Canada vs Sweden and Russia vs Slovakia for bronze

Monday, January 5, 2009

Russia vs. Slovakia

Pre-game rant

Russia will be looking for some serious redemption today. I hate to keep bringing this back up, but they really did have the game in their control but a complete lack of finish in the last 30 seconds doomed them. You MUST play SIXTY minutes of hockey to win. Not 59 minutes and 30 seconds. I don't see Slovakia taking this one from the Russians. No one pegged Slovakia to even be here. I'm not saying that they're bad, they obviously have a lot of heart and they do have some great talent, but the Russians are a way more talented team. They simply have more talented players. Of course we did say that about the Americans when they played the Slovaks. I think this time though, the Russians will walk out with the win because quite frankly at this point it's a matter of pride - and right now they're pride is hurting a lot. Losing to Canada may have been one thing but to Slovakia? It's the Russians' game to lose but with their huge offense and really physical style of play they should win. If they give even a hint of the same effort that they did against the Canadians they will get it.

Post game musings

Well, it was Russia. 5-2 with one coming in on an empty net. Filatov was brilliant in getting two goals that just showcased why he's going to be the next great Russian player in the NHL. I didn't think the result was particularly nice for Slovak goalie Jaroslav Janus who was just incredible this tournament but the Slovaks have nothing to be ashamed of. And neither do the Russians. The Slovaks were pegged for possible relagation this year and yet they showed unbelievable will. I believe this was one of their best results in 10 years. Good for you guys. And Russia... it may have not been the colour that they wanted, but it happens. They have nothing to be ashamed of. I think it won't be too long before Filatov starts worrying about how the playoffs will go for his team (face it, the Blue Jackets are headed for their first playoff run sometime in the near future). Good job you guys!

Canada vs. Sweden pre-game rant

Well, I've been looking forward to this a lot more than any of the NHL games I've had to suffer through this last week - and believe me, I was doing a lot of suffering as both a Habs and a Pens fan. I'm sure no one will be giving much attention to the Pens vs Rangers game tonight and with good reason. Tonight it comes down to the wire with a gold medal on the line for two very talented teams.

These teams were pegged as being this years' finalists and they haven't disappointed. While Sweden showed some weakness early in the competition (they struggled against Finland at the start), they sailed right into the finals with a blanking of Russia in the round-robin part of the tournament and a well deserved win over upstart Slovakia in the semis. Canada meanwhile has had a bit more difficulties in the latter part of the tournament with tough wins over the USA and especially Russia.

So who's taking home the gold tonight in Ottawa? Good question. On paper the Swedes look to be the favorites tonight. They have a very good offense and a solid defense and a very solid goalie in Jacob Markstrom - which is a huge plus for them. There's a fair number of younger guys on this team which is quite interesting. Another interesting note is that the Swedes quite honestly thought that last year's game should have been theirs. They lost to Canada in OT and I think that will fuel them today. They will be looking to do to Canada this year what they did to Canada last year. Canada was denied a bye into the semis last year by the Swedes and they came back and beat them. Team Canada said that their loss showed them where they needed to be and helped them want to beat Sweden. Look for Sweden to do the same tonight.

Of course games are never played on paper. Just ask the Habs *coughs*

Canada has a good chance at taking this medal home if they can play better defense. Quite simply their defensive play has not been good and it nearly cost them this trip to the finals. They HAVE to put up a better defense if they want to get past Sweden. And Tokarski simply has to be better. There were too many softies in the last couple of games and that has to stop. I've seen him put up brilliant saves and he's going to have to do that all night tonight. If Canada can play a simple, defensively strong game the I think they will have a chance.

The one really good positive that I saw from that game against Russia was that though the Canadians were definitely frustrated, they didn't take very many penalties because they did something stupid (because they were frustrated). For the most part they kept things cool which allowed them to get back into the game with 5.4 seconds left. They'll need to find a way to play well and find their rhythm - create a new one if you have to! - no matter what the Swedes throw at them. Russia did their homework on Canada and threw off their powerplay big time. Fine. Canada still found a way to claw back into the game. You can bet that tonight there won't be as many powerplay goals from Canada either. Fine. Just stay focused and come up with a way to get the puck past Markstrom. It doesn't have to be pretty. We don't care how it goes in. Just make it go in.


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