Wednesday, February 17, 2010

OLYMPIC HOCKEY ROUNDUP: DAY 1

Some expected results yesterday, as three giants crushed three underdogs. I have to say that I miss the wider European ice surface typically seen in Olympic games. I don't know why, after spending billions to ready their city, Vancouver couldn't temporarily remove two or three rows of seats to make for a wider ice surface in the Canucks' rink.

U.S.A. 3, SWITZERLAND 1

I gave the Swiss a chance in this one, as the US players are either too inexperienced, or too old, with very few falling optimally in between. The Swiss also have Jonas Hiller, who helped propel the Ducks past the Sharks in last year's playoffs.

But the US's depth and talent was apparent in the 2nd period. The Swiss were in a defensive trapping style, which frustrated the Americans' attack (especially on NHL width ice, ironically giving an advantage to a European team). The Swiss had some nice chances, but lacked the skillset to properly aim the puck. They looked like a bunch of Michael Ryders, in other words.

The US will advance to the Elimination Round, but not much farther. They're simply not good enough to score or to prevent talented teams from scoring on them.

CANADA 8, NORWAY 0

The only surprise here is that the game was 0-0 after the 1st period. Jarome Iginla scored a hat-trick, Dany Heatley scored twice. Crosby had 3 assists, and the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron had an assist.

What I noticed most came after the game. While the Canadian fans celebrated a bit too much (Norway has 0 NHLers and hasn't even qualified for the Olympics since 1994), the Canadian players calmly and cooly congratulated each other. It was as if they were already past this 8-0 win and preparing for their meeting with Switzerland on Thursday. Pretty remarkable considering for 75% of the team, this is their first Olympics.

This is a team deadset on a mission.

RUSSIA 8, LATVIA 2

Ovechkin scored twice, as did KHLer Danis Zaripov. Kovalchuk had a goal and an assist, as did Malkin. This team is loaded with talent, perhaps a bit moreso than the Canadians. They too are on a mission. Canada may be the favorite on home ice, but Russia is the #1 ranked team in the world (IIHF), and hasn't won Gold since they were the "Unified Team" (just after breakup of the USSR) in '92. If Canada is hungry for Gold, Russia is starving for it.

Today's games:
3pm on MSNBC: Finland vs. Belarus
8pm on CNBC: Sweden vs. Germany
12:30am on CNBC: Czech Republic vs. Slovakia

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