Today both of the Olympic Hockey Semi-final games will be played. First at noon PST Team USA will play Finland and at 6:30 pm PST host Canada will play Slovakia. The winner of each of these games will meet in the gold-medal game Sunday at 12:15 pm PST. Today’s losers will meet in the consolation bronze medal game Saturday at 7 pm PST. After struggling with a pretty poor user interface on the NBC TV Listings website it looks like all of these games will be on regular NBC.
American fans, Canadian fans, and certainly NBC and their sponsors are all hoping for a Canada-USA gold medal final. Odds-makers seems to be expecting that as well, though Olympic betting is a tricky off-shore entanglement, frowned on by the IOC and practically limited to only the most degenerate sports gamblers, myself included.
The USA comes into today’s first game riding high off a win over Switzerland that, while a nail-biter score-wise, was always in USA control. I certainly never expected the score at the end of two periods to be 0-0, (a contested last-second no-goal actually seems like the right call). You could say Zach Parise saved the day with his power-play go-ahead goal (and nail-in-coffin empty-netter), but in reality Mighty Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller was playing the game of his life to keep it a shutout and he could only hold back the tide so long. At the end of the second period, the USA had outshot Switzerland 32 to 8 and sooner or later that offensive onslaught was going to prove out on the scoreboard.
Finland reached the Semis against USA having shut out the Czech Republic in their quarterfinal with goals from Niklas Hagman and an empty-netter from Valtteri Filppula. The Calgary Flame’s goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is playing well and will be difficult for team USA to score against. I think this game might play out like the Switzerland game, with USA coming out ahead if they get a lot more offensive chances. They’ve been playing aggressively and there’s no sign they will let up now. Watch for experienced captain Jamie Langenbrunner to lead the offensive charge.
This evening’s Canada vs. Slovakia game will decide the other half of the gold medal final. After some shaky moments, Canada is now playing like they’ve been shot out of a cannon. They annihilated the very strong, gold-medal-favorite Russians 7-3, putting 4 goals in Nabokov’s net in the first period. I’m pretty sure he can’t go back to Russia and is now seeking asylum from Canada. Slovakia is the closet thing we have left to a Cinderella and their narrow win over Norway surprised most and kept the drama at a fever pitch. Look for Canadian fans to urge their team toward another dominating performance tonight.