Friday, May 9 - Dan Hamhuis
First off, since I won’t be checking in again before Sunday, I want to wish everyone a Happy Mother’s Day, especially to my mom. I’m sure I’ll make time to call home on Sunday.
As for the games, we had a little bit of a scare yesterday against Norway
in a 2-1 win. Norway
played a pretty tight defensive game, which kept the score down. We had tons of chances to score, though, and the shot total showed that, but we their goalie made some good saves and we didn’t convert on our chances. We had open nets and missed on some opportunities that didn’t show up as shots, also. Overall, the game was a lot closer than we expected, but we’re still happy to get the win.
Already, a lot of the games this round have been closer than people may have predicted. Some of the smaller, lesser known teams are playing good hockey, so the results shouldn’t be that shocking. Many of them play a system that’s frustrating for skilled teams to face with five guys sitting back and playing in a defensive shell. If the goalie’s playing well, that’s a tough system to face.
We’ll probably see a similar style this weekend with Germany. The Germans are very similar to Norway, but generally like to play a little more physical and they probably have a little more overall team skill.
On Monday we face Finland. The Fins are a very good team again this year with a lot of NHL guys, including three guys we know well in Nashville, Ville Koistinen, Janne Niskala, and Antti Pihlstrom. It will be neat to play against those guys, especially Ville after playing on the same team as him all season long. Finland’s teams always seem to play well, so that should be a real good game and a good test for us heading into the Quarterfinals.
I think our team still needs some time to fully come together. We’re learning the team system more each game, but we can all play better. Individually, I feel comfortable out there and I’m getting used to playing with the different guys.
We have a busy next couple of days, but I’ll try to check back in with you guys before the Quarterfinals Game on the 14th.
Wednesday, May 7 - Dan Hamhuis
We had a big win yesterday against Team USA. It was an exciting game, a lot of scoring. We felt a little lucky to come out with the regulation win. We feel like we played well. And the US played a real strong game, too. It was a good test for us moving into the next round of the tournament, the Qualifying Round.
We’ll play the teams from the other group up here in Halifax. That group plays today, so we don’t know our opponents yet, but it will probably be Germany or Slovakia tomorrow and probably the other on Saturday and most likely Finland on Monday. Since they’ve played on the opposite day from us, we’ve had a chance to see some of those games.
Speaking of Finland, I saw Ville (Koistinen) at the rink a few times. The teams are all pretty separate, so I haven’t had a chance to talk to him much, yet.
Outside of the games, I’ve had a chance to wander around the city a little bit. We haven’t had too many organized events, but we’ve had some free time to do some sightseeing. Halifax is a beautiful city on the water. It’s a smaller city, but I’ve enjoyed the time up here. It’s been fun so far. And there are lots of great seafood restaurants … a few of us have had fish and chips for lunch a few times already.
Last night after the game against Team USA, we had a tribute to the 1976 Canada Cup Team. That group was full of a lot of great players, several guys in the Hall of Fame. It’s pretty cool to get to meet them and talk to guys like Bobby Hull and Bobby Orr. A lesser known guy from that team, Jim Watson, is from Smithers, B.C., as well. I know him a little bit from back home, but it was fun to talk to him.
Even though we don’t know our opponent yet, we have an important game tomorrow to start the Qualifying Round. I’ll try to check back in with you guys on Friday to recap tomorrow’s game and preview the weekend.
Monday, May 5 - Dan Hamhuis
Well, we’re done with the first weekend of play. Our team has done well, won our first two games. But on paper they were probably our two easiest opponents. Tomorrow we get our first big test when we face the US team.
Through the first two games we’ve played pretty good, but haven’t been pushed to our best yet. That should change tomorrow. From here on out the games will get harder and harder, so we need to continue to improve our play.
It’s a little more exciting since the USA/Canada hockey rivalry has started to grow within international circles. We don’t a long history against them like the Canada/Russia rivalry, but the last 10 years or so it’s become one of the more competitive rivalries. I’ve only played against the US three or four times with Team Canada, but it’s always a good game. You know everyone from the NHL or Juniors and both countries play similar styles, so that adds to the intensity a bit. For hockey fans, tomorrow should be a fun game to watch.
Coach Hitchcock will have us ready to play. This tournament’s the first time I’ve been with Hitch, so it’s a new experience for me. He’s strong with systems and a good motivator. He’s a perfectionist. These first two games we’ve played haven’t been all that competitive, so we haven’t had to play perfect hockey to get the wins, but he was still looking for perfection out of all of us. He was coaching all the way through the games. He didn’t wait until after the game or the next day, he let us know on the spot when we messed up, which was good; kept us focused through the games.
So far I’ve been paired mostly with Minnesota Brent Burns. It’s been a good pairing for both of us. We know we can play better, but right now we’re still getting used to how the other guy plays and what our responsibilities are in Coach Hitchcock’s system. But we’re adjusting and it’s getting more natural. So far it’s been a good fit.
Overall, the team has gone pretty much as I expected. I’ve been really impressed with some of our forwards, especially our first line, which has been playing really well; the Ryan Getzlaf, Dany Heatley, Rich Nash line.
Well, I’ll check back in on Wednesday with a recap from tomorrow’s big game against the US and a look forward to our Qualifying Round games.
Thursday, May 1 – Dan Hamhuis
Welcome from Halifax. I’m really excited to be named to Team Canada, especially this year with the tournament being held here. Playing in the Gold Medal game last year and winning it, was one of the highlights of my career. I’m excited to get a chance to repeat this year.
I flew up to Halifax on Tuesday night and joined the team yesterday. I’ve had two practices with the guys now. They’ve been tough practices, especially after taking a little break from on-ice work following our playoff series against Detroit. But, our practices have been good, tough sessions. Mostly we’ve been working on five-on-five drills as we all try to get back into playing shape. It’s taking a little bit of time to adjust, but we’ll be ready for Friday’s opener against Slovenia.
Most of the guys have played in both of our exhibition games. They’ve put those games behind them though, and everyone is looking ahead to the tournament. We’re all excited for the real games to start. It’s different from previous years when the tournament has been hosted in Europe. In Europe it’s just you and the team, which makes it easier to bond as a group – the guys all stick together with the language barrier. With the games here in Canada, there will be more distractions, but we’ll also have a home ice advantage and be able to draw energy from the home crowd.
So far I’ve been paired a lot with Brent Burns from the Minnesota Wild. It’s been a good pairing. He’s big and has a real long reach. I think we’ll play well together.
This is an important tournament for the 2010 Olympics. The results from this tournament will help determine placements for the Olympic tournament. Plus for us players, this tournament is probably one of the things Hockey Canada will look when selecting the next Olympic squad. The way things go here this year, at next year’s tournament in Switzerland, and over the next season and a half in the NHL will be their scouting time, so a good tournament – as a team and individually – could really help get you noticed.
Well, game’s start tomorrow. Can’t wait to get going. Talk to you guys early next week after we’ve played a few games.
Thursday, May 1 - Janne Niskala
This is my first time at the World Championships, so it’s a big honor for me. When I first started playing back in juniors, it was always a goal to play for the national team. The World Championships tournament is a big deal in Europe, probably more important there than to fans in North America. Besides the Olympics, it’s the biggest (international) hockey tournament.
So far we’ve had two practices. Our third will be tomorrow. And we play our first game on Saturday against Germany. We have eight defensemen here with the team, so we still don’t know how the coaches plan to use us. We’ll find out more information tomorrow; at least what their plans are for Saturday’s game.
Even though this is my first time playing with the men’s national team, I know about half of the guys already from playing with or against them in Europe. Most of the guys I don’t really know are the NHL regulars. But it helps to have some other Predators guys on the team with me like (Antti) Pihlstrom and (Ville) Koistinen.
Team Canada's Schedule
April 26 vs. FIN (ex) - W, 3-2
April 28 vs. RUS (ex) - L, 1-4
May 2 vs. Slovenia - W, 5-1 (Hamhuis - game's opening goal)
May 4 vs. Latvia - W, 7-0
May 6 vs. USA
May 8 - Qualification Round Starts
May 14 - Quarterfinals
Team Finland's Schedule
April 26 vs. CAN (ex) - L, 2-3
May 3 vs. Germany - W, 5-1 (Niskala - assist on game's opening goal; Pihlstrom - 1 assist)
May 5 vs. Norway
May 7 vs. Slovakia
May 8 - Qualification Round Starts
May 14 - Quarterfinals