Things went according to seed yesterday in the end, but not without a horribly brilliant effort from the Latvians, fighting back valiantly from two goals down to force overtime against the heavily favored Czechs. They were only a carom away from completing the biggest upset of the tournament, and for that we salute them.
With that tribute out of the way, here is a look at the awesome lineup today that will determine the medal rounds.
Game 1: #1 United States vs. #8 Switzerland - 3 PM: The Americans surprisingly nailed the top seed coming out of the round robin, flying high and undefeated, including a shock win over the Canadians on Sunday. With Sweden, Russia, and Canada on the other side of the draw, the path looks relatively clear to the final. But are the Swiss a threat to army knife our hopes and dreams of American glory in this event? They have managed to win their last two games without playing very well, something that should always be a cause for alarm. They haven't lost in regulation since the first game of the tournament, which while against the same Americans, was over a week ago at this point.The x-factor: our goalies' names rhyme. Who knows what kind of mayhem that will cause?
Game 2: #3 Russia vs. #6 Canada - 7:30 PM: Epic. Ovechkin vs. Richards; Ovechkin vs. Crosby; Malkin vs. Crosby; Morozov vs. Seabrook. Varlamov vs. Fleury. Epic. These two teams are the top two ranked in the IIHF rankings, and one of them is going to have all hopes of a medal crushed tonight. If Canada wins this game, the whole country will consume lethal amounts of Labatt. If Canada loses this game, the whole country will consume lethal amounts of Labatt. So in that respect, it doesn't much matter. But it does matter in just about every other way imaginable. And by all means, Go Canada. Win this for the decades of Russophobia Flyers fans have embraced. Win this so Richards and Pronger can get a medal. Win this because that figure skater described his silver medal as "platinum." Win this so I can keep rolling my eyes for another day as former Penguins coach Ed Olczyk explains how Sidney Crosby was the key difference maker on a play in which he was never near the puck. Win this because anyone who has ever paid to have a Capitals jersey custom made with Cyrillic letters deserves to be hit upside the head with a snow shovel. Win this because Malkin's ugly. Just win, please / Gagnez, svp.
Game 3: #4 Finland vs. #5 Czech Republic - 10:00 PM: Both teams have to be pretty happy with this draw. Both the Finns and the Czechs won their first two games only to lose the third, and the Czechs hardly looked like world-beaters in their overtime victory over #12 Latvia. Jagr's health is a question mark, which is probably a large part of why they looked so spark-less late Tuesday. The Finns have gotten very solid goaltending throughout, and have a lot more scoring depth. They should win this relatively easily, but it's entirely possible that something screwy will happen.
Game 4: #2 Sweden vs. #7 Slovakia - 11:55 PM: Slovakia looked very solid in the round robin games, but then found themselves tied in the third period against Norway this morning. Hardly the type of performance that foretells a medal run. Sweden has secretly been pretty kickass in this tournament, going 3-0-0-0 and winning just about every game with minimal drama. The only thing they have going against them are those obnoxious yellow jerseys, which should be white when their opponents are wearing white. I don't know when the Swedes were anointed Lakers North, but there needs to be a rule against that nonsense by Sochi.
This could be the bestest day of hockey ever, or at least the best since Sunday. Make the most of it. Leave a collection of comments in this thread that you'll be able to tell your grandkids about someday.
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