The Daily Planet
The 2008 IIHF World Championship gets underway today in Quebec City and Halifax. Sixteen teams will be competing for the gold medal, and Canada will attempt to defend the gold it won in Moscow last spring. Among the participants in this year’s tournament are 11 players from the Washington Capitals’ organization. Those 11 players will represent seven different nations:
Canada: Defenseman Mike Green
Czech Republic: Left wing Tomas Fleischmann and center Jakub Klepis
Finland: Defenseman Sami Lepisto
France: Goaltender Cristobal Huet
Russia: Center Sergei Fedorov, left wing Alex Ovechkin, left wing Alexander Semin and goaltender Simeon Varlamov
Sweden: Center Nicklas Backstrom
Switzerland: Right wing Peter Guggisberg
We’ll do what we can to keep you informed of the games, the progress of the tournament and the exploits of the Washington players involved as the tournament wears on. Earlier today, I posted a tournament preview on washingtoncaps.com.
Some news of the “not so good” variety filtered in today, courtesy of our friend Dmitry Chesnokov. He informs us that goaltender Varlamov — Washington’s first-round choice (23rd overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft — injured his foot in one of Team Russia’s last practices prior to the start of the tournament.
As a result, Varlamov has been left off Russia’s preliminary round roster for the tournament. Russia will have a chance to add Varlamov back to its roster before the start of the qualifying round next week, if his foot improves sufficiently in the interim.
There are some great storylines to be followed with Washington’s players. Green figures to be a key performer on Canada’s backline. Fleischmann and Klepis might be top six forwards on the Czech team; it will be interesting to see how they handle that. Both players are at a stage in their careers where they need to step up to the next level, and players have used good performances at the Worlds as career springboards in the past.
Lepisto should log decent ice time on a very green Finnish blueline, and he’ll be playing under the watchful eye of Team Finland general manager Jari Kurri, who also happens to be Lepisto’s godfather.
How far can Huet push Team France?
How will Varlamov fare if he gets healthy enough to play? Will the Russian coaching staff give Ovechkin a big enough role? He was essentially a fourth-liner in last year’s tournament. Fedorov will be playing in the Worlds for the first time in 18 years; the front of his jersey read “CCCP” the last time he played in this tournament. And, Fedorov will be playing alongside his brother, Fedor. Semin will be making his fourth appearance at the Worlds, but he was left off the team last spring because he reported a few hours late to camp.
How will Backstrom hold up after playing nearly 100 games this year, nearly twice the amount to which he is accustomed? And how will he do being the go-to forward on the team and attracting the opposition’s top checkers?
Canada will be tough to beat, Russia will be fun to watch, and Team USA is in the midst of an intriguing rebuild. Team captain Jeff Halpern turns 32 tomorrow, and he is the oldest player on the team by five years. The Americans are green, but they’re also very skilled. A medal of any kind for the Americans would position Team USA as a force to be reckoned with as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver loom on the horizon.
Sure, the Stanley Cup playoffs are ongoing, but the second round series are mostly snoozers. Do yourself a favor and check out some of the World Championships action, especially some of the prime match-ups in the qualifying and medal rounds. You can watch on a paid subscription basis at wcsn.com.