I woke up early in the morning, around 6 o'clock and I drove about 30 minutes to meet with my best friend Paolo, then we jumped on his car and the trip started. We needed about 2 hours and a half to drive around Milano and arrive at Torino, about 110 miles of freeway. It rained most of the time and there was also a bit of mist, so we couldn't drive that fast. At Torino we got lost about a dozen times before we found a way to reach "Torino Espozioni", one of the arenas in which ice hockey games are played. We arrived in front of the building around 11 o'clock and we were looking for a ticket office when we ran into a man who was selling them in front of it. For the first round, tickets prices are 40 (higher section) and 80 euro (lower section) and we were looking for the cheapest ones, but he offered us 3rd row tickets for 50 Ä and it was a good deal, so we bought them. Inside the arena everything was very well arranged, red carpets everywhere and nice Winter Games banners on every walls. We sit at our places just before the 1st faceoff was played, and few seconds after that moment, Peter Forsberg and Henrik Lundqvist sit right behind us! I spoke a bit with both of them, and we took pics together. I was wearing my Kings jersey and I was wondering if Peter didn't like it...I was also tempted to ask him "How's your spleen?" LOL, J/K http://www.hfboards.com/images/smilies/grin.gif. Also Norstrom wasn't on the ice, too bad he wasn't even in the stands.
On D, Lidstrom was paired with Ohlund, and hey, they are soooo good together. The Canucks DMan was really impressive, he skates so well and he has a terrific shot from the point, watching him live you realize how good he is. Sweden took a 3-0 lead after the 1st and never looked back, routing Kazakhstan 7-2. Sundin didn't do much most of the game, in fact Paolo and I were talking about the fact he isn't anymore the player he was a few seasons ago...while we were talking, he deked a Kazakhstan defenseman with an incredible move and then beat the goalie through the 5 hole, the sweetest goal of the game hands down. I guess Mats wasn't happy about what we were saying and he wanted to show us something...another player who impressed me was Henrik Zetterberg. He's so clever and smart with the puck, but also terribly quick. You have the feeling he always does the right thing at the right moment. And the Sedins have an amazing chemistry, they could find each other with closed eyes. When the game ended, it was about 2 o'clok in the afternoon and we looked for a pub with a tv, so we could watch Italy vs Canada. We walked for a while, then we ate something while watching the game and then we went back to our car. Before leaving home, I've printed all NHL teams stats, so we had something to read and talk about during the long break before the evening game, Russia-Slovakia at 8 o'clock.
Around 6 o'clock we walked back to the arena, where we met Slovaks and Russian fans, everybody wearing their teams' jerseys and waving their flags. Such a nice and friendly atmosphere, everybody was taking pics together and a lot of Slovaks, when they noticed my Kings jersey, screamed at me "Go Demitra, Go Visnovsky!". Once inside the arena, we hang our Kings banner along the boards and also another one with Alex, Pavol and Lubo's names on it. After a few minutes both teams took the ice for the pregame warmup, we were sitting right in front of the russian net so I had a chance to watch Ovechkin and Kovalchuk from close.
Offensive lines combinatios
The game was a great show to watch. Fans from both sides were terribly loud, nothing comparable to the quite arenas in North America...also when there was a stoppage in play, they kept dancing, singing, clapping their hands, a great fun! The players on the ice showed incredible speed and puck handling skills. The Russians looked stronger in the 1st period, lead by the Kovalchuk-Datsyuk-Kovalev line, who scored 2 goals to answer Demitra's one, who opened the score. Pavol roofed a nice, hard wrist shot on a sweet feed by Hossa, but Kovalev lead his team with a goal and an assist to give the Russians a 2-1 lead at the 1st intermission. In the second period, both teams exchanged quick goals, Lubo beat Bryzgalov with a slap shot from the slot, then Ovechkin gave the Russians their last lead of the game deflecting the puck past Buday for a PP tally. The way Ovechkin plays, he reminds me of Jarome Iginla, but in my opinion he's even better, he's faster and he's got better hands. I remember he threw 5 consecutive checks in the same shift, sending 3 opposite player to the ice, and one of them was Chara. When you see him start skating full throttle, you can see the defensemen panic a bit...sitting in the 1st row I could see their faces when he was charging their net. This kid is the real deal. And about Malkin, heís HUGE. But he can skate and he didnít look at all out of place. Heís got a very bright future in front of him.
The Slovaks found a way to tie it before the second intermission with Bondra, and in the 3rd they took control of the play, as the Russians started to look tired. Marian Gaborik, who has been quiet the whole game, scored 2 beauties in the last 5 minutes to seal the deal for his team, sending the Slovak fans into a wild frenzy on the stands. We were sitting in the middle of hardcore fans and it was contagious...as I said before, just a great fun and a great crowd.
Frolov played on the 4th line with former Shark Korolyuk and Devils' Viktor Kozlov, not exactly the most offensive unit the Russians put on the ice. In my opinion he had a decent game, nothing flashy, but he did his job. He took some shifts on the PK and was very effective, but in the 3rd period his line didn't see the ice a lot, as the Russians 3rd unit. Kovalev was a force, not only delighting the crowd with gorgeous moves, but also throwing some punishing checks, something that honestly surprised me a bit; he played with heart and deserves to wear the C on his chest. Between the pipes, Bryzgalov kept his team in the game longer than the Russians deserved, making a few pretty good stops. I like his poise and he controls rebounds very well, but yesterday he didn't give up many of them, I understand why Giguere is not playing that much lately. Kasparaitis is a mean SOB and simply what the Kings would need on D, while Yashin (surprise surprise) was invisible. One of the most entertaining player to watch has been Sabres' Maxim Afinogenov, this guy can fly.
On the other side, the line Hossa-Demitra-Gaborik could become the most dangerous line of the Tournament. Pavol looked in great shape, creating chances for himself and his teammates, his leg injury is definitely behind him. Lubo and Chara (Jeez, he's B-I-G) were by far the best Dmen on the ice for the Slovaks, and also Sens' Meszaros had a good game. Strbak, on the other hand, looked slow and soft. Also former King Jozef Stumpel was sitting in the stands with other 2 Slovaks scratched players for tonite's game. I spoke with a few slovaks and they were wondering why he wasn't playing, considering they are short at Cs (in fact, Svatos had to play as a pivot and he's wing). I was tempted to tell them "He's not playing simply because he sucks"...http://www.hfboards.com/images/smilies/grin.gif
The only annoying thing was an italian dad sitting next to me, who tried to explain hockey and its rules to his young son the whole game...too bad he had no clue at all about what was talking about. He kept calling the puck "BALL" and after a while I told him "You think that round black thing is a BALL??? You need a good oculist...It's called P-U-C-K!". Jeez, soccer, soccer, always soccer...then you see a piece of rubber and it'a freaking ball...
During the second intermission I went to buy a couple of beers and there were a couple canadian fans behing me. One of them asked me "Do you want him back? Take him for free!" (I was wearing an Allison jersey). I say "No thank you...do you want my jersey? I'll make a good price for you" And we all laughed. We spoke a few minutes and they told me fans in Toronto just don't like him, that he's slow like a turtle and he just asks for more ice time.
It took 2 hours to get back home and I wasn't in bed before 2 o'clock, tired but so happy for such a great hockey day...and I'm already looking forward to Sunday, when I'll travel back to Torino to watch Canada-Finland.
Wow ! what an unbelieveble experience that must have been. Thanks alot for the report and major props for wearing the kings colors out there. Those are some great pics and good job on the poster! did any of the guys notice it?