Olympic Rivalry Weekend Comes to a Close
Five of the six Blue Jackets Olympians are in action representing their countries today in some marquee match-ups. Fedor Tyutin and Russia will be taking on Jan Hejda and the Czech Republic at 3PM. Rick Nash will look to lead Canada in the border war with Team USA at 7:30PM. Fredrik Modin and Sammy Pahlsson will be suiting up for Sweden in a rematch of the 2006 Gold Medal Game against Finland at 12AM.
Milan Jurcina of Slovakia is the only Jacket who won’t be in action today as Slovakia put up an impressive 6-0 victory over Latvia yesterday to wrap up the round robin with five points.
Russia vs. Czech Republic 3PM
The Russians are reeling after a surprising 2-1 shootout loss to Slovakia Thursday night. Head coach Vyacheslav Bykov is expected to make some significant lineup changes heading into the game. Evgeni Malkin will now center Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, while Pavel Datsyuk will be paired up with Ilya Kovalchuk and Max Afinogenov.
It’s hard to pick against a front-loaded Russian team, but the Czechs aren’t exactly fielding a peewee squad. Led by Tomas Vokoun in net and a reinvigorated Jaromir Jagr, the Czechs have been perfect thus far and can wrap up a first round bye with a win or overtime loss.
Staff Pick: Russia 4 Czech Republic 3
Canada vs. USA:
Canada is in a similar position with the Russians after salvaging two points with a shootout victory over a dangerous Switzerland team. The expectations on Canada are monumental, and Mike Babcock is switching things up to try to ignite a team that should not have any scoring issues. Rick Nash is back on the right wing, a position he’s played all season with Columbus, and it appears Mike Richards will start the game off on Sidney Crosby’s left side. Martin Brodeur, who looked strong for the most part against the Swiss will get the the start in goal.
For Team USA, head coach Ron Wilson has split up Patrick Kane and Zach Parise, bumping Jamie Langenbrunner up to the first line to add grit throughout the lineup. The issue with Team USA has been turnovers leading to odd-man rushes. Ryan Miller has been up to task against Switzerland and Norway, but the Canadians are on an entirely different level. The bad blood between these countries has only been magnified this year with the US victory over Canada in the World Junior Championship.
Staff Pick: Canada 5 USA 2
Sweden vs. Finland:
Sweden and Finland both enter the Gold Medal rematch with perfect 2-0 records and having captured all six possible points. Aside from the tradition and Scandinavian bragging rights at stake, this game will also feature to of the most well-rounded teams in the tournament. The Swedes will return to Henrik Lundqvist in net after giving “The Monster” Jonas Gustavsson a shot against Belarus. Lundqvist has been spectacular for Team Sweden, leading them to the Gold in 2006 and looking very strong in the 2-0 shutout over Germany. A defense that boasts the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Nicklas Backstrom, Johnny Oduya and Mattias Ohlund doesn’t hurt too much either and the Swedes depth up front is akin to the Russians and Canadians.
However, Finland cannot be overlooked. The Fins are a very similar team to the Swedes and may be even stronger in net with Mikka Kiprusoff. The Fins have a very mobile defense, led by Kimmo Timonen who had a pair of goals against Germany. Teemu Selanne set an Olympic record with his 36th career point in the win over Germany and Saku Koivu is just one assist away from tying the Olympic record. He missed the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake while recovering from cancer.
Staff Pick: Sweden 1 Finland 2