Canada Needs OT to Beat Finns; Swedes Secure Top Seed
Finland got the chess match it wanted against Canada.
And in so doing, its 2-1 overtime loss gave Sweden the result it wanted.
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was the cornerstone to the Finns strategy against a Canadian juggernaut capable of not only rolling out line after line on the attack, but a pairing or two, as well. In fact, it was Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty who provided the fireworks with a howitzer from the point that accounted for the Great White North's goal in regulation and a surface screamer in overtime that ended it.
In between, Tuuomu Ruutu lit the lamp late in the second period, and he accompanied his fellow Leijonat (Lions) with a well executed deployment of defensive overlays to stifle Canadian firepower. Rarely did the Finns find themselves in a position where they had to win a one-on-one battle in open ice. And in those few occasions where Canada did break through, the impeccable Rask was there to turn them away.
Doughty's success came from long distance. He may have been hoping for screens and deflections, but his first strike was simply a perfect shot, lasered over high blocker into the one-hole. His second may have been assisted by the chopped ice, but it had enough on it to dart under Rask's outstretched left pad.
International rules award three points for a regulation victory and two for triumph in overtimes and shootouts. Thus, Canada ended the preliminary round with eight points, as did the United States, who gained the second seed on goal difference. Sweden finished with the maximum nine points for three regulation wins.
Thus, here are the top four seeds who gain a bye in the first round of knockout play:
|1. Sweden||2. United States||3. Canada||4. Finland|
Here are the match-ups to be played on Tue 18 Feb with game times to be announced tomorrow:
|5 v 12 ... Russia v Norway||7 v 10 ... Czech Republic v Slovakia|
|6 v 11 ... Switzerland v Latvia||8 v 9 ... Slovenia v Austria|
The tourney format is such that the top seed will always play the lowest seed remaining, the second seed will play the second lowest seed remaining, and so forth.
The prospects of upset or injury aside, Russia being forced into an extra game may be fortuitous. The hosts have yet to fire on all cylinders in the Olympics, and the Norwegians will make a suitable sparring partner.
Elsewhere, while the Latvians are gritty, their lack of offense combined with Anaheim Duck goaltender Jonas Hiller between the Swiss pipes will offer a daunting challenge for Ted Nolan's Baltic side. The Czechs and Slovaks dissolved their thrown-together country soon after the Iron Curtain fell, with the only real casualty being the dilution of their respective international hockey talent pool. Austria and Slovenia are just happy to be part of the Olympic Tinder scene.