It's rivalry day in the Olympic men's hockey tournament. Canada and the United States on one side of the draw, Finland and Sweden on the other. But are we going to see anything that will top the drama of the women's gold medal match yesterday?
A 2 goal US lead being cut in half with 3:26 left in the game, an attempt at an empty Canadian net hitting the post, the game-tying goal scored with less than a minute remaining and Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados on the bench, and a curious at best sequence of officiating in overtime to give Canada the powerplay that proved decisive. Phew. Makes me breathless just thinking about it.
What will the game be remembered for though? Canada's amazing late-game dramatics? Or the controversial overtime penalty calls? A quote from Hayley Wickenheiser, the Canadian forward whose overtime breakaway drew the penalty, is revealing: "We got the call late in the game. The ref was a factor all night, and it worked out for our favor in the end."
Suffice to say, Team USA were not best pleased.
That was then though. Let's focus on the now, now. Kari Lehtonen should be providing moral support for Team Finland as this article is being published in a rematch of the 2006 Olympic gold medal match. Just as the USA-Canada match later this morning is a rematch of the 2010 gold medal match. And that of 2002! I sense a conspiracy!
Anyway, here's hoping Finland beat their rivals today, perhaps with Kari Lehtonen swooping in to save the day and thus earning the right to start on Sunday and play an amazing game, only to fall agonizingly short against the USA who will, if all goes according to an idealized scenario, crush Canada in their semifinal today, despite Jamie Benn netting a hat-trick for Canada.
That is, if the truly ideal scenario, one in which Jamie Benn defects during warmups and skates for Team USA, fails to come to pass.
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The X-Factors for all four semifinal teams, courtesy of NHL.com. [Finland] [Sweden] [Canada] [USA]
Harrison Mooney, with a 100% objective, wholly infallible, completely unbiased take on today's USA-Canada game. [Puck Daddy]
Not to be outdone, the Canafornians weigh in on these epic two days of USA-Canadian rivalry-ness. For Derek and any other closet Canadians, here's the view from north of the border. And for everyone else, USA-USA-US... wait. What? Is this... no. No, it's cool. I get it. Rock, Flag and Eagle for the win!
The stakes are getting high for this USA-Canada game. President Obama has already lost a case of beer to Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper, and there's another one riding on today's game. And then there's also the small matter of who has to keep Bieber. On another note, the White House has it's own home brew?
The Stars back home are keeping an eye on this one. USA supporters are badly outnumbered in the Dallas locker room though. [Stars Inside Edge]
An ominous silence from Russia following their early exit... [Fourth-Place Medal]
I'm a day late with this one, but that's going to happen from time to time. Deal with it. It's Anze Kopitar talking of the performance of his country, Slovenia in case you haven't been paying attention, in the Sochi Olympics. Two wins and a quarterfinal appearance in their first trip to the Olympics as an independent nation. Not too shabby. Especially not when you consider that the country has fewer than 150 registered male hockey players. A number that would mean 1 in 6 registered Slovenian players... made the national team? [NHL.com]
Yesterday's update on Islanders' captain John Tavares, injured in Canada's quarterfinal win, was not good. [NHL.com]
This is a long one, so perhaps read it over several sittings. Or maybe during a boring morning at work. It's worth it. The story behind the success of Finnish goaltenders. Or the secret perhaps? I just like that this guy is referred to as Obi-Wan. [The Atlantic]
And lastly, the women's gold medal match was certainly dramatic. But not much can top this:
RT @NBCOlympics: There was a 3-Way photo finish/crash in ski cross just now to qualify for the semifinals. No, really pic.twitter.com/UV1TejDtZU— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) February 20, 2014