The third day of competition in the 2014 Winter Olympic Men’s Hockey Tournament is over, and once again, several Chicago Blackhawks were important parts in their teams’ games. Canada finally got their offense going, Sweden may have suffered a major blow and the Czech Republic survived an early scare. Meanwhile, the United States prepares for the biggest game in the group stages.
After a shaky first game, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith participated in a 6-0 Canadian domination over Austria. Unfortunately, Patrick Sharp was a scratch. It’s an obvious disappointment, especially for someone who’d fought hard for his first chance at the Olympics. Toews said that Sharp was not frustrated, but he also wasn’t happy. However, Toews did record an assist and won 10 face-offs in a 6-0 rout, which included a hat trick by Jeff Carter. From the looks of things, they’ll be able to get out of their group rather easily.
The Swedes took on Switzerland, who inexplicably sat star goalie Jonas Hiller. Helped by a shutout by Henrik Lundqvist, the Swedes took control of their group, but a herniated disk suffered by captain Henrik Zetterberg could damage their Gold Medal hopes. Blackhawks’ Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Johnny Oduya also failed to record a point in the 1-0 victory, the only goal coming from Daniel Alfredsson. However, Hjalmarsson and Oduya’s defensive contributions certainly helped.
Things also did not look easy for the Czech Republic in their game against Latvia. Despite leading 2-1 at the end of the first period, Latvia scored first in the second. But the ageless Jaromir Jagr scored twice to lead the Czechs to a 4-2 victory. Michal Rozsival was also silent, but contributed defensively.
As for the Americans, they face Russia in what is possibly the most-anticipated game of the group stages at 6:30 CT on Saturday. The Russians are favored to win the Gold Medal on home soil, and the United States and the memory of the Miracle on Ice stand in their way. Patrick Kane and the American offense will have to prove that their beat-down of Slovakia was no fluke against a charged-up Russian team playing in front of what will be a heavily pro-Russian crowd.
In order to win, the Americans will have to play their hearts out, and that includes Kane. Big games like this are where Kane excels. The situation is similar too, but not exactly like the USA-Canada group stage game in 2010. This time, the Americans are expected to be competitive.
While it was a quiet day for the Blackhawks Olympians, it was still rather eventful. It almost feels as if things are about to get interesting, starting with the USA-Russia game on Saturday. The Blackhawks Olympians will have to step up for their respective countries if any of them want to medal. As for Canada, they typically got off to a slow start, but the 6-0 thrashing of Austria might be a sign of things to come. But the Swedes are looking at a potentially massive loss in Zetterberg.
Still, the Blackhawks Olympians have plenty of time to make a contribution to their respective teams. That’s what they were chosen for, after all. Their teams will need them as the tournament goes on.