Tomorrow, the hockey world will pause for what looks to be the best two games of the 2014 Winter Olympic Hockey Tournament so far. Seven Chicago Blackhawks will be in the thick of it as four hockey powers and two of the best rivalries in the game will be on display.
The first game will be Sweden vs. Finland. The only Blackhawks participating are Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Johnny Oduya for Sweden. While this game might not be getting as much press and buildup (at least on the western shores of the Pond), this rivalry is arguably the best in Europe since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The Swedes have been a steamroller throughout the tournament, but the Finns nearly lost their last game in group play before they broke the heart of the host nation, Russia. Look for Teemu Selanne to try and play his heart out in his final Olympics, but Henrik Lundqvist will be tough to beat, as he always is. Of course, Tuukka Rask has been phenomenal for Finland, and he’ll likely keep them close. However, the Swedes have been better, so they should go on to the Gold Medal game.
That brings us to the main event of the day. Four years ago, Sidney Crosby sent Canada to Heaven while breaking the hearts of every United States hockey fan in such a way that the fans have not forgotten. In either case, the United States is out for vengeance, and Patrick Kane will look to be a big part of that.
He’s struggled to score in these Olympics, but not for lack of trying. He’ll likely try to adopt a shoot-first strategy when attacking Canadian netminder Carey Price. The Americans have sailed throughout the tournament, save for a fantastic game against host nation Russia. Their offense has been scoring at will, particularly Phil Kessel.
But Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp have struggled for Canada. While the US has scored 20 goals so far, Canada has only scored 13. Their offense, which is supposed to be deep, has not clicked at all, and seven of their goals have come from the defense. Mike Babcock will try to send wave after wave against the United States, who have only allowed six goals in this tournament.
Of course, Canada’s defense has allowed three goals, which Duncan Keith has been a part of. It’s an unstoppable force (the United States offense) versus and immovable object (Canadian defense). There’s definitely a chance Canada’s offense can wake up, though, so the American defense will have to be careful.
The Hockey Gods have blessed the hockey fandom with two of the best rivalries in International Hockey. This may not be for the Gold, but it’s for more than that–bragging rights, a shot at the Gold Medal, who has to keep Justin Bieber. The Chicago Blackhawks Olympians will have to play their hearts out for their countries. Either way, we’ll find out what our hockey teams have in store for us tomorrow.
One. Day. MORE!