The preliminary round of men’s hockey at the 2014 Winter Olympics is winding down, but there’s still plenty of drama to be found on the ice.
Below you can find the schedule for the remainder of the games in the preliminary round-robin portion of the men’s hockey tournament.
|Norway vs. Austria||3:00 a.m. EST||NBC Sports Live Extra|
|Slovakia vs. Russia||7:30 a.m. EST||NBC Sports Live Extra|
|United States vs. Slovenia||7:30 a.m. EST||NBC Sports Live Extra|
|Canada vs. Finland||12:00 p.m. EST||NBC Sports Live Extra|
USA vs. Slovenia
The United States is certainly in the driver’s seat in Group A, but that’s no guarantee it will stay there.
Slovenia has managed to stay afloat in the group thanks to earning one win over Slovakia, meaning it could vault into first place with a win over the Americans and a loss by Russia.
The Slovakians’ chances against Russia don’t seem good, but the Slovenians could easily play spoiler and deliver the group to the Russians with a win over the U.S.
The Americans will undoubtedly be drained after their hard-fought shootout win over Russia, and they could easily underestimate the Slovenians.
To combat the fatigue the team suffered, particularly on the part of goalie Jonathan Quick, the team could consider making some big substitutions, as Nick Vlahos of The Peoria Journal Star suggests.
Thing is, the U.S. has to come back tomorrow and play a Slovenia team that isn't a pushover. Miller gets the start in goal? #Sochi2014— Nick Vlahos (@VlahosNick) February 15, 2014
Slovenia only boasts one NHL player on the roster, but it’s a good one. Forward Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings is a supremely skilled player on both ends of the ice, and he’ll hassle the Americans for the whole game.
American fans might be ready to celebrate after their big Russian win, but they’d be wise to hold off on the parties until after this big matchup with Slovenia.
Canada vs. Finland
Finland and Canada have both looked excellent in the early going, so this matchup will be crucial for each team’s medal chances.
The two teams have taken turns dismantling Norway and Austria, and now all that’s left is for them to battle it out to see which country wins the group.
For Canada, the key will likely be which goalie starts in net, and if they can perform under the huge pressure.
Both Roberto Luongo and Carey Price have played well in the team’s pair of games, so it’ll be a hard choice for head coach Mike Babcock to make.
Luongo made 23 saves in a shutout against Austria, while Price allowed one goal against Norway, so it’s pretty much a toss-up at this point.
“It’s about our country and about making the right decisions,” Babcock told GlobalNews.ca's Heather Loney.
The Finns are facing a similar dilemma.
Tuukka Rask has been a dominant netminder for the Boston Bruins in the NHL this season, but he uncharacteristically allowed four goals to the Austrians.
By contrast, Kari Lehtonen stopped 20 of 21 shots against Norway in his lone start, so Finland will have to balance consistency with Rask’s history.
While the goalies might be uncertain for each team, one thing’s for certain—neither team lacks offense.
Each team has plenty of NHL players on its top lines, so scoring won’t be an issue.
Instead, it’ll come down to the performance of the goalies and each team’s defenders. Canada seems to have the advantage on the blue line, thanks to players like Jay Bouwmeester and Drew Doughty, but Finland boasts electric Pittsburgh Penguins star Olli Maatta on its back end.
This game should be an electric one, and it could easily turn into a high-scoring one as well.
However, Canada will be angling to end it in regulation to earn the top seed going forward, as Russ Hobson of Global TV explains.
Sweden finishes prelim round +5 in goal differential.Canada already a +8 so any regulation win by Canada vs Finland would give them #1 Seed.— Russ Hobson (@russ_sportsguy) February 15, 2014
Both teams should be serious medal contenders down the line, and when you throw in the USA, Sweden and Russia, the fight for the gold medal will undoubtedly be a contentious one.