First off, I really love to watch high level hockey, so these Olympics have been exciting to watch. I mean, I watched Sweden v. Slovakia and Finland v. Czech last night via the computer just because I love the sport. Do I have a life? Yes, it’s just that sometimes you gotta do your homework to know what the heck you are talking about.
The US will face Finland tomorrow at high noon in Vancouver for the right to play for the gold Sunday afternoon, and most likely face home-country favs Canada. I like Team USA here. Finland has two stud goalies in Kiprusoff and Backstrom, and some solid forwards (Selanne, Jokinen and the Koivus), but the Americans bring the toughness to the ice, and I think they can get a lead and sit on it. In last nights game with Czech, Finland looked very sluggish offensively. There was no explosion to the net, and their one legit goal was a fluky one in which one of the Czech defenders lost his helmet, (according to Olympic rules requires him to immediately go fetch it) thus he vacated his post covering his goalies blind right side. Finland threw something on net and it went in. I was actually not impressed with Finland all that much. Kiprusoff was solid, as usual. He is one of the better goalies in the world, so I expect him to carry Finland. If they have any shot at beating the Americans, he will have to be a wall.
For the Americans, they must stay aggressive in the offensive zone. They literally controlled the entire game verses Switzerland. The Swiss really had no shot once Team USA scored. Bobby Ryan and David Backes have been solid on defense, while Parise and Rafalski continue to provide pressure on offense. I was impressed with the Americans ability to change tactics throughout the game verses the Swiss. Switzerland was really locking this down on defense, so the Americans had to adjust their strategy, and it worked. They wore Switzerland down. A one goal lead was all they needed.
In the end, I see Team USA winning this game. They know what is on the line. They have grinded and fought to get where they are today, so I expect them to bring their A-game and defeat the Fins. The game will be close because Kiprusoff will keep it that way, but I think the Americans strike first, and then apply pressure the rest of the game, forcing the Fins to make mistakes along the way.
I am sensing an historic USA vs Canada match-up Sunday for the gold…