February 15, 2014

How About The Swiss?! And Other Sochi Thoughts

Switzerland has completed the preliminary round of men's hockey tournament with a 2-1 record, knocking off Czech Republic and Latvia while barely losing to the powerful Swedish team. All of the Swiss games have ended in 1-0 scores. That's right. Through 3 games Switzerland has scored just 2 goals, but allowed only 1. With a 2-1 record, the numbers are amazing

Furthermore, the Swiss women have made it to the semi-finals of the women's tournament, guaranteeing that they will play for a medal. And with goalie Florence Schelling playing so well, I wouldn't bet against them. Fantastic stuff.

Slovenia - I don't think anyone gave Slovenia a chance to win a game at Sochi, but not only did they upset Slovakia, but they held their own against mighty Russia through 2 periods. Regardless what happens from here-on-in, Slovenia can consider their first taste of Olympic hockey competition a strong success.

Latvia - Lets not forget Latvia, either. They almost had the Swiss and showed strongly against Sweden. It'd be interesting to see how they do against Slovenia head to head. Slovenia does have the game breaker in NHL star Anze Kopitar.

Czechs and Slovaks - The hockey programs in Czech Republic and Slovakia have been in disarray for some time. That is due to economics and infrastructure as much as anything, but it is sad to see. There was a time these two nations were combined politically and were as powerful as the Soviet teams of the 1970s. Now we have all but erased them from hockey's super powers.

Sweden - Sweden has a perfect 3-0 record through the preliminary round, albeit in the weakest pool. Still, it is impressive given the injuries to the two Henriks - Zetterberg and Sedin. They also get the coveted bye, as each pool leader plus the strongest second place team gets. That's huge as that's one less elimination game they have to go through.

Canada vs Finland - All eyes will be on Canada and Finland on Sunday. The winner wins their pool and gets the bye. Finland has been hit with injuries hard down the middle - Mikko Koivu, Aleksandr Barkov and Valterri Filpulla. That's tough, but the Finns are not out of this yet. They're goaltending is too good to not worry about them on any given day. But their injuries down the middle will likely prevent them from going all the way.

Power Rankings - After 4 days of the preliminary round, as well as updated injury news, I would have to change my power rankings quite substantially from last week.

Last week I would have ranked the powers like this: Sweden, Canada, USA, Russia, Finland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovakia.

Now I would shuffle the deck and go this way: Russia, USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland (despite serious offensive woes), Czech Republic, Slovakia.

Now I do have Canada ranked 3rd but that is subject to change when we see what they do on the final day of the preliminary round on Sunday. With a convincing win I see them no worse than 2nd on my personal rankings.

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