All the anticipation. Four years of ridiculous predictions and inane debate over a tournament that is only about the length of one NHL playoff series. But the day is finally here for Olympic hockey.
It is Vancouver 2010. Is one game in to all the hoopla too soon to start ranking the seven powerhouse teams?
Of course it is.
But that’s all part of the fun of the Olympics. There are a lot of great joys about Olympic hockey in comparison to NHL hockey: No trapezoid, no corporate advertising on the boards, and seeing old friends like Fedorov, Jagr, and Forsberg. I also happen to enjoy power rankings that can change significantly from one game to the next.
Here we go:
1. Canada (1-0)
It’s their ice. It’s gold or go home, and they are already home, so anything short of the gold medal is a national disappointment.
After idling through the first period against Norway, Canada hit the gas pedal with eight unanswered goals in the second and third.
Personally, I am still bitter about Stamkos and St. Louis being left off this team, but there is no denying that Canada is the deepest team at the Games.
2. Russia (1-0)
Canada wasn’t the only team to put up eight in their first game. The Russians, led by Mr. Eight himself, lit the lamp eight times against Latvia. What’s frightening is there is still plenty of room for improvement from this offense.
The power play show was fun to watch, but overall ineffective at one for eight. Russia needs to remember no matter how much talent is on the ice for a power play, you still need to put a body in front of the net and shoot the puck.
3. Sweden (1-0)
Sweden may not have had as flashy of a victory as Russia or Canada in their first contest against Germany, but this team is too talented to be ranked any lower. The defending gold medalists still have one more “tune-up” before their big rivalry day match-up with the Finns.
4. Finland (1-0)
Against Belarus, Team Finland looked like they might have found that natural chemistry that brought them to the silver medal podium in 2006. Finland managed to out-shoot Belarus 45-12 for a 5-1 victory.
5. Czech Republic (1-0)
Jaromir Jagr looked true to form in the most exciting of all the opening games. The Czechs were able to switch gears completely and stifle Slovakia with a neutral zone trap in the third period to seal a 3-1 victory.
That kind of systematic play could help them win other close games down the stretch.
6. USA (1-0)
Team USA got some big individual goals from David Backes and Bobby Ryan en route to a 3-1 win over the Swiss.
The highly anticipated first line of Parise, Kane, and Stastny line looked awesome on their first shift but seemed to fade out after that.
As a Team USA fan, I think what this line needs is a good name to get it going. All the great lines have a great name like the “French Connection” or the “Legion of Doom.” I believe Doc Emrick himself even suggested that this line needs a name...
From this day forward, Zach Parise, Paul Stastny, and Patrick Kane will be known as the “1-2-3 Line.”
I dubbed them the “1-2-3 Line” because they are USA’s top three forwards, they make tic-tac-toe passes like one-two-three, and their jersey numbers add up to 123 (9 + 88 + 26 = 123). If anyone has a better suggestion, please let it be known now.
7. Slovakia (0-1)
Slovakia is the only team of the big seven to start out with a loss, but they are a very dangerous team and my dark horse pick for a medal, provided that Halak can find a rhythm. Slovakia blocked a ton of shots against the Czechs and Gaborik appeared to be very un-hampered by his injury.
Watching the Czech vs. Slovakia game, I couldn’t help but wonder about the super-team that could be created if these countries could put aside political differences and once again unite as Czechoslovakia for the sake of hockey.
Oh, the joys of Olympic hockey.