Monday, February 22, 2010

The world is upside down.

Yesterday was a great day in hockey history. The last three gold medal games were replayed in the last day of the preliminary round, and it was exciting!

The first game, Russia and the Czech Republic, was intense and fast. But even more, there was loads of hitting. Yes, this is my favorite part of the game, but it was more impressive to see so plainly how a single hit can alter the course of the game, as with Alex Ovechkin’s hit on Jaromir Jagr. It was a mid-ice smackdown. And ten seconds later, Evgeni Malkin scored for Russia. Wow. The energy completely shifted, too. The intensity of the game never let up, and the Czechs were in it until a late empty-net goal by Russia that sealed it.

The second game is THE game. Come on, even non hockey fans must have heard about this stunner. The USA taking on favored, powerhouse, home team Canada. If talent had weight, the Canadian team would be an anvil. Not a single person, not media not experts, not really anyone who knows hockey slightly thought that the US men could pull out a win. No one, that is, except them.

I hoped. Hard. I know anything can happen, but I didn’t believe… until they started playing. They were a Team, with a capital “T.” They knew their roles, and they played as a unit. I love a huge amount of the outstanding players on the Canadian team, but great talent, as we well know from history, doesn’t make a great team.

The game was back-and-forth for a while, but the US seemed to dominate momentum and pace, especially later in the game. But goaltender Ryan Miller was on fire, saving 42 shots. Then when Ryan Kesler made a near-miraculous empty net goal, it was unbelievable. The US was going to win. My joy poured forth!

Kudos to NBC, by the way, for playing that entire game (excluding between periods of course) commercial free. Because there are no TV timeouts in the Olympics, the other games would go to commercial and we’d miss segments of the game. So thank you, NBC.

In these first two match ups, the silver medalists toppled their gold medal counterparts from the years before. But in the last game, Sweden versus Finland, it didn’t turn out that way. In fact, it didn’t turn out to be much of a game. Miikka Kiprusoff came to play for Finland, but he didn’t seem to have a lot of help. Sweden dictated play on every level after the first few minutes, blanking Finland. I was disappointed because I really thought this would be the game to round out one of the most amazing days in hockey in recent history. Still, Finland was good enough in preliminary to garner the forth spot, giving them a bye along with all of yesterday’s winners.

What is so astounding about all of this is that now the USA has top ranking, meaning they play the easier teams, and either Russia or Canada will be out before the medal round as they will play each other in the quarter finals provided Canada beats Germany tomorrow. Holy cow. That’s just crazy. These are the teams predicted to be the top two. What an exciting tournament! What a great sport.

I feel guilty for saying this, but between Canada and Russia, I’d rather see Russia continue. Not because I have anything against the amazing players on Canada (save one or two – LOL) nor the country (Vancouver is one of my favorite cities in the world), but because Russia is just a more exciting team to watch. The have a fire that is… fun. They are having fun, so you have fun watching them.

I’m open for any eventualities, and LOVE the unknown of it all. Nothing is a sure thing in this one-game elimination setting that we are entering. But that’s what makes it so exciting! Slovakia or Sweden? Russia or Canada – or does Germany surprise the world and be the ones to take them both down. Now THAT would be a long shot. However it goes, whatever the outcome, it’s an amazing game and I wouldn’t miss this for the world!

...U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!...

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