Hey guys! I'm back for my second blog entry, and let me take this time to thank you all for the positive reactions I have received so far. Very encouraging.
I'll start this segment by talking a little bit about the dilemma all of us seem to be facing as we attempt to walk the tightrope teetering between vacation mode and hockey mode. I know on our team there are many players (including myself) who never have been to Europe before. For me, I was just as excited about coming over and starting an NHL season in Finland and Sweden as I was about seeing a new part of the world.
When taking a vacation, I have always liked the thought of really jumping into the culture and experiencing what the city has to offer. Eat the food, drink the drinks and spend some time with the local people so you don't waste time eating hamburgers and French fries halfway around the world! But this trip is a bit different. Here there is a balance we have to maintain, where we are encouraged to soak up as much as we can from our new surroundings, yet at the same time we have to prepare to compete at the highest level against world-class competitors.
Right Wing - ANA
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 5 | +/-: -2
Now, this may not be the same for everyone, but for me, I don't want to be testing my stomach's boundaries the night before I have NHL All-Stars bearing down on me. Thus, here I am in Helsinki, Finland, eating pasta and chicken and feeling like I'm missing out. In the back of my mind, I justify it by reminding myself that I still have a team to make! There is work to do, and as much fun as I would like to be having here, the reward of playing well will feel better than the satisfaction of any traditional Finnish meal.
Yesterday was my first experience with international hockey (aside from the World U-17 Challenge), so I was very excited to see what the caliber of play would be. I have always had a lot of interest in the various elite leagues from across Europe because so many players I have grown up with or played against have made the transition to European hockey. I have always wondered how my style of play would fit in.
From speaking with some friends of mine, plus what I already knew about the Finnish Elite League, I was expecting Jokerit to be a hard-working, fast team with some very highly-skilled players. I feel my predictions were right on!
Every Finnish player I have ever known has possessed a similar combination of skill and work ethic, and most of those boys last night were no exception. From the drop of the puck they were playing a strong, disciplined system that clogged up the neutral zone and limited our ability to enter the offensive zone with speed. When we turned the puck over (which happened far too often), they were coming at us with three- and four-man attacks.