What an excellent showcase day for the sport of hockey. The Czechs, Russians, Americans, Canadians, Finns, and Swedes all took the ice. All three games to determine Group winners and receivers of that coveted bye to the quarterfinals.
RUSSIA 4, CZECH REPUBLIC 2
If Crosby and Ovechkin are the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady of the NHL, Evgeni Malkin is the Drew Brees. He doesn't get as much hype, but he delivers almost as much on the ice. He scored twice, with an assist on the game-sealing emptynetter. Oh yeah, the Ruskies have Alexander Ovechkin who had two assists. And another slightly underappreciated quality player in Pavel Datsyuk, who had a goal and an assist. Evgeni Nabokov remains undefeated as Russia wins Group B.
U.S.A. 5, CANADA 3
Four words to describe this contest: Sixty minute highlight reel. Every second of this was sheer genius. This was as hard fought as the Norway/Switzerland match over the weekend, but only on a much higher stratosphere of talent.
Ryan Miller made 42 saves in this game. He stayed poised under blizzards of pressure, and looked chill even when in desperation mode. He's Team USA's biggest weapon, as he's arguably the best goalie in the tournament.
Brian Rafalski had the big night on the score sheet with 2 goals and an assist.
Sidney Crosby had a goal, but was -3 on the night. Too bad.
The US's goals were a bit on the "lucky" side, but in hockey, good luck tends to follow guys who put themselves in good positions. The US was smart with the puck, and strong without the puck. They fought for every millimeter of ice with a zealous determination. They had an underdog's attitude with a starving dog's tenacity, and emerged as top dogs, winning Group A and going undefeated in the preliminary round.
SWEDEN 3, FINLAND 0
Watch out for the Swedes, the other undefeated team in preliminary play. They started off a bit slow, but now they're really rolling. 25 year old Loui Eriksson of the Dallas Stars scored a pair of power play goals, and Nicklas Backstrom had a goal with 2 assists as the Swedes dominated their rematch of the '06 Gold Medal Game.
As an American, it's difficult not to be proudly optimistic this morning, but the watching utterly stacked teams like Sweden fills me with dread. Thankfully, the US can only meet Sweden in the Gold Medal Game.
Now on to the Elimination Stage.
The late goals the US netted against Norway, as well as Ryan Kesler's empty-netter helped give the US the #1 seed thanks to goal differential (+9, Sweden's was +7). The US won Group A, Russia won Group B, and Sweden won Group C. Finland finished with 6 points and a better GD (goal differential) than the Czechs, so Finland also earned a bye to the quarterfinals. Here are the full standings from the Group Stage:
5. Czech Republic
Here's the schedule for Tuesday (Eastern start time - network - game):
3pm - USA - Belarus vs. Switzerland (winner plays USA)
8pm - CNBC - Canada vs. Germany (winner plays Russia)
10pm - CNBC - Latvia vs. Czech Republic (winner plays Finland)
12am - CNBC - Norway vs. Slovakia (winner plays Sweden)
We'll have a preview of these games tomorrow.