Game 1: #1 United States vs. #6 Canada - 3 PM - NBC: People who are saying that this is the final everyone wanted forget the hype that was surrounding a possible Canada-Russia final. But this one's still pretty good.
Exactly one week after they met for the first time, the Americans and Canadians play for decidedly higher stakes than the top of Group A. Specifically, a gold medal. You may remember gold medals from such past winners as Roman Cechmanek, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's not important. It is.
The Americans famously won the first meeting between these two sides 5-3, stunning the Canadians (and especially Martin Brodeur) early and often, sending shock waves from sea to sea to sea, as they say up there. The Americans have generally been pretty stunning this whole tournament, displaying non-stop dominance over everyone they've faced. They haven't trailed once in this tournament, and Ryan Miller hasn't given up a single goal in the entire elimination stage of the event.
The Canadians looked awesome against Russia, but decidedly nervous and mediocre late against Slovakia, a game that Pavel Demitra came a crossbar away from sending into overtime. The Canadians have no reason to be less nervous against the Americans, and I don't think they're the type to try to convince anyone that they're the underdogs, either.
Some surprising factoids to contemplate:
- The United States has never lost a game in an Olympics held in North America in a year ending in "0." A record of 18-0-2, to be more precise. That's pretty good.
- The last team to go undefeated at an Olympics? The Soviets in 1988. That's what Mike Emrick said on TV, but Wikipedia says the Soviets lost to Finland that year, so who knows. Either way, with how few games there are in the tournament, that's a surprising drought.
- No country has beaten the same country twice on their way to a gold medal in the last six Olympic hockey tournaments.
- Every gold medal winning hockey team since 1998, when NHL players began competing, has included at least one Philadelphia Flyer.
- 10 of the 12 teams in this tournament were European. 10 of those 10 teams are not playing in this game.
The whole world is watching this game..so get ready to explain the rules of hockey to several people tomorrow.
(Animated flag images by 3DFlags.com)