Monday, February 22, 2010

Preliminary Round Recap

In case you've been living under a rock for the past two days, on Sunday the US upset Canada to steal Pool A and the #1 overall seed for the medal round. While I left the door open for this upset to happen, I still didn't think it would. So now I'm going to examine my predictions from the preliminary round, and rework my predictions for the medal round.

Group A (W-L-OTW-OTL, Pts):
USA (3-0-0-0, 9)
Canada (1-1-1-0, 5)
Switzerland (0-1-1-1, 3)
Norway (0-2-0-1, 1)

I predicted Canada to win the pool 3-0, yet they struggled against Switzerland, and blew it against the US. The US team played well enough to win all three games, and managed to lock down the #1 seed for the medal round. I was right that Switzerland would lose to Canada and the US, though I didn't see them taking Canada to OT. I also thought they would beat Norway in regulation.

Group B (W-L-OTW-OTL, Pts):
Russia (2-0-0-1, 7)
Czech Republic (2-1-0-0, 6)
Slovakia (1-1-1-0, 5)
Latvia (0-3-0-0, 0)

I predicted the order this group would finish in perfectly, however, I didn't foresee Russia's OTL to Slovakia.

Group C (W-L-OTW-OTL, Pts):
Sweden (3-0-0-0, 9)
Finland (2-1-0-0, 6)
Belarus (1-2-0-0, 3)
Germany (0-3-0-0, 0)

Finland was actually leading this group (due to goal differential) until they were dominated by Sweden last night. Sweden only won by three goals, so they finished with a lower goal differential than the US and ended up with the #2 seed for the medal round. Finland finished as the 4th seed due to a better goal differential than the Czechs. I didn't expect Germany to lose to Belarus either.

2 Sweden
3 Russia
4 Finland
5 Czech Republic
6 Canada
7 Slovakia
8 Switzerland
9 Belarus
10 Norway
11 Germany
12 Latvia

Qualification Round Matchups (Predicted winners in Bold):
5 Czech Republic vs. 12 Latvia
6 Canada vs. 11 Germany
7 Slovakia vs. 10 Norway
8 Switzerland vs. 9 Belarus

(Predicted winners in Bold):
1 USA vs. 8 Switzerland
2 Sweden vs. 7 Slovakia
3 Russia vs. 6 Canada
4 Finland vs. 5 Czech Republic

(Predicted winners in Bold):
1 USA vs. 5 Czech Republic
2 Sweden vs. 6 Canada

Bronze Medal Game
2 Sweden vs. 5 Czech Republic

Gold Medal Game:
1 USA vs. 6 Canada

It's hard to pick against USA after their huge win last night over Canada, and I think they will make it back to the gold medal game because I like the possible matchups they have from here on out. However, I think Canada will be riding a huge wave of momentum if they can get past Russia, and since they are playing on home ice, I have to give them the edge. However, as Team USA proved yesterday, with Ryan Miller in net, anything can happen. So go USA!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic Hockey

Men's Olympic Hockey begins today with USA playing Switzerland. I for one am really excited to see this tournament get underway. Seeing all the skill some of these teams are going to be able to put on the ice at the same time is just astounding. The favorite to take home the gold, is obviously the Canadian team, but stranger things have happened, and there are several teams that will push Team Canada for that gold medal.

The Pools

Group A:

Group B:
Czech Republic

Group C:

The Breakdown

Group A:
Canada should win Group A. They are the most talented and deepest team in the group. However, they have a ton of pressure on them to perform well since they are playing at home, and hockey is Canada's national sport. Team USA could win the group if they play a tight checking game against Canada to limit their scoring chances, while taking advantage of the ones they get against Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur. Switzerland already lost their opener to Team USA, so they have a very slim chance at winning the group. I don't know much about Norway, but they'll be fighting Switzerland for third place in the group.

Group B:
This is the toughest group out of the three in my opinion. The Russians are the favorite as they have assembled possibly the best offensive team Olympic hockey has ever seen. I am incredibly excited to watch Malkin and Ovechkin play together. But the Czech Republic will field a solid team with players like Martin Havlat and Tomas Plekanec. Slovakia was dealt a blow today when they found out that Marian Gaborik will miss their first two games, but they still have a dangerous roster. Latvia is filled with a bunch of no-name players (though the Flyers' Oskars Bartulis is on the team!), and they get a stiff test against Russia tonight. But if they play well, it will give them a lot of confidence in their games against Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Group C:
The Swedes are the defending gold medalists and the favorites to win their group. Finland is the defending silver medalists and should finish second to the Swedes in Group C. Germany will provide a tough test in their games, but I don't expect to see them upset Sweden or Finland. Belarus will face an uphill climb in these Olympics as two of their four NHL players are out with injury.

Projected Finish

Group A:
Team (W-L-OTL, Pts)
Canada (3-0-0, 9)
USA (2-1-0, 6)
Switzerland (1-2-0, 3)
Norway (0-3-0, 0)

Group B:
Team (W-L-OTL, Pts)
Russia (3-0-0, 9)
Slovakia (2-1-0, 5)
Czech Republic (1-1-1, 4)
Latvia (0-3-0, 0)

Group C:
Team (W-L-OTL, Pts)
Sweden (3-0-0, 8)
Finland (2-0-1, 7)
Germany (1-2-0, 3)
Belarus (0-3-0, 0)

Medal Round

Seeds (Top 4 get a 1st Round Bye):
1. Russia
2. Canada
3. Sweden
4. Finland
5. USA
6. Slovakia
7. Czech Republic
8. Germany
9. Switzerland
10. Belarus
11. Norway
12. Latvia

First Round (Projected winners in Bold):
5 USA v. 12 Latvia
6 Slovakia v. 11 Norway
7 Czech Republic v. 10 Belarus
8 Germany v. 9 Switzerland

Quarterfinals (Projected winners in Bold):
1 Russia v. 8 Germany
2 Canada v. 7 Czech Republic
3 Sweden v. 6 Slovakia
4 Finland v. 5 USA

Semifinals (Projected winners in Bold):
1 Russia v. 5 USA
2 Canada v. 3 Sweden

Bronze Medal Game (Projected winner in Bold):
3 Sweden v. 5 USA

Gold Medal Game (Projected winner in Bold):
1 Russia v. 2 Canada

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Few Thoughts Before the Olympic Break

A week ago I was wondering if the Flyers were a playoff team. They have done well to put themselves back in the playoff picture this past month, but they had a possibility to come away with six points on an easy road trip last week and they only got two. A last second (literally) loss to the worst team in the league (Edmonton), and a lethargic looking loss to Minnesota last Saturday really made me wonder if the Flyers could hang tough with some of the better teams in the league and secure a playoff spot. With a home and home coming up against New Jersey, and a tenuous grasp on the 8th seed, things did not look good. A period and 15 minutes into the first game against the Devils, the Flyers were down 2-0 and looked lifeless. The Flyers had one goal in the past 7 and a half periods... it was ugly. And then JVR happen. Van Riemsdyk lumbered up through center, split the D and fired a wrister over Brodeur's shoulder. A minute later, Carter one-timed a Hartnell pass past Brodeur to tie the game. Richards scored a late PPG in the third period to win the game.

This was the first time this season that the Flyers came from two goals down to win a game. That is a scary statistic. If the Flyers want to make a deep playoff run this year, they're going to need to be able to come from behind to win occasionally. Playing against teams like Washington and Pittsburgh, two goal deficits are easy to come by. However, Wednesday night's game in New Jersey (in front of an announced crowd of 5500 thanks to Snowmageddon 2010) provided a lot of encouragement. The Flyers again dug themselves into a 2-0 hole thanks to a couple of flukey goals. But Arron Asham scored 30 seconds after the Devils' second goal and Carter tied it in the second. The Devils controlled the 3rd period (outshot the Flyers 7-1) and the first two minutes of OT until Gagne turned in his best shift all year. First he faked Brodeur out of his skates and had a wide open net to shoot at, but the defenseman was able to poke the puck off his stick before he could score. Instead of giving up on the play, Gagne picked the puck back up in the far corner, skated out to the blueline and around two Devils. Then he moved down the slot and floated a wrister over Brodeur's shoulder to win the game and snap his 13 game goalless streak. Those of you that follow me on Twitter know that I've been calling for Gagne to be traded lately as he's just looked horrendous. I still think it's in the Flyers best interest to trade him, but that goal bought him a little more time.

So now the Flyers have one last home and home series with Montreal before the Olympics start. It is incredibly important for the Flyers to win both games. They're one point behind Montreal for 6th place in the conference, so wins in both games would put Philly in firm control of the 6th spot (they have three games in hand and one more win than the Canadiens). The Flyers are also playing with a ton of confidence right now, so they need to take advantage of it since they have no games from Feb 14 - March 2.

Another thing I wanted to comment on was the play of Michael Leighton. When Emery got hurt again two weeks ago, I'll admit that I was worried that Leighton's magic was gone and that he would revert to the play that got him cut by Carolina (and Carolina sucks this year). However, he has proved me wrong yet again. He's 2-2 and has given up seven goals in four games, and he only got one goal from his own team in those two losses. I think it's time for the Flyers to cut Boucher (when Emery comes back) and make Leighton the starter for the rest of the season. Emery has been fine since his return from injury, but Leighton has been lights out. In 16 games with the Flyers, he's given up more than two goals THREE TIMES. He has a 2.21 GAA and a .925 Save %. Emery has a good GAA (2.64) but his save % is only .905, and Boucher has a 2.84 GAA with a .896 save %. It's clear to me who the goalie should be going forward.

Anyways, the Flyers face off against the Canadiens at 6 PM tonight, and the Olympics opening ceremonies are at 7:30 PM, so it's gonna be a good night for me :)