Coming into the Sochi Olympics, Russia was the odds-on favorite to win. Thanks to a 3-1 loss to Finland, things didn’t go according to plan.
Finland 3, Russia 1. This game was a huge story line, as the host country was knocked out of the tournament unexpectedly early.
What was even more upsetting was that Russia was trying to “return to olympic hockey glory” and what better way to do it then on home ice. Guess the Russians wasted 50 billion dollars. Its one thing to be beat by a better team, it is another to lose because you were flat-out lazy. Many believe it is because the pressure put on them overtook them, but I couldn’t disagree more.
In fact, analysts Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick summed it up nicely saying that their was no sense of urgency in the Russians game, and they were waiting for things to happen. They were not forcing the issue. Why did this happen? I point my fingers at two of the three “studs” of the team.
Ovechkin was all over the media going into the Olympics saying he was absolutely ready and he was going to play even if the other NHL guys were not. But as Ovechkin has in the past, he was not clutch and talked the talk but could not walk the walk. He scored 77 seconds into the tournament. He scored his last goal of the tournament 1:17 seconds into the first game as well. Malkin was not much better adding only one tally himself too.
Ovechkin is leading the NHL in goals by nine which is a STAGGERING number. That is an average of about .6 goals per games played. In four games, the one-time NHL MVP only averaged .25 per game. Ovechkin has always been criticized of being a one-way player, and like Roenick said so well in the post game wrap-up, “Ovi” just proved why.
It was a disheartening effort from a team who was ready to thrust into Olympic hockey glory.
Canada 2, Latvia 1. Before I go deeper into the game, Kristers Gudlevskis deserves a colossal amount of respect. Against arguably the most skillful team in the tournament, he saved 55 shots out of 57, good for a .965 save %. Next, I want to discuss Canada. Yikes. They beat the #11 team in the tournament, a team with just one NHL player (Zemgus Girgensons of the Sabres).
The real issue for them isn’t barely winning; a win is a win. It is rather, their lack of offensive production, on a team that could be mistaken for an All-Star game roster.
They have scored an abysmal 11 goals in four games– yet six of them came against a horrible Austrian team. That leaves five goals in three games. Which is a very poor mark, especially when a large sum of their goals has come from their defenseman (Shea Webber scored game-winner today). Getting ready to face a high-octane American offense, which has scored 19 goals in only 4 appearances.
Sure the Canadians might have same great depth on their back-end, but their goalie Carey Price has yet to prove he is an élite goalie, and can but the team on the back need be. They better get their act together because the Americans have been the best team of this tournament no doubt, playing behind a great offense, solid defensive corp (their weakness coming into the tournament; eight of eight defensemen are first-time Olympians) and the fantastic play of goaltender Jonathan Quick.
USA 5, Czech Republic 2. A big concern going into the tournament was the Americans back-end, with six new Olympic defenseman.
Although not amazing, they have been able to hold their own giving up seven goals in four games.
But with their offense firing on all cylinders, that type of production is just fine out of the back end. Goaltender Jonathan Quick has been great too. The last question this team has was if they would be able to adapt to the larger ice surface. Let’s just say that was a blessing in disguise, as it has allowed the skill set of the young quick forwards the Americans have to really come out.
This team is hot at the right time.
Sweden 5, Slovenia 0. Sweden has been fantastic, and still in my opinion the team to beat. In my mind they have the best defense in the tournament giving up six goals in four games. I think Henrik Lundqvist is also the best goalie in the tournament (would be Quick, but coming off his injury I am not certain he is fully at 100% still). This teams question coming in was if they would get enough offense.
Despite not needing a lot due to good defense, they have put up 15 goals in four games which is not amazing, but not horrible either. This team should find themselves in the gold medal game no problem.
Semifinals: USA vs. Canada prediction: 4-2 – USA . Yes I think America will pull off the upset.
Sweden vs. Finland prediction: Sweden 5-2.
GOLD MEDAL GAME : USA vs. Sweden: Sweden 3-2.
Canada vs. Finland: Canada 6-2.