Two More Big Games on Wednesday - The Show Must Go On
The main attention of the hockey world tomorrow no doubt will be on the first two games of the day featuring United States and Switzeland, followed by what is promising to be another game for the ages between Russia and Canada (FTF is previewing these in separate articles). But that's the beauty of the Olympic hockey - it's very difficult to predict which teams will actually play in the final at this tournament. Case in point - two games last night where #10 seed Norway and #12 seed Latvia were on the verge of pulling an upset and knocking out Slovakia and Czech Republic teams out of the tournament. The stakes are high at this stage and every player on the ice wants to be part of the hockey history. As a result, we can sit back and enjoy the drama unfold as Olympic show goes on. Those of us who will be in the good mood after 7pm PT have a choice to tune in and witness two more quarter finals between four European teams, and here is what to look for in these games.
Finland - Czech Republic, 7pm PT, CNBC. After losing 0-3 to Sweden in the last game of the group stage, Finland had a chance to spend an extra day resting and practicing before their game against the Czechs. The question here is which team shows up for the game tonight? The one that beat Belorus 5:1, and Germany 5:0 or the one that lost 0:3 to Sweden? With Finland Olympic athletes overall having a dismal Olympics so far (just one silver medal won), all eyes, hopes and prayers in Finland are on their hockey team. Finns will be playing without arguably their best defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who's disqualified for this game for an illegal hit on Patric Hornquist.
As for Czech Republic, they are entering this game after a major scare against Latvia, who tied the game at 2:2 with minutes left in the third period, with Czechs prevailing in the overtime. They played majority of that game without Jaromir Jagr, who was injured and left the game in the second period. The extend of the injury is unknown at this point, but Czechs head coach Vladimir Ruzicka said that he believes Jagr will still play. Will fatigue and stress of the game against Latvia influence how Czechs play tonight? And what happens if they have to play without their top player Jagr?
The winner of this game gets to play the winner of USA - Switzerland.
Sweden - Slovakia, 9pm PT, CNBC. In the last game of the night, Sweden is attempting to reach another medal round at the Olympics while Slovakia is looking for its first ever berth. Sweden is another team that played inconsistent hockey in the group stage, but they did show up for the game that mattered most against their biggest rival Finland last Sunday. This, of course, should not surprise us seeing how the core of their team plays for Detroit Red Wings, who love doing just this kind of trick in their games against the Sharks this season. It's time for our Douglas Murray and his Team Sweden to shine.
Slovakia, however, has a chance to pull an upset here and dethrone the current Olympic champion Sweden. If NY Rangers, as bad as they are, can still hang on to playoffs spot in the Eastern Conference mainly through the effort of Slovakia's Marian Gaboric, Slovakia always has a chance in any game they play. Although they only beat Norway by one goal, they'll be extra motivated against Sweden, playing for their teammate Lubos Bartecko who left the game on a stretcher after one of the ugliest illegal hits of the tournament by Norway's Ole Kristian Tollefsen.
The winner of this game gets to play the winner of Canada - Russia game.