February 22, 2010

Olympic Slap Shots - The Long Road

I woke up Super Sunday morning fully believing the gold medal winner would be one of the teams who earned a bye into Wednesday's action. As an admitted Canada fan, I now hope I'm wrong.

It's time to put the puck on the 'Net:
  • First off, as disappointed as Canadian hockey fans are today, that was a fantastic hockey game. Full credit to the US coaching staff for coming up with a great game plan, to the players for following through with that game plan, and to Ryan Miller for an amazing game. He was the difference maker.
  • I actually liked a lot of Canada's game on Sunday night. They absolutely dominated for long stretches. They put great pressure on the US defense, mobilized their own defensemen, dominated the wall, and controlled the play. They were unfortunate not to have been better rewarded.
  • The US blue line, considered to be thin and a weakness heading in, were fantastic at keeping the front of the net clean. The American forwards collapsed perfectly and took away the passing lanes. Amazing defensive job.
  • We are definitely seeing a passing of the torch from the veterans to the youngsters on Team Canada. Chris Pronger was exposed by the Americans and his ice time went down while Drew Doughty's went up. Duncan Keith finally was upgraded to proper minutes, too.
  • Speaking of changing of the guard, I suspect we will see Roberto Luongo take over for Martin Brodeur for the rest of the Olympics. Brodeur's stickhandling went from being exposed to being a liability to being downright bizarre. On top of that, Brodeur's unique hybrid style let in goals that Luongo's traditional butterfly style likely would have blocked.
  • Canada now has to play Germany on Tuesday to qualify for the quarter-finals. If they win that game, they move on to play Russia. Every Canadian wanted to see that matchup, but on the weekend, not on Wednesday.
  • Considering all the pre-tournament talk, it is amazing that either Canada or Russia will go home without a medal.
  • If I have my brackets figured out right, USA has a comparatively easy route to the gold medal game. They would play the winner of Switzerland-Belarus and then a likely semi-final opponent of either Finland or Czech Republic.
Russia vs. Czech Republic
  • What a hit by Alexander Ovechkin on Jaromir Jagr. Ovechkin has been uncharacteristically quiet in this tournament (bad news for Canada), but he created the turning point in that game.
  • The Russians still didn't wow me in that game, though changing up Datsyuk and Malkin on the top two lines was a smart move.
  • It will be interesting moving forward for Russia though. They only have 12 forwards, and should Sergei Zinoviev's injury be as serious as they look, they can't keep double shifting Datsyuk and Malkin with the 40 year old Fedorov on the third line. Will Viktor Kozlov have to take up 4th line center duty? That breaks up a good looking all KHL line, too
  • The Czechs did control the game nicely until the Ovechkin hit, clogging up the neutral zone. With Vokoun in net and their unshakable belief in their chosen structure, we have not heard the last from the Czech Republic yet.
Sweden vs. Finland
  • The late Sunday start plus a sour, almost exhausted mood here in Canada gave me the impression that there was not a whole lot of buzz left for the Sweden vs. Finland rivalry game.
  • The pace of this game seemingly didn't keep up compared to the USA-Canada game. Finland had some penalty problems, most notably a nasty elbow to the head of Patric Hornqvist by Joni Pitkanen, and never got untracked
  • Sweden has had some ailments shorten their bench. Both Peter Forsberg and Samuel Pahlsson were troubled with some sort of stomach ailment. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is said to be having groin issues.
  • Sometimes I wonder if a shortened bench isn't the way to go in this tournament. Players are used to be playing big minutes, but the 20 skater bench cuts everyone's ice time quite a bit. When games reach crunch time I'm surprised we don't see more coaches shortening their bench.
For more Olympic thoughts and conversation, join me on Twitter @HockeyLegends. And yes, there is hockey action on Monday. Women's playoffs, with USA vs SWE at 12 PST and CAN vs FIN at 5 PST. 4 other teams in action, too

1 comment:

Mr. Lizard said...

I'm actually very amused with two things: 1), parroting journalists (RUS - CAN for the final!) failed as usual. 2), Russkies battling Canada as a reward for the win? How very motivating. It's like sending them to gulag for achieving too few goals.

Also, I'm not so optimistic about USA and their short road. Nobody has guaranteed nothing. Ask Swedes.

Still, for at least one team the CAN - RUS match is most probably gonna be a big "wake up" time. Ask Czechs from Nagano, how ass-kicking was to match both USA and Canada even before finals!