Hockey Olympics Buzz
Team Canada survived a major scare Thursday night, needing a shootout to upend a less inferior team in Switzerland.
Canada regarded by many as the overwhelming gold medal favorites, surrendered a two-goal lead to Switzerland but it was Sidney Crosby and Martin Brodeur who saved Canada from a potential shocking loss as Crosby scored on his second shootout attempt and Brodeur went 4-for-4 in the shootout to give Canada a 3-2 win in the extra session.
Unlike NHL shootout rules, players are allowed to shoot twice in the Olympics. After Crosby failed to score in his first attempt and Canada was 0-for-3 in the first round of the shootout, head coach Mike Babcock went back to Crosby, who GM Steve Yzerman called the face of Canada during Monday’s press conference.
Despite needing a shootout to upend Switzerland, Canada was dominant in the first and third periods.
Canada out shot Switzerland 17-8 in the first period and 18-3 in the third but they ran into a hot goaltender in Jonas Hiller who made 44 saves on 47 shots.
However, Canada failed to put an inferior team away and had a let down in the second period as Switzerland scored twice and played evenly for a few stints in the second period.
Canada’s production offensively came from their Sharks duo of Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley as Marleau and Heatley each scored.
Sidney Crosby was held pointless in regulation after a three point night on Tuesday.
The Canadians now have two days off before Sunday’s match up against the United States who are 2-0 in the tournament and have a one point advantage in the standings.
Team USA off to 2-0 start
The United States improved to 2-0 after Thursday’s 6-1 win over Norway. Holding only a 3-1 lead going into the third period, a blow out win was important for USA from a tiebreakers standpoint, and three third period goals, including a pair of late goals from Brian Rafalski gave them the blow out win that they needed heading into Sunday’s showdown with Canada.
The Americans held a 39-11 edge in shots over Norway, who is among the worst teams in the tournament.
Despite holding a significant edge in shots, a concern for Team USA has been the defensive breakdowns as the Americans have been aggressive with their defenseman jumping up into the play.
Against Norway and Switzerland, USA has been able to withstand odd-man breaks but that won’t be the case when they begin to face medal teams.
The stars for Team USA have been somewhat quiet through the first two games but the Americans are getting significant production from the likes of role players Ryan Malone and Joe Pavelski.
With a one point edge of Canada, a win on Sunday will secure a bye for Team USA in the quarterfinals.
Russia’s offensive stars shutout
Slovakia did what many would have thought as unthinkable, keeping star forwards Iyla Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Pavel Datsyuk off the score sheet.
Slovakia got a dominating performance from goaltender Jaroslav Halak who made 36 saves as Slovakia got a big win, upsetting Russia 2-1 in a shootout.
Trailing 1-0 in the third period, Marian Hossa tied up for Slovakia midway through the third period and Pavol Demitra scored in the seventh round of the shootout to upend Russia.
Slovakia has started the tournament with what may be the toughest schedule, after an opening game loss to Czech Republic who like the Russian’s, is regarded as a strong contender for a medal.
Is it time to panic for Russia? Likely not but things won’t get any easier with a matchup against Czech Republic Sunday night.