Friday, February 21, 2014

Olympic Pool Update (Day 8, Feb 21)

There's no question that there is a little bit of drama that's missing out of the Olympic Semifinals without the host nation playing, but that doesn't mean that there was one less team deserving of a spot in the final four.  Semifinal Friday saw four good teams, Finland, Sweden, Canada and the USA, go to battle, each with the chance to play in the Gold Medal Game on Sunday.  The respective losing teams would play for bronze on Saturday.

Going into the day, Rob A. had a sizeable lead of 6 points, which wasn't quite locked up, with four games to go in the tournament.  This leads us to the real questions, who would be where and what does the last couple of games mean for the pool?

Heading into the first game of the day, Finland & Sweden, the news came out of the Finnish room that Tuukka Rask was under the weather, which meant that Kari Lehtonen had to take the lead in the crease for the underdog side.

From what I could gather, this was a pretty tight affair, like it should have been, with the Finns breaking through first, as Olli Jokinen snuck a puck underneath Henrik Lundqvist to take a 1-0 lead, near the midway point of the 2nd period.  Five minutes later, the Swedes tied up the game with a Loui Eriksson goal, which left Lehtonen with no chance to get over in time to get it.  Still in the 2nd period, on the power play, it was one of the tournament leaders in scoring, Erik Karlsson, hammering home a shot from the point, giving the Swedes a 2-1 lead, which was enough for the favourites to hold on and win with.
Sweden goes on to face the winner of the Canada/USA game, while Finland will play for bronze with this result.

Lundqvist scored another 2 points with the win, while Karlsson was the only other multi-point player, scoring the winner.  Lundqvist leads the pool with 15 points, while Karlsson has 9 points in the tourney to this point, tied for 3rd in pool scoring.

The day after Canada came back to win a squeaker over the US in the Women's Gold Medal Game, you know there had to be some residual feelings coming into this Semifinal Game today for the men.  The rematch between the 2010 Gold Medal Game was to feature two different goalies, as the 2010 starters were both on the bench, not really adding to the intrigue, rather injecting some new blood into the rivalry.

Both teams held court in the 1st period, as the two teams were good in some transitional hockey, getting chances at both ends of the ice, but there was a noticeable advantage for Canada after one.  Canada took that advantage and capitalized within the first two minutes of the 2nd period, as Jamie Benn scored to get the Canadians on the board, which put the pressure on the US.

To my surprise, the USA pressure was not as constant or as heavy as one might have expected, given the circumstances of the game and the nature of the rivalry, which allowed Canada to gain some chances for an insurance marker, not to mention carrying the puck out of their own zone unopposed.

Benn's goal stood up to be the only marker of the game, which gave him a 2-point game, while Carey Price made 31 saves for the shutout and a 4-point game, lifting him into 2nd place in pool scoring with 10 points.
Canada will play Sweden for gold and Finland will take on the US for bronze, another game for all four teams to seal up the Olympic hockey tournament.

ImplicationsThree teams in the pool finished with 10 points on the day, Bill, Tom and Chris J. each topped out with some pretty good days.  Having both winning goalies, Karlsson and some assorted players will do that for some teams.

Rob A. still finished on top, as his first team had a 7-point day, which will keep him afloat into the weekend.  Rob has three Finns on that team, so he should be well represented on Saturday for the Bronze Medal Game, while he will be pulling for a big Canada win on Sunday to win the pool in the end.

Rob appears to be going wire-to-wire, but Curtis and Chris J. are poised to still upset his chances, now with only two games left on the schedule.

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