As of this writing, half of the teams have played 2 games. And right now, there are two pervading themes to this tournament: the favorites have not pulled away from the pack, and goaltending rules. Case in point: Canada needed a shootout to beat Switzerland, and Russia lost in a shootout to Slovakia. Meanwhile, the US has taken advantage of Canada’s stumble and sits atop their group. I haven’t been able to watch every game, so here’s a quick review of what I have seen:
- Jonas Hiller is incredible. I don’t see many Ducks games, so the Giguere trade shocked me a little, not anymore. Hiller is the sole reason that Canada did not shred the Swiss apart. When a goalie is standing on his head, and making incredible saves, it provides a domino effect. First, the team gains confidence in him. As soon as that happens, the team begins to take risks, and push forward a little harder on offense. In yesterdays game, it nearly lead to a huge upset. The game also showed Canada’s flaws, which I’ll get into in a bit.
- Sweden and Finland are playing exactly as expected. Each of them has an excellent mix of players with talent and grit. They are both a real contender, but will not really blow anyone out. Still, either one remains a threat to win the whole thing. And that wouldn’t be considered a huge upset either.
- If Germany had a goalie like Kolzig was, they too could be a dark horse in this tournament.
- Russia and Canada are full of holes and weaknesses. First off, the statistics do not tell the full story. When you look at game action, it’s hard to believe these two teams were clear favorites. While each team put up an 8-spot in their first game, it was more about the quality of the opponents. Each team won on pure talent, and didn’t really need to hustle. Both games had the look and feel of an all-star game, sort of. Players were pulling off ridiculous one on one moves, passing the puck around like Globetrotters, and generally jsut showing off. They kept offensive zone pressure up with relative ease, at any time that they wanted. Russia spent a majority of the second period in the defensize zone, mostly because they seemed to not care. When they turned up the pressure, they scored 5 goals in the third period. However, once each team played their second opponent, it was a different story. Switzerland and Slovakia are on a much higher level than Latvia and Norway. And this time, talent alone was not enough. Neither Russia nor Canada crashes the net hard. I think if that is only thing that the teams change, it will make all the difference in the world. Both teams seem to be ok with peppering goalies mostly from farther away shots, and not screening the goalie. That’s not going to work, and needs to change immediately. Everything else that they do is already enough for them to win gold. However, if either team is upset in regulation in their next game, then they might not even make it out of the first round. Wouldn’t that suck.
- The goalies for both Russia and Canada are going to give each squad a chance in every game until they figure things out. Each team hada different starter for each game. Canada’s starters are giving up 1 goal per game, and Russia’s are giving up 1.5. Clearly, offense is what the teams need to improve on against quality opponents.
- Pronger might be the best defenseman for Team Canada. I haven’t watched the game too closely, but I hear his name a lot. He’s not logging a lot of ice time, but he’s been quite effective. His breakout passes and defensive stability are quite prevalent.
- Crosby is being pushed into the spotlight, and he’s shining. I hate the bastard, but damn he’s good. Amongst all of the stars, he still manages to stand out. He has not altered his game at all, and I realize because his style of play works well with almost anyone else. He’s constantly creating room for himself and his linemates, and creating chance after chance.