TV Review: NHL Network debuts show devoted to Sochi Games

NHL Network on Wednesday afternoon debuted its special highlight show for the men’s hockey competition at the Sochi Games, "NHL Tonight: 2014 Sochi Edition."

With both the U.S. and Canada playing their opening games Thursday, a large portion of the 30-minute show was dedicated to the goalie situation for the two countries. Jonathan Quick of the U.S. is going to start the opening game tomorrow against Slovakia, while Canada is going with Carey Price against Norway and Roberto Luongo on Friday against Slovenia. The moves are noteworthy in that both Miller and Luongo started for their countries in the 2010 Vancouver Games.

NHL Network’s Mike Johnson noted from the network’s Toronto studio that there is not a “clear-cut 1 and 2 situation” with the U.S. While Quick has been “really hot as of late,” Johnson thought Miller would get the call given that he “was the incumbent.” He said, “You can’t go wrong with Jonathan Quick, one of the best goalies in the world. But I thought Ryan Miller, given his season and his track record at the Olympics, would be given strong consideration.”  The network’s E.J. Hradek said, “I think they were with Quick from the get-go here.”

The move to go with Price for Canada’s opening game was called the “smart decision” by Johnson. Price was named the NHL’s Player of the Week last week, and Johnson noted Canada coach Mike Babcock is “going with the better, hotter goalie right now.” Johnson: “Quite frankly, he’s just playing better than Roberto Luongo right now. He’s the better option, so you have to give him that first start.”

The show aired interviews with the captains for the two teams — Jeremy Roenick talked to Zach Parise of the U.S., while Dan Rosen caught up with Canada’s Jonathan Toews. Hradek and Johnson also broke down the players to watch for the countries’ opening games.

While most of the talk centered on the U.S. and Canadian teams — understandable considering NHL Network airs in both countries — the rest of the tournament was not ignored. Hradek and Johnson broke down full highlights of Wednesday’s two games from Group C — Czech Republic-Sweden and Latvia-Switzerland. Also, NHL Network’s Kathryn Tappen, who was broadcasting from the Bolstoy Ice Dome in Sochi, reported on Russia’ final practice before its game Thursday against Slovenia. She noted it was a “serious” affair and that there were “not a lot a smiles” on the faces of the players from the home team.

There was no mention of the women’s tournament at all, somewhat surprising considering that Canada defeated the U.S. Wednesday in a controversial 3-2 game.

Tappen promoted the prime-time Olympic coverage on both NBC and CBC coming out of two separate commercial breaks.

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