Wednesday was the second day of elimination round hockey in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. For some teams, they were playing for a second consecutive day and for others, they came off of a first round bye due to winning their pool outright.
The biggest disappointment of the day was team Russia’s loss to Finland. Finland is a good squad, but Russia had all the pressure to medal during the Olympics on their home soil. There were several different factors that went into the early exit for team Russia.
Ever since their shootout loss to the Americans, you could sense a deflation within the Russians. They were held scoreless in their next game and were forced to win in a shootout. When the third Russian goal was called off in the game vs. the US, the team never got it back together.
There is plenty of blame to go around, but Alex Ovechkin will get the bulk of it. Ovechkin is the golden boy in Russia and heading into Sochi, he welcomed all the pressure on his shoulders of bringing the Gold medal back to the homeland. While Ovechkin was not a huge factor since the first game, there is plenty of blame to go all around.
Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk were the most consistent scoring Russians throughout the tournament, but other stars on the team failed to step up. Not only was Ovechkin not producing, but Yevgeni Malkin and Alex Semin also failed to produce anything significant. Overall, when you watched Russia play, you weren’t watching a good team. They are a team filled with great individual talents, but as a team, there was no chemistry or cohesiveness whatsoever.
So with Russia’s early exit, it is not fair to point the blame on one player. This is nothing new for Russia as they have failed to medal for the past three winter Olympic games. So with consistent failure like that, it is time to look at coaching and at the top of who puts the team structure together.
The biggest surprise from the quarterfinals had to be the Canadians getting a run for their money from team Latvia. Shea Weber scored the game winning goal with just over seven minutes to go in the third, giving Canada the 2-1 victory. A big part of this close game was Latvia goalie Kristers Gudlevskis. The Syracuse Crunch goal tender finished the game with 55 saves on 57 shots faced.
The Canadians are the reigning champs as they took home Gold in the 2010 winter games. You can always put the Canadians as a gold favorite for any Olympic games because their roster is filled with premium NHL talent. So far this tournament, Canada has not really blown anybody away with their play.
When you look at their production, seven of their thirteen total goals have come from defensemen. That is pretty shocking when you have forwards on your team like Toews, St-Louis, Crosby, Kunitz and Rick Nash. Those are just some of the names of forwards who have not contributed goals for team Canada in any game.
It is hard to look past team USA as the most impressive team thus far in the Olympics. The Americans have shown great depth throughout the winter games, as several different players are contributing game in and game out. They have shown great chemistry so far and their hard work style of play has been tremendous to watch.
Phil Kessel seems to be the consensus tournament MVP as of right now. Kessel has put up eight points, five of those being goals. He has been great scoring goals, but the whole team has been a machine scoring goals also. They consistently have different players step up in different games.
T.J. Oshie’s effort in the shootout will forever be remembered in American hockey history. Then you have a line that consists of David Backes and Dustin Brown whose main focus was defensive against the Jagr line in yesterday’s victory. That line not only was great defensively, but both those players contributed goals as well.
With so many different players across all the different lines scoring, it is going to make it difficult for any team to beat the Americans at this rate. Even more difficult when you have a goalie like Jonathan Quick. Quick has been solid in net, posting a 93.5% save percentage in his three games played. Quick has shown in his career that he is able to carry a team on his shoulders to the promise land as he did when the Kings won the Stanley Cup.
The Semi-Final round will be an exciting day of hockey for all fans of the game. We get a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game between the Americans and team Canada. Finland and Sweden features a great goalie match-up between Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist.
Team Sweden was one of the gold medal favorites amongst most media members and analysts of the sport. I have Sweden advancing past Finland in the semi-finals 3-1, giving them a shot at the gold medal. The best game of the semis will be Canada against team USA. This will be a tough fought game because there is so much talent between the two teams.
I believe if team USA can defeat Canada, they will win gold in Sochi. Canada has so much depth that will challenge the depth of the Americans. They will need Quick to stand on his head to give them a chance to defeat Canada. I have team USA defeating the Canadians 4-3, avenging the 2010 gold medal game loss and getting another chance to bring back the gold. I think the difference in this game will be Quick outplaying Price in net.
So for my gold medal game, I have Sweden facing off against team USA. My pre-Olympic gold pick was Canada winning it all. I have to go against it because team USA has been playing great as a team all across the board. So once the semis conclude, hopefully the Americans take care of team Canada and give the American people a chance to root for an opportunity of bringing back a gold medal.