BY JAY BOEHMER, Staff Writer
The Olympic preliminary rounds are over, and it’s time to get an update on how our favorite Flyers are doing in their countries’ quests for gold in Vancouver. For those who don’t know, we sent four current Flyers (and one recently departed member): Mike Richards and Chris Pronger to represent Canada, Kimmo Timonen to play for Finland, Oskars Bartulis for Latvia, and recently traded Ole-Kristian Tollefsen is backing up team Norway on defense.
Another player nearly found their way onto the roster as Jeff Carter was one phone call away from replacing the injured Ryan Getzlaf of Anaheim on Canada’s roster. As it turned out, Getzlaf’s final visit to the doctor ended in his being cleared to play and Jeff Carter was left at home.
Here’s a breakdown of how each player and their respective teams are doing so far in the Olympic contest:
Canada – Mike Richards and Chris Pronger
Flyers captain Mike Richards and veteran defenseman Chris Pronger both made the trip to Vancouver. Being Mike Richards’ first chance in the Olympics, it’s nice to have teammate Chris Pronger, who is making his 4th consecutive trip to the games, alongside him.
While at home these two are consistently among the top few in time on the ice, when playing for a team that’s as stacked as Canada, they are surprisingly pushed to the end of the bench more often than usual.
Their first contest, against Norway, ended in an 8-0 blowout. Pronger contributed an assist and Richards netted a goal. The next game came against Switzerland and the pair contributed what they could to their team’s 3-2 shootout win. In the final game of preliminaries, the two combined for a minus-three against their USA rivals in a heated 5-3 loss.
Canada ends this opening round the 6th of 12 teams, failing to earn a bye and forced to play the 11th place Germany for a spot in the quarter finals.
Finland – Kimmo Timonen
Only a few months younger than teammate Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen is also playing in his fourth consecutive Olympic games as part of the leading defensive squad alongside Sami Salo. Timonen took home the silver medal from Torino in 2006 as his team fell to Sweden in the gold medal game.
With two wins and a loss, Kimmo Timonen has accumulated two goals (both coming in Finland’s 5-0 win over Germany) on 11 shots and is a combined plus-one.
Finland is currently ranked 4th in the standings and has earned a bye on their way into the quarter finals.
Latvia – Oskars Bartulis
Flyers rookie and 23 year old Oskars Bartulis has spent the last couple of years working his way up through the AHL from the Phantoms. He now pairs up with Braydon Coburn on the third defensive pairing as part of a solid Flyers’ lineup after recently signing a three year contract extension.
Bartulis is one of only two NHL players on the Latvian roster (the other being veteran defenseman Karlis Skrastins), and it shows as their Olympic team struggled through the preliminary rounds. They lost 8-2 to Russia, 5-2 to the Czech Republic, and 6-0 to Slovakia. Bartulis ended up a combined minus 2 while being among the top on his team in ice time.
Latvia ended the preliminary round with no wins, three losses, and the last place 12th rank in the fight for the final four spots in the quarterfinals, which matches them up against the 5th place Czech Republic, who only lost the bye due to a tie breaker.
Norway – Ole-Kristian Tollefsen
Now a former Flyer after his trade to the Detroit Red Wings for forward Ville Leino, “OKT” a representative of both Norway and the Detroit franchise in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Tollefsen didn’t play in his team’s first game, an 8-0 loss to Canada, due to sickness in the family that delayed his arrival in Vancouver. In his only two games thus far, Tollefsen has averaged over 27:00 minutes of ice time, quite a wide margin away from the rest of his teammates, and is a combined minus 2.
Ending up 10th, Norway is slated for a contest against 7th place Slovakia for a chance at the quarter finals.
The Flyers’ players will likely return from Vancouver on March 1st after a February 28th gold medal game and just in time for a March 2nd faceoff in Tampa Bay against the Lightning. The Flyers, with 67 points and currently holding the 6th seed in the East, would do well to win this first game back and keep the 9th place, 63 point Lightning from climbing right back into the playoff picture.