Sochi Men’s Hockey Roundup: Qualifying Round

Your daily shot of Olympic Hockey to go with your Vodka
February 18th, 2014

QUALIFYING ROUND

Apologizes for no wrap-up on group play nor a preview for this round, been a little busy the past few days. In case you didn’t know, Sweden, Canada, and the USA all won their respective groups and thus earned the top three byes while Finland was the best 2nd place team and earned the fourth bye. Here are scores from today’s qualifying round (a.k.a. the play-in games):

#8 Slovenia drops #9 Austria 4-0 This result is puzzling. The Slovenian team has been the surprise of the tournament but the Austrians should’ve have won. Both teams had identical records, but Austria scored more goals on better teams while letting in more goals so they had a worse goal differential; the Austrians just don’t really have a defensive core. Slovenia’s team has been playing together so well during this tournament the fact their only big time scorer is Anze Kopitar is irrelevant. The Slovenians move on to face top-seeded Sweden tomorrow morning at 3am EST.

#5 Russia blanks #12 Norway 4-0 The first line scored three of the four goals for Russia. Pavel Datsyuk assisted all three of those goals. The Ovechkin/Malkin line once again did not perform. The two usually rack up shots left and right but today they only combined for six shots. The Norwegians leave this tournament having played awfully in every single period except for in the first period against Canada. The Russians move on to face Finland tomorrow at 7:30am EST.

#11 Latvia upsets #6 Switzerland 3-1 – Latvian goalie Edgars Masalskis, of the Slovakian league, was able to stop 32 of 33 shots from Switzerland. Really, the credit goes to the head coach Ted Nolan. We haven’t seen the dividends of his coaching efforts in Buffalo but we’ve certainly seen it here in Sochi. Team Latvia only has one NHLer and was ranked 11th in the world compared to Switzerland’s 7th coming into the tournament. Latvia moves on to face Canada tomorrow at noon EST.

#7 Czech Republic downs #10 Slovakia 5-3 – Marian Hossa and Slovakians made this game interesting scoring three goals in the second and third to make bring the game within one goal after the Czechs took a 4-0 lead. A well-called timeout helped the Czech Republic regroup and ultimately win 5-3. The Czechs went 3 for 4 on the power play which is mostly what propelled them to that early lead. The Czech Republic continues on to play the United States tomorrow at noon.

QUARTERFINALS:

#1 Sweden vs. #8 Slovenia: The Swedes have played surprisingly well despite all of their injuries. The rebounded very well against Latvia on Saturday after trailing 3-2 at one point in the second period. Slovenia’s cinderella run in this tournament has the potential to continue but it’s very slim. They’ll need to get to Henrik Lundqvist very early with high intensity and keep it going for all 60 minutes. Most likely, the Swedish King will be King Henrik as per usual and somewhat emulate the 2006 Lundqvist that anchored Sweden to a Gold Medal.

#4 Finland vs. #5 Russia: This is the most interesting game of the quarterfinals. If the Russians play to their potential, they can pull this game out over a good Finland team. The key for Russia will be the Ovechkin/Malkin line. They started off the tournament well against Slovenia but hasn’t performed since. The Fins have been great so far in the tournament, tying the USA for the most goals scored in group play with 15. Their key will be Tuukka Rask. If Rask can shutdown the Russian arsenal, we’ll see the Fins moving on and the hometown team greatly disappoint their country.

#3 Canada vs. #11 Latvia: As much as I’d love to see Latvia upset the Canadians, it’s not going to happen. Canada is going to ROCK Latvia. The Canadians have named Carey Price their starting goalie for this game, probably so that Roberto Luongo can be well rested for their presumed matchup with the USA in the semis.

#2 USA vs. #7 Czech Republic: The USA should win this game. The Czechs played very well today even though they let up three straight goals. The fact of the matter is that Czechs are not nearly as deep as the USA as well as the fact that the USA has been a team through out the tournament. The USA will most likely look to Jonathan Quick for the rest of the tournament and he has been spectacular. The Czech Republic really doesn’t have enough fire power to match Quick and the US defensive core.

USA! USA! USA!

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