Wednesday, February 15, 2006

At least we didn't lose

In the opening game of the Olympic men's hockey competition, the favored US team could only manage a 3-3 tie with Lativa.

Men's hockey is far more competitive than women's hockey. In the women's competition, the winner of the US-Canada game will win the gold, and every one else will play for bronze. In the men's, although Canada is the favorite any one of the top 7 teams (Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Slovakia, and the US) could get hot and win it all, and every one of them has a realistic chance at winning at least the bronze.

The US team has barely had time to practice together and it showed. They came out hot at first but slowed down in the second period. The Latvian goalie (a former NHLer) kept them in the game, and they took advantage of the US listlessness. The Latvians played much better than their seeding, and could pull of some more upsets in this tournament.

The US has a favorable early schedule. Although Latvia was supposed to be an easy victory, at least they didn't lose. With another easy game against Kazakhstan tomorrow, they should earn a win and a tie before being able to rest for a day in advance of the first real test against Slovakia on Saturday.

I always have high hopes for US hockey, but historically they don't do very well in Olympic games outside the US. If they can play the way they did in the first period of today's game for a full 60 minutes, then there's no reason they couldn't win a medal, possibly even a gold. But if they play like they did in the second period, they'll be lucky to finish in the top 6.

I predict they'll have a record of 3-1-1 and finish 2nd in their pool. They should beat Kazakhstan tomorrow easily. Slovakia will be harder, but the US has always played well against them and this year should be no exception. The US has also had Russia's number lately, so with the Russians not playing that well so far the US should be able to beat them, too. The real test will be against Sweden, and I simply can't see them beating a Swede team that is playing well.

In the medal round, it will be a tough game against Finland, the team that should finish 3rd in pool A. After that, though, comes Canada in the semifinals. Although I'd love to see the US beat them, I'm not sure they'll be able to. They'll have to beat a good Czech team for the bronze, which I believe is entirely possible.

So there you have it. Captain Holly predicts Gold for US women, Bronze for the men. We'll see how close I got it in a couple of weeks.


Post a Comment

<< Home