After being silent for much of the 2014 Winter Olympic Men’s Hockey Tournament, Chicago Blackhawks‘ Olympians finally broke through on the score sheet, but the results were not in their favor. Meanwhile, the rest of the Blackhawks prepare for the quarterfinals in what looks to be a vary interesting medal round.
In the only game involving Blackhawks players, the Czech Republic faced their arch-rival Slovakia. Ever since Czechoslovakia broke up, these two teams have produced one of the best rivalries in international hockey, and this game was no exception. Marian Hossa scored the first Blackhawks goal in these Olympics and Michal Handzus played well at center. But it was Michal Rozsival and the Czech team that got the 5-3 win in the end. The Czechs will face the United States in the quarterfinals.
In preparation for that game, Patrick Kane and the Americans should do what they’ve been doing in the group stages against the Czechs. The Czechs don’t like to check (excuse the pun) and they’re much older and slower than Team USA. The Americans should out-skate and play their possession game against the Czechs. And should the Czechs hamper the American offense, Patrick Kane will have to step up and score goals to get the US into the semifinals. Now that Hossa has broken the scoreless streak, Kane should use that as a confidence builder.
Their potential semifinal match-up could be Canada, who face a Latvian team that surprised Switzerland. In a way, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith dodged a bullet, because they would have had to face a very tough Jonas Hiller. However, if this Latvian team could beat Hiller, then they should not be taken lightly. Especially considering the Canadian offense has yet to get going, and Carey Price is a big question. The Latvians could conceivably and potentially upset Canada to get to the semifinals.
As for Team Sweden, they’ll face a much easier Slovenia team, but they should not underestimate them. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya have been doing well defensively for the Swedes, and Marcus Kruger has been doing his job at Center.
Now that a Blackhawk has scored, some of you out there can breathe a sigh of relief. But now that the quarterfinals are set to begin, it’s all or nothing from here on. The Blackhawks’ Olympians will have to play their hardest from now on, their teams depend on them.