Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Karjala Tournament Preview

From the 8th of November until Sunday, Hartwall Areena will host its flag beer's tournament between the 4 ice hockey powerhouses of Europe.

For those not familiar with the exercise, the Karjala tournament is the second of 4 of the kind called the Euro Hockey Tour, played in the Czech Republic first in August-Spetember under the name Česká Pojišťovna Cup (if it's misspelled, blame the copy/pasting, not me), then in Finland, followed by the Channel One Cup in Russia in December and the Swedish LG Hockey Games around February. The whole ordeal is ended by a quick medal round in May to crown the winner.

The squads gather the elite of each countries playing in Europe. So the level is interesting, although the stint is brief and the rosters might change from a tournament to another, which results in uneven play quite often. For these reasons, it is very hard also to pick a favourite. Some team might bolster some famous names, Malkin was playing a couple years ago, Niinimaa this year! but the chemistry is not guaranteed to be clicking with the linemates at all.

Like expected in a previous post, Peter Forsberg will be a no show. He had to end his first skating session with the team because of his ever-lasting foot injury, explained here in details by Bob McKenzie. In short, if don't want to read the article, Foppa got a club foot and his career is over. Spread the word! If you want to read, there might be a little more layers to it.

TV2 will be broadcasting all the Leijonat games so you can watch in the comfort of your home if you have paid your TV tax, of course!

Not a lot of known names playing for the Czech Republic. Zbynek Irgl though, during the last World Championship, struck me as a man who is one pronounceable name away from the NHL. He showed some great flashes and was a threat most times I have seen him on the ice. Worth a closer look if he shows skills like here, Ojojoj, indeed!

Under the supervision of diminutive Montreal alumni and hero of my youth, Mats Näslund, the Forsberg-less Swedes don't look so stellar either. Former Espoo winger Ekman, who had nice production when he was carried by Thornton and Cheechoo in San José, surfaces here out of Khimik. Daniel Tjärnqvist who does not seem to find a home this season is showing up too. HV71's starter Stefan Patrick Liv, a Polish orphan (insane what you find on Wikipedia), will mind the net. Along with Captain Kenny Jönsson, the last two will be the only representatives from the Gold Medal Winning team in Torino.

Slava Bykov, a former Nordiques pick, is the coach for Russia. Between the pipes, they will have the Washington Capitals' second first round pick of 2006, announced back then by future teammate Alex Ovechkin (fun video of the Backstrom pick there). Since being chosen to succeed the long reigning German Torhüter, Olaf Kolzig in Capital City, Varlamov has gone through a little makeover. From the name he was bearing on draft day, he has, coming into training camp this year been rebaptized Simeon, a good Jewish name. The former Anglicized version of his name, Semen, had connotations one does not always want to associate with, apart when it brings you headlines like this one: Semen makes women happy. He plays with Irgl in Yaroslav at the moment, perhaps the Czech could learn a thing or two from Simeon's publicity stunt and go under the moniker of Zach Eagle or something flashy of the sort, that could land him a spot in Nashville!

Suomi has got a good deal of familiar names on the cast and might be icing the most potent team on paper. Markkanen and Niemi or as solid as they come in net. Väänänen, Niinimaa, Immonen, AJ Niemi, Pirnes, Santala, Koivisto, Hahl, Laaksonen, Rita, Pesonen, you got to admire that Finnish trait of not backing up when the Nation is calling.

Some high flying to be expected from Shedden's troop and we are looking forward to it! Especially my colleague Egan who will be out of the town along with 12 Russian exchange students, looking for a pub broadcasting Suomi - Venäjä...

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