NHL players disappointed in decision to forego Olympics

NHL players disappointed in decision to forego Olympics

Jonathan Toews has been vocal about playing in the Olympics, what it means to wear that national sweater and compete for the gold medal he's already won twice.

So his disappointment at Monday's news, that the NHL will not go to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, was considerable.

"It just seems unfortunate that the players voice that it's something that they think is beneficial not only for them, but for the league and for our game as a whole, and it automatically turns into a negotiation. It just seems like it comes down to what can they get out of us when the next CBA negotiation rolls around. It's not about the long-term goals of our game and growing it and the bigger picture. [It's] not only for the players that are presently at the top of the game that want to play at the Olympics and represent their countries next year in South Korea, but it's obviously about the future, as well," Toews said on Tuesday. "Obviously I disagree with the short-sightedness of this whole thing, too. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that players can get that cooperation from the league. Tough bounce."

Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche were pretty unanimous in their thoughts on not attending the Olympics. It's a grand stage, the grandest of them all, and to have that opportunity denied is leaving a sour taste.

"I know Stanley Cup playoffs are competitive but when you get down to a single-elimination tournament, they don't get any more intense, any bigger games, especially if you're playing for a medal. That's disappointing," said Duncan Keith, who also won gold in 2010 and '14. "I understand the league's point of view, that they don't want to shut it down. It's just too bad there couldn't have been something that could've been worked out, because I think the fans like it and obviously the players like it."

[RELATED - Why the NHL won't send its players to the 2018 Winter Olympics]

As Keith said, the league has its reasons for not wanting to participate. Going to the games creates about a three-week shutdown in the schedule. While still competing with the NBA in February, the NHL does have more of a stage (the NFL is nearly done and baseball yet to start).

Avalanche center Matt Duchene still thinks the Olympics loom larger.

"It's a chance for teams get exposure for people looking to watch sports. I understand that perk. But I know everyone in Canada gets more up to watch Team Canada than even their favorite Canadian team for one of an 82-game schedule," Duchene said. "I think it'd be big for the US, too. Look at what T.J. Oshie did [his repeat shootout in the 2014 Games in Sochi]. It put American hockey on the map even more. It's a great thing for hockey to be grown at that Olympic level."

Patrick Kane agreed.

"They just announced some games in China. You have the ability to take the best players to South Korea to grow the game even more," he said. "Everyone has a different opinion on it but as players we definitely feel the pride and the excitement of wearing your nation's colors. It's another opportunity to grow the game and maybe help future players get involved even more."

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin made it clear a while ago that, even if the NHL didn't go to South Korea, he would. He reiterated that to the media on Tuesday. Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog said he wouldn't rule it out – "if I was to be part of Team Sweden and a part of that, it'd something I'd have to think about and would have to see which decisions could be made."

Toews and Kane said they'd respect the league's decision and stay with the Blackhawks. Keith was a little more on the fence.

"It's a tough position as a player. You want to be respectful of the team and your owner who pays you the money, but also you want to be patriotic every chance you can and play for your country," Keith said. "It's a tough decision. I think that'll be based on the individual. And the team."

Is there still a chance this is revisited and the league does OK a trip to South Korea? The league deemed the matter, "officially closed" in its statement on Monday but players are hoping is is not the end of it.

"Hopefully not set in stone; hopefully something could be reached. I don't know if this is posturing or what but it's great to have NHL players over there playing for their countries," Duchene said. "It's disappointing to see the decision but hopefully it can be salvaged."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Hawks lose 6-3 to the Oilers in Game 2

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Hawks lose 6-3 to the Oilers in Game 2

In Game 2 of the best-of-five series between the Blackhawks and Oilers, the good guys took a step back and lost 6-3. Host Pat Boyle is joined by Blackhawks analyst Steve Konroyd as they discuss the loss, the play of the Hawks, and what needs to change for the Blackhawks to win Game 3.

(1:00) - Connor McDavid had a great comeback game

(7:52) - Breaking down the play of Olli Määttä

(12:00) - Missed opportunities to score for the Hawks

(16:46) - Adjustments for the Hawks

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Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Let's be honest: The Blackhawks dominated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1. The final score was 6-4, but there was never a doubt as to which team was in the driver’s seat from start to finish.

So going into Game 2, the Blackhawks knew the Oilers would come out desperate.

"We’d be naïve," head coach Jeremy Colliton said before the game, "if we don’t think they’re going to throw everything they have at us."

And that's what the Oilers did. To be more exact: That's what Connor McDavid did.

After scoring 2:34 into Game 1, the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner scored 19 seconds into Game 2 and then again 3:46 later to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead before the Blackhawks even knew what hit them. He completed the hat trick in the second period, giving him four goals through two games so far.

It was clear from the first shift Game 2 would have a different feeling than Game 1. The Oilers, this time, were in control and they followed No. 97's lead.

"They were much better as a team than they were in Game 1, so give them credit there," Jonathan Toews said following a 6-3 loss on Monday. "And to add to the fact, I don't think we made things as hard on them as we did in the first game. So everything we did in that first game, we've got to step all that team game up a notch.

"McDavid's obviously a focus for me, and when we're not making things hard enough for them offensively, then we get ourselves in spots where we end up taking penalties, and you know what happens on the power play, a guy like McDavid's going to make you play. A couple times early in the game, we give him grade A chances and he's not making any mistakes. You know what we're going to get out of him every game, so we've got to be better on him."

You just knew McDavid wouldn’t let his team fall behind 2-0 in a series that easily, especially as the No. 5 seed in their own building. He certainly looked extra motivated to be a factor at even strength after being shut down in Game 1 — all three of his points came on the power play.

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This was a virtual must-win for the Oilers. Only one team in NHL history has overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series: New York Islanders in 1985 after losing Games 1 and 2 in overtime to the Washington Capitals then rallying to win the next three.

"Connor led the way," Oilers forward Tyler Ennis said. "He set the tone for us and gave us a spark. That's exactly what we needed, and everybody followed."

Credit the Blackhawks for clawing back and showing the kind of resiliency that helped them win Game 1. They fell behind 2-0 and tied it up at 3-3 before McDavid's hat trick put the Oilers back in front 4-3.

The game got away from the Blackhawks in the third period, where they were out-chanced 10-1. But that what was bound to happen for a team that was playing catch-up all game.

In the end, the Blackhawks won't sugarcoat their overall performance. It was no secret the Oilers would come out hungry, and the Blackhawks simply didn't match their intensity.

"Ultimately, we didn’t play to the level we need to to beat this team," Colliton said. "We knew going into this series it would be a challenge. ... It’s a 1-1 series, I’m sure no one picked us to sweep them. They won a game, now we have to find a way to be better on Wednesday, and we will."