Monday, February 17, 2014

Olympic Hockey Elimination Round Matchups

For the US to advance to the gold medal game, they'll have to get through some quality competition. They will face the winner of the Slovakia/Czech Republic game, then most likely play Canada in the semifinals. However they won't have to play Sweden, Russia, or Finland until the gold medal game.

Here's a quick preview of the opening round of the elimination stage, which will be played on Tuesday (starting at 3:00am), all times are Eastern:

Austria vs. Slovenia - winner faces Sweden
3:00am - NBC Sports
Each team won a game in the group stages. Austria beat Norway (so did everyone else). Slovenia beat Slovakia, and gave all their opponents a respectable fight. I think Slovenia wins this one before being crushed by the Swedes in the quarterfinals.

Russia vs. Norway - winner faces Finland
7:00am - NBC Sports
Norway lost all 3 of their games and only scored 3 goals. The Russians were a few bounces from winning their group. Russia wins this game, then I think they'll beat the Finns to advance to the semis against Sweden.

Switzerland vs. Latvia - winner faces Canada
12:00pm - MSNBC
The Swiss should scare everyone in this tournament. They won two games 1-0 in the group stage and lost to Sweden 1-0. They've allowed a single goal, thanks in no small part to goalie Jonas Hiller (who didn't play in the game against Sweden, so he has yet to allow a goal). They should beat Latvia (again), and give Canada a run for their money. I want to be bold/stupid and pick them to beat Canada, but I don't think they'll score more than a goal against the Canadians, which won't be enough

Slovakia vs. Czech Republic - winner faces USA
12:00pm - NBC Sports
Both teams should be disappointed with their group stage performances. Both were in tough groups. But Slovakia shouldn't be losing to Slovenia. The Czechs have 18 NHL players, the Slovaks have 12. Jaroslav Halak might be able to carry his Slovakian teammates, but I can't pick against the Czechs, who have been playing much better hockey in this tournament than their Slovakian rivals.

And of course, Team USA will defeat whoever they face in the quarterfinals.

So this sets up semifinal matchups of Sweden/Russia and Canada/USA, with a Europe vs. North America gold medal game. I think Sweden is playing great, has great scorers,  fantastic speed, and amazing goaltending. I think they beat Russia, the US narrowly beats Canada, and why not pick Team USA to win the gold.

America. Fuck yeah.