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Monday, February 15, 2010

2010 Olympic Predictions

After a huge glitch during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, we're off to an exciting start.

The women's hockey tournament is already underway and I propose we just let Finland and Sweden play for bronze and let USA and Canada battle it out for gold.

Imagine how intense the rivalry between USA and Canada will be if they meet in the men's and women's tournament. They already met in the Juniors in one of the most thrilling games ever played, with the red white and blue stunning the Canadians....on their home ice.

Of course, there's no way the United States men make it to the gold medal game.

Ok ok, so there's a chance of it happening, but unless Ryan Miller is the second coming of Jim Craig ala 1980, they make it out of group play and that's about it.

I just think that this team is too young and inexperienced and I'm not just talking about at the international level. I'm talking about the NHL.

Guys like Patrick Kane, Bobby Ryan, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson and Ryan Suter are all studs in the NHL for sure, but what have any of them played for that meant anything in their professional careers?

What pressure is there playing for Team USA for that matter? Has anyone really expected the United States to do anything in hockey at the Olympics....ever?

Now, teams like Canada, Russia, Sweden, etc., those guys grew up feeling the pressure of winning gold in the Olympics. That was the pinnacle of hockey in their minds.

Maybe that's another reason the United States' miracle in 1980 resonates to this day.

Don't get me wrong, I'll be rooting for our boys (and I stress, boys) in these Games, but I'm just not expecting much.

Not to mention the goaltending is atrocious.

Should something happen to Miller, this team is beyond screwed.

Tim Thomas is not a big game goaltender and has proven it over his career. When the big games come up in the playoffs, he folds like a lawn chair.

Jonathan Quick is a solid young talent, but that's the problem. He's too young and has only been the starter in Los Angeles for a short time.

He's still learning to deal with pressure and Thomas can't deal with pressure.

Anyway, let's break down the groups.

Group A


Clearly, the best teams in this group are Canada and the United States.

Here's how I see the standings after the round robin opening round.

Canada 3-0-0
USA 2-1-0
Switzerland 1-2-0
Norway 0-3-0

Canada gets a decisive 5-1 victory over the Americans in the final round-robin game to go undefeated and has no trouble with the other two teams.

USA gets a good fight from the Swiss, but ultimately get the win behind the play of Miller who steals one. USA 4 Swiss 2. USA also has no problems dispatching Norway.

Switzerland plays a close game against Norway, but Jonas Hiller stands tall in what will be their only win of the tournament before an early and expected exit. Swiss win that one 5-2.

Group B (The Group Of Death)

Czech Republic

Here's how I see this one going down after round-robin play.

Russia 3-0-0
Czech Republic 2-0-1
Slovakia 1-2-0
Latvia 0-3-0

While this may not be going out on a limb, I think the Slovaks actually put a scare into both the Czechs and Russians.

It also would not surprise me if they steal a game from one of those two teams either.

Jaroslav Halak has been playing very well for the Habs this season and seems to be coming out of his shell and their roster is littered with current and former NHL stars.

This would be my darkhorse in this tournament by far.

The Czechs and Russians have more pressure on them given history and recent success respectively, but the Slovaks scare me.

Anyway, Russia and the Czechs play to a draw through 60 minutes, but the Russians get it done in the extra frame with Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin on the ice.

The Czechs squeek by the Slovaks in regulation 3-2.

Latvia shows up and gets pounded like a two-dollar whore for three games.

Group C


Here's how I see the standings following round-robin play.

Finland 3-0-0
Sweden 2-1-0
Germany 1-2-0
Belarus 0-3-0

What I'd love to know is how Belarus even made this tournament, but whatever.

I don't have a good feeling about the defending gold medalists at all and I think it's because of their goaltending.

I respect Henrik Lundqvist a lot and think he's a hell of a goalie, but he hasn't been his normal self this season and I think that keeps them from repeating. If he can't do it, Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson is the next choice followed by HV71's Stefan Liv.

Does that really scare anyone? Not me, that's for sure especially with the trio of goaltenders Finland is sporting.

Nick Backstrom, Antero Niittymaki and Miikka Kiprusoff. I'm not a fan of Nitty, but Backstrom and Kipper are clearly capable of putting this team on their shoulders.

Anyway, Finland drops Sweden 4-1.

Sweden has no trouble with Belarus and Germany.

Germany might give the Swedes or Finns a small scare as they always seem to play at least decently in these tournaments, but they down Belarus 4-2.

Belarus gives a valiant effort, but just gets out gunned all around.

Now, from here the top four teams get byes into the quarterfinals.

Based on this Canada, Russia and Finland are automatically in. I really think the fourth bye comes down to Sweden and Team USA.

However, based on the rankings and weaker division, I give the edge to Sweden, which means Team USA has to play one more game as the 5-seed against the 12 which should be Latvia or Norway.

If I'm ranking them, I think it comes out like this overall after the round-robin:

Czech Republic

Based on this, the 5 plays the 12, 6 vs 11, 7 vs 10 and 8 vs 9

Matchups come out as:

USA vs Latvia
Czech Republic vs Norway
Slovakia vs Belarus
Switzerland vs Germany

Advancing are:

USA 8-0
Czechs 6-1
Slovaks 6-0
Swiss 4-1

No surprises here.

Now we're left with the following in the quarterfinals.

Finland vs Switzerland
Canada vs Slovakia
Russia vs Czech Republic
Sweden vs USA

Who advances?

Finland 5-2
Canada 6-1
Russia 5-4 OT
USA 3-2

Matchups in the semifinals:

Finland vs USA
Canada vs. Russia

Moving on:

Finland 4-1
Canada 4-2

Bronze Medal Game

Russia 6

Gold Medal Game

Canada 4
Finland 1

On the medal stand:

Gold - Canada
Silver - Finland
Bronze - Russia

The tournament sets up well for the United States, but they ultimately don't have the firepower or experience to hold up with the big boys.

Finland's goaltending will get hot and carry them to silver.

Evgeni Nabokov will choke when it matters just like he does in the NHL playoffs and the Russians will have to settle for bronze.

Again, this is all hypothetical and I'm sure by tomorrow none of this will be relevant anymore.

Either way it was fun to do and I can't wait to watch the games.

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