Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Mark Streit is now finished with the 2014 Sochi Olympics. These games marked Streits’ fourth Olympic appearance, and he was an assistant captain for team Switzerland. Streit only registered one point in four games, but there was much more to his performance than his numbers. He averaged 22:29 of ice time per game and displayed solid defensive awareness. The Swiss team allowed a total of four goals in four games, one of which was an empty netter. However, they only scored three goals through those same four games. All of these stats lead Flyers fans to one question:
Did this Olympic experience set Mark Streit up for a productive stretch drive or not?
There are a couple of different angles in which one could answer this question, but in short, I believe the tournament experience did help Streit. Here are my three reasons.
First, Streit played well in the tournament. Had Streit gone out there and laid an egg this would not be an easy question to answer. But the truth is, Streit was one of the top defenseman on a solid defensive team. His performance busts the myth that puck moving defensemen cannot play defense. Streit was especially solid while defending a shut out against the Czech Republic and made numerous plays to safely get the puck to center ice. Although his one assist may be seen as a bust, one must remember that his team only scored three goals. Three goals. The most points Streit could have possibly gotten was a whopping total of… 3. It is helpful to also note that Streit registered five shots on goal during the four games and had many more that did not hit the net (not because he has terrible accuracy, but because they were shot with the anticipation of a forward redirection). The fact that Streit played solid defensively while staying involved in the play is an encouraging sign as the Flyers enter the stretch drive.
Second, Streit logged big minutes. In two of Switzerland’s four games, Streit was the team leader in ice time, and he was one of their top three during every game. Not only did Streit log big minutes, but he did so on international ice. Now, I don’t want to overvalue skating on bigger ice, but the fact is that it is a whole different animal. Streit had to be more aware of his surroundings and he had to be in great shape. The fact that a 36 year old Streit skated for 22+ minutes a night on the big ice eases any concerns that I have about his durability down the stretch. He also gets the next 9-10 days to rest up for a playoff push.
Finally, Switzerland was the recipient of a major upset. No athlete likes losing. Great athletes are motivated by failures. The fact that Streit had such a serious role on the Swiss team combined with the fact that they were upset by Latvia should be enough to motivate Streit for the rest of the season. A motivated Streit is great for the Philadelphia Flyers. Every Flyers fan has seen the difference in the team when the defensemen are involved in the scoring. Streit was signed for his ability to move the puck, jump into the rush, and use his all-world shot. A heartbreaking loss should be just what Streit needs to go on to have a fantastic final 23 games. Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for Streit, but this loss may be a good thing for the Flyers.
Mark Streit is someone who the Flyers will need to step up if they want to make a run at the playoffs. Streit’s Olympic performance, although ending in disappointment, has made me even more excited for what is to come. The Flyers will need him to be the $5.25M offensive catalyst that they signed this summer.