Wednesday, February 22, 2006
US, CANADA ELIMINATED
Remember when I said I couldn't figure out the Russian hockey team? That they would be either brilliant or horrid, no in between? Well, guess what! They have been brilliant. After loosing their first game to Slovakia, the Russians have won 5 in a row. Their goaltender, Evgeny Nabakov, who is having a sub par year in the NHL, has been very solid, and their defense, in spite missing two starters due to injury, has tightened up considerably. Today, Russia knocked mighty Canada out of medal competition, with a 2-0 victory!
Meanwhile, the US was knocked out of competition by the unbeaten Finns, 4-3. US star Mike Modano was highly critical of the way this team was put together and treated, and justifiably so. The US's best goaltender wasn't chosen to be on the team. Many players had to make their own travel arrangements. It was just a sub par performance by those responsible for putting the team together. In the end it showed.
Slovakia went through the preliminary round undefeated. And our friend Dave over at Red and Black Hockey was very high on them. But the medal round places a premium on goaltending, and a quick look at Slovakia's roster shows no NHL caliber goaltender. That caught up with them today, as they lost to the Czech Republic 3-1.
BEAR BREAKS DOWN THE SEMI FINAL ROUND
Game#1 (Friday) Sweden vs Czech Republic: This may very well be the best game of the Olympics! The goaltenders, Sweden's Henrik Lundqvist and the Czech's Tomas Vocoun, are world class goalies, and Lundqvist in particular has been outstanding. This game will be a contest between the offensive firepower of the Czechs, led by Jaromir Jagr and Robert Lang, and the defensive prowress of the Swedes, led by the world's best defenseman, Niclas Lidstrom. This game is really a toss up. The only thing guaranteed is that Lidstrom will log at least thirty five minutes ice time. Since I picked the Czechs to win the gold, I'll stick with them. My prediction: Czech Rep. 4 Sweden 3
Game #2 (Friday) Finland vs. Russia: On paper, this should favor Finland. The Finns only allowed two goals the entire preliminary round, on their way to a 6-0 record. But the Finns, who have been without their #1 and #2 goalies, allowed 3 goals to the previously impotent USA today. And goalie Antero Nittymaki has been up and down all year. If goalies Mikka Kiprisov or Keri Lehtonen were available, I might pick the Finns. However, Russia's goaltending is solid, they have a veteran group of defensemen, and more firepower than anyone in the Olympics. Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexi Kovalev, Alexi Yashin, and Alex Zhamnov will just be too much for the Finns. My prediction: Russia 5 Finland 2
I'm rooting for Finland now, though am loathe to pick the gold medalists. Frankly, not too interested anymore...
Karen - I think the Czech, Sweden game is a toss up. The Finns will have to play a lot better Friday than they did against the US if they are gonna beat russia