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Sunday column: Gold to go

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

SOCHI, Russia — Доброе утро, Lunatiks …

>> The Sunday column finds plenty of blame for the U.S. humiliation over the past couple days but spends much of it on Dan Bylsma.

I’ve also got a Canada sidebar on Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz going for gold, not goals.

And a Finland sidebar on Olli Maatta and Jussi Jokinen.

Here are all 13 videos for Channel 11 News. These were a lot of fun.

I also did weekday reports for TribLIVE Radio, and here’s a bunch of audio clips from U.S.-Finland bronze last night.

Here’s the Trib’s Olympics page.

Here’s the official Sochi 2014 page, with all the schedules and results.

Here’s the official U.S. Olympic team page.

Here’s the official NHL Olympics page.

And here’s NBC’s Olympics page with all the highlights.

>> The volunteers make any Olympics. These are the tens of thousands mostly young folks who, out of commitment to city or country or both, will invest a month of their lives working pretty much around the clock as goodwill ambassadors or more. They’re everywhere and, almost without fail, smiling even through the roughest of days.

The difference in Sochi is that not a lot of people live in Sochi, only about 350,000. So these volunteers have had to come from all over Russia to be here, generally on their own ruble. One young lady named Sasha took three trains from north of Moscow to be here “because it was once in a lifetime.” Another named Irina from south of Moscow said, “I needed to be a part of this.” But that was early in the Olympics. I saw Irina again a couple nights ago, and she looked tired beyond words.

At every Olympic event, a special announcement is made over the PA system thanking the volunteers. It tends to bring one of the loudest roars, and it’s understandable.

>> I’ll be flying to Moscow tomorrow, then the good place the day after that.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

106 Comments

  1. Thanks, DK, for all the fascinating coverage. A very safe, if not restful, trip back to the ‘Burgh.

  2. blog is quiet. i was sure folks would be up to cheer canada on. must be too painful yet,

    canada 1-0

  3. Canada leads a tough Swedish team 1-0 at the end of the first period in the match for the gold.

  4. Erkka Westerlund, Finland’s coach, sitting next to HCDB in the post-game presser: “The United States was the best team in the tournament.”

    I wonder if Dan cringed as every word of that was spoken.

    DK: “Still, that doesn’t pardon the stubbornness of sticking by the same system, the same lines, even the same exhausted goaltender in Quick when Ryan Miller was available. ‘I won’t second-guess that,’ Bylsma said of starting Quick. Of course he won’t. He didn’t second-guess anything that went awry here. He apparently didn’t learn from any mistakes, either. Or adjust when it looked like the opponent might have had a superior strategy, such as, say, Jonathan Toews utterly smothering Phil Kessel despite Bylsma holding last change. I don’t like to mix Winter Olympics and Penguins, but stop me if any of this sounds familiar.”

    Okay, you can stop right there, DK.

  5. OMG S Sid actually deked!!!

  6. Now Kunitz is bleeding from nose and teeth and holding his shoulder.

  7. I wake up, 5 minutes later, I’m seeing Crosby on a breakaway and what do I see, a backhand.

    Seriously Sid… how about using that with the Penguins.

  8. Sidney scored his first goal and Canada leads 2-0 at the end of two periods.

  9. Ok so i came to the conclusion that the disco squad pushed the pace as much as any team in the tourney but we just fell victim to a canadian defense whose pedigree and abilities are difficult to express in words. Scheme wise disco used a system that tried to send in multiple forecheckers but canada’s defense is too fast with too much reach and too much support from their forwards to allow for sustained pressure. Those who wanted the US squad to send in more than one forechecker when canada established possession need to think back to philly series a few seasons ago when we allowed one high speed jailbreak after another cuz our F2 was giving up the neutral zone in a undisciplined manner.

    HOWEVER, i still want to know why breakouts weren’t tinkered with more and why kessel-pavelski-kane weren’t deployed down a goal in the 3rd??? Putin blocking access to the blog perhaps?

  10. So they tell me the trade deadline is coming up….

    • If you were RS, Monster, what are your moves? And let’s assume tanger is gone for the year. PM back in a month……

      • Trade Bylsma…hey they tried to do it to a Harbaugh!

      • Besides inquiring on asking prices for the likes of cammelleri, vanek and chris stewart i would look into acquiring Boyes and Goc on the cheap from FLA. And while im chatting with fla i’d be interested to see if JovoCop could be had. He has one more year left at 4.125M and would be quality insurance policy in case nisky decides to cash in. The chips i’d have on the table are sameulsson and wait for it….pouliot(for proper return). Sorry guys but pouliot is a shiny new toy n all but dont think he can help in the near enough future.

        I’d be interested to talk to VAN about Hansen and richardson as well. But going back to Goc and boyes, those 2 combined replace duper by committe and give sid a RW shooter in the mold of billy g(poor mans billy g). Goc is versatile enough to play anywhere in top 9 and is solid on faceoffs. LA has players i’d want to discuss too but cant really be too definitive unless RS gives me heads up on who’s available and what asking price is.

        • Hemsky, Cam, Kulemin on my list.

        • Would Orpik be among your chips?

          • Nope! In general i’m on record for constructing the defense in a different manner than disco and RS. So i’m adjusting on the fly to account for whats realistic and what isn’t based on their stances.

          • I know he would be for you…who would you look to get and for whom?

            • Well….Ive said before I would not have signed Letang and I’d be looking to use him as chips. I think a lot of teams would give up a ton for him…..of course that is out the window now with his health issues.
              Leaving the question of his cap money as chips.

              I’d be very hesitant to trade away any of the young D.

              I would never give up Despres, Borts. I guess we could talk about Sams and poulot …..

              Primarily would be looking RW for Sid and Kulemin for Malkin.

              Nine of this will happen of course. Orpik will get a retirement contract, and young D will be traded away.

              Hopefully not for more Gladamses…..

              • Re: gladams

                I’ve also come to the conclusion that disco may need an outside perspective when it comes to knowing what the likes of sid and geno are thinking. Disco has a GREAT feel for what the muckers are thinking but his feel for the high-end guys is lacking.

                Maybe i wasn’t a 1st rounder but i do know what skill players look for when it comes to breakouts and having passing options available in certain spots. Disco’s inability to read the defensive structure his guys are facing and adjusting to give them an advantage is getting to be a little ridiculous. Having a mindset where you wanna give your guys a road map then stick to it doesn’t work when the other team is willing to adjust on the fly, match lines obsessively, and frustrate our ringers knowing that the pens wont adjust and get agitated enough to take stupid penalties. Easy to say stay disciplined but when you’re not put in situations to succeed, especially in the playoffs, keeping your cool is easier said than done.

            • Wow, three years for Orpik with the D we have coming up now? Yikes. This is the furthest apart we’ve ever been on an issue or player HM!

              • Ya i guess so. I just see him being stout against the best players. After all he’s a plus 4 on a 1st place team playing toughest minutes against best players. What makes his plus 4 even more impressive is how much the ice has been tilted our way with all the injuries to dmen and bottom 6 forwards.

  11. DK calling MVP for Doughty. No argument.

  12. Congrats to Sid, Kuni, and Canada.

    That is all.

  13. So the Backstrom migraine that kept him out was actually a doping violation? Wha? The migraine meds banned maybe?

  14. Canada continues to dominate as Sidney and Chris Kunitz scored goals and they won the gold 3-0. Actually, the last ones to score on the Canadians were the Latvians seven days ago. And now, it’s back to normal for the Penguins and the NHL and hopefully, it’ll stay that way for the next 2 to 4 years.

  15. Sweden never had a chance. Did you see those uniforms?

  16. Have made it clear that I wasn’t into NHL-staffed Olympics, but did turn it on to see Sid get his medal. Couldn’t picture a better Olympic hockey sight than that. Just love that guy so much.

    Of all the superb coverage provided by our favorite columnist (hey, Smizik is retired, so it’s now the great DK!), the absolute best line has been his use of the following in his tweets: “Because Russia.” Made me laugh out loud every time.

  17. When amateurs were playing and, the Western countries at least adhered to that rule, the greatest hockey country on Earth, Canada, went 46 years during that era without Olympic gold. Since the professionals starting playing for all countries in 1998, Canada has won three of the last five gold medals.

    When the best players in a country are allowed to play for their country, then the best hockey nations win. I hope the NHL never stops playing in this event of global importance.

    • Have to admit that allowing Canada to play its best players has rightfully allowed the best team to win since they were no longer at a disadvantage of playing Europe’s quasi-amateurs. I do enjoy seeing them take gold.

      • And to be fair, back in the amateur era, you’d have to find 14 yr olds in Canada to play in the Oly pics….the very extensive semi-pro organization up North back then had teenagers on farm clubs being groomed for the NHL. And paid, I.e. Not amateurs….

    • I agree with this, but remember Canada has not won a World Juniors in last five years, have not medaled in the last two, that has not happen since the Soviet Days.

  18. Since the head guy and Shero are Nashville types, I am sure there is a country song that sums up this fiasco called USA Olympic heartless performance.

  19. Congratulations to you Dejan for the excellent, informative and often thought provoking Olympic coverage. Shout out to our hockey neighbors to the north for winning their second consecutive men’s gold medal and women’s fourth consecutive gold medal in Olympic competition. If the USA doesn’t win the gold, glad to see it earned by the Canadians. Great to see Penguins and Olympic team Captain Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz team up with Boston Bruin Patrice Bergeron on the top line to lead their team to victory. Now that hockey’s world competition has been decided, let’s get back to NHL business! GO PENS! Beat the Bruins!

  20. I think all Pittsburgh baseball fans should have a moment of silence. Drew Sutton has retired from baseball.

  21. Observations from Bradenton:

    Wherererere’s Waldo?! I mean Grilli.

    I saw him warm up in the far, protected by a screen, bullpen 8 days ago. The silhouette was certainly him; the pop on the first 12-14 pitches was him, although the last 7-8 pitches didn’t sound or shadow-look so good. I saw him on “Picture Day” doing arm rolls and stretching exercises with the pitchers far away in the outfield.

    There are 4 full baseball fields and 3 more full size infields, so I do not see everything . . . . but I have only seen Grilli 3 times total, and never (other than that first Friday of pitchers only) warming in the bullpen or throwing. He is the only pitcher of the 25 or so in camp who has not pitched live batting practice or participated in drills like yesterday when the Big Boy Field and the Kiddies’ Table Field both had pitchers working on holding baserunners on and protecting against the 1st and 3rd double steal. Wherererere’s Grilli? Every other reliever and every possible starter participated on the two fields yesterday. May my eyes and attention be found wanting. He is needed.

    Clint Barmes became a 3rd baseman yesterday. He spent the day sharing 3rd with Pedro, while Josh Harrison moved to share 2nd. This is now 5 straight days that Jordy Mercer has had EVERY play at shortstop. And, while many players do not go out and shag after they are done with batting practice, Jordy goes out and plants himself at SS to get real live hits/grounders. I look for big things from Jordy this year. He still exhibits humility but he is showing such confidence in the field thus far, much, much over the last two Spring Trainings. He made an truly amazing run and catch in left center on a flair Neil Walker hit during batting practice.

    I like what the hitting coaches have done this year. During batting practice against coaches, a line of orange cones are put up in left and right center, maybe 60 feet off line. Balls have to be kept between the cones to be considered “fair” since players are hitting against easy throwing coaches from 50-52 feet. Those just trying to tee off on the easy pitches have a hard time keeping the ball “fair.” Good discipline.

    After hitting 50-75 swings against the coaches, the group of 4 moves to another field and swings against the pitching machine throwing curve balls. The players were terrible against the curves early in the week. Now they are zeroing in there as well. To keep things interesting, the batters get a total of around 30 pitches, 5-5-5-4-3-3-2-1-2 at a time, like an at bat might be. Two big cones are placed in the 2nd base hole. The first 5 pitches are to find the range, then the last 25 the coach keeps score: 2 points for an obvious base hit, 1 point for moving up the runner by hitting the ball between the cones. One round the coach calls out “runner on 3rd” and a sac fly or grounder gets points, while a pop up gets -1. Remember: these hard curves the pitching machine is throwing are difficult. The highest score I have heard is Jose Tabata who got a 31. The lowest sore I hear was Pedro who got a 6. Clint Hurdle got on him a little bit in a laughing way about the 6 later at another field.

    Hurdle sees and knows everything.

    Gotta go. Off to Church. Sunday is God’s Day. Well, everyday is God’s Day, but Sunday morning I reserve to meet with Him in Church. I’ll swing by Pirate City after Church to see if things still rattling around.

    Whererere’s Grilli?!?!

  22. ….and MVP goes to Teemu Selanne. Good on ya Finnish Flash!! Well deserved.

  23. DK means Starbucks when he says the good place. What a guy won’t do for a cup of joe.

  24. PSU Hockey update:

    Tough 5-2 loss against Michigan for the hockey valley faithful last night. But it wasn’t without an overwhelming display of goaltending by Skoff who once again gave PSU a chance to win with a series of saves that made some wonder whether or not he was conscious.

    On top of PSU’s top 2 PP QB’s being hurt and unavailable, Williamson who is arguably their best all-around dman was hurt by a wicked slash in the OT victory friday night and was out as well. Michigan playing with inspired effort following upset 24 hours prior was a push PSU couldn’t overcome with 3 out of 4 top dmen being out and the #10 squad in the country seeking revenge.

    P.S.-Sarah i suggest you find some highlights from last nights game. Skoff was unreal in net.

  25. Babcock torches it in the presser!!

    “Does anyone know who won the scoring race? Does anyone care? Does anyone know who won the gold medal??”

    “See ya guys.”

    Drops the mic and leaves.

  26. Groat is truly doing something special for us each day from down in Bradenton. Instant “must” reads. I doff my cap, Groatie

    Just realized today that Daniel Schlereth’s, Mark’s son, now plays for the Pirates (well, with a minor league contract, at least).

    DK deserves to go on a latte bender as soon as he gets back. Did all that reporting, across all those media formats — even kept up with the chats — – even tolerated a particularly weird series of posts from the resident court jester.

    Speaking of Drew — and benders — he must be off on quite a hellacious one himself. Or a self-imposed “time-out.” Or an imposed time-out (as the ordinarily very tolerating one might well have said, “I am not going to put up with this right now. Not without this much sleep and no Starbucks to boot.”)

  27. Well, down here in Daytona Beach, F!orida, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Just won the Daytona 500 auto race which was delayed 6 hours by severe weather. It was quite a finish indeed after the longest weather delay in NASCAR history.

  28. Said it the other day and will say it again: salary inflation in baseball is going to make a comeback. These last few years have not been the norm. And who else but the Yankees are leading the way to reinflate the market. They gave Ellsbury $150 mil plus, recently. And now they just gave Gardner $52 million for four years. Gardner’s deal alone works out to be 50% more per year than what Cutch is getting. Cutch’s deal may particularly be a steal, but still.

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