With the men’s Olympic hockey tournament underway, here are a few thoughts I’ve had from the opening games. At this point, all teams have played at least two games and we really are already separating the good from the bad and the ugly, as happens every year. The prelims really are just a warmup for the teams we know are going to make it to the medal round anyway, as they try and fuse a team together and get some momentum before the elimination games really begin.
- Great job by Slovenia, the tiny former Yugoslav nation with fewer than 200 registered male hockey players, on getting their first ever Olympic win, over the reeling Slovakian team.
- Even though Finland hasn’t dominated, as a Canadian fan, I am scared of what Tuuka Raask could do in the medal round.
- The US team has looked dominant, maybe the best team in the tourney so far.
- 4 goals by TJ Oshie in the shootout against Russia? Incredible. That will be seen as a classic game in no time.
- Tough blow for Sweden, who were the favorites in my mind. Losing Henrik Zetterberg really hurts. He is a beast, and probably their best player. They have good team depth, however, and should be able to make a run at a medal without him. That D combination of Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson is terrifying.
- The uniforms: as awful as they were when they were released, they actually look pretty decent on the ice. That goes for most of the teams. I really like the Finnish flag jerseys, the Czech whites, and the Canada reds. Still a huge thumbs down for the black Canadian alternates, and those Russian ones look like a big mess with the white eagle heads. And is Austria just wearing the Canadian jerseys from 2010 with a different logo? No points for creativity there.
Now, specifically on the Canadian team:
- I want Carey Price as my goalie moving forward. Luongo played well and got a shutout, but that was against Austria. I just don’t trust him to rise up like I would Price.
- Crosby has been quiet, which shouldn’t really be a concern. He didn’t do tons in Vancouver, either, before scoring that one little goal of his…
- I am endlessly impressed with our defense. Weber and Doughty have been great in both ends of the rink. Everyone else has been solid as well. No glaring giveaways, and it looks like they are all playing well together. This bodes well as we move forward, since in these short tournaments, D and goaltending are paramount.
- Why is Rick Nash on this team again? I love to hate him.
- Hopefully Canada got a scare from its close opening game against Norway. European teams can really shut it down out there, and Canada has to be willing to get dirty in the corners and messy in front of the net to get some mucker goals in order to bear those teams. For example, Switzerland gives you no chances, so you need to capitalize on every sniff you may get.
- I don’t know if I like playing two easy teams off the hop. I would rather have had the Finns as a second game, a truer test for the team. Then an easy one to close the round robin. This would have given them a bit of a break going into the medal round. Now, they will be playing tough and meaningful games for the rest of the tournament. No more simple ones.
- Again, those black jerseys were terrible.
It is very exciting going forward, to see which nation will rise above the others. There are still so many contenders out there, and it really is too tough to call at this point. The US looks like the team to beat, but that could change in a moment, which really is the best part about the Olympic tourney.
Go Canada Go!