Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Movin' On Up

So here we are after a raucous opening week of men's Olympic hockey. There have been some close calls, some monster hits, some dirty plays, a minor and a major upset at this point. The quarterfinals should prove to be even more exciting! Let's get down to the dirty.

Tuesday, February 16

USA vs. Switzerland

Result: USA won 3-1 over Switzerland.

What I said (In so many words...)

If there has been a better keeper in the NHL this season then someone should tell Ryan Miller about him. Goaltending is America's hope in these Games considering the rest of the squad is young, and not very deep towards the end of the 4th line. If the US is truly the dark horse this year it will be because of Miller.

If the Swiss play Gerber over Hiller then the US wins handily. Gerber hasn't been relevant well, ever. Hiller showed in last season's Stanley Cup tourney that he is capable of rising to the occasion. If Hiller plays this could be a close one.

Winner: Miller- USA

Analysis: Miller got a great start to the tournament with a win over a surprisingly strong Swiss contingent that was playing a very stout trapping game. Jonas Hiller proved once again that he can be a monster in a tournament format.

Canada vs. Norway

Result: Canada won 8-0 over Norway.

What I said:

Does Team Canada throw out Brodeur or Luongo, both of whom were distracted and pulled from their respective pre-Olympic NHL games? My money is on Luongo. He is the best Canadian goalie at the right time, as Brodeur is in a nasty slump.

Winner: Luongo-Canada

Analysis: Canada rolled and smoked Norway like Cheech and Chong at Burning Man. Jarome Iginla was a man on a mission with an opening game hat trick, and Luongo came out on fire with a shutout. Little did we know then that Canada may have been much better off keeping Robbie between the pipes!

Russia vs. Latvia

Result: Russia 8-2 over Latvia

What I said:

Nabokov should get the start here, although something tells me that Bryzgalov has a 2x4 sized chip on his shoulder that has come from tugging along an upstart Phoenix club this season. Russia's offense is pow-er-FUL, but their weakness is on defense after Sergei Gonchar and Andrei Markov, both of whom are more offensive than defensive. The Russian goalies will see shots.

Winner: Nabokov-Russia

Analysis: The Russians are an incredibly strong team and did little to disprove that in this game. Ovechkin topped all scorers with two biscuits in the basket.

Wednesday, February 17

Finland vs. Belarus

Result: Finland won 5-1

What I said:

Something tells me to watch out for the Finns this year. They have a way of coming together in the name of nationalistic pride like no other country. Kiprusoff should have a strong tournament, as he has been a steadying force on an erratic Calgary club this season.

Winner: Kipper-Finland

Analysis: I think the only thing that could be considered shocking about this game is that Kipper actually looked bored. I guess I felt Belarus would put up more of a fight. Teemu Selanne came within spitting distance of setting the all time Olympic scoring mark.

Sweden vs. Germany

Result: Sweden eked out a close one 2-0

What I said:

This will be an interesting team this year with the addition of Peter Forsberg and the late, late addition of Johan Franzen. Still, this article is about the keepers, and Lundqvist clearly dominated in the last Olympics. This year should be no different although Lundy has played a bit timidly for the Rangers this season. If he falters I'm left wondering if Sweden will have the goaltending to stay in the tournament. Gustavsson is the heir apparent but is a bit young, and Stefan Liv won't be used to this level of talent.

Winner: Lundqvist-Sweden

Analysis: This could have been a game where Sweden dropped an easy one to a heavy underdog, yet they managed just enough scoring to keep the umlauts at bay. Peter Forsberg emerged on North American ice for the first time in over two years looking more like Pedro the late night corner burrito guy than the legendary Pedro Forsbergo from his better days with the Avalanche. I miss old Pedro.

Czech Republic vs. Slovakia

Result: The Czechs scrape out a win against the stout Slovaks.

What I said:

This team has the ability to pull an upset. The reason? Vokoun. Vokoun has come alive in the last month of the NHL season for a bad Florida club. If the people running this team have their heads on straight and aren’t busy staring at Jaromir Jagr’s new mullet they’ll ride Vokoun like Secretariat.

(Slovakia) is the other team that has the ability to pull an upset. The reason is that they have someone between the pipes who has had something to prove in Jaroslav Halak. While everyone is going to be busy staring at Slovakia’s terrifying top line of Gaborik, Demitra and Hossa, I’ll be busy staring at Halak, reveling in the fact that I haven’t seen a goalie this pissed off and focused since Marty Brodeur got divorced and decided to win the Stanley Cup out of spite in 2003. If the Slovakian coaches feel the need to motivate Halak even more than he already is, all they have to do is tape a photo of Carey Price up in his locker.

Winner: Halak- Slovakia

Analysis: Indeed Halak was a force to be reckoned with, but in the end the Czechs and a slimmer, trimmer, and wiser Jaromir Jagr were too much in this rivalry game.

Thursday, February 18

USA vs. Norway

Result: The Americans won 6-1

What I said:

Can Ryan Miller bring down the circle-slashes? It says here that this one will be a close game, but not really.

Winner: Miller-USA

Analysis: Norway proved to be a tougher opponent than expected, but that was due to a lackadaisical effort by the red, white and blue for half the game. Miller was tested at times but didn't give.

Switzerland vs. Canada

Result: Canada won 3-2 in a shootout.

What I said:

Let’s see…Jonas Hiller getting scored on by Sidney Crosby. Jonas Hiller getting scored on by Patrick Marleau. Jonas Hiller getting scored on by Eric Staal. Martin Gerber getting scored on by Dan Boyle. Martin Gerber getting scored on by Dany Heatley. I could go on.

This one has “bloodbath” written all over it.

Winner: Brodeur- Canada

Anaylsis: Jonas Hiller absolutely stonewalled the Canadians before finally giving way to Sidney Crosby's shootout winner, which was the second shootout attempt by Crosby in the game due to some strange olympic rules from the moon. Brodeur did not look great but did well enough in the shootout to get the win. This is where Canada started to come apart a bit. For whatever reason Mike Babcock shuffled lines resulting in Jarome Iginla being dropped off of the Crosby line. This tinkering would not bode well in the next game for the Canadians.

Slovakia vs. Russia

Result: Slovakia wins a shocker in an eight round shootout 2-1

What I said:

Nabokov vs. Halak. If they get a chance to fight I’ll take Halak. If not, I’ll take Ovechkin pumping in four goals and demoralizing the upstart Slovaks.

Winner: Nabokov- Russia

Analysis: Halak, Halak, and more Halak. This game was the coming out party for the Montreal goalie who should be considered on the short list of up and coming superstar goalies. The Slovakian keeper stopped 36 shots through three periods and overtime. Ovechkin suddenly turned into a checking forward in this game, for whatever reason, while Pavol Demitra potted the winner in the shootout. This game served as a wake up call for the Russian squad.

Friday, February 19

Belarus vs. Sweden

Result: Sweden won 4-2

What I said:

Vitali, Maxim, and Andrei meet Henrik, Daniel, Peter, Henrik, Daniel, Nicklas and Johan.

Just…try to relax.

Winner: Lundqvist- Sweden

Analysis: "The Monster" Jonas Gustavsson spelled Henrik Lundqvist and gave up a couple of goals to make this game look closer than it was. Simply, Sweden dominated for long stretches in this contest. The emergence of the Sedin twins as a force to be reckoned with has been something to behold. Not to be upstaged, old man river, Daniel Alfredsson spanked in a couple of goals to ensure the win.

Czech Republic vs. Latvia

Result: Team Jagr over Latvia 5-2

What I said:

Has anybody else noticed that 80% of the Latvian team plays for Dinamo Riga of the KHL? Remember that note about cohesiveness and chemistry that I wrote about 17 paragraphs ago? Well, at least the Latvians will have that going for them. This could be a close one!

Winner: Vokoun-Czech Republic

Analysis: This turned out to be a fairly close contest even though the Czechs knocked in three goals in the first five minutes. The Latvians didn't break and instead answered with a couple of goals in the second frame before finally yielding.

Finland vs. Germany

Result: Finns win 5-0.

What I said:

Hmmm…Kipper versus Greiss. Is it me or does “Greiss” sound like the name of a strange boss character from Double Dragon on the ol Nintendo?

Winner: Teemu Selanne’s magic team from the frozen lunar hell scape.

Analysis: The only news to come out of this trouncing by Finland was that Selanne became the all time Olympic scorer with an assist in the second period. He now has 37 points all-time in Olympic competition.

Saturday, February 20

Norway vs. Switzerland

Result: The Swiss over The Vikings 5-4

What I said:

What’s this? We have the Outback Bowl of hockey! This might be a close game between two marginally talented, under-populated countries! I can only hope the circle-slashes play Reuben Smith, if only because I’d like to spend the two hours making jokes about how Reuben once worked at a restaurant where he toiled for weeks unsuccessfully trying to come up with name for a sandwich featuring corned beef, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing on toasted marble rye before flying off the handle and killing the sous chef.

Winner: Hmmm…give me The Reubens by a goal with a side of curly fries.

Analysis: This proved to be a tight and exciting game between the two squads. There isn't much else to say here outside of me taking a moment to express my aggravation that Reuben Smith was not played, and that yes, I miss American food.

Latvia vs. Slovakia

Result: Slovakia whipped Latvia 6-0

What I said:

Dinamo Riga vs. The Marians.

Methinks Halak bounces back nicely in this one.

Winner: Halak-Slovakia

Analysis: The Latvians went down hard in this one as the Slovaks buried five goals in a little over a period. Jaroslav Halak threw up the force field as he added a shutout to his Olympic resume. I'm officially elevating the Slovaks to "Wicked" on my Boston townie threat chart.

Germany vs. Belarus

Result: Belarus by a couple.

What I said:

I’m going to have to go with Belarus on this one. If only because it wouldn’t be the Winter Olympics if some guy named Vitali wasn’t able to hold his head up high before he is shipped back to run a forklift at the mink factory.

Winner: One of the Belarussian goalies.

Analysis: Happy time for all!

Sunday, February 21

Russia vs. Czech Republic

Result: Russia won 4-2

What I said:

Vokoun shall enjoy making many stoppings but in end Ovechkin and Semin will dance upon his bloated carcass like drunken postmen. High five!

Winner: Nabokov-Russia

Analysis: take a moment and watch this witness account of Alex Ovechkin taking Jaromir Jagr's lunch money (thanks to NBC rights n' stuff us overseas folks aren't being treated to an actual clip).

Canada vs. USA

Result: USA! USA! USA!

What I said:

I want an upset. Oh god I want an upset! This game has to be close going into the third for the Americans to have any chance. Miller has to be poppin’ and lockin’ like it’s 1985. Please God. Please!

Winner if life were fair: Miller-USA

Analysis: Good day, sunshine! Team USA came to play and this game may be the last time Marty Brodeur sees Olympic ice. So it goes when the mighty fall. The Americans weathered a consistent attack by the Canadians and came away with a HUGE upset. Ryan Miller proved that he has what it takes to win big games, as he repelled 42 of 45 Canadian hate bullets, while Brian Rafalski continued his scorching tournament play from the blue line with two goals.

Sweden vs. Finland

Result: Sweden won 3-0

What I said:

I’ve been to Finland. I’ve been to Sweden. They get along only because they kind of, sort of have to. Kind of like how Minnesotans and Wisconsinites tolerate each other at family reunions because it’s for the greater good and nobody wants to make a scene. They’re strange folks, them. Having a rivalry game of this magnitude in the preliminary round is a bit of a travesty doncha think?

Winner: Give me Sweden and a shot of Finlandia measured out by a sexy bartender in an extremely tight sweater.

Analysis: Sweden is defending champ for a reason. Remember this.

Overall predictions: 15-3

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