February 18, 2010

Olympic Slap Shots: Day Three - Surprise, Surprise!

There was a weather warning in Vancouver Thursday night, as there was strong, unexpected gust of wind on Georgia Street as Canadian fans exhale.

Wow! What an amazing game between Canada and Switzerland, followed up by an equally exciting and surprising game between Russia and Slovakia. If there is one thing that was hammered home Thursday night was that
anything can happen on any given day - that is the nature, almost unfortunately, of this tournament. Better now than next week, and the scare may be the best thing for both Canada and Russia.

Before we move on, full credit to the Swiss for a hard fought battle. And full credit to Patrick Houda and Boris Vanya who called Switzerland to be the surprise team of the tournament in our Olympic Round Table earlier this week. And just for the record I, along with Valerian Lukacko, did call for Slovakia to be the surprise team in that same discussion.

I just had hoped Slovakia would take out Russia next week, not this week

Time to put the puck on the 'Net:
  • There always seemed to be some great over-confidence among the fans and even in the media that Canada would dust off Switzerland pretty easily. Well, 4 years to the day after Switzerland shutout Canada in the last Olympics, they very nearly upset Canada again, taking Canada to the dreaded shootout. Some media were celebrating this game as Canada's revenge party. I don't think the players were guilty of this, but still. It just goes to show: Never underestimate your opponent.
  • There will be a lot of talk about the lost point. In the Olympics you get 3 points for a win, but only 2 points for a OT or shootout win. They can still top their pool with a win over the Americans and get the valuable bye to open the medal round, but this will effect their seeding as the tournament progresses.
  • I thought Canada played well enough in the first period, but once they got the 2-0 lead they seemed to lighten up and were definitely guilty of playing too cute. Ryan Getzlaf was particularly guilty of that Had they played like they did in the third period the whole game, this game would have been over earlier.
  • Bottom line: Now Canada will be fully dedicated to the Babcock game plan which is how they played in the third period. They are pretty hard to stop when they play that way.
  • Was that Jonas Hiller or Martin Gerber in net? It sure looked like a Swiss repeat of 2006 goaltending robbery. Amazing display, especially in the third period when Canada really beared down. He was the star of the game, no doubt.
  • Speaking of goaltending, who does Canada play in net against the Americans? I tell you this much, I was a lot more confident in the shootout with Brodeur in net than Luongo.
  • Lots of people are talking about players who are not on Team Canada after this game, with the names Steven Stamkos and Mike Green coming up a lot, especially with Canada going 1 for 7 on the PP. I'm not going to go there, as this is about the players who are there. Patrice Bergeron was spectacular in the faceoff circle in his role and Jarome Iginla came out driven in the third period before an apparent injury (that could be a big story). Mike Richards and Brendan Morrow need to find a way to make contributions in their roles. And the scorers need to KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid!
  • I'm still trying to decide if Canada playing on home ice is an advantage or disadvantage. The broadcasters mentioned you could sense the nervousness in the crowd and bench was affected by that.
Russia vs. Slovakia
  • Slovakia is not a true underdog team in my estimation, but against Russia they certainly were, especially given that this was their 2nd game in 24 hours. Regardless, the gave the Russian powerhouse everything they could handle, and then won it in a long shootout. Two words: Jaroslav Halak.
  • Did you know that was only the 5th shootout in Olympic hockey history, and the first not involving Canada?
  • What is up with Pavol Dimetra? He's playing awesome, but somehow he can't even come close to that level with the Canucks. Ziggy Palffy was strong, too. He could probably still play in the NHL judging by the way he's playing tonight. And Chara was a tower of power as always, especially on the special teams. He was the best non-goalie on the ice.
  • The Russians put together a dream PP unit of Malkin, Kovalchuk, Semin with Ovechkin and Gonchar on the points. I bet Ovechkin wishes Mike Knuble was from Russia, because no one was getting their hands dirty in front of the net.
  • Ilya Bryzgalov was awesome in net, and should be the number one goalie going forward. Evgeni Malkin also looked strong.
  • Gotta question Russian coach Slava Bykov's insistence on rolling all 4 lines and 8 defensemen. Rather than double shifting his big gunners up front or Markov on D, he kept rolling his lines. And then in the shootout he left some top shootout specialists on the bench.
  • Note to anyone playing in the late game- the ice appears to be awful by the end of the third game of the day. Shoot the puck, no passing because it'll skip on the receiver.
  • Kudos to Jaroslav Halak for the Vladimir Dzurilla tribute goalie mask paint job.
USA - Norway
  • I didn't see too much of the game, but Pal Grontes stood on his head again, keeping the game tighter than the 6-1 score suggested. Norway tired out late and USA made the score look worse than it was.
  • Smart move of the day - Ron Wilson reunited Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner.
  • I don't think USA has played their best game yet. But I bet they will against Canada on Sunday.
As always, I have more thoughts and I want to hear yours on Twitter @HockeyLegends

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