NOTE: Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, currently serving as an assistant coach for Team USA at the Olympics in Sochi, caught up with BlueJackets.com to share his thoughts on the first week of the Games.
Hello to everyone back in Columbus. I thought I’d check in with this blog and let you know what I’ve been doing in Sochi at the Olympic Winter Games as part of Team USA’s coaching staff. We’re certainly looking forward to the week ahead as it presents a great challenge for our team.
My thoughts on our first week in Sochi? It’s an incredible place. It truly is a beautiful destination from what I’m getting to experience. You’ve got the mountains surrounding us, the Black Sea, the weather has been great, the venues are excellent. There have been no issues with security (a talking point prior to the Olympics) and I’ve felt 100 percent safe since I got here. Transportation is good, the food is good…there’s not one thing that I’ve been disappointed in.
Working with Team USA has been a great experience. Working with the players, our coaching staff, our USA Hockey management team, we’re all having a good time being together and so far, there’s been no disappointment in the games.
We’re 3-0 after the preliminary round and I feel pretty good about our game. It was a great game against Russia on Saturday. We knew there was going to be a lot of emotion in that game, playing in their building in front of the home fans. There was a lot of energy in the arena and it was special to be part of. It was a great hockey game and we found a way to win it…I think it gave us some confidence by playing a good team like the Russians and competing with and beating them. I do think our best games are ahead of us.
The game against Russia was an unbelievable thing to be a part of. There was a little bit of everything in the game: hits, talented plays all over the ice, blocked shots, speed…and then the way that it finished. There was a disallowed goal that created a buzz, too, but mainly it was the collection of so many talented players on both sides that made it memorable.
One of the unique things was seeing Sergei Bobrovsky on the other side (especially during the shootout). I wouldn’t say it was strange, but definitely unique. But at the end of the day, I’m on Team USA and he’s part of the Russian team and obviously I was cheering against him.
Sergei is a great goaltender. Sometimes, you take it for granted when he’s making saves for your team, but when you’re trying to score against him, it really stands out how truly special a player he is.
But with that said, there are some really strong teams in this tournament. When you play single elimination games, mistakes are magnified and goaltending becomes even more important. These next games coming up - and we have three left if we want to get where we want to go - are going to be extremely intense.
Moving forward, I think our team’s depth is going to be a strength. We’re getting contributions from everyone on any given night. What I’m excited about is the depth of this group. We’ve got four strong lines, a really good group of defensemen and quality goaltending.
That’s what gets you excited - if someone’s not quite on their game, there are other players on this team that can step up and make a difference.
Finally, I wanted to mention that one of the memorable things about Saturday was watching the video clips from the watch parties across the country. I saw the clip from the RBar several times, and every time I watch it, I got chills. It’s a little different for me, obviously, because I’m in the trenches with the team but it’s awesome to watch.