Saturday, February 18, 2006
Ah, come on... THE SWISS????
So what do the Canadian and Czech hockey teams have in common, besides being my top picks for Olympic gold? They have now both lost to lowly Switzerland. The Swiss have only three NHL players on their team, two of them goaltenders. But goalies David Aebischer and Martin Gerber have been brilliant. Aebischer made forty saves in a 3-2 victory over the Czechs on Thursday. Not to be out done, Gerber was brilliant in a 2-0 victory today over mighty Canada, making 49 saves.
This leaves the Swiss, ranked 8th in the world coming into the Olympics, in solid medal contention tied for third overall with Canada, Russia, and Sweden, and ahead of perennial powers USA and the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, off to blazing start is Slovakia. They are three 3-0, having beaten Russia, the United States, and Latvia. The Finns are also 3-0, having beaten Switzerland, Italy and the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, the world champion Czechs are struggling. Goaltender Dominic Hasek is injured, and their defense has played poorly. Star scorer Robert Lang has no goals or assists in three games.
The Russians are getting balanced scoring, but their defense has been a bit suspect, mostly due to injuries to defensemen Dmitri Bykov and Alexi Zhitnik, and goaltender Nicholai Khabibulin. Star forward Ilya Kovalchuk has only one assist in three games. But Pavel Datsyuk has two goals and an assist and Alexander Ovechkin has 2 goals.
The Swedes are scoring a ton of goals, but what on paper should be the best defense in the games has given up 8 goals in three games. They clearly miss Niclas Kronwall and Kim Johnsson, and their failure to add Nick Lidstrom's Detroit linemate Andreas Lilja is clearly a huge mistake.
So what does this all mean? Clearly, this is the most wide open Olympics in history. The top eight teams are in the medal hunt, with at least 5 teams having a legitimate shot at the gold. Which means we should see some very exciting hockey coming up this week!
I sort of wish the women's game was the same way. I guess it's a huge upset that Sweden beat the US, but still, there are two clearly frontrunning teams in each tournament (US and Canada), followed by a second tier (Finland and Sweden) and then everyone else. I am hoping that in the next few years some more women's teams will be more competitive to make things more interesting. It's starting to happen, but there is a long way to go.
tj - yeah, I think i pissed the AG off with that smoking tubscrub stuff!
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