EPIC Gold Medal Matchup Set

So Team USA came out of nowhere today and dominated in a 6-1 thrashing of Finland. Actually, it was 6-0 with 5 minutes to go in the 1st period. Didn’t see that coming. But who would predict FIN G Miikka Kiprusoff crumbling the way he did? USA’s first goal was directly the result of a Kipper turnover. In at least 2 of the other goals he gave up he was flopping around in net. Finally he took himself out (really…the coach didn’t have the cahones to take him out) after the 4th goal and Wild G Niklas Backstrom came in to try and salvage something. But he gave up 2 goals and that was all there was to it. And Kipper thinks he should start the Bronze Medal game.

Canada coasted through 2 and a half periods v. Slovakia in the other semifinal. Up 3-0, SLV scored 1 goal, then got a 2nd goal, and it was on. With the Great White North holding its collective breath in the last few seconds, SLV F (and former Wild) Pavol Demitra found the puck on his stick with CAN G Roberto Luongo exposing a good section of the net. But Demo’s shot either went wide or off the near post. CAN survives the scare and heads to the Gold Medal game v. USA.

So, it’s on. Sunday 2PM. CAN has figured it out and is playing really well. USA has not lost a game in the Olympics and has been steady throughout. Basically, USA has to “prove” their win from last Sunday. If they lose this game, it’ll be “Canada won when it mattered.” It’s the matchup everyone wants, and there’s going to be a ton of hype building up to Sunday. I can’t wait.

NBC is getting it right and airing the game live. What a way to close out the games.

Team USA Fights through Switzerland

In a tough grind em out game, the USA Men’s hockey team was able to get by Switzerland today in the Olympic quarterfinal, 2-0. It was a defensive battle, as would be expected v. SUI who plays very Jacques Lemaire-y. The score was 0-0  into the 3rd period. Zach Parise scored both goals for Team USA, the first off a deflection 2 minutes into the 3rd,  and an empty netter to seal it in the last minute.  USA G Ryan Miller stopped all 19 shots he faced for the shutout.

Team USA will now play for a medal, which is a great showing for this squad. They get the winner of Czech Republic v. Finland in the semifinals on Friday. Win and guarantee at least silver, lose and play for bronze. I’m definitely happy with that.

CAN v. RUS has finished up in real life but I’m only in the 1st period on the DVR (a surprising 2-0 CAN lead right now BTW). FIN v. CZE is in progress, so I’ll need to watch that after this game, for “scouting” purposes. I’m hoping FIN comes through there. The USA v. Wild Finns by-line is very intriguing to me.

And don’t forget the USA women go for gold tomorrow v. Canada, 5:3o PM CST. Go USA!

Wow…make that CAN 3 RUS 0. Canada Hockey Place is bonkers.

Update: CAN v. RUS got out of hand, so through the magic of the DVR I have moved on to FIN v. CZE. I did not forsee a 7-3 CAN win. Evgeni Nabokov was not good in net for Russia. Canada has life, alot of it, and now has an excellent shot at playing for gold. All is well in the Canadian world.

Lovin’ Olympic Hockey

I should be sleeping. Or at least in bed. Work tomorrow, a visit from my wife and baby girl for lunch at the office, and I’m a tired cowboy. But tonight’s Olympic elimination round qualifiers have been great. Switzerland beat Belarus in a shootout. The Czech Republic beat Latvia in OT. Norway just tied Slovakia, heading into the 3rd period. Gotta watch. Tomorrow will be even better. Czechs v. Finland, Canada v. Russia, and of course USA v. Switzerland.’

I didn’t get a chance to post on USA’s big win over Canada on Sunday. It was a great win…a win that is surprising to some extent, but not as much as it’s been played up in my opinion. Sure, it’s the first US Olympic victory of Canada since 1960. Sure Canada is/was the favorite to win the gold. But it’s hockey. These things happen. This was a preliminary round game. Don’t get me wrong – I was jacked up during the game. But let’s keep it in perspective. They haven’t won anything yet. A loss against Switzerland and everyone forgets.

There’s been a lot said in the media…particularly by media that does not follow hockey. Sunday night ESPN Radio went pretty much exclusive hockey. Really? ESPN? You dumped hockey. On Monday, Paul Allen’s show on KFAN in Minny, which is overrun with Vikings talk, was dominated with hockey talk. PA prefaces his hockey talk with a “casual hockey fan” disclaimer and regularly brings in more-schooled hockey minds so that conversation was somewhat easier to listen, but how much puck will they talk once the Olympics are over?

They’ve said that it’s the biggest USA hockey win since the Miracle on Ice in 1980. My response to those people that regularly include hockey and the NHL in punch lines – How would you know?

I suppose I should be thankful that my favorite sport is getting some run in the national media. Maybe it just doesn’t matter. Slovakia just scored to take the lead in the 3rd. I’m going to enjoy the ride the rest of the way.

Quarterfinal Round
I’m looking for a USA win over SUI in a low-scoring, physical game. FIN over CZE, SWE over SVK, and I think RUS gets it done over CAN. That one is going to be fun.

Opening Win for USA Men’s Hockey

I made the decision today to ignore the Twitter and interweb world today starting at about 2PM so I could watch the USA v. Switzerland Men’s hockey game on the DVR. Well I just finished it up, mixing in some work as I watched. USA wins 3-1 and gets 3 points in the group A standings. It wasn’t a total domination win like Canada’s win over Norway, but it is still a win. The Swiss surprised some teams in the last Olympics, and play a defensive-Jacques Lemaire-Minnesota Wild brand of hockey, so the potential for upset was there.

Overall I like this new Team USA. I say new because there was a lot of turnover since the 2006 Olympics. Gone are the aging veterans of USA hockey past and this new team is young, and dare I say, eager. At the very least, they appear to be respectful of the Olympic experience, something their recent predecessors lacked (RE: Nagano).

Here a few surface observations I had while watching the game:

  • Jeremy Roenick 3rd guy on studio broadcast team? He was alright. Didn’t really say much, which must be tough for JR. But he was better than Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire put together.
  • Team Switzerland has 3 current NHL players, 1 of them is goalie Jonas Hiller. Team USA is all NHL, with a good handful of them with roots in NCAA hockey.
  • A few good Minny connections in this game. David Backes (MN native, MN State alum) pretty end to end goal after a good save from USA G Ryan Miller. Ryan Malone (SCSU goon) hard working PP goal. And Hnat Dominicelli (former Wild) almost scored for the Swiss. He was on the doorstep and appeared to tap in the Swiss goal, but it never touched his stick and the goal was awarded to Roman Wick.
  • What happened to the “count up” clock in the Olympics? Did NBC choose not to confuse the uneducated and show the “count down” clock? Do they not use the count up in international hockey anymore?

Next up for Team USA is Team Norway, Thurs 2PM CST. Gotta have this one too, as Canada dispatched them easily, 8-0. After a day of practice, I would expect USA to play better team hockey, and put Norway one on ice early.