Islanders Grabner Outshines Tavares In Sochi


The men’s 2014 Olympic hockey tournament in Sochi is now in full swing with elimination games being played now, leading up to the quarterfinals which begin tomorrow.

Slovenia continues their fairy tale ride through international hockey competition as they defeated Austria today 4-0 to set up a meeting with Henrik Lundqvist and Team Sweden. It is amazing what they have been able to do with just one NHL player on their roster in Kings sniper Anze Kopitar.

In the other elimination game, Team Russia for at least one more day staved off the inevitable questions about succumbing to the pressure of playing at home, defeating Norway 4-0 behind two goals by Alexander Radulov.

That brings them into the quarters with a matchup against a very underrated Finland team that is most capable of an upset.

Team Canada and Team USA await the results of the noon EST games to decide who they will be matched up with. Unfortunately, those two hockey giants cannot battle for the gold this year, having finished 2nd and 3rd in the tournament standings. If they both win tomorrow, their fate will be determined in the semi-final for the right to play for the top prize of the tournament.

The New York Islanders who remained home will return to the ice on Thursday as the league re-opens their facilities and allows players back for workouts and practices. The trade freeze lifts on February 24 with the Islanders very much in the seller’s position, looking to move Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald at a minimum.

For the three Islanders that went to the games and participated, below is a recap of how they fared. Of course, only one (Tavares) is still playing with Grabner and Vanek being eliminated this morning and looking to head home and rejoin their teammates in Long Island. Lubomir Visnovsky was advised and agreed to stay behind to not complicate matters after just coming back from a lengthy absence due to a concussion.

 John Tavares, Team Canada

Tavares has not wowed at these Olympic games but then again, nobody on Team Canada really has. They seem to be struggling with the larger ice surface and line combinations. It’s clear that the chemistry has not gelled as head coach Mike Babcock had hoped.

The superstar that Tavares is, and coming into the tournament third in the NHL in scoring, had expectations perhaps a bit too high but he has done the little things that keep him extremely valuable to the country’s chances at a gold medal. Has been better than average on face-offs in the preliminary round and was throwing his body around on the fore-check, creating opportunities for his line-mates.

3 GP | 0-0-0 | +2 | 5 SOG | 12:31 ATOI

Thomas Vanek, Team Austria

Vanek was selected as team captain prior to the games and did not exactly lead by example over in Sochi. A sure bet to be the main player at the March 5 NHL trade deadline, perhaps he was pulling it back to avoid injury, which would have killed his chances of getting a shot at a Stanley Cup this season. Perhaps that even works to the Islanders advantage in this instance.

In any event, he will be heading home early. But it will be a short-lived reunion, until Garth Snow can decide where he heads for the rest of the 2013-14 NHL season.

4 GP | 0-1-1 | -4 | 10 SOG | 17:20 ATOI

Michael Grabner, Team Austria

What a tournament for the speedster, who really used the larger ice surface to his advantage. Being totally fair, outside of Team Finland, Austria really faced competition inferior to what Grabner faces nightly back home but that still does not take away from a potential MVP type performance.

The Austrians were not expected to make much noise but their #40 sure did, notching a hat trick in the preliminary round and finishing with 5 goals in 4 games overall.

Let’s see if he can bring that mojo back to New York and finish up the season strong for the Islanders.

4 GP | 5-1-6 | -2 | 17 SOG | 19:25 ATOI

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