Look for Canada, U.S. wins in quarters
A look ahead at Wednesday’s quarterfinal matchups at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Russia vs. Canada
The game everyone wanted to see for gold is now one for survival, with one of the two pre-tournament favorites leaving the Olympic city without any hardware.
"It's what we expected. We knew come this time they're all must-wins,” Sidney Crosby said. “It's a matter of who we play. That's just the way it is. We have to be ready for it, and we are."
The Canadians have put the puck in the net more than any other team in the tournament, but 16 of those goals have come in blowout victories over Norway and Germany. The Russians have also had their ups and downs, most notably a preliminary round shootout loss to the Slovaks.
As if the pressure wasn’t already against the Canadians, history is just as unkind. Canada, even with triumphs in the Soviet Series and the Canada Cup, has never beaten the Russians in Olympic play, including a 2-0 quarterfinal loss four years ago in Torino.
The pick: Canada. The Canadians are deeper on the defensive end, but the goaltending remains a huge question mark. What will we see out of Roberto Luongo on the biggest stage of his professional career? He is 11-11 all time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and his Canucks have been chronic underachievers in his time there.
Sweden vs. Slovakia
Don’t tell the Swedes they’re the favorite in the eyes of many at this stage, but they are right where they should be. Three effective, efficient victories have showcased their depth and their ability to play at both ends of the ice.
“I mean, everybody had some tough games,” Swedish coach Bengt Ake Gustafsson said of the competition. “But the margins are small in a lot of those games.”
The Slovaks have given one of the tournament favorites, the Russians, one of those games and Jaroslav Halak ended the preliminary round with just one goal allowed in his last seven periods. The Slovaks have a pair of dynamic forwards in Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik, not to mention the defending Calder winner in Zdeno Chara. They got here on the heels of a 4-3 defeat of Norway thanks to a third-period goal from Bruin Miroslav Satan.
The pick: If you want an upset, Halak can pull it here. Though the Swedes are so fundamentally sound that I don’t expect it.
Finland vs. Czech Republic
The Czechs' loss to the Russians to end the preliminary round may have been a blessing in disguise. It set up a second meeting with the worst team in the tournament, the Latvians, a game which they survived by the skin of their teeth, but in turn Jagr and Co. also received a more favorable side of the bracket, avoiding the host country Canada.
The Fins beat the Americans in the quarterfinals four years ago in Torino, sparking their eventual run to a silver medal. Thus far they’ve played a feisty, strong, defensive style over their first three games.
"They have a lot of experience and skill,” forward Patrik Elias said. “They also have a tough, good goaltender. Nothing is going to be easy.”
The Fins will also be without Joni Pitkanen, who was suspended after an ejection in the second period of Sunday’s game against Sweden for checking Sweden’s Patric Hornqvist in the head.
The pick: Take the Fins with the extra day of rest being able to shut down Jagr and Company.