After lots of pleasant international friendlies, as our opposite numbers on the pitch say, the time has come to play for keeps. It will end today for half of these teams--their waving flags may never be posted here again.
Game 1: #8 Switzerland (0-1-1-1) vs. #9 Belarus (0-1-0-2) - 3 PM: The Swiss are definitely the better team on paper, but they looked pretty terrible against Norway in their most recent game, barely beating a team that the Americans and Canadians had easily stomped. Did dragging Canada to a shootout take everything out of them? Is Sergei Kostitsyn secretly the MVP of this whole tournament? Will the Belarussians score one of their trademark off-the-mask goals? Thank God this game is first, because the suspense is killing me.
Game 2: #6 Canada (1-1-0-1) vs. #11 Germany (0-0-1-2) - 7:30 PM: Germany didn't score a goal in either of their first two games, but then forced Belarus into overtime, which gave them a point and vaulted them into eleventh place, annoyingly relegating the Latvians to the basement. For that, they must pay. Everybody should want to see Canada vs. Russia, so let's hope that Roberto Luongo proves to be a far more competent goalie than Brodeur was against the Americans. If only for tonight.
Game 3: #5 Czech Republic (2-0-0-1) vs. #12 Latvia (0-0-0-3) - 10:00 PM: This is it, boys and girls. If the Latvians lose this, they might not play another Olympic hockey game for the rest of your life. That being said, there's really no reason to be worried. The Latvians have the benefit of having already played the Czechs in this tournament, something no other underdog can say today. The Latvians legitimately dominated portions of that game, which is sort of annoying since the Czechs probably realize how good they are at this point. I think facing the distracted Canadians would've been a much better draw, but there.
Game 4: #7 Slovakia (1-1-0-1) vs. #10 Norway (0-0-1-2)- 11:55 PM: Pretty easy draw for Slovakia, who at seventh is ranked pretty low for having had a win over a top four seed. They do have to face the juggernaut that is Vikingstad though, who has shocked the world with his lethal combination of awesome goal scoring and awesome goals. It doesn't much matter to me who wins this one, but I think we all know who Carey Price is rooting for.
We're now in the elimination stages of these Open Threads. Don't bring your A-game, and you could be done for the next four years. So make it count, leave it all out there.
(Animated flag images by 3DFlags.com)