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Sunday, February 28, 2010

No moral victories for the US as Canada takes the Gold

At the end of the day ‘Sid the Kid’ redeemed himself for not converting on a breakaway opportunity earlier in the 3rd period that would have put the gold medal on ice, by scoring in overtime to give Canada the 3-2 win and the undisputed World Championship. The Canadians competed ‘the gauntlet’ winning four games in six days including victories over Russia and the US. Many north of the border felt the red leafs out played the US in the first game outshooting them better than 2 to 1, however the gold medal game was quite a different story as the shots were exactly even at the end of regulation, as were the face-offs won, but obviously the us would trade in improving in the statistical battle for the same result of their preliminary round. In fact, the Canadian 1-0 lead was the first time the US had trailed in the entire tournament. The key to Canada’s success was finally realizing that the crafty vet Brodour had lost a step, and tuned to Roberto Luongo who would have to be considered for MVP if there was such an honor. Based on the previous post it was clear I like many, at the start of the Olympics didn’t expect the US to medal let alone find themselves in the position where one goal would have meant Gold, and for that I profoundly apologize, and let me be the first to state that the “gap” between the US and the rest of the world in the sport of Hockey is officially closed, and going forward any ‘underdog’ labels are for motivational purposes only. However all of this is no consolation to team USA as they realized they had as good a shot, possibly better than anyone else and there would be no movies made after this team. It wasn’t the best tournament ever, as the Russians were clearly overrated, the Sweeds never lived up to their potential and, although I can appreciate an underdog victory as much as anyone else, want to see the top 4 seeds in the final four, but it was by far the best finals match ever, not just because it was the first OT since the Torino games, but add in the home country playing in the final game, where one goal either takes them to suicide watch or to the pinnacle. Great for drama but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s going to be the longest one-hour flight home ever for team USA. What are your thoughts on the Olympic Hockey Tournament? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

US won the battle but Canada is convinced it will win the war

The United States Men’s Hockey team remained unbeaten and top seed as the Olympic Hockey moves into it’s version of the “Frozen Four”. Along with their next opponent #4Finland, #7Slovakia, and #4Canada. Truth be told this is one of those situations where looking back, beating the Canadians for the first time in 50 years in Olympic competition may have been something other than “the greatest game since the Miracle on Ice”, as the Canadians appear stronger after their ordeal, and after disposing of an overrated Russian squad facing a #7 seed in Slovakia as the US takes on #4 Finland. After the country suffered a day of mourning, they came to the realization that they needed to win 4 games in six nights, with the toughest game supposedly coming in the quarters against Russia, basically passing off the loss to the US as an aberration, as they would probably have to face them again in the Gold Medal Game. Well, they not only won the first two of four, but looked very convincing in doing so, splitting the poles 15 times in the two games. Now they are left with only 7-seed standing in their way back to redemption, making their purgatory a very short lived one. Meanwhile the US has gone quietly about their business at 4-0, top seed, and facing a Finnish team that has played well defensively but shouldn’t have the team speed to stay with the younger US team (the US has 23 players under 25 years old), who is also more rested. Ya know it’s simply amazing how quickly the Cannucks turned those frowns upside down and after defeating the Russians, believe once again that they are the favorites to take gold on Sunday. “if it took the States 50 years to beat us once, they certainly can’t do it twice in one week” a popular paper wrote. Well, if it was disrespect that proved to be the catalyst for a US victory the first time around, there certainly won’t be a shortage of bulletin board material, but the US will be at a disadvantage possibly larger than facing a packed house with an entire nation watching, the fact that they won’t be able to catch the Canadians off guard this time. Can the US pull the ‘upset of the decade’ twice in one week? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

‘Horror Night’ in Canada

What normally is the best night of the week for native Canadians, the US Men’s Hockey team simply shocked the world by going into the lion’s den in the great white north and came out with a 5-3 victory. What made it so amazing wasn’t just the fact that it was the first US victory over Canada in 50 years but pure magnitude of the moment as 60 million fans watched the game north of the border (making it the most watched hockey game in the hockey nation’s history), the onslaught of shots, 45 in all, by a Canadian club that is composed of some the most talented players ever assembled, and the pressure of beating a team that literally had a country in its corner. Everyone’s looking at what’s wrong with the Canadian side and it’s no secret that Marty has not played his best games between the poles, and they may be a club that’s designed to much for offense, but those didn’t change the fact that the US came out and punched them in the mouth from the first minute on and never trailed in the game and although they never stopped cheering, the crowd at Canada Hockey Place was not at the deafening level until late in the 3rd period when it became more out of desperation than anything else. The US answered every Canadian score with one (or more) of their own and very quickly, so the Canadians could never build any momentum. What might even be more important than everything previously stated, the loser has a nothing short of a gauntlet to get to the gold medal game including games against the Russians and Swedes, where regardless of your seeding, they’re both in the top 4, while the winner must deal with a very beatable team from Finland (sound like shades of 1980?). In a tournament like this it’s all about getting a hot at the right time, a hot goalie, (much like Jim Craig in 80’), Ryan Miller stopped 42 of 45 shots, and getting non-stars to step up (Brian Rafalsky has 4 goals are year for the Red Wings and 4 goals in his 3 Olympic games, and lastly, not being afraid to do great things. The US has done that so far and their reward should be a gold medal match against one of the top 3 teams in the world. One would think the youngest team in the tournament will begin to feel the pressure, but then again, most of us are still rinsing out the taste of our shoes by now. How far can the US go? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympics have their version of “Rivalry Weekend”, as the Favorites face must win games

To say that it doesn’t get any bigger, would do it justice enough if you’re Canadian as it’s already being called the biggest game in Canadian Hockey history. Obviously, that’s a bit of hyperbole as they’ve played for medals before but not against the US and not in their own backyard. A loss to the US on Canadian soil would be the biggest LOSS in history even though a win wouldn’t constitute the same. The Canadians may have been looking ahead as they got sleeping against the Swiss and needed a Sidney Crosby goal in overtime to escape with the deuce but still trail the US by a point as the US is 2-0 and sits atop the group with six points. Normally you wouldn’t sweat the Leafs going against the US in their national sport, but because of all the hype and added pressure if the US can survive the first period onslaught of emotion it will work their advantage because you gotta’ believe the noose will tighten as the game goes on. What the US has to do is defend the Canadians off the boards, and limit the mental mistakes they made against the Swiss. Even though they won, on several occasions they were bailed out by superb goalie play as they over committed on the offensive end left themselves vulnerable to the counter attack against the Canadians that will prove to be fatal. The bottom line is that this is about more than just redemption from the 06’ games, this is about national pride, and as much as I’d love to see a sequel to the “miracle on ice” I can’t see it happening tomorrow.

Also on tap tomorrow is Russia vs. the Czech Republic as amazingly it’s the Russians who are in a must win situation and face the humility of not making the medal round after a loss as shocking as you’ll ever see, 1-2 to Slovakia. A favorite to hang gold in every Olympiad the Russians also may have been caught looking ahead and now face an even worse scenario in the event of a loss than the host do. Both would be embarrassed in the eyes of the fellow countrymen but at least the host could redeem themselves by coming back to win the gold where the Russians would be sent home medaless, and then probably to Siberia. This game will be the opening act for a very exciting day on the ice but you get the feeling the big red machine will answer the call in this one, realize what a close call it was, then get it together and find themselves in the Gold Medal Game.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Plushenko and Lysacek start a 'cold war' of their own

He didn’t have a lead pipe but his words had bad intentions and now we’ve got the best rivalry since 1994 when a couple of ladies, a thug, and a lead pipe were the story of the games. Now we have the defending Olympic Champion, Evgeni “King of the Quad” Plushenko and Evan Lysacek who seemed to come from nowhere. Like a great title fight, it had it’s ebbs and flows. Round 1: Plushenko wins the short program by .55 over Lysacek and heads into the Free Skate looking untouchable because only one other person can pull off a ‘quad’ and he’s in 5th place. Round 2: Lysacek skates the “routine of his life” and takes the lead, without any quads but with flawless execution. Plushenko does pull off the quad but stumbles just a bit and ends up losing the lead and the gold by a pretty wide margin (1.31) so not only did Lysacek come from behind but covered the teaser bet as well. Now let the fireworks begin. Well, it really hasn’t been an exchange, as all of the whining has come from the Russian camp, including the Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin. Firstly, EP accidentally on purpose steps on the Gold Medal stand when stepping up to accept the Silver. Then fires shots in both the US and Russian press conferences: “You can't be considered a true men's champion without a quad," and "For someone to stand on top of the podium with the gold medal around his neck by just doing triple jumps, to me it's not progress, it's a regress because we've done triples 10 or even 20 years ago," and lastly, "Just doing nice transitions and being artistic is not enough because figure skating is a sport, not a show,". Then VP chimed in from Sara Palin’s back yard, "You were able to overcome all the obstacles in your brave comeback and performed the most accomplished program on the Vancouver ice." Meanwhile, Lysacek has just been doing victory laps on TV and radio, and not having one cross word to say about EP or his comments, showing the class of a champion. Ok, everyone understands the heat of the battle, and that anytime you have an arbitrary system of scoring there’s going to be a margin of discrepancy the size of the Grand Canyon, but this guy simply thought all he had to do was get out there and do one trick then call it a night. Don’t get me wrong, the only skating I normally watch also involves an occasional fist fight, and that’s why it makes perfect sense to even a novice like myself. If the program is over 4 minutes long and the that jump takes about 10 seconds of it there must me more to winning than just jumping and landing. In fact even if you pull off the quad, you only pick up .5 more points in the maximum scenario so obviously your own rules EP leave a pretty big window that you’d better bring some other stuff to the table if you want to walk out with some industrial metal. Just because you knock the guy down in one round doesn’t mean you don’t have to fight the other 11, and Plushenko lost the split decision and the ripples are being felt from here to the Kremlin. The good news is we’re just getting started as both have committed to skating again in 2014 but next time Plushenko will have home Ice advantage and based on Putin’s words(if he’s still around) it will be a big one. Do you remember Rocky IV?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

US Hockey gets the win they needed, Jacobellis is denied redemption, Wier not in the hunt

**UPDATE** Vonn takes gold in downhill. Lindsey Vonn has overcome the “SI Jinx” and more than lived up to the hype by posting a winning time of 1:44.19 early that held up in the face of all comers to take the Gold Medal in the Women’s Downhill. Now the two questions that remain are the stability of her ankle as the weather, which has been her best friend, comes back to haunt her as now she has to ski on consecutive days. Secondly, now that the ‘monkey’ is off her back and she at least justified the swimsuit edition, can she justify the cover?

Mixed emotions for the US Winter Olympians on Day 4 as the US Hockey team looks like they may emerge from the ‘group of death’ after all after a huge win over Switzerland 3-1, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate, to start the tournament. Now, I realize it’s only one win but next up for the US is a Norwegian side that is very beatable, illustrated in their 8-0 loss to the Canadians. If they can take care of biznis’ in that game they go into the game with Canada 2-0 and the worst they can do is advance to the medal round as a 2, but that sets up a 1980’s rematch against Russia who might have a little something to play for and a little redemption on their minds. If you ever need an example of why you need to take advantage of opportunities in life when they’re presented look no further than Lindsey Jacobellis (and Dan Marino). Of course everyone remembers how Jacobellis was on her way to gold 4 years ago when all she needed to do was literally not fall down and it was her’s. Well she decided to get a little fancy and did exactly that, fell down and the rest is folklore. For four agonizing years she was the poster child for what NOT to do when victory was in sight, getting Leon Lett off the hook, and now was her time for redemption. Once again it slipped away as she was DLQ in the semis as she lost her balance after the second jump, and in the quest to regain her balance drifted out of bounds for the automatic DLQ. In several interviews prior to games she explained how she learned to live with the disappointment and how she was ready to get the lost gold back. Well, if she wasn’t the favorite this year I can’t see how she’ll be back 4 years from now, and even if she could the pressure to after 2 disappointments would be probably be more than even a thrasher could handle. Unfortunately Lindsey will be filed under the “one that got away”. Speaking of US overhype Johnny Wier has had more than his share of props for a guy with no hardware, and as in most cases when the sizzle is that hot, when the lights turn on there isn’t much steak in the pan (ie; Kristy Yamaguchi), and Wier looks to be the next in line after a sub-par short program that landed him sixth place,, he needs to perform like….well an athlete worthy of praise prior to performance, to get into medal contention. So, it looks like we can file him under “hot air dryer”. And what is up with Shani Davis no-showing in the 500 because he wanted to rest up for the 1500???? Talk about “stoneless”! Dude, you’re a world class athlete (also a WR holder) who will have an entire day to rest and the rest of your life remember. Man up, and if you lose the 5, fine. Come back and get your Gold in 1.5, but don’t just mail it in and blame it on fatigue. Who has been the biggest disappoint in the Olympics so far? The biggest surprise? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ohno wins Silver, becomes most decorated US Skater

Apolo Anton Ohno, won a silver medal in the Final of the Men’s 1500m short track creating a tie as the most decorated skater in US history tying Bonnie Blair. Ohno got off to an amazing start in his first heat as he looked like the season veteran his is, starting in dead last, letting the race take shape as well as the skaters getting winded, then struck in Ohno fashion moving on the outside and took the lead which he wouldn’t relinquish. In the semi-final, a scare as once he made his move late and pushed the lead and jostled a little with the eventual heat-winner Lee Jung-Su. In the final it was his old nemesis from the semis Jung-Su who held him off and denied him the Gold Medal, as AAO took the silver. An even bigger surprise was the heir apparent, John Celski the 19-year old from Washington whose Olympic run began in rehab after a devastating injury. So although he didn’t bring home the gold Ohno has proven the critics wrong as most pundits had written him off because he had “gone Hollywood” with the Dancing with the Stars, club appearances, and TV shows. However when all is said and done his four-a-days of 2 hours each were enough deposits to get him to the medal stand. As one of his fans of course I would have wanted to see gold, but the fact that he medaled sticks it to the cynics who need to take a step back and get off athletes like him, Phelps and others that don’t play in one of the big three sports. This is speed skating people! It’s popular once every 4 years and when you’ve got an opportunity to parlay one performance into a lifetime of endorsements, commercials, and/or reality TV programs, do it and tell those cynics where to go, as you’re on the way to the bank. He’s got another hot to become the best of all time and I for one would bank on that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Olympics take center stage, now what are the US athletes going to do with it?

The Winter Olympics should be the only game in town this weekend now that the Super Bowl (and parade) have come and gone. The last major TV event until the Masters and NBA Finals there isn’t anything standing between the games and sky high ratings. Same time zone, duel country interest, and actually some interesting personalities/stories to follow should make for good fodder. Now if NBC can get out of its own way with the coverage we should be all good. So if they’re listening, I would rather see a gold medal match in curling than an American competing for 6th place in cross country skiing. Let’s see the events where it’s all on the line and the best that the games have to offer rather than the most obscure event that just happens to contain a US competitor.

With that said, let’s hope the US Hockey team gives us an opportunity to see them competing for a medal but it’ll be tough. If they have a “group of death” as they do in the World Cup then the US are in it. Along with Canada, Norway, and Switzerland it can’t get any worse with the possible exception if Russia replaced Norway. The odd were against the US to begin with as they are really young on the front lines (which they’ll need to have the speed to keep up) and very experienced in the goal. The knock is the age on the defensive side and lack of “world level” game experience. The Canadians will be on a mission to erase the embarrassment of 2006, the Swiss are stacked with players, and Norway could be one of the surprise teams. If 80’ was a miracle on ice then just getting through the group of death in 2010 would only leave GM Brian “Saint” Burke with two more to go. Do you think the US has a chance to medal? Let us know your thoughts here and in any of the Olympic quick links:

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