Quick Shifts: Backstrom chirped by own grandma

Swedish centre Nicklas Backstrom missed the gold medal game. According to a report, he tested positive for a banned substance.

A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and satirical, and rolling four lines deep.

1. Since, oh, about May, Torontonians travelling abroad, many of whom don’t smoke crack, have been hit with questions about Rob Ford. Queries about the city’s troubled mayor have become the new “So, you guys really leave your front doors unlocked?”

Mr. Ford, a bona fide sports nut, weighed in on Canada’s Olympic hockey team as the men’s quest for gold begins this week:

We show this purely for its ridiculousness. Ford calls out the Canadian juniors for their lack of physical presence during the world championships: “We hit, we hit, we hit, and then we win the game. Our kids weren’t hitting this year. They’re trying to skate with the Russians, with the Swedes, with the Finns… you can’t skate with these people. You gotta take the body.”

Ford, who picks the Anaheim Ducks to win the Stanley Cup and uses phrases like “these people,” argues that if Canada’s Olympic team tries to skate with the competition, it won’t win: “We have to play the old type of Canadian hockey. That’s the Don Cherry type. You gotta hit ’em.”

Meanwhile, Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman says his committee placed an emphasis on speed when selecting the team. Granted, Ford also pronounces Toews as “Twos,” so we’ll take his opinion with a kilo of salt. Best stick to football, Mr. Mayor.

2. Speaking with Steven Stamkos as he was working his hardest to rehabilitate in time for Sochi, the forward said something that encapsulates how unpredictable life/sports can be.

Back in May, when the NHL clubs of Stamkos and Mike Smith failed to make the 2013 playoffs, the two close friends roomed together in Scandinavia as members of Team Canada competing at the IIHF world championships. The two talked then about how great it would be to reunite as teammates in Sochi. At the time, Stamkos was a lock; Smith would need to look good on the international ice and have a solid showing for the Coyotes to start 2013-14.

“I was definitely happy and proud of him for making the team,” Stamkos said. It added one more lump of coal on his fire to get healthy in time. Heartbreaking how things work out.

3. If all goes well, Team Canada goaltender Mike Smith will likely be watching the games from the press box, which is unfortunate considering all the effort he invested into his new mask.

“Smitty is always detail-oriented with his masks, and his stance was just a rigorous for the one he will be donning on the hockey world’s biggest stage,” writes artist David Arrigo, who also designed the graphics for the ski helmet worn by Smith’s wife, Bridgette, at the Vancouver Games. “Smitty was adamant to include various Canadiana icons representing the diverse cultures from coast to coast. On the finished product we ended up with a wide range of symbols, starting with the mountains representing the West Coast to a lighthouse for the East Coast, and a nice variety representing the many elements in between.”

We poked fun at the American goalies for star-spangling every inch of their masks, but the only way Smith’s mask could be more Canadian is if he fastened it to a beaver’s face and drizzled it in maple syrup:

4. Speaking of national team goalie masks, here’s Ryan Miller’s dog wearing his. Adorable alert:

Ryan Miller naming his dog “Puck” is right up there with Katy Perry naming her feline “Kitty Purry.”

5. The best Olympic hockey quote thus far comes from an unlikely source: Nicklas Backstom’s grandmother.

“He will make a fool of himself. He has played so poorly. For a long time,” the 84-year-old Britt told Sweden’s Ostersundsposten. Granny then gave her evaluation of the entire Team Sweden: “On the whole, they’ve got no game.”

Who cares if Backstrom leads all Swedish NHLers with 56 points in 59 games? When your own grandmother is your harshest critic, you have Sochi problems.

6. You cannot find a human — analyst, fan or otherwise — who will say Team Canada’s biggest concern is at forward or on defence. To a person, we all believe Canada’s greatest weakness is in net.

And yet three separate Canadian goaltenders lead the NHL in the three major goaltending categories as we break for Sochi. Marc-Andre Fleury leads all goalies in wins (31), Josh Harding has the best GAA (1.65), and Ben Scrivens has the stingiest save percentage (.937). None of these men, of course, are on the national team.

7. Another interesting goalie tidbit: When scrolling through the NHL’s goals-against and save percentage leaders, only one goaltender in the top eight in each category is a 2014 Olympian. Boston/Finland’s Tuukka Rask ranks sixth in GAA and fourth in save percentage.

If Team USA has any problems in net, they’re going to regret not naming Vezina candidate Ben Bishop to the team.

8. On Friday, the Zamboni broke down before the Harvard-Dartmouth ECAC game, and the home team’s players needed to help push the machine off ice. Dartmouth drew attention to the mishap on Twitter:

9. Of all the last-minute Sochi withdraws — Henrik Sedin, Marian Gaborik, et al. — the toughest one to see might be that of Team USA general manager David Poile. Injured by an errant puck Thursday, Poile underwent two surgeries on his face. Awful that he won’t get to be in Russia to see the team he worked so hard to compile (even embarking on a Bobby Ryan apology tour after Brian Burke’s infamous comments went public) compete on the world stage.

10. Barring injury, there will be little drama in the stretch run when it comes to the NHL’s mathematics-based individual awards.

With 78 points, Sidney Crosby holds an 11-point lead in the Art Ross race for the scoring title and is looking like a shoe-in for his second Hart Trophy. And with Stamkos sidelined, Alex Ovechkin is running away with the Rocket Richard Trophy. Ovie already has an incredible 40 goals, nine more than runner-up Phil Kessel. (A minus-17 player, Ovechkin remains a long shot for the Selke.)

11. What the individual races lack in drama, the post-Olympic team sprint to the postseason will make up for it. An incredible 25 clubs either hold a playoff berth or sit within four points of one.

12. Here now, the most disturbing familial Olympic images floating around the Internet:

Quick, check out some see some adorable Dufour-Lapointe sisters images so you can cleanse your eyes.

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