The marquee event (well, at least us hockey fans think it is!) of the Winter Olympics is in full swing and on to the medal round as I write this. The thrilling US/Russia shootout notwithstanding, I haven’t seen a whole lot that has surprised me up to this point. Here’s a look ahead:
In the top half of the draw, Sweden got through group play as the overall top seed and will face the Austria/Latvia winner. Even with their injury woes, I expect they will make it through to the quarterfinal round . Russia has just defeated Norway 4-0 and move on to face Finland. Finland is a group winner and is always an outstanding team. They play great defense and have one of the best goaltenders in the world in Boston Bruin, Tukka Rask. Based on both teams current form, I like Finland to move on there. Also note: Canada needed OT to beet this Finland team. They are good and they aren’t going away easily.
On the bottom half, the USA looks forward to the winner between bitter rivals (understatement alert) Czech Republic and Slovakia. There is no reason to expect the US wouldn’t handle either of them without much trouble. In the other half, Canada will take on the Switzerland/Latvia winner. I expect it will be a very stingy Swiss team they’ll see but the Latvians have equated themselves pretty well considering their glaring disadvantages. This puts the US and Canada on a collision course in the other semifinal.
From here, based on developments during the tournament, I’m going to change up on my initial picks. The loss of Zetterberg and Sedin is way too much lost offense for the Swedes to overcome and I no longer believe they have a legitimate shot at gold. They will lose to the winner of the impending Russia/Finland game to miss out on a medal. As for the US and Canada, I’m still sticking with them both to win medals. The tournament has broken Canada’s way for the gold. They are the most loaded roster top to bottom in the tournament and if they can overcome their forward line chemistry issues, they will not be stopped. My US for bronze pick still stands and I think they’ll beat Sweden for that bronze. For the US to do better than that, Patrick Kane has to show himself on this big stage. I’ve been disappointed with his play so far. So to sum up: Gold- Canada, Silver- Finland, Bronze- USA.
I can’t leave the ladies out of this. I highly recommend anyone reading this check out the USA/Canada ladies gold medal game. These young ladies are tremendously talented. If you watch them closely, they have NHL level skills….by that I mean stick-handling, skating, hands, hockey IQ..you name it. The hockey is a very high quality product. On top of all that, these girls HATE each other and it’s going to be a wild ride.
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