Rivalry Day in Canada

What a great Sunday this should be! We have three straight blockbuster games lined up.  Russia-Czech Republic, USA-Canada, and Finland-Sweden.

Game 1:

Jaromir Jagr has been playing out of his mind, and proving on almost every shift that he left the NHL because he wanted to, not because he couldn’t play.  He’s just as strong, and just as smart as always.  He remains a threat to take over any game.  However, Russia contains more than enough firepower to counteract that.  But they’ll have to get through the left wing lock first.  The Czechs used it to perfection in the ’98 gold medal game to neutralize Bure and Federov, amongst other stars.  Not too shabby.  The system was invented by the Swedes to combat the Soviets in the 70′s, but the Czechs have done an excellent job of adopting it.  Obviously, the line-ups are different, but the systems remain the same.  Russia has to be steaming mad after the Slovakia loss, and I don’t think they’ll be held to only one goal. If Russia wins in regulation, they win the group. An overtime/shootout win, or any loss, gives the Czechs the group. Furthermore, a loss completely eliminates Russia, and that’s a scary thought.  These countries have had serious animosity since 1968, mostly from the Czech side, for obvious reasons. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prague_Spring#Invasion).  These games are always intense, tight, and entertaining.

Game 2:

These teams are completely made up of NHL players, and features more matchups between teammates  than any other game. In addition, an article from NHL.com says that Richards will be playing on Crosby’s line. I’m actually interested to see what Ritchie will look like when he plays on a line with someone that can feed him the puck. He’s never had anyone like that on the Flyers play with him before, and I hope Holmgren is paying close attention. More importantly, this game is a huge litmus test for both squads.  Is Canada really a favorite, or is USA highly underrated?  So far, my answers would be no and no. I do think the Americans have more than just a chance to win though.  As I wrote in my last post, Canada does not look hungry. Sure they’ve won, but they didn’t look like a team of world class players.  Meanwhile, USA is winning with grit, and mixing that with excellent goaltending is always a recipe for success.  The only reason I feel they’re not underrated is because so far, this is exactly what I expected of them. I still think Sweden, Finland, Canada, and Russia are better.

Game 3:

The last game of the days is probably between the biggest rivals.  Only a Canada-Russia match-up would surpass this.  This is a rematch of the last gold medal game, and promises to be intense.  These countries share a border and get along just fine.  When it comes to sports, they hate each other.  The countries have an extensive and historic rivalry in many different events.  Both teams have superstars, incredible goalies, depth, and defense.  Whoever wins this game, gets the group and a bye.  Hockey lives because if rivalries like this, and with both teams playing at a high level, this has the makings of a great game.  Here’s a preview article that was written prior to the ’06 gold medal game that does a nice job of describing the rivalry: http://www.cbc.ca/olympics/story/2006/02/25/sweden-finland060225.html.

The only result that matters is a Russia win.  This ensures that every team playing today still has an opportunity to get the gold. With all due respect to Slovakia, they’re not the team that most hockey fans want to see. The other two games are still important for determining seedings and byes, but at least they’re all ensured an opportunity to advanced.  No matter what, we’re in for some good hockey.

Thanks for reading!

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  • Dingo Sun

    Correction:

    After “Rivalry Sunday,” the 12 teams in the tournament will be ranked from 1-12 (1D-12D) with the top four teams advancing straight to the quarterfinals. Teams 1D-4D will be designated as the home teams for their respective quarterfinals.

    The remaining eight teams are placed in Group E (“E” for “elimination”?) with the matchups being 5D vs. 12D, 6D vs. 11D, 7D vs. 10D and 8D vs. 9D — based on the preliminary round results — in a one-game elimination matchup.

    The winners of each of those games are designated “E1, E2 …” and so on.

    This is where it gets interesting.

    Rather than doing a reshuffle according to the seeds and having the top team from the preliminary round drawing the weakest survivor of the elimination games, the matchups are pre-determined.

    The winner of the 5 vs. 12 game — designated E1 — for instance, will play the fourth-placed team from the preliminary round (4D-E1 is pre-determined matchup).

    The first-placed team after the preliminary round will play the winner of the 8 vs. 9 matchup.

    So even if there is a major upset and the 11th- or 10th-seeded teams advance, the top seed from the prelimary round will be still be stuck playing either the eighth or ninth seed.

    Fair?

    Hardly.

    The value of the preliminary round games is practically zero, other than finishing in the top four allows you to play one less game.

    “That’s the debate of this format. Do the first three games really mean anything? Or is it just a warmup?” said Swedish winger Daniel Alfredsson. “I think I’ll let you guys handle that one. It all has its pros and cons. We don’t have too much say in it.”

    “It doesn’t cost you anything to lose early in the tournament,” said Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman, who’s an interested observer. “I just wouldn’t want to have to play that qualifier on Tuesday and then the quarterfinal on Wednesday. That’s the thing that I would like to avoid.”

  • Eugene Markman

    Wow, I completely misinterpreted the rules then. Thanks for clarifying. Sure does make these games lose a lot of luster.

  • blaine

    very worried about canada; I really think the pressure has gotten to them. they have looked tight, panicked and slow at times and some of their players have simply not been as good as advertised. The americans have no pressure on their shoulders and they are a fast team; I think canada has more high-end skill, but if the yanks can get in on the forecheck, they can absolutely force turnovers from this canadian defence (doughty is green, pronger is erratic and seabrook is simply slow and probably not a guy who’d be on the team except for the fact that he’s keith’s defence partner). Finally, I don’t think brodeur can steal any games for canada – and he is going to have to steal at least one (if not a couple) for canada to win this thing.

  • Eugene Markman

    @Blaine

    While I haven’t really focused on individual players, I agree with what you’re saying about the team in general. For now, they’re just missing that special something. I hope they can find it, and same for Russia. It would be a shame for teams with that much talent to not meet in the final.

  • vlad

    Now NBC will move up the Russia – Canada game to primetime. Don’t they love the Crysby – Ovechkin matchup? Unfortunately canadia f’d up the seeding… who knows tho, maybe the germans will eliminate them :]

  • vlad

    dingo- getting a high seed is pretty important, also top 4 get a bye. Just look at the position USA put themselves into versus canada. add in the 3 games in 4 days… or whatever the schedule is, pretty tough

  • Dingo

    After last night, Canada should welcome the extra game to sort out their powerplay. Maybe slip something in Neidermyer’s dentures and call up Mike Green.
    Broduer has played his last game for Team Canada. Thanks for the memories.
    Ryan Miller stole that game, not sure he can steal them all, but he might.
    Swedes, Fins, and the Russians are coming into form, but they should be worried about Canada’s extra game to come together as a team. The PP will make or break team canada.

  • vlad

    not sure how you can use germany as a game to “come together as a team”. its like getting better from playing against the minors..