No Bobby Ryan? No Keith Yandle? No Kyle Okposo? No problem for the Americans in Sochi after they stomped Slovakia in the men’s hockey opener, 7-1. Paul Stastny scored twice in the second period, as the Americans scored on four consecutive shots, chasing Slovakian goaltender Jaroslav Halak in the process.
A young U.S. defense – that was a major question mark entering the tournament – was never truly tested and neither was goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Saturday morning on Feb. 15, however, will be different: USA vs. Russia. The combination of James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel on Olympic ice looks lethal, which is good news for the Americans.
Speaking of Russia, the host country opened the tournament with a 5-2 win over Slovenia, but perhaps not as easily as they had anticipated.
In Slovenia’s first Olympic appearance, the Russians jumped to a 2-0 lead with goals from Alex Ovechkin and Yevgeni Malkin. Ilya Kovalchuk, the NHL’s most notable defect for the Russian KHL, also found twine for the Russians, but two goals from Ziga Jeglic pulled the Slovenians within a goal heading into the third period.
Eighteen-year-old phenom Valeri Nichushkin of the Dallas Stars gave Russia the boost it needed to get over the hump. His coast-to-coast goal in the third period gave Russia a 4-2 lead. The Russians would hold on for their first win of the tournament but just know that the Slovenians are no slouch, folks.
Sweden and Finland both won on Wednesday Feb. 12. Sweden topped the Czech Republic on the strength of two goals from Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators. The Czech’s roster includes 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr (good idea) and 42-year-old Petr Nedved (bad idea) but doesn’t have goalscorers Radim Vrbata or Jiri Hudler.
In addition, Ondrej Pavelec, the nation’s only NHL goaltender, is in street clothes in the stands. Something fishy is going on here. Czech blunders aside, the Swedish NHLers proved yesterday why they will be a gold-medal favorite.
To be frank, the Finnish roster is old. Nonetheless, this was not a factor in the 8-4 win over Austria. The Finns unloaded 52 shots on the Austrians, with two goals apiece from Jarkko Immonen and the Minnesota Wild’s Mikael Granlund. Blueliners Sami Lepisto and Olli Maatta, playing in his first Olympics, also found the back of the net for Finland.
Austria had good contributions from its few NHLers, including a hat trick from Michael Grabner in his first Olympic game, but it was hardly enough.
Keep an eye on Finland as an outside medal contender. They aren’t as flashy as other rosters in this tournament, but easily have the deepest goaltending. They’ve medaled in four of the past five Olympics.
Defending nation Canada took on Norway today, winning 3-1. Being the national champions, it might be cause for alarm that the sports creator couldn’t net as many goals as the other winners today.
In the slow first period, Canada killed a couple power plays but couldn’t generate much offense. The buzz around the game was that Norway may have a chance, heading into the first intermission.
Any remaining buzz once the athletes got back on the ice was squandered as defenseman Shea Weber blasted a shot from at least 30 feet out. This made the statement that Canada was not to be messed with. Nine minutes later, the Mounties did it again, this time from forward Jamie Benn off an assist from forward Patrice Bergeron.
The teams headed into the locker room with Canada up 2-0. Norway had zero – zerrooo – shots in the second period. Yikes.
Twenty-two seconds into the third, however, Norwegian forward Patrick Thoresen scored a power-play goal to put his team down one. There seemed to be hope.
The hope was short-lived as Canada, just 1 minutes, 25 seconds later, scored its third and final goal and went on to win 3-1.
Is this a reason to panic? Canada, the clear favorite, only scored three goals. Short answer is no. They’re Canada. They know what they’re doing. There is still a lot of tournament left and a lot of opportunities. This is still anyone’s game.