision all along. Quick is a terrific goalie who led the Kings to the Stanley Cup. It's a delicate situation. But Miller has experience in the Olympics. He has been sensational this season for a bad Sabres team. Quick has played well since returning from a groin injury. But if you ask me, Miller is the logical choice -- at least until his Olympic brilliance begins to wane.

“I’m not going to announce that we’re splitting games," Bylsma said. "When I name a starting goaltender, that’s who is going to start in Game 1."

So he won't announce that Miller gets the second game. But the U.S. didn't bring Miller all this way to sit him. I'll be surprised if Bylsma doesn't play Miller against Russia. And if Miller continues to play at a high level -- and I'm told he has been very good in practices -- it should be his job to lose.

Miller was the MVP of the entire Olympic hockey tournament four years ago.  He's playing at the same level right now. You don't relegate a guy with that resume to a backup.

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U.S. Disappointments Mounting

SOCHI, Russia -- OK, so it's still early. There's lots of hockey and figure skating and speedskating left to go. But the Americans are starting to lag behind in the overall medal count, and you can see a negative trend starting to emerge.

Shaun White finished fourth in halfpipe. Bode Miller was eighth in the downhill. Kikkan Randall, expected to win the first-ever women's cross country medal for the U.S., bombed out early in the sprint. J.R. Celski finished fourth in the 1,500 meters in short track. At the moment, the Americans are fourth in the medal count with seven, two of them gold.

The surprising flameout of such veterans as White and Miller makes you wonder if other disappointments are in store. Shani Davis is looking for gold in a third straight Games. Will he avoid White's fate? How about the men's hockey team? Will Ryan Miller fail to rediscover his magic in net? How about figure skating? Might Jeremy Abbott and Gracie Gold underachieve?

At least Meryl Davis and Charlie White are a lock in ice dancing. Right?

I don't mean to be negative. I'm just getting an uneasy feeling about the U.S.

Shaun White Advances to Halfpipe Final

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Snowboard icon Shaun White quickly answered any questions about his readiness  for the Olympic halfpipe competition, posting the top score in qualifying Tuesday afternoon to advance directly to the finals at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

White drew oohs and aahs from the crowd on his very first jump, getting tremendous elevation on his jumps and performing back-to-back double flips on his way to a 95.75 score. He had a 70.75 on his second run, but it didn't matter. He easily joined five other riders who earned automatic byes to the semifinals. Twelve other riders competed in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Russian time, with the top six finishers moving on the 12-man gold-medal round at 9:30 p.m..

Earlier in the day, there were reports that the 2 p.m. qualifying round would be scrapped due to warm weather and slushy condition. Instead, there would be one semifinal later in the day. But organizers changed their minds and decided that the halfpipe course, which had come under heavy criticism during training, was in decent enough shape to start on time.

White, the reigning two-time gold medalist in snowboard halfpipe, made his most impressive jump after qualifying. As he made his way through the "mixed zone" where reporters interview athletes at the Games, White was told that one of his biggest fans, a cancer survivor, was standing along the fence in the spectator area. He jumped a barrier and ran over to the boy to meet the boy.

Ben Hughes, a 10-year-old from St. Louis, Mo.,  made the trip to Sochi through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. So did Katie Lyle, 19, a cancer survivor from Pensacola, Fla. They both got to meet their hero when White made his impromptu leap over the mixed zone fence.

"My son's wish was to be here and see Shaun White snowboarding," said Liz Hughes, wiping tears from her eyes. "One of our friends from the press -- we didn't know him, but we met him today -- made it happen."

Mike Wise, a columnist from the Washington Post, had found out about the Make-A-Wish kids earlier in the day. Wise told a U.S. Olympic official about Ben Hughes and asked if someone could life him over the fence to meet White. The world's greatest snowboarder went to him, instead.

Ben was asked what he thought when he saw White bounding over the fence.

"This can't be happening," he said. "This is super awesome."

Lyle said she was in a Pensacola hospital four years ago, getting chemotherapy treatments, when she watched White win his second halfpipe gold in Vancouver. She was smitten.

"Watching him compete, he has such sportsmanship, he's so lively, he's so, so full of life," she said. "He just really inspired me."

"Oh my God, I love him," Lyle said. "But he's cuter in person."

What did you think of him cutting off his long red hair, she was asked?

"You know, I didn't like it on TV," Lyle said. "But seeing it in person, it's all right. I approve."


Let's Play Nine!

SOCHI, Russia -- Before I left for the Olympics, I told people that it would be nice to finally  get away from a brutal Buffalo winter and escape to someplace warm and tropical -- you know, like Russia. I even joked that I should bring my golf clubs.

I had read that the average temperature in Sochi, which is located in the southermost part of the country on the Black Sea, was 43 degree Fahrenheit in the month of February. But that's an average February. It's actually quite warmer here. Sorry if this brings you to tears back in Western New York (this means you, Melinda),  but it's 61 degrees here right now at 1 p.m.

It's true. I consulted a conversion scale on-line just to be sure. The temperature is 16 Celsius, which converts to 61. The weather report says it feels like 17 Celsius. It does. Walking over to Shayba Arena for the U.S. women's hockey game against Switzerland, I felt like dork in my sweater and winter coat. I didn't need either. In Buffalo, people would be wearing shorts. Heck, I know a lot of guys who break out the shorts when it gets over 40 back there.

I haven't seen a golf course. I don't know how much golf they play here. Have you ever heard of a major Russian golfer? I'm not the only one who has the itch. My old buddy Bob Kravitz from the Indianapolis paper (he replaced me as Bill Polian's chief tormenter when Polian got to Indy) said he was also wondering if he should have brought his clubs. He checked and February is generally the coldest month of the year in these parts.

Well, there's not a lot of time for play over here. It took me five hours in travel time alone to see Bode Miller flame out in the downhill last night. I felt like it was an easy day when I managed to get in my room by midnight and sleep eight full hours.

I'll be talking to U.S. women's goalie Molly Schaus today. She's technically the backup, but getting the start against the Swiss. It's not like there's much chance of the Americans not advancing to the medal round. Plus, she's very good.

Molly's parents -- Dave Schaus and the former Cathy Downing, are both from North Buffalo, just blocks from my house on Hertel. She grew up in Boston and went to Boston College. Dave Schaus died in September of 2012. He and Cathy traveled to Vancouver to watch Molly in the 2010 Games. Cathy is here in Sochi to root her on this time.

Paul Schaus, her cousin, is on the U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team.

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny On The Spot

SOCHI, Russia --Perhaps you've heard the story of the U.S. bobsledder who smashed his way through a door after being locked in his bathroom. 

Well, as so often happens there's a Buffalo angle. Johnny Quinn, the man who made the great bathroom escape, used to be with the Bills. News reports are saying Quinn played for the Bills. Actually, he was with the team in the 2007 training camp as an undrafted free agent wideout from North Texas, but never played a regular-season game with the team.

Quinn was a star receiver and kick returner at North Texas. He finished as the school's all-time leader in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. In 2008, he signed with the Packers, but didn't make their regular squad, either. Quinn eventually caught on with the Saskatechewan Roughriders and had a few productive games in the Canadian Football League in 2009 before suffering an ACL injury.

In 2010, Quinn put together a training video and sent it to the USA national bobsled team. He competed in a bobsled for the first time in the 2010-2011 season. He is a member of the Americans' second four-man sled with driver Nick Cunningham. 

 

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