Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Men's Olympic Hockey Update

The men's preliminary rounds ended today in Olympic hockey. Here were my predictions at the outset of the tournament. Although I doubt this will remain true after tomorrow's games, it is still possible that my predicted finish order can occur.

Group A

1. Finland 5-0 This team has been the best in the tournament so far. They have outscored their opponents by a remarkable 19-2. In fact, only the Czech Republic managed to score against them. Both goaltenders that have played, Antero Niittymaki and Fredrik Norrena have two shutouts each. This strong goaltending is a suprise given the fact that their first two choices in goal, Miikka Kiprusoff and Kari Lehtonen missed the Olympics due to nagging injuries. Offensively, the line of Teemu Selanne, Jere Lehtinen and Saku Koivu has been the top scoring forward unit in the tournament so far.

2. Switzerland 2-1-2 This team suprised the pundits by defeating the top rated Canadian and Czech teams. They have done this on strong goaltending by David Aebsicher and Martin Gerber. Paul DiPietro has been their top offensive player with three goals.

3. Canada 3-2-0 This talent-laden team had a couple suprisingly poor games. They were shutout in back-to-back games against Switzerland and Finland. They should be dangerous in the playoff, as they are the most talented team in the tournament. Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo have shared the goaltending load. They have not had the offensive success most predicted before the tournament. So far, Brad Richards and Shane Doan have been some of their highest scorers.

4. Czech Republic 2-3-0 This talented team has also underacheived, but it is more easily explained given the fact that Dominik Hasek and Patrik Elias went home injured and Jaromir Jagr got hurt as well (though he remains with the team and has played after the injury). Tomas Vokoun has done most of their goaltending since Hasek left. Despite his injury, Jaromir Jagr is a top scorer, along with Martin Straka and defenceman Tomas Kaberle.

5. Germany 0-3-2 This team was outclassed in the tournament. Olaf Kolzig provided goaltending to keep them in most of their games. Tino Boos has been their top offensive player. Christian Ehrhoff played a solid tournament on defence.

6. Italy 0-3-2 This team was also outclassed. Jason Muzzatti played admirably in goal. John Parco, Tony Iob and Giorgio De Bettin were their offensive leaders.

Group B

1. Slovakia 5-0 Karel Krisan and Peter Budaj have provided strong goaltending on this undefeated team. Marian Hossa is tied for the tournament lead in points so far. Pavol Demitra, Marian Gaborik and Peter Bondra have all had offensive success.

2. Russia 4-1 Aside from an early loss to Slovakia, this team has played well. They have had the best offense in the tournament so far. Evgeni Nabokov (from Kazakhstan) has provided very good goaltending. Their balanced offence has been lead by Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, Alexei Kovalev and Maxim Sushinsky.

3. Sweden 3-2 This biggest story for this team has been the health of star forward Peter Forsberg. He missed two of the five games so far, but appears to be healthy and ready for the medal round. They have had strong goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist. Daniel Alfredsson and Mats Sundin have been some of their offensive leaders.

4. USA 1-3-1 This team has been inconsistent so far. At times they have looked good. At other times they have looked very beatable. Rick DiPietro has played well in goal. Scott Gomez, Craig Conroy and Brian Rolston have been the offensive leaders so far.

5. Kazakhstan 1-4-0 This team has been outclassed in the tournament. Their only really strong game was against Latvia. They have had good goaltending from Vitaliy Yaremeyev and Vitaliy Kolesnik. Yevgeniy Koreshkov was their offensive leader, followed by his brother Alexandr.

6. Latvia 0-4-1 This team started off very well with a tie against USA, but was outclassed in most of their other games. Aleksandrs Nizivijs was their offensive leader along with defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh. Their goaltending tandem of Arturs Irbe and Edgars Masalskis put up some pretty poor goaltending numbers.

The playoff round beings tomorrow as Slovakia plays the Czech Republic, Russia plays Canada, Switzerland plays Sweden and Finland meets USA. The four winners will advance to the medal round.

For results of the women's tournament look here.

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