Neal: Bigger ice doesn't always lead to bigger offense - 02-20-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Instead of dazzling the world with their offensive acumen, most of the conversation regarding several high profile players in the Olympic men's tournament has centered around how many goals they haven't scored.

Six former Hart Trophy winners suited up in this tournament. Between Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Corey Perry and Martin St. Louis, a whopping four goals have been scored, two of which came off the blade of a 42-year-old Jagr.

The conventional wisdom has been larger rinks which are used in most international tournaments lead to larger offensive totals. The numbers in this tournament have not reflected that notion whatsoever.

Through 26 games in this tournament, there has been and average of 4.96 goals per game. That's down by more than a goal compared to the 2010 Olympic tournament in Vancouver which was played on a North American-sized rink. That tournament saw an average of 6.00 goals per game in 30 contests.

For comparison's sake, the 2006 tournament in Torino which was placed on international ice produced an average of 5.42 goals per game in 38 contests.

While the "bigger ice" is in fact wider - 100 feet across as opposed to the 85 feet you'll find on this continent - it's important to note the differences in how its configured. Most notably, blue lines are closer to the end boards. On an IIHF rink, there is 71 feet from the blue line to the end boards. On an NHL rink, there is 75 feet.

Additionally, the nets are further out from the end boards on an international rink. On an IIHF rink, the nets sit 13 feet from the end boards. In the NHL, the distances is 11 feet. The "bigger ice" has less space in the attacking zones.

The Web site ISport has a good comparison of the rink dimensions:

As happened in yesterday's 2-1 win by Canada against Latvia, teams with lesser skill such as Latvia have an easier time of packing defensive players around the net while yielding the perimeter to skilled teams such as Canada. The result was an overwhelming advantage in shots for Canada - 57-16 - but only three goals total.

Penguins left winger James Neal (above) has played in two IIHF World Championships, each played in Europe on larger ice surfaces. Earlier today, he explained the differences:

What's the biggest difference when it comes to offense on international ice?

"It’s tougher to get into scoring areas. You find yourself further out than you usually are. You’re taking shots from distances you’re not usually in. It’s tougher to get to the net because teams can collapse so much easier. You see it every game. They pack it in around the net. It just goes to show you that when you think you can create more scoring chances when you get bigger ice, it doesn’t. It takes away."

Does it change shooting angles?

"Yeah, it does. It changes everything. You have so much more time with the puck when you’re coming out of corners and stuff like that. But it’s not like you’re making that quick move and you’re making your first shot to the net. You still have a couple of feet to go. It changes everything. It’s definitely a different game."

Does it take time to get used to playing on international ice?

"Yeah, of course. Just like anything, you get used to something new. I haven’t watched much of the [Olympics] but from playing in World Championships and World [Junior Championships], it takes time. It’s definitely a tough adjustment."

It is just a matter of teams having an easier time packing bodies around their own net with the blue line closer to net and the end boards?

"That’s really all it is. You pack it in and you can’t get to the net. Just a lot of perimeter play as opposed to getting the puck to the net and going to work there in front and stuff. The puck has to travel a lot further to get to the net than on a [North American] rink."

Has the conventional wisdom of larger ice leading to more offense been debunked?

"I think that’s gone away. Maybe they won the argument three or four years ago when they said that but I think that’s gone away from what they’ve seen on Olympic-sized ice. That’s not true and it’s not going to create more chances. It will take away. I think you’re going to start hearing that more and more. I think you see it watching the Olympics here in Russia."

What has been the biggest obstacle for you in your experiences playing on international ice?

"I think more or less getting to the scoring areas … I don’t want to say are easier to get into in the North America game, but you find yourself in shooting range. You’re able to get off shots better that are looking to go in. When you’re on the Olympic-sized ice, you’re out of range a lot. You’re looking for those opportunities. That’s the biggest thing. It’s the perimeter play that is hard to lead to scoring chances. On the North American ice, it’s kind of a bang-bang play in the net. On the Olympic ice, it’s a little different way."

How much of it is the fact that most European teams play on an international rink?

"Yeah, that too. I think the competition is so tough nowadays. Whether it’s on the North American or Olympic ice, it’s going to be tough no matter what. All teams are great at adjusting and you’re seeing that more and more in tournaments."

You prefer North American rinks?

"Yeah, of course. I think the majority [of NHLers] would say North American over Olympic-sized ice."

(Photo: Petr David Josek/Associated Press)

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Empty Netter Assists - 02-19-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Quarterfinal round

-David Backes had a goal and an assist for the United States which defeated the Czech Republic, 5-2. Ryan Kesler recorded two assists for the United States while teammate Ryan Suter netted two assists. Jonathan Quick made 21 saves in the victory. Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik were each held without a point for the United States. Ales Hesmky scored two goals for the Czech Republic.

-Confident times for Dan Bylsma:

-Quick being stretchy:

-The handshake line:

-Down times for the Czech Republic's Tomas Plekanec:

-The Czech Republic's Jaromir Jagr just hung out at the bench:

-Jagr and the United States' Ryan McDonagh had a collision:

-McDonagh had some love for teammate Phil Kessel:

-The United States' Patrick Kane and the Czech Republic's Martin Hanzal battle for this puck:

-"I'm the beef, Dustin Brown's the pork and [Ryan] Callahan's the chicken, so that's our meat line." - Backes on his line.

-"Everyone on this team realizes you have to play for the team and check your ego at the door. All of us are the top players on our team back home and you come here and you're asked to play different roles. You see everyone in the room, willing to go to the dirty areas, block shots, make hits. It's nice to see when you see a guy like Patty Kane backchecking as hard as he can across the ice. It kind of puts things in perspective." - United States forward Max Pacioretty.

-Carey Price made 15 saves for Canada which edged Latvia, 2-1. Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz were each held without a point for Canada.

-Crosby pushed this puck up ice:

-Focused times for Crosby:

-Crosby shook hands with Latvia's Zemgus Girgensons:

-The handshake line:

-Latvia defenseman Kristaps Sotnieks gave goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis a hand - literally - in stopping this puck:

-Everyone had issues here:

-Price kept an eye on this puck:

-And he stretched out for this one:

-Canada's Jonathan Toews and Latvia's Georgijs Pujacs battled for this puck:


-Latvia's Lauris Darzins was able to beat Price here:


-Canada's Corey Perry gave Gudlevskis a snow shower:

-Latvia captain Sandis Ozolinis gave Gudlevskis a pick-me-up:

-Latvia's Miks Indrasis was upset:

-"It was tough. We had some great chances, and when you're getting chances like that, there's not a lot you would change. It's not like you're going in there, adjusting and trying to figure something out. I think it's just the ultimate test of your patience when you're getting chances like that. You need to find a way to score." - Crosby on this team's limited offense.

-Canada forward John Tavares is expected to miss the rest of the tournament due to a knee injury.

-"That was one of the best goaltending performances I've ever seen." - Price on 21-year-old Latvia goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis who made 55 saves.

-Mikael Granlund and Teemu Selanne each had a goal and an assist for Finland which beat host Russia, 3-1. Tuukka Rask made 37 saves in the win. Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatt were each held without a point for Finland. Evgeni Malkin failed to record a point for Russia.

-Malkin had some... um ... support?

-A couple of good looks of Russia's Sergei Bobrovsky robbing Jokinen:

-Everyone was ready for this faceoff:

-Russia's Pavel Datsyuk had to fend off Selanne for this puck:

-Two great eights. Selanne and Russia's Alex Ovechkin had a moment:

-Rask and teammate Olli Jokinen had a moment:

-Happy times for Finland:

-Happy times for Finland's fans:

-Russia's Semyon Varlamov couldn't stop this puck:

-Varlamov and teammate Vladimir Tarasenko had the wrong view of this puck:

-Down times for Russia's Anton Belov:

-Excited times for Russia's Ilya Kovalchuk:

-"Well, it's difficult to explain why we didn't score, especially the players who usually score a lot in their games, especially Alexander Ovechkin, who scored over 40 goals. I cannot explain so far." - Russia coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov on his team's limited offense.

-“I’m going to have a couple beers, that’s for sure." - Finland defenseman Kimmo Timonen on his postgame plans.

-"Obviously, we'll take the extra motivation we can get. Sweden and Finland, Olympic semifinal, I think we'll be ready to go either way." - Jokinen on Sweden coach Par Marts picking them to lose to Russia. Sweden will meet Finland in the semifinal round.

-Henrik Lundqvist made 19 saves for Sweden in a 5-0 shutout of Slovenia. Carl Hagelin scored two goals for Sweden while teammate Loui Eriksson added a goal and an assist.

-Slovenia's Tomaz Razingar couldn't beat Lundqvist:

-Sweden's Johnny Oduya followed through on this shot:

-Oduya and Slovenia's Bostjan Golicic battled for this puck:

-Happy times for Sweden. Not so much for Slovenia:

-The handshake line:

-Malkin and Slovenia's Robert Kristan had a moment:

-Kristan couldn't stop this shot by Sweden's Loui Eriksson:

-“At the end of the day it always stinks losing. But I think in a couple of hours, when everything sets in, (I’ll) definitely feel a tremendous pride. I’m very proud of the guys. Nobody gave us a chance right off the get go, but we proved everybody wrong yet again. It’s been an awesome experience for every single one of us.” - Slovenia forward Anze Kopitar on his team's surprising run to the quarterfinal round.

-The semifinal round schedule.


-Tomas Vokoun speaks:


-Nick Drazenovic had a goal and two assists for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who lost to the rival Binghamton Senators, 4-3, in overtime. Captain Tom Kostopoulos recorded two assists for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton while teammate Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers made 27 saves.

-A goal and two assists by Cody Sylvester led the Wheeling Nailers to a 4-1 road win against the Reading Royals. Carter Rowney netted a goal and an assist for Wheeling while teammate Mike Condon made 30 saves.

-Happy 33rd birthday to former Penguins forward Jeff Taffe. A free agent signing during the 2007 offseason, Taffe spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. In 2007-08, he appeared in 45 games and scored 12 points. He followed that up in 2008-09 by appearing in eight games and recording two assists. In the 2009 offseason, he joined the Panthers as a free agent. In 53 games with the Penguins, Taffe scored 14 points. He is currently a member of the Hershey Bears of the AHL.

-Happy 30th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney (right).  A first-round pick in 200, Whitney spent parts of four seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2005-06, Whitney played in 68 games and scored 32 points. He followed that up in 2006-07 by setting career-highs in games (81), goals (14), assists (45) and points (59). In that spring's postseason, he appeared in five games and recorded two points. During 2007-08, Whitney played in 76 games and scored 40 points. He saw action in 20 postseason games that spring and scored eight points while helping the team advance to the Stanley Cup Final. After 28 games and 13 points in 2008-09, Whitney was traded to the Ducks in exchange for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi. In 253 regular season games with the Penguins, he scored 150 points, 57th-most in franchise history. In 25 career postseason games, he scored eight points. He is currently a member of the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Devils recalled defenseman Jon Merrill from Albany of the AHL.

Atlantic Division

-The Red Wings recalled forwards Riley Sheahan, Cory Emmerton, Teemu Pulkkinen and defenseman Adam Almquist from Grand Rapids of the AHL.

Central Division

-Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (right) resumed practicing. He has been sidelined since October due to a hip ailment.

-The Wild recalled defenseman Jonathon Blum and forward Jake Dowell from Iowa of the AHL.

Pacific Division

-The Kings recalled forwards Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey from Manchester of the AHL.

-The Flames recalled goaltender Joni Ortio and defenseman Derek Smith from Abbotsford of the AHL.

(Photos: Olympics-J. David Ake/Associated Press, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Julio Cortez/Associated Press, Mark Humphrey/Associated Press, Streeter Lecka/Getty Images, Clive Mason/Getty Images, Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images, Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images, David J. Phillip/Associated Press, Quinn Rooney/Getty Images, Martin Rose/Getty Images and Matt Slocum/Associated Press; Whitney-Nick Laham/Getty Images; Rinne-Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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Rivals square off in seminals - 02-19-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


Rivals will square off in each of the semifinal round games of the men's tournament.

With Finland eliminating host Russia, 3-1, and Sweden beating upstart Slovenia, 5-0, Finland and Sweden will face off in a rematch of the 2006 Olympic gold medal match.

Canada held off surprising Latvia, 2-1, today. That will give Canada a meeting with Paul Martin (above) and the United States which defeated the Czech Republic, 5-2. Canada beat the United States for the gold medal in the 2002 and 2010 tournament.



7 a.m., EST NBCSN

United States

(Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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Olympic hockey chat - 02-19-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


We will be holding a live chat for today's quarterfinal round game between Russia and Finland.

The game and the chat begin at 7:30 a.m., EST and will be televised on NBC Sports Network.

Click here to join the chat or participate below:


(Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

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Chartiers Valley sets WPIAL record for 3-pointers

Written by Mike White on .

It was a record-breaking night for the Chartiers Valley boys basketball team. But all the Colts did was break their own record.

Chartiers Valley set a WPIAL playoff record when it made 21 3-pointers in a 95-62 victory against Mount Pleasant in a Class AAA first-round game at Peters Township.
Chartiers Valley (22-1), the Post-Gazette's No. 1 Class AAA team, made 54 percent (21 of 39) from 3-point range and broke its own playoff record of 15, set in 2005 against North Allegheny.
Matty McConnellCousins Matty McConnell (pictured) and Jerrad Tuite both scored 22 points and both made six 3-pointers. Jake Ritson had four 3-pointers and 12 points while Eddie Flohr had 14 points.
Elsewhere in Class AAA
*** Uniontown 66, Ambridge 57: A 9-0 run in the third quarter propelled Uniontown (20-1) to the victory at Bethel Park. Joe Campbell scored 23 points to lead Uniontown and Xaiver Ellis and Jordan Pratt added 15 each. Stephon McGinnis had 24 for Ambridge (17-7).
*** Montour 47, Indiana 41: Montour (16-7) outscored Indiana, 21-10, in the fourth quarter to pull out the win at Fox Chapel and earn a quarterfinal berth for the fifth consecutive season. 
*** Blackhawk 49, Knoch 42: Tyler Engle had four 3-pointers and 20 points to lift Blackhawk (12-11) to the win at North Allegheny.

*** Central Valley 62, West Mifflin 42: Central Valley (19-3) got 13 points from John George to post the win at Moon. West Mifflin finished 13-7.

*** Elizabeth Forward 47, South Fayette 40: Elizabeth Forward (20-3) came back from a five-point halftime deficit to win at Canon-McMillan and earn a quarterfinal berth for only the third time in school history.

***Mars 67, Steel Valley 61 (OT): Mars outscored Steel Valley 13-7 in overtime to pull out the win at West Allegheny. John Castello had 25, Owen Nearhoof 18 and Alex Gruber 16 for Mars. Ajan Smith had 26 for Steel Valley.

*** Thomas Jefferson 63, West Allegheny 41: Thomas Jefferson outscored West Allegheny, 24-5, in the second quarter en route to the victory against West Allegheny (13-11) at Chartiers Valley.


In each of the past two seasons, the Upper St. Clair girls were the lower-seeded team when it ended Hempfield's season.

On Tuesday night, the roles were reversed and the Spartans got their revenge.

Hempfield (15-8), the No. 12 seed, led by as much as 20 in the second half and held on for a 65-56 victory against the No. 5 Panthers (14-7) in a Class AAAA first-round game at Bethel Park.

Two seasons ago, the 14th-seeded Panthers beat No. 6 Hempfield in the quarterfinals, and a year ago No. 13 Upper St. Clair beat No. 4 Hempfield in the first round.

But on Tuesday, the Spartans led, 35-18, at halftime and held its largest lead at 50-30 with 3:48 left in the third quarter. Upper St. Clair closed the gap to five, 57-52, with 1:53 left in the game, but got no closer.

Monica Burns led Hempfield with 19 points, while Constance Raftis had 19 for the Panthers.

More Class AAAA first round

*** Fox Chapel 47, Pine-Richland 37: Down by two at halftime, the third-seeded Foxes (18-4) outscoredErin Mathias the No. 14 Rams (14-9), 19-5, in the third quarter to pull away for a win at North Hills. Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias (pictured), a Duke recruit, scored nine of her game-high 25 points in the third quarter and also finished with 16 rebounds and 8 blocks.

*** Bethel Park 36, Seneca Valley 29: Tied going into the fourth quarter, the No. 4 Black Hawks (17-5) pulled away for a win against the No. 13 Raiders (10-13) at Moon. 

*** Norwin 55, Penn Hills 48: Alayna Gribble scored 18 points to lead the No. 6 Knights (17-5) past the No. 11 Indians (14-9) at Plum. Freshman Desiree Oliver had a game-high 21 points for Penn Hills.

Class AA first round

*** Greensburg Central Catholic 50, Laurel 43: The third-seeded Centurions (18-4) scored the final seven points to escape with a win against the No. 14 Spartans (13-10) in a first-round game at Fox Chapel. 

*** Seton-LaSalle 61, West Shamokin 33: The top-seeded Rebels (19-4) went on a 21-3 run in the second quarter to pull away for an easy win against the Wolves (13-11) at West Allegheny. 

*** Bishop Canevin 45, Beaver 36: The defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Crusaders (18-5), seeded fifth, led by 18 at halftime in a victory against the No. 12 Bobcats (16-7) at Canon-McMillan. 

*** Burrell 68, Shenango 25: Jessica Cercone led four Burrell players in double figures with 16 points as the No. 2 Bucs (23-0) cruised to a win against Wildcats (13-10) at Plum.

*** Neshannock 34, Washington 18: Tayler Grybowski and Madison McHale each scored nine points to lead the fourth-seeded Lancers (22-1) past No. 13 Washington (14-9) at North Hills.

*** McGuffey 77, Brentwood 49: Sammie Weiss scored 20 of her 34 points in the second half as the No. 7 Highlanders (20-3) cruised to a victory against No. 10 Brentwood (15-7) at Peters Township.

*** Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 49, Fort Cherry 40: Heidi Langhorst had 14 points and 12 rebounds to lead the No. 8 Chargers (16-7) to a win against the ninth-seeded Rangers (15-7) at Fox Chapel.

*** Carlynton 56, Mohawk 22: The sixth-seeded Cougars (19-3) got 28 points and six steals from Conor Richardson in a victory against No. 11 Mohawk (17-6) at North Allegheny.



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