Looking ahead in Olympic Hockey

If you care about Olympic hockey, you’ve probably seen the bracket, but I’m still gonna post it, because it’s pretty easy to forget the seedings when you’re down to the terrible teams.

Game A) 5-12 Russia vs. Norway

Game B) 6-11 Switzerland vs. Latvia

Game C) 7-10 Czech Republic vs. The Charas (Slovakia)

Game D) 8-9  Slovenia vs. Austria

Should I analyze these games?  Nah. (Except to say that either Krejci or Chara will play another game beyond this one, because they’re playing each other, and it sucks that Krejci’s legs come playoff time could handle the extra game better than Chara’s, but Chara’s team would obviously be the easier opponent for the US in the Quarters, so that blows.)  But there’s no point because Russia and Switzerland will both beat crappy Norway and almost as crappy Latvia, the Czechs will likely beat the Slovaks, and Slovenia-Austria doesn’t matter because both teams suck and will get spanked by Sweden in the next game.  So who cares.

What’s more interesting is that they finally told us the times for each game on Wednesday:

Sweden vs. Game D winner at 3:30 am EST.  Thank God this one drew the middle of the night game, because it’ll be the worst and probably most lopsided.  This is probably why Putin (sorry, the IOC) scheduled the game then.

Finland vs. Russia (aka Game A winner) at 7:30 am.  This will be the best game, so it’s questionable that they’d make it early in the morning here, at 2:30 pm in Finland, and 4:30 pm in Russia (not that anyone in Russia will be working that day).  Well, the reason is that the next two games are at the same time, so Russia wanted both the American and Canadian games to be readily watchable over here, and they also clearly wanted Russia’s game to be the only attraction in the middle of the afternoon over there.

This matchup is brilliant, because it pits both strength on strength and weakness on weakness.  The Russians are weak defensively, but Finland, without its top 4 centers of both Koivu brothers, Alexander Barkov, and Valtteri Filppula, are weaker than expected up front.  Where is Russia the strongest?  Well, with its superstar scorers on the top two lines: Malkin-Ovechkin-Semin and Datsyuk-Kovalchuk-Alexander Radulov, who most people will (and maybe should) know just for his two really stupid penalties in the USA game.  But Radulov is the highest point-scorer in the KHL’s brief history, cementing a fearsome top 6 scoring collection.  They’ll be up against Finland’s biggest strength, our own Tuukka Rask.  Finland will go as far as Tuukka takes them, and he may have to pull a Dominik Hasek in 1998 to pull out the Gold for his home country.

Also, I have no idea who I’d root for here.  Even when factoring in that I don’t want Tuukka to play too many games, I’ll probably be rooting for Finland.  Finland is barely the better team of the two now, and it’d be helpful to have the better team go against Sweden in the semifinals and maybe knock off the top seed.

USA vs. Game C winner at noon EST.  God, Slovakia would be an easy opponent, but I don’t want Chara to have to play an extra game.  My gut reaction was that the CZE-SVK game would be a blowout, and, despite some trying to talk me into a close game, I still feel that way.  The Czechs had a -1 goal differential, which is kinda bad obviously, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Slovakia’s -9.  Slovakia lost to freaking Slovenia.   So we’ll be playing the Czechs, and we should still win.  I don’t see the Czech Republic slowing down our American scorers, not when Tomas Kaberle is on their second defensive pairing (HAHAHAHAHAHA).  And not with Ondrej Pavelec in net. USA advances.

Canada vs. Switzerland (aka Game B winner) at noon EST.  We’ll all be checking in with the Canada game during the USA game, but we all know the result.  No chance Switzerland beats Canada, although we’d all like to see it happen.

Going into the tournament, it seemed like the top 4 were Canada, Sweden, Russia, and USA in that order.  Then Finland would be with CZE, Slovakia, and Switzerland in the second tier.  Now, the final three teams are on the outside looking in at the top 5 of Canada, USA, Sweden, Finland, and Russia in that order.  The semifinals already look to provide some justice, as they should consist of Sweden, Canada, US, and either Russia or Finland.  Too bad that the USA has to go through Canada a round earlier than we wanted, but hopefully it’ll make the story better when they’re getting their first Gold medal in 34 years.

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