Entering today I felt that the winners in the quarterfinals of the Olympics would be pretty clear cut. The United States, riding a wave of momentum was geared up to dispatch the Swiss. Team Canada would be challenged, but ultimately overcome the Russian invasion. The Finns and their ability to come together during the Olympics would mildly upset the Czech Republic. Finally, the Swedes would prove superior to the suddenly dangerous Slovakians. When the day was over I was mostly right. Let's have a look.
Men's Quarterfinal #1- USA vs. Switzerland
Result: Team USA scraped out a victory, 2-0.
What I said:
Both Miller and Hiller (hey that rhymes!) have been incredible up to this point. Miller has his uplifting win over Canada, and Hiller has his uplifting almost-win over Canada. The Swiss have been trapping harder than an Arizona minuteman at the border, but the Americans have all the momentum in the world after shocking the rock on Sunday. This game will be close because I expect Team USA to deal with a bit of a letdown, but in the end the Americans should prevail.
Winner: Team USA
Analysis: Once again Ryan Miller stepped up and delivered a shutout against a Swiss team that played hard, but ultimately ran out of gas. Had this game gone 6 periods it's possible the Swiss may have found a way to win, but in the end Zach Parise found the will and the way for the Americans, scoring both goals. A big tip of the hat to Jonas Hiller for showing the world once again why he should not be taken lightly in tournament play.
Men's Quarterfinal #2- Russia vs. Canada
Result: Canada stomped the commies 7-3.
What I said:
The question here is whether or not Team Canada managed to gain some cohesiveness during their game against Germany, or if it was a case of a bunch of angry Canucks doing mean things to a bunch of hapless umlauts. One has to think Mike Babcock will keep the line of Iginla, Crosby, and Staal together if only because he has to go with something that is working. That said, Canada must get some production out of the Thornton line for Canada to have a chance.
On the flip side Team Russia has flipped on the afterburners since Evgeni Malkin was put together with Alex Ovechkin. Russia's weakness as I have stated before is in their defense. Outside of Gonchar and Markov this team has some questions. Considering that Team Canada was in disarray not but 48 hours ago, and the fact that the Russians have had some issues on their end coming into this game, I'm thinking that once again this one is coming down to the goaltending. If that is the case I have to go with Roberto Luongo playing in his building, in his country.
Winner: Team Canada
Analysis: What is shocking about the result of this game is not that Canada came out focused and angry, nor is it shocking that they managed to pump in seven goals against what was widely regarded as the second best team in the world. What is shocking is how Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin were rendered almost completely irrelevant by the Canadian defense. Check out Ovechkin and Malkins lines for the game:
No goals, No assists, 3 shots on goal, minus-2, 23 shifts
No goals, 1 assist, 3 shots on goal, minus-2, 22 shifts
That my friends is IN-CRED-I-BULLLL!
The Canadians are officially rolling at this point. Am I scurred? I ain't scurred...I think.
Men's Quarterfinal #3- Finland vs Czech Republic
Result: You read it here, Finland over the Czechs 2-0.
What I said:
Finland has to be reeling a bit after getting stomped by arch rival Sweden on Sunday. But on the other hand there is a good chance Jaromir Jagr is still trying to figure out what country he is in after being taken behind the woodshed by Ovechkin (which may or may not have been the reason he had to leave the game against Latvia in the first period).
I mention Jagr because if he plays the entire game against Latvia, and is healthy, there is no way the Czechs win by only one goal, and even then that game doesn't go into overtime. If I take that into account along with the fact that Finland and Miikka Kiprusoff have had a chance to rest up since their loss to the Swedes, I end up leaning more in the direction of Finland in this game.
Winner in a mild upset: Finland
Analysis: This was a strange one, as a well intentioned but not well thought out rule assisted the Finns. Long story short, Czech defenseman Pavel Kubina dropped to block a shot during a Finn power play late in the third period but lost his helmet in the process. According to International Hockey Federation rules, a player who loses his helmet must promptly return to the bench. What Kubina did was leave his man, Nicklas Hagman, in front of the net and go to retrieve his helmet. Hagman then promptly scored.
Both teams agreed after the fact that the rule which was intended to ensure the safety of players was a stupid rule. The DNP agrees with this assessment, as losing your helmet during play means that it is man time, and risking your safety in exchange for helping out your team is your choice.
That said, Miikka Kiprusoff was more or less, and not just a little lucky in helping his team to the win. At one point Jaromir Jagr had Kipper beat and fanned on an open net. In fact, it was Jagr's limited play (he was playing injured) which may have been the difference maker in the game.
Men's Quarterfinal #4- Sweden vs. Slovakia
Result: Shock the world Slovakia wins 4-3!
What I said:
Wouldn't it be something if the Slovaks rose up and took down the defending Olympic champions? It is something to consider. Jaroslav Halak has been otherworldly in this tournament, and any team icing Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa cannot be ignored.
Still, it is difficult to bet against King Henrik at this point. Halak may be the up and comer, but Lundqvist is an Olympic champion. Additionally it is hard to ignore the contributions that have been made by Swedes who aren't the Sedin twins. Nicklas Backstrom is a superstar along with Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen. Not to mention that there are plenty of Swedes who still have some gas left in the tank...like say...Peter Forsberg.
Analysis: I'm officially upgrading Slovakia on my Boston townie threat chart from "Wicked" to "Pissah!" What a game by the Slovakians! Pavol Demitra had three points. Marian Hossa had three assists. The Slovaks were up 2-0 early only to have the Swedes even it up before Demitra put his team up for good. You want vermouth? You can't handle vermouth! If it wasn't for the United States rattling Canada's cage on Sunday this would be the upset of the tournament. Slovakia is for real. Incredible.
Quarterfinal prediction results: 3-1
Tournament record: 18-5
Let's move on to the biggies. It's man time.
February 26 (The official birthday of the DNP)
Men's Semifinal #1- United States vs. Finland
USA: Ryan Miller
Finland: Miikka Kiprusoff
This should be another tight game for the Americans, and for the Finns. The teams are fairly evenly matched. The difference maker? Team speed. As the Americans showed against the Canadians their youth movement wasn't in vein. Team USA can sprint. Ryan Miller is lava hot at this point, while Kipper is merely at a rolling boil after his strange win in the last round.
The Finns are a tricky team to analyze. Miko Koivu is the star of the squad these days, and frankly that makes me shrug my shoulders like I should care. Gone are the days of a dominant Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. I feel like I should take Finland more seriously, but the Americans are rolling.
Winner: Ryan Miller- USA
Men's Semifinal #2- Canada vs. Slovakia
Canada: Roberto Luongo
Slovakia: Jaroslav Halak
Considering the antics of the Slovakians they would be the sexy pick at this point...except that they are up against a juggernaut manned by several hall of fame quality players. Team USA did accomplish an upset against them, but at this point I think what they may have done was awaken Godzilla. The Canadians are pissed and focused. If there are any questions I recommend you take a look at the scattered wreckage of the Russian team.
Winner: Roberto Luongo- Canada
If all goes as planned we are looking at a USA-Canada final, which two weeks ago nobody saw coming. All I can hope for here is that everyone finds the time to tip their waitresses.