Olympic Hockey Day 9 Open Thread: Three Important Games in Men's Ice Hockey

Welcome to the fifth of a regular feature throughout the Olympic break, an open thread to discuss all that is going on in the sport of hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  (Note: John or I make these the night before, scheduled to appear at 10 AM.  I should be up for the late games, so hang out with me, won't you?.)

Just so you know, the Devils are stepping up online for additional coverage.  The official site has a hub for the Olympics; complete with a schedule for both tournaments. The team site also has a blog written by team correspondent Scott Modrzynski called The Devil is in the Details.  All posts are listed on the hub; just scroll down past the players and you'll see it on the side.  Zach Parise is also providing a few words to Tom Gulitti's Fire & Ice every day, so check that out.

Yesterday's games didn't feature the big teams but they do have some sort of an impact on today's games, which are the last three in the men's ice hockey round robin part of the tourney.    In Group A, Norway rose up and gave Switzerland a big scare. The two teams traded goals off and Switzerland needed overtime and a game winner from Romano Lemm win 5-4.  Switzerland, with 3 points, now control third place in Group A.  Belarus beat Germany 5-3 and have sewn up third place in Group C.  The most interesting game was Slovakia-Latvia in Group B, not for the game itself, though. Slovakia routed Latvia 6-0 and now have 5 points in the group.  Because of the result, Russia needs at least a point and a +1 in goal differential if they want to take second place in Group B.

Everyone goes to the playoffs in men's ice hockey, but only the top 4 teams get a bye.  Fifth through twelfth match up for an extra qualification game.  Yesterday decided eighth through twelfth; in order: Switzerland, Belarus, Norway, Germanay, Latvia. Today's games are not only games between big teams but big for positioning purposes.  You'd rather be in fifth place and play Latvia rather than come in seventh and play a very confident Swiss team.

Special Rule: Do not use these posts to complain about how no one cares about Men's Ice Hockey. This isn't the place for that. Violators will be banned until March 1 assuming no other rules were broken. 

Please use this post  for all your comments, analysis, and thoughts about today's hockey games in Men's Ice Hockey games.   Not the other Olympic sports, mind you.

February 21, 2010 Schedule 

3:00 PM EST/12:00 PM PST - Group B: Czech Republic vs. Russia (NBC)

7:45 PM EST/4:45 PM PST - Group A: Canada vs. United States (MSNBC)

12:00 AM EST/9:00 PM PST - Group C: Sweden vs. Finland (MSNBC)

Want to watch the games online and legally? For the Americans, NBC has streaming options. For the Canadians, CTV has streams.  Thanks to user C.J.Richey121 for the NBC information and to user dchoubak about CTV. I've added my own thoughts on each game, after the jump.

3:00 PM EST/12:00 PM PST - Czech Republic vs. Russia (NBC) - A Czech win of any kind and they own Group C and a bye.   Patrik Elias (2 G, 1 A) has been solid, but the story for the big C.R. has been Jaromir Jagr showing the world that he's still oozing talent (2 G, 1 A).  Marek Zidlicky has more points than both with 4 assists, look for his involvement. 

A Russian win in regulation (and only that), and they can take the group. For the Russians, no one has jumped out early to take a lead in scoring with 8 players with 2 points each ranging from Alexander Ovechkin (2 G) to Ilya Kovalchuk (1 G, 1 A) to the immortal Danis Zaripov (2 G).  They'll need to put together a strong effort today.

Historically, games between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia have been heated affairs like few in the realm of international hockey.  Massive political changes and time have subsided some of the rivalry, of course.  Still, for a game of this magnitude, don't expect either squad to be particularly nice to each other.

7:45 PM EST/4:45 PM PST - Canada vs. United States (MSNBC) - This is the big one for Group A.  A win of any kind by the U.S. and they'll take the group.  Canada needs a win over their own to win it.  It's the team that beat Switzerland in regulation versus the team that needed a shootout to beat Switzerland.  It's the underdog versus the favorites. It's going to be a big game.  I wish it was on NBC, but that decision was made a while back and as Greg Wyshynski put it at Puck Daddy, it's a defensible position from a stand point of demographics.

For the Americans, a change of lines from the first two games is apparent.  Per Kevin Allen's twitter, Zach Parise (2 A) and Jamie Langenbrunner (0 pts.) will be on a line centered by Paul Statsny.  Perhaps some of the ZZ Pops chemistry will germinate on the ice as the Americans will need to get their offense in gear. Given that Canada's defense looked sloppy against Swiss-league players, perhaps that'll help too.  Canada should be expected to come out to play with a purpose (perhaps anger too?), but we honestly don't know how they'll come out if the U.S. comes out hitting.  Per Wyshynski's twitter, Mike Babcock of Canada said that Martin Brodeur will start in net. 

Who will I support? America.  Namely because I am an American. Plus, Brodeur already has a gold medal and I don't think it matters to the Devils how Brodeur does in the Olympics.   If you're neutral, though, watch this anyway and see the dislikement/hatred show on the ice.  It is a rivalry, of course.  But not as big as the third game:

12:00 AM EST/9:00 PM PST - Group C: Sweden vs. Finland (MSNBC) - I wish, I wish, I wish this wasn't on at midnight because this will be an excellent game.  A Scandinavian rivalry for control of Group C.  Both teams have looked good early, albeit against weaker competition.  Now we'll get a chance to see who really is superior and who will get a bye going into the playoffs.  

Sweden's attack will be led by the expected bunch of the Sedin twins, Daniel Alfredsson, and Nicklas Backstrom. Surprisingly, Mattias Weinhandl (Isles fans will know who he is - maybe) has also got on the board with 2 assists whereas Swedish legend Peter Forsberg has yet to get on the scoresheet.  For Finland, Mikko Koivu and ex-Leaf/current-Flame Niklas Hagman are both enjoying the Olympics; Koivu has 3 assists and Hagman has 2 goals and 2 assists.  Also surprisingly, Jarkko Ruutu is not only this team but he has 2 goals. 

If you want to see an excellent rivalry add another chapter to their long history, then set your DVRs and VCRs or even stay up late to watch this one take place.  You won't regret it.

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