Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quarters, Nickels, and Dimes

Here we are in the Olympic quarterfinals, and if you feel like I do the start of the hockey action seems like it was six months ago, even if it was only a week ago. Sakes, Olympic hockey takes a lot out of everyone, including the players! I'm still riding high on Team USA's epic win over Team Canada, and here's hoping the Americans still have some juice!

One note here, I neglected to write about the qualifying round on purpose because I felt that the better teams (Canada, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia) would all prevail over the lesser teams (Belarus, Germany, Latvia, Norway), and fortunately I was right.

One thing to notice about the "play in" games was Canada dismantling Germany 8-2 behind a stellar performance by Roberto Luongo, who in my opinion should have been in goal for Canada in the first place. Also, Jarome Iginla was put back on the Crosby line along with Eric Staal, and the combination paid dividends. Canada is not out of this tournament by any means.

One more thing. If you would like to read up on my preliminary round results, please feel free to check them out HERE.

Let's get down to it!

Wednesday, February 24th

Men's Quarterfinal #1- USA vs. Switzerland

USA: Ryan Miller
Switzerland: Jonas Hiller

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

Men's Quarterfinal #2- Russia vs. Canada

Russia: Evgeni Nabokov
Canada: Roberto Luongo

Whoa nellie! The ice will melt in Vancouver before this one is done. Surely it is a bit of a letdown that one of these teams will walk away without a medal, but in the end I'm an American, and I'm okay with that.

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

Men's Quarterfinal #3- Finland vs Czech Republic

Finland: Miikka Kiprusoff
Czech Republic: Tomas Vokoun

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

Men's Quarterfinal #4- Sweden vs. Slovakia

Sweden: Henrik Lundqvist
Slovakia: Jaroslav Halak

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 say...Peter Forsberg.

Winner: Sweden

That's all for now, I'll be back in a day or so to assess the damage.

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