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Olympic Hockey Day 6 Open Thread: USA (Men & Women), Canada and the Final Day of the Women's Round Robin

Welcome to the third of a regular feature throughout the Olympic break, an open thread to discuss all that is going on in the sport of hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  (Note: John or I make these the night before, scheduled to appear at 10 AM.  I should be up for the late games, so hang out with me, won't you?.)

Just so you know, the Devils are stepping up online for additional coverage.  The official site has a hub for the Olympics; complete with a schedule for both tournaments. The team site also has a blog written by team correspondent Scott Modrzynski called The Devil is in the Details.  All posts are listed on the hub; just scroll down past the players and you'll see it on the side.  Zach Parise is also providing a few words to Tom Gulitti's Fire & Ice every day, so check that out.

Last night, Patrik Elias became the second Devil to score a goal in the Olympics, tallying the first goal for the Czech Republic in a 3-1 victory of Slovakia, in what was likely one of the two most competitive and legitimately exciting games of the first round that don't occur on Sunday (for those unaware, that'd be Finland-Sweden, Russia-Czechs and USA-Canada) and man, was there an atmosphere to this game.  As much as I hated him over the years, it's beautiful to watch Jaromir Jagr bury one on a breakaway.  

Marian Gaborik (yeah, really, he played) tied the game before #68 hit paydirt and then set up Plekanac to make it 3-1 with :02 left in the second, from there things kind of fizzled, with Slovakia owning the third period shots-wise, but not coming closer than Hossa hitting the post.  The fact that they must play twice in a row will be an interesting aspect of today's action: will it benefit them or hurt them?

Also from later in the evening, Switzerland defeated Slovakia 4-2 in women's hockey, though neither will qualify for the medal round, it's good to get a victory at the Olympic games.  Canada dominated Sweden (surprisingly, considering this was a gold medal match four years ago) 13-1 in women's round robin action, giving Canada a perfect record in the opening round.  Sweden will still move on to the medal round as well, though maybe can't feel as good about themselves going into this as they did four years ago.  As you likely know, Finland defeated Belarus and Sweden defeated Germany in men's action.  No real surprises yet in either tourney.

Special Rule: Do not use these posts to complain about how no one cares about Women's or Men's Ice Hockey. This isn't the place for that. Violators will be banned until March 1 assuming no other rules were broken.

Please use this post will be used to collect for all your comments, analysis, and thoughts about today's hockey games in Women's and Men's Ice Hockey games.   Not the other Olympic sports, mind you.

Song to Get You Pumped Up: The Avett Brothers "Kick Drum Heart".



Women's Ice Hockey

5:30 PM ET/2:30 PM PT - Group B: USA vs. Finland (MSNBC): Can Team USA match Canada's perfect record?  Does Finland show any signs of becoming a potential spoiler, a la Team Sweden in Turin?  Or at least solidify themselves as the favorite in the Bronze Medal game?

10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT - Group B: Russia vs. China (CNBC): Both of these teams are playing for better seeding in what can be termed "the loser's tournament" which will decide 5th thru 8th place.

Men's Ice Hockey

3:00 PM ET/12:00 PM PT - Group A: USA vs. Norway (USA Network): Can the Americans pile up goals on Team Norway to give their offense some chemistry and confidence headed into the Canada game?  Will the defense use this as a better tuneup than the Switzerland game?  Does Norway score a goal in the entire tourney?

7:30 PM ET/4:30 PM PT - Group A: Switzerland vs. Canada (CNBC): After a pretty decent performance vs. Team USA, can the Swiss play the spoiler again vs. Canada?  Does Marty give Mike Babcock confidence enough to start him vs. the Americans?  Will the Canadians keep it close enough so that the Swiss can pull their goalie and allow Marty to shoot for one?

Midnight ET/9:00 PM PT - Group B: Slovakia vs. Russia (CNBC): As I mentioned in last night's recap: How will the two games in two nights affect the Slovaks?  Will the Russians take them lightly after rolling against Latvia?

Want to watch the games online and legally?  NBC has them here.  Thanks to user C.J.Richey121 for the heads up.  Join us, won't you?

UPDATE: Some commentary from Fischer, specifically on Canada-Switzerland.  Prepare for liftoff:

Canada blew a two goal lead, one off a great shot (Swiss got lucky to avoid a holding call before Rathemann rushed up ice) and one break (Marleau's skate) in a period. I repeat, Canada blew a lead. Brodeur was fine, the team in front of him was sloppy in their own end. When Switzerland did get it up ice, they threatened Canada. Not that Canada didn't do any of their own. Canada put 46 shots on net in 65 minutes and had 7 power plays with only one converting. If the Swiss played a trap, then it was destroyed by Canada. Any Swiss "trap" did not prevent Canada from bombarding Hiller all night long.

They can only blame their own performance. Too many looks, too many moves, and not nearly enough simple, nose-to-the-grindstone hockey. I mean, the Canadian power play made the Devils' power plays look good against Switzerland. Canadian fans cannot complain at all about a lack of chances, they should complain about how their all-star offense got dulled by a Swiss defense featuring Mark Streit, two NHL prospects (Sbisa, Weber), a SEL defender (Blindenbacher) and 4 Swiss-league defensemen. Canada was outworked and outgritted by Switzerland and they passed up open shots looking for the perfect shot that wasn't necessarily there. THAT was your problem, Canada. Not a trap, not home-ice pressure, but the Canadian performance and approach to this game.

Of course, Switzerland got a fantastic, out-of-this-world performance from Jonas Hiller with his defense playing brilliant reaction-based defending, cleaning up loose pucks and sacrificing their bodies for shots. Among the defensemen, Luca Sbisa stood out the most, playing like Chris Prongerused to do on defense. Flyers and Ducks fans should be elated with these performances, outside of all the Swiss supporters. Without both, it would have been a walk in the park for Canada - something the Canadian players apparently expected.

At the end of the day, it's all about results. Canada got it with the shootout, yet per Olympic rules that's 2 points and not 3. Therefore, the United States leads Group A by a point heading into Sunday's big game.

Above all, while Canadian media and their fans will think the adversity will do good for the team in the long run, the larger message is that no one should be scared playing this team. Switzerland knew they had nothing to lose, everything to gain, and physically took it to Canada and nearly came out winners. If the Swiss can do it, then why not the Americans, the Swedes, the Russians, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Finns, or anyone else for that matter? No one should be scared against playing Canada - they are not unstoppable. And that's some Real Talk.