Tuesday, February 21, 2006

2006 Turin Winter Olympics
Men's hockey: Tänker ni lägga er?

UPDATE Here's the story from today's Globe and Mail.
UPDATE2 TSN picked up this story this afternoon. The website they refer to is the Aftonbladet link you'll find just down page.

It was a story on the other side of the ocean last night, and it'll be one this afternoon in North America.

In an interview with a Swedish television station, the Swedish men's hockey coach, Bengt-Åke Gustafsson, said his team was contemplating trying to lose their final round-robin game against Slovakia today (2 p.m. EST). (Swedish-language link)

The reason? To get a better seeding in the medal round quarter-finals, which begin Wednesday.

Prior to today's games, the Swedes sit in 3rd spot in Group B. A win against Slovakia would push Sweden ahead of the Slovaks and into a higher seed. And while under ordinary circumstances that would be considered a good thing, this time around a top two seed in Group B will get you an elimination-game date with either Canada or the Czech Republic.

The only caveat there is that Switzerland will have to defeat the winless Italian team in order to secure 2nd spot in Group A, something that the Swedish coach is obviously assuming will happen. It's also possible the Swiss may not be as motivated as they have been, given they've already secured a medal-round berth (and, besides, Italy has played well enough that they could beat them).

In any event, that's the news. And there's likely to be some discussion about this move not being 'in the spirit' of the Olympics.

I suppose the most surprising thing is that Sweden's coach would even mention this possibility to the media at all. Let's just say we won't be surprised to see their backup netminder tomorrow. (And, given how Sweden fared against another underdog in 2002 — Belarus — one imagines that they'd perhaps be avoiding another such scenario.)

Other musings on the implications of tomorrow's games:

The schedule
  1. Latvia vs. Kazakhstan - 5:30am et
  2. Switzerland vs. Italy - 6:30am et
  3. Finland vs. Germany - 9:30am et
  4. Canada vs. Czech Republic - 10:30am et
  5. Sweden vs. Slovakia - 2pm et
  6. United States vs. Russia - 2:30pm et
Game one only has relegation-level ramifications, so we'll throw that one out. Let's also assume that Switzerland does, in fact, defeat Italy. We'll also put Finland over winless Germany (although it doesn't matter either way as the Finns are guaranteed top spot).

The standings with those games factored in and the four relegated teams removed:

Finland 5 0 0 10
Switzerland 3 1 1 7
Canada 2 2 0 4
Czech Rep. 2 2 0 4

Slovakia 4 0 0 8
Russia 3 1 0 6
Sweden 3 1 0 6
U.S.A. 1 2 1 3

Depending on the result of tomorrow's Canada-Czech game, those clubs will finish in either 3rd or 4th. It's in Group B where things get really 'interesting'.

The Americans can't move anywhere, win or lose, and will face first-place Finland in the quarter-finals. And, with a win by Russia and a loss by Slovakia, there'll be a three-way deadlock at 4-1-0. Russia holds a significant edge in goal differential at the moment, so we'll assume their win keeps them ahead in that scenario.

1. Finland (guaranteed) v. 4. USA (barring a Latvian miracle)

2. Switzerland (must beat Italy) v. 3. If Slovaks win, Sweden. If Slovaks lose and Russia loses, Russia; Russia wins, Slovaks are 3rd.

3. Canada/Czech v. 2. If Slovaks win, Russia. If Slovaks lose and Russia loses, Slovaks; Russia wins, Sweden is 2nd.

4. Canada/Czech v. 1. Slovaks, if they win. If Slovaks lose and Russia loses, Sweden; Russia wins, they take stop spot.

Well, that was a tad more mind-bending than I'd thought it would be, but you get the idea. Let's just say that if Sweden succeeds in 'tanking' the game, Finland plays the U.S., Switzerland gets Sweden, Canada/Czech plays Russia/Slovakia.


At 3:16 a.m., February 21, 2006, Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

Is this any different than skiiers screwing around in their qualification runs to try and get a preferable starting slot? It implies a disrespect for certain opponents that isn't a factor in skiing, but other than that I don't see any difference.

At 8:20 a.m., February 21, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its no different than a Pro sports team that has secured a playoff birth, resting their starters. The media was all-over the Indy Colts for NOT resting their starters, and now they will likely make a big deal about if Sweden does? Proof once again, that the media can spin a story any way they want. Lets face it, Sweden has won the right to do whatever they want. If Canada didn't crap the bed against the Swiss and Finns, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

At 8:50 a.m., February 21, 2006, Blogger Jeff J said...

Sui-Ita was a 3-3 tie. If Can-Cze produces a winner, they will be tied with the Swiss on points. What is the next tiebreaker - is it goal differential or head-to-head record? Anyone?

At 9:35 a.m., February 21, 2006, Blogger ... said...

I'm pretty sure the tiebreaker is head-to-head record, which favours the Swiss.

BTW, if Germany had beaten Italy instead of tying them, the Finns would have had the same dilemma as the Swedes ... could you imagine the outcry if Canada lost to the Czechs, then missed out on a berth in the next round because the Finns tanked their last game against the Germans? Yikes!

Alas, the Italians stepped up and made the whole thing academic. But still ...


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