Neither Martin Erat nor Nick Backstrom scored in the first day of the mens tournament, so Caps Olympians haven’t got a whole lot of highlight-reel time so far. That changed real early on Thursday as Alex Ovechkin scored on his very first shift and John Carlson started off a scoring explosion for Aaaaaaaaaaamerica.
Unless your loyalties lie with Milan Jurcina and the Slovenians, Caps fans probably enjoyed Thursday’s hockey. I didn’t exactly relish my five-screen experience (USA on the TV, RUS on the laptop, notes on the other laptop, social on the iPad, Flappy Bird on the iPhone), I think I’ve gotta call it a successful morning as well. Shaybu, y’all.
Let’s do the recap.
USA 7, Slovakia 1
Clad in pajamas and wrapped in blankets, the entire snowbound east coast of the States tuned in for this one– saying in unison as the puck dropped, “wait, which team is America?” In the navy and white, the Slovaks! In the white and navy, USA! Very helpful uniform coordination guys. Bravo.
Like I said, John Carlson opened up a torrent of scoring for the good guys, taking a drop-pass from Amanda’s brother to beat Jaroslav Halak, the much-hated goal/wall from the fabled 2010 Caps-Habs playoff series.
The second period was a monster. Scoring came from all four lines, and the Americans were able to do the undoable: chase Halak from net. Peter Budaj got just as perforated though, as Paul Stastny and the Torontonian delegation (JVR, Phil Kessel) all contributed to a heckuva lotta scoring.
Zdeno Chara played just 18 minutes for the Slovaks, which is just wrong. He usually plays between 22 and 30 minutes in Boston. Looks like we’re seeing all-star ice time policies in this tournament– regardless of the stakes or the talent differential on these teams.
The USA’s plus-six goal differential should look good if the prelim round ends in a tie– though I doubt that will happen. On Saturday morning, the US will face Russia. It’s gonna be The War of the Roses for RMNB. Sorry, sorry– too nerdy. I mean, it’s gonna be like Game of Thrones for RMNB.
Russia 5, Slovenia 2
Fittingly, Alex Ovechkin scored the game’s first goal, cruising up the left wing and releasing from the Ovi Spot(TM). That was the right way to start, and it seemed for a moment like Russia had a big game in them once Evgeni Malkin doubled up. Except the Slovenians didn’t lie down. Ziga Jeglic put a pair of goals on a pretty weak Russian defense to make this way more interesting than the host country wanted. The second period was unbearably tight– with most of the action happening in neutral– but the Russians got back on track in the third with goals by Nichushkin and Belov.
Still, this shouldn’t have been a contest. Slovenia has just two players in the NHL and KHL. It’s Anze Kopitar, Jan Mursak, and a bunch of other dudes. One of those other dudes, Ziga Jeglic, had a big game, but they still shouldn’t have been able to threaten the Russians. And with the Americans running up the score in this preliminary round, Russia might have some goal-differential envy.
At least Ovi got a goal and an assist, locked down his spot on the left side of the power play, and looked pretty jolly in Russian red. Dimitri at NHL Numbers has a good write-up on the game and a scoring-chances tally. The rest of the team… I’m not so sure. Pavel Datsyuk is clearly playing through his knee injury, and he’s not doing it particularly well despite some great puck-moving chemistry with Ilya Kovalchuk during power plays. Valeri Nichushkin was excellent (on offense at least), and his crash-the-net goal was the best of the day.
But overall, Russia doesn’t look like a gold-medal team. At least not yet.
Canada 3, Norway 1
The Canada game was on the USA channel. It was called by a broadcast team consisting entirely of Americans and one reptile-humanoid hybrid. Very confusing for me, but at least we still had crazy old Canadian Hockey Twitter to keep us company.
Canada looked surprisingly un-best-team-ever-assembled-y in the first period, outshooting Norway 9 to 8 and outscoring them not at all. Canada Twitter’s freakout ended in the second period as Shea Weber and Jamie Benn scored and the team looked exactly as dominant as they were supposed to look. Norway got just two shots in the second period: a first one, and then a little later, a second one, and that was it.
Norway got a Norgoal on a powerplay early in the third, but Drew Doughty played inhumanly to neutralize it with one of his own. In the end it was a decisive but modest 3-1 win for the team that was expected to wallop by a touchdown or more. That doesn’t mean that Canada isn’t bound for the podium, they are, but I still bet we’re gonna hear some panicky chatter from north of the border later today.
Assorted Olympic thoughts:
I’m working from home today, idly watching some mens figure skating while I type up some validation reports. Those dudes are robust. Radical thought, and tell me if I’m wrong here: the toughness-weakness spectrum is not the same thing as the masculine-feminine spectrum.
Word has it that Sweden’s Henrik Zetterberg missed the team photo and practice. He’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury, which is bad news if your tournament is only a few days long. That’s a rough break for my gold-medal pick, but it could be fortuitous for Marcus Johansson, who was scratched from Sweden’s win over the Czechs.
Saturday morning is the Russia-America game, definitely the most important match of the preliminary round. I’m guessing Ryan Miller vs Semyon Varlamov in net, but Dan Bylsma isn’t telling just yet. This game is primed to start a full-on riot among RMNB staff and readers. I plant myself firmly on Team America, whereas some others–who shall go unnamed– are traitors.
Let’s try to keep it civil. Screw those guys.
CORRECTION, 3PM: I had Milan “Juice” Jurcina on Slovakia instead of Slovenia. I am shamed. Mursak is the Slovak KHLer. Thanks to Chris for the correctitude.