Here's the bad: I did not pick one upset, and only one game was supposed to be in doubt. The fact that the talented Czech Republic and Slovakia teams struggled to beat two opponents that had almost no NHL talent (instead of the decisive victories I predicted) says three things:
- There is nothing special about my analytical insight on these Olympics. Of course, I should have figured that when I had Germany in the quarterfinals when they could not even beat Belarus in the preliminary round.
- Even these days, the emotion of the Olympics still allows teams with so much less talent to compete with vastly superior teams.
- The Czech Republic and Slovakia are not going anywhere. These two teams could have made noise and maybe even earned a medal, but by not putting away these much lesser opponents, they showed they lack the killer instinct it will take to beat the favourites. In the process, they also made the front end of back-to-back games more of a struggle than it need to be, leaving them more fatigued for today's games.
Here is how I see today's matchups...
USA vs. Switzerland
American players would do well to learn from the Czechs and Slovaks. They would also do well to remember that this team beat them in Torino (which is how they say it there) four years ago, and has a very good goaltender. I expect the young Team USA to play tight if this stays close, but superior and less fatigued talent (especially in net) will win out...USA 4, Switzerland 2
Russian Federation vs. Canada
With Roberto Luongo playing yesterday, I would put Martin Brodeur back in net for this one game. I never have believed in playing a goalie two nights in a row when the backup is capable, and despite a poor preliminary round, Brodeur is more than that, and would like nothing more than to prove it.
Either way, despite playing the day before, I have to go with a now desperate Canadian squad. Without NHL-level checking lines and with an offensive-minded defence, the Russians cannot stay with the all-star level checking and blue lines of Canada unless they get an inordinate amount of power play time...Canada 4, Russia 3, OT
Finland vs. Czech Republic
As noted above, the Czech Republic is coming off an uninspired game the day before this contest. They will have too little to overcome a deep and talented Finnish squad...Finland 5, Czech Republic 3
Sweden vs. Slovakia
Let's just get this out of the way: Slovakia had no legitimate chance in this game even had a decisive victory over Norway given them a chance to rest their stars. Sweden has to be pretty motivated about being overlooked in this tounament despite its depth, probably the best blueline in the tournament, and elite goaltending--three things the Slovaks lack. We found out yesterday they also lack the killer instinct Sweden showed in winning gold four years ago in Torino...Sweden 5, Slovakia 2
Team Canada: Dany Heatley set up Joe Thornton's goal to start the scoring for Canada; Dan Boyle added an assist.Team Germany: In a nearly impossible task, Thomas Greiss gave up all eight goals on 39 shots for a save percentage of just .795.