Friday, February 19, 2010

USA Cruises, Too Close For Canada, Russia Stunned

It was only day three in the tournament, but the Olympic Men's Hockey is looking more and more wide open as two of the power houses that played last night were caught off guard. Close games by Canada and Russia against teams that are not favorites to even medal made for some pretty heavy drama. It is setting up some important and what could be very close games over the weekend. Here are my thoughts on the games yesterday.

USA 6, Norway 1
  • It wasn't perfect, but it was enough. A good first and third periods gets the easiest win of the day for team USA. Besides a shaky second period, the Americans bookended it with 3 goals each to do away with Norway.
  • Patrick Kane finally got a goal, but it was his line mate that had a spectacular game. Zach Parise was all over the ice, making room and creating chances for the top line. Parise didn't score, but did have a pair of assists.
  • US goaltender Ryan Miller looked a bit out of sorts. Not sure if was because he faced so few shots, just 11 shots and only 2 shots in the first and third periods. He did let in a shortie, but the Norway player just had a spectacular shot that snuck in on the far post.
  • The defense were very aggressive through out the game, which created a lot of odd man rushes. I doubt they will pinch as much as they did with Norway when they face Canada, but it needs to be shored up by then.
  • Good win for USA considering another power house in their group struggled against a team that US didn't have too much trouble with in Switzerland. It sets up for a big game between Canada and USA on Sunday.
Canada 3, Switzerland 2 SO
  • Canada showed they didn't like being hit, some stupid penalties seemed to catch the Canucks off guard. Chris Pronger took exception to a hit late in the second and was going to be called for retaliation. But the Swiss scored not long after. Canada may be looking forward to US, but the Swiss game should have been much easier for them than the final result.
  • Sidney Crosby had the game winning shoot out goal. It would be his second chance at beating Jonas Hiller in the shoot out. Martin Brodeur was able to make the stop to give Canada the win and two points in their round robin group standings.
  • Speaking of Hiller, wow! He had a spectacular third period, bending but never breaking. The Swiss owe a lot of their success in the game to their goaltender. He made some outstanding saves in the third forcing overtime and then the shoot out. Player of the night for sure.
  • The pressure to win for Canada is hurting them more than it is helping. Every little play is being scrutinized by their countrymen. I think this team would have much better success if it wasn't played in Canada.
Russia 1, Slovakia 2 SO
  • Slovakia played a well coached, very comfortable game against the gold medal favorite. They stunned Russia with a 2-1 shootout win in a spirited and intense game.
  • Alex Ovechkin scored in the shoot out, but it was failure in the two chances after his first attempt. He was a monster in this game, going after Zdeno Chara hitting him a couple of times, laying him out more than once. He was very physical, but it was hard for him to put puck on the net. The Slovaks did a fantastic job of jumping or getting sticks into the shooting lanes.
  • Simply, the Russians did not get many quality shots on net on Jarolav Halak. But Halak made the saves he needed to. After Russia scored their goal to give them a 1-0 lead, the team seemed to let up a bit. A bit too much as Slovakia tied up the game.
  • The Russian choices in the shootout confused some. With dynamic players who have a high percentage in the shootout, they instead went with the players that are ranked very low in that category. Ovechkin did score on his first attempt, but in the NHL he is only 16.7% in the shootout this season. Pavel Datsyuk, who had a chance and didn't score, Alex Semin, and Evgeni Malkin (who also missed on his chance) have much better percentages were seldom used.
  • The road for Russia gets tougher. They need a win against the Czech Republic to ensure a spot in the medal round. That makes for a more intense game on Sunday for the Russian squad.
  • Although very fashionable, Ovechkin's flaming 8 and sheep skates didn't last too long. After problems with the blade holder (the part of the skate that holds the blade under the boot) he had to use a different skate. He had one flame skate and the other was normal for half of the game.
Some amazing games yesterday will lead into some good games (I hope) today and on Sunday. While a lot of people only see two teams in the gold medal final, Russian and Canada, other games like Canada/USA and Russia/Czech Republic will make for some must see hockey in the tournament thus far. Hockey fans can only find fault in the coverage, because the hockey to this point has been outstanding.

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