Tuesday, February 21, 2006

2006 Turin Winter Olympics
Men's hockey: Quarter-final matchups

At the very least, we're going to have three great hockey games tomorrow.

Switzerland (2) v. Sweden (3) - (10:30 a.m. EST)
This should be the odd man out in the 'three good games' scenario. Switzerland's plodding style won't make for compelling drama, unless the Swiss can jump out to a lead. Barring that, Sweden should be able to capitalize on a power play or two. The only real reason to watch will be the play of Martin Gerber, who may win goaltender of the tournament even if the Swiss team's journey ends here. (There'll be no pucks bouncing off of Henrik Lundqvist's head, I can tell you that.)

My pick: Sweden 2, Switzerland 0
(Canadian Press's Pierre LeBrun: Sweden 4, Switzerland 0)

Finland (1) v. USA (4) - (11:30 a.m. EST)
The Americans have actually played much better than their 1-3-1 record (and the fact they only beat Kazakhstan) would indicate. Still, considering how well the Finns have played in this tournament, it's going to be difficult for Team USA to turn things around dramatically for one game. Selanne has, once again, been terrific for Finland, and Antero Niittymaki has been more than adequate in goal. If you're planning your morning, I expect this'll be the day's second-best game.

My pick: Finland 4, USA 2
(Canadian Press's Pierre LeBrun: USA 3, Finland 2)

Russia (2) v. Canada (3) - (2:30 p.m. EST)
I had meant to say it earlier, but I'm sure no one wanted to draw Canada in the quarter-finals. As poorly as the Canadians have played to this point, every player on that team knows what awaits a loss in Turin — a national crisis — and we should see the most motivated Team Canada since 2002 on the ice tomorrow. The Russians have had a great tournament, but — as is generally the case with their teams — if they get scored on early, the wheels may fall off. Russia wins if they get huge efforts from their kids (Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk) although they'll be fighting some of the game's biggest and best on the Canadian blueline.

My pick: Canada 2, Russia 1
(Canadian Press's Pierre LeBrun: Canada 3, Russia 2)

Slovakia (1) v. Czech Republic (4) - (3:30 p.m. EST)
Make no mistake, this'll be a fantastic game. These two formerly joined countries have a hearty rivalry (with Slovakia's considered the 'kid brother' of the pair) and always skate as if they're playing for their lives against one another. The goaltenders will be the most noteable sidebar for both sides, but especially so for the Czechs. I really can't see them starting Tomas Vokoun after the egg he laid against Canada, which means former NHLer Milan Hnlicka will get the call. Hnlicka, who has been phenomenal in the Czech league this year, was known for unravelling at times when he played in North America and that could be the difference here. (Who would have thought Czech goaltending would have been a problem at tournament's start?) Keep your eye on Marian Gaborik, who has had a fantastic tournament for the Slovaks.

My pick: Slovakia 4, Czech Republic 2
(Canadian Press's Pierre LeBrun: Czech Republic 5, Slovakia 4)


At 4:22 p.m., February 21, 2006, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

That's a pretty nifty Czech/Slovak grudge match coming up tomorrow, no?

At 10:14 p.m., February 21, 2006, Anonymous Shane Giroux said...

Do the Czechs and Slovaks have a grudge other than maybe just a friendly style rivalry being that they used to be one? If I recall, didn't they peacefully separate into two nations?

At 8:06 a.m., February 22, 2006, Blogger Jeff J said...

"...if they get scored on early, the wheels may fall off."

I'm more worried about Canada taking an early lead and then having THEIR wheels fall off. They couldn't shut down the Czechs after building a 3-0 lead. Remember the Semifinal vs. Russia in the last WHC? Canada was up 4-Zip halfway through the game and Russia came back to make it 4-3. Ovechkin scored Russia's 3rd.


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