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Finland wins Bronze, Their 4th Medal in last 5 Olympics

February 28, 2010 4 comments

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Team Slovakia was not given much of a chance to win coming into the Olympics, even though they have NHL superstars such as Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, and Zdeno Chara, so having a chance of winning the bronze medal, which would have been the first medal that the country had won in Olympic hockey, was very surprising to a lot of people, everyone except team Slovakia themselves who had already upset Russia, eliminated Sweden, and had given the Canadians a scare.

The Slovaks, who lost to the Americans in the semi finals, took the ice against the Finns, who lost to the Canadians in the semi finals, in the consolation game to win the bronze medal. The Finns, who won the silver in Torino and have three medals in the last four years, have a few NHL superstars of their own including Mikko and Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, Olli Jokinen, and goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff and they were looking for blood after being embarrassed by the Americans in the semi finals losing 6-1.

The Finns took an early 1-0 lead with a goal by Sammy Salo on the powerplay after a great hit by Mikko Koivu that prevented Slovak forward Michal Handzus from clearing the puck out of the defensive zone, Salo took the puck and blasted a slapshot passes Slovak goalie Jaroslav Halak. This score would stand for the first period but things started to open up in the second.

Marian Gaborik started the Slovak scoring in the second on a powerplay, ripping a wristshot passes Kiprusoff and knotting the game at one. Marian Hossa scored the next goal on a five – on – three powerplay collecting a loose puck in front of the net and burying it putting Slovakia up 2-1.

The turning point of the game was when Finnish forward Olli Jokinen was clipped in the side of the face with a stick, which was originally missed by the referee but not by the line judge who made the call at the next whistle. It was a four minute minor for high- sticking and it looked like the Finns were set to tie things up. That is, up until Salo decided to make a blind, behind the back pass to nobody. The puck was taken by Marian Hossa in open ice creating a two on one with teammate Pavol Demitra who accepted a beautiful saucer pass from Hossa and deflected it passed Kiprusoff making it 3-1 Slovakia.

With only a minute left in the period this score would carry over into the third but not for long as the Finns would score on the carry over four minute minor powerplay cutting the deficit to one. This is when Olli Jokinen, the player who was clipped and took exception to it, took over. He scored his first goal about a minute after the powerplay goal was scored on a wristshot that eluded the out of position Halak and a minute later he split the defense and skate din on a mini breakaway in which he slid the puck through Halak’s legs for which would eventually be the game winner.

The Slovaks made things interesting at the end of the third, as they did against Canada, but for the second straight game it proved to be too little too late as they fell to the Finns by the score of 5-3 after a lat empty net goal.

This is Finland’s fourth goal in the last five Olympics and they have silently made a reputation for themselves in international play, whereas the Slovaks, who were not expected to make it to any medal game, will have a solid team for years to come.

Going for the Gold!

February 27, 2010 Leave a comment

capt.photo_1267227837044-4-0 Team USA punched their ticket to gold medal game in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics early on Sunday, February 28. Team USA defeated Finland by the score of 6-1 in the semi-finals and will play Canada who defeated Slovakia in the later game to bid for a hockey gold medal sweep, the Canadian women’s hockey team already won the gold. With Canada’s win it set up a rematch of the USA/Canada final that took place during the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, Utah, when the Canadians defeated the Americans on their home soil for Olympic gold. It will also give the Americans a way to avenge their aforementioned female counterparts who were shutout by the Canadians in the women’s tournament 2 – 0 on Thursday.

Team USA erupted for six goals in the first thirteen minutes of the game, which forced Finnish goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff to pull himself out of the game, and was more than enough to send team USA on their way to the finals. Team USA’s offense was led by Patrick Kane who had two goals and Zach Parise who scored a goal and added an assist, this along with more great goaltending by Ryan Miller propelled the Americans into the gold medal game.

Later in the day the home town Canadians took on the surprise, I don’t know why, Slovaks. Team Canada was leading the game 3-0 behind a goal and an assist by forward Ryan Getzlaf but had to hold back a Slovakian siege on goaltender Roberto Luongo in the third period. Team Slovakia just came up short of a comeback scoring two goals in the third but the Canadians defense proved to hold up for the win.

The gold medal game will be played on Sunday, February 28 on NBC at 3:15 EST. It will be a rematch of last weeks game when the Americans defeated the Canadians 5-3 in the preliminary round. It will prove to be tough task for American goal- scorers who, last game, scored on a struggling Martin Brodeur but will now have to face Roberto Luongo who has proved that he was the right choice over the last few games.

2010 Olympic Hockey Bracket

February 22, 2010 1 comment

Now that the 2010 Olympic Hockey bracket is set I will give my predictions. Granted, they will will be a bit biased due to the fact that I am American but I figure it’s the 50 and 30 year anniversaries of the last two American Olympic Hockey gold medals.

Here are my Predictions

Team USA stuns Canada with 5-3 win

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Chris Drury after scoring the game winning goal against Canada 2/21

USA! USA! USA!…..The patriotic cheers weren’t as pronounced as that day in Lake Placid 30 years ago, but in the middle of a predominantly Canadian crowd, one could hear the cheers from the small groups of Americans scattered around the arena as team USA defeated team Canada, locking in the 1st seed and a bye for the medal round.

When team USA was announced after the NHL 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston, many people were surprised to not see Mike Madono or Bill Guerin, or Doug Weight or even Scott Gomez. Brian Burke, team USA general manager, and Ron Wilson, team USA head coach, were obviously trying to implement a youth movement for team USA because instead of the aforementioned veterans we saw names like Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, and Dustin Brown. Although Burke and Wilson did save two spots for a couple of seasoned vets, Chris Drury and Brian Rafalski, who have paid off as of thus far in the tournament. Drury has two goals including the game winner against Canada and Rafalski scored four straight times for team USA over a span of two games, including two in the game against Canada. After seeing the stacked Canadian and Russian rosters most people were quick to write off all the other talented teams in the tournament including Slovakia, powered by Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa, Sweden, powered by Daniel Alfredsson and backstopped by Henrik Lundqvist, Czech Republic, with former NHL great Jaromir Jagr providing the offense, and even team USA. But after a shaky game against Switzerland and a loss to team USA, team Canada now has to play the maximum amount of games to win the gold. This could be very tough for a roster of NHL players who have already played a very large amount of games due to the two week break needed to play in these Olympic games. Also, team Russia showed some weaknesses in their loss to surprise team, I don’t know why, Slovakia.

While watching the pre game shows, I noticed that many Canadians were very cocky about this game. There is a fine line between cockiness and confidence and the Canadians had stepped well over it. They didn’t give the Americans a chance at winning, it was going to be a rout of the bums down south. NBC analyst, and American, Eddie Olczyk said that he didn’t think that team Canada respected team USA and talked of how it may hurt them. How right he was.

Team USA defenseman Brian Rafalski scored 41 seconds into the game, with a shot that deflected off Canadian cover boy Sidney Crosby’s stick and passed Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur, setting the tone of the game and letting the Canadians know that the Americans showed up to play. This would spark the best game of the Olympics to date.  Canada tied the game up 12 minutes later when Eric Staal deflected a Brent Seabrook shot that went through USA goaltender Ryan Miller. But 22 seconds after Staal’s goal, the US came back into the Canadian zone and after corralling a puck that Brodeur batted out of the air, Brian Rafalski put a soft wrist shot five hole on Brodeur who may not have been set after his crazy baseball play.  The score after one period was 2-1 USA.

3:32 into the second period Dany Heatley scored right around the crease tying the game at two, and after this goal it looked as if Canada might have had enough energy and momentum to win. But shortly after the Heatley goal the Americans showed that they can play in front of the net as well as Chris Drury, captain of my favorite New York Rangers, collected a loose puck in front of the net and put it by defensemen Dan Boyle who was covering for goalie Martin Brodeur who was in the midst of another bad over aggressive play. This took the air out of the Canadian crowd for a bit, at least that’s how it seemed on TV, and it felt like the next goal scored would make it or break it for the Americans, luckily for them it made it. Team USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner was awarded with a goal for standing in front of the net screening his New Jersey Devils’ teammate Martin Brodeur as a Brian Rafalski shot from the point ticked off his skate and through Brodeur’s legs giving the Americans a two goal lead.

Unfortunately everyone knew that the Canadians were too good to let that be the final goal and Sidney Crosby delivered with a good looking goal right in front of Ryan Miller closing the lead to 4-3 and making things interesting with only 3:09 left in the game. And things were very interesting when the Canadians had the puck in the US zone for what seemed to be 2 full minutes shooting at will. Ryan Miller stood on his head during the entire game but none more than the last two minutes of the game. He had some help from Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan who never hesitate to give up their bodies to block a shot. Due to their great effort the Americans were able to clear the zone which set up the last goal by the US, an empty net one handed diving around the defensemen goal by Ryan Kesler. It was truly one of the greatest empty net goals that I have ever seen. This propelled the United States to their first win over Canada in the Olympics since 1960 when the U.S. won the gold.

Many conclusions can be drawn from this game, some people will say that it is meaningless because it was a preliminary round game but by defeating the highlt favored hometown Canadians, the US team now has a confidence and a swagger to them, they now think that they can play with any team in the tournament for 60 minutes. It also allowed them to seed 1st which is great because now they will play the winner of Swizerland/Belarus in the quarterfinals, which they should win. The Americans wanted to win this game, they wanted to show the other powerhouse teams that they are a force to be reckoned with, and they did just that.

Now for Canada this game brought up many questions. They still don’t have set lines and they have to decide whether they want to keep playing the struggling Martin Brodeur. No doubt he is, as hard as it is to say for me, the greatest goalie ever. That said, his best years are behind him and due to his over aggressive plays, which must have been held up inside of him for four long years because the NHL doesn’t allow such plays by a goalie, he cost his team a win. If they had butterfly goaltender Roberto Luongo in net that would have been a completely different game. Just something to think about.

The USA will next play the winner of the Switzerland/Belarus game on Wednesday 2/24. Until then GO USA!