The preliminary round of the Olympic hockey tournament is now over and there have been quite a few upsets thus far, the biggest being that Russia has been forced to win a qualifying game (albeit against Norway) and not get a bye into the quarter-finals due to their one win over Slovenia and a pair of shootout games as they lost to the Americans and just got by Slovakia.
It's not surprising that Sweden, the United States and Canada drew byes, along with Finland, but the order could be, as it is impossible for a Canada-US final as both teams will meet in the semi-finals, should they get past their quarter-final matchups.
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The matchups are as follows:
Slovenia will take on Austria with the winner meeting Sweden. The Czech Republic will play Slovakia with the chance to meet the United States, Switzerland will take on Latvia with the right to go against Canada awaiting the winner and finally the host Russians will play Norway with the winner facing Finland.
Some thoughts from the Olympic Games:
The injuries to Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit) and Aleksander Barkov (Florida) have to bother their respective NHL teams as both could be lost for the remainder of the season. I know injuries are part of the game but to lose arguably each team's best player in what many owners think are an unneeded risk, has to hurt. NHL owners might put up an even bigger fight in sending players to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
It's amazing what four less feet in the attacking zone will do for a defenseman's shot from the point. It is just as big a difference in the play as the extra 15 feet of ice from side-to-side.
If you have Drew Doughty on your fantasy team, how disappointed are you that he has four goals in only three games after scoring only eight in 59 regular season games?
If you are a bottom six forward with the Detroit Red Wings (Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson, Drew Miller, Daniel Cleary) you aren't a happy camper as coach Mike Babcock stated on Saturday that he does not use his best forwards when killing a penalty against Nashville because of Shea Weber's shot from the point. "I don't play my best players penalty killing when we play Nashville, just flat out because I'm afraid they will break their leg or their ankle, he shoots it that hard." I looked back at the two games Detroit played Nashville this season and Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg missed the December 30 game but both played November 19 with Datsyuk seeing 42 seconds of penalty killing time and Zetterberg playing 2:24 minutes, fifth on the Red Wings. Maybe Weber was not on the ice at that time. If I was Helm, Miller, Andersson or Cleary, I might want to have a talk with Babcock upon his return.
It should be interesting when Jonathan Quick and Slava Voynov are teammates again with the Los Angeles Kings. The United States goal was dislodged by Quick against the Russians just before Fedor Tyutin scored with five minutes left in the third. Voynov said "I play with him. It is in his style to do something like that." I guess NHL officials will be looking a lot closer at the Kings when action resumes at the end of February.
The Russians march to the Gold Medal game will go through Scandinavia if form holds up. They meet Norway on Tuesday, will go against Finland on Wednesday and will play Sweden on Friday in the semi-finals.
When growing up, the term used to describe playing Finland was always pesky as 'those pesky Finns'. It now should apply to Switzerland as all three games played were 1-0 scores. Jonas Hiller had both shutouts while Reto Berra gave up one in the loss to Sweden.
Switzerland's Matthias Bieber is no relation to Justin as far as we know and trails him by only 49.7 million in twitter followers.
T.J. Oshie is now a household name in the United States after scoring four goals in six chances during the shootout against the Russians. Oshie in Sochi sounds pretty good.
Slovakia has been a major disappointment, losing to Slovenia 3-1, but made some amends on Sunday as they lost 1-0 in a shootout to Russia. The Slovaks have not had a lot of young players making it through the system in the last eight years and that does not bode well for the future as their stars like Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa are in their 30s.
It's hard to believe but Ziga Jeglic leads Slovenia in points with three, one ahead of Anze Kopitar.
Latvian goaltender Edgars Masalskis was outstanding in the first two games of the tournament as he lost 1-0 to Switzerland and 4-2 to the Czech Republic, stopping 73 of 78 shots. The amazing thing is that according to Eliteprospects.com, he has not played for a club team this season.
Mats Zuccarello of Norway is their only current NHLer but he has been held pointless in three games as opponents have been concentrating on him. Per-Age Skroder leads the Norwegians with two goals. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen has been throwing out some heavy bodychecks, forcing opponents to keep their heads up when entering the Norwegian zone.
Thomas Vanek called out goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum after an 8-4 opening night loss to Finland but I thought he played well. Vanek has one measly assist, so maybe his lack of offense was a bigger reason for the Austrians losing than the netminding of Starkbaum, whose confidence must have taken a nosedive after hearing his teammate's comments.
Speaking of Austria, Michael Grabner has five goals and six points in three games. He had only nine goals and 20 points in 56 games for the Islanders this season.
Phil Kessel continues to show why he is one of the best offensive players in the NHL. Patrick Kane said today that Kessel "was probably the best player I've ever played with. He's unbelievable." Hope that Jonathan Toews does not take exception to his comment.
Just a side note on the Olympics. The men's China-Canada curling contest on Sunday was the best I've seen in a long time. It was my ex's favorite sport until she found out it had nothing to do with hair.