Olympic Hockey: Men’s Semifinal Preview

A Canada-USA rematch felt inevitable. Everyone remembers the 2010 game. (You can watch the full thing here if you have two hours to spare) Canada won gold on their home soil behind their Golden boy and his golden goal. (your Crosby sucks joke goes here.) For a lot of people the revenge has been four years in the making.

USA has had four years for revenge for Vancouver

USA has had four years for revenge for Vancouver

The truth of the matter is the revenge has been 94 years in the making. Canada defeated team USA at the very first Winter Olympic games in Antwerp. (That is in Belgium) Canada did it again four years later and went on to win six of the first seven gold medals at the Olympic games. America finally got its revenge in 1960 on the home soil of Squaw Valley and beat Canada to win its first gold medal.

One would have thought the rivalry was turning but instead a Soviet blanket came over the Winter games as the USSR won seven of the next next eight gold medals. So the proud hockey country of Canada focused all of their hockey hate towards the Soviets instead of their neighbors to the south. This all climaxed in the Summit Series in 1972 between Canada and the USSR in an eight game series between the two nations. Unlike the Olympics Canada was able to use NHL players and in a very closely contested series the Canadian won 4-3-1 and won the eighth game in dramatic fashion of of Paul Henderson’s goal. (Ask any Canadian about that goal and they will get nostalgic much like any American would about the Miracle on Ice. If we can agree on anything it is our romantic notions about beating the Soviets in hockey.)

The USSR still went on to win several more golds and the rivalry between Canada and the USSR would peak every few years at Canada’s Cup when once again the NHL players would be involved. The most famous game is in 1987 when Gretzky fed Mario to beat the Soviets. (If you want to watch hockey art just watch their highlights from the tournament.)

For years this continued on as the USSR was Canada’s biggest rival and American hockey was but an afterthought in the international game. That all changed in 1996 at the new World Cup of Hockey in Montreal. The event was to take the place of Canada’s Cup and featured NHL talent all over the place. The American team led by Brett Hull not only upset Canada in group play but defeated them two games to one in the final. Mike Richter held up the American tradition of fantastic goaltending and was named tournament MVP. This was America’s first win in a major international event since Lake Placid in 1980. To do it on Canadian soil certainly sent a message to Canada. (If you want more history on the rise of American hockey let one of the best goalies ever do it for you.)

Canada would get their revenge in 2002 at the Olympics in Salt Lake City. They defeated USA in the gold medal game 5-2…

It was the first gold for Canada in nearly fifty years and they felt it placed them back atop the mountain of international hockey. America would get a measure of revenge two years later at the 2004 World Junior Championships in Finland. (If you dont know what the world juniors is read here. It is a fantastic event that has the best under 20 players and the majority of them go on to play in the NHL. In Canada it is a big effin deal.)

Marc Andre Fleury misplayed a puck (stop me if you have heard that before) and Patrick O’Sullivan scored a goal to give USA its first win at the World Juniors…

Canada would reassert its dominance at the event as they won for the next five years with teams led by Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and John Tavares. (You may have heard of these guys.) The Americans didn’t strike back until the 2010 World Juniors held in Canada. Team USA won in dramatic fashion 6-5 in OT…

Everything would reach a fever pitch a month later in Vancouver as USA upset Canada in the group stage and the two met in the Gold Medal final with Parise sending it to OT and then we all remember what happened next…

Thirteen players from that American team are back at the Olympics in Sochi and still talk about how much that loss stung. As much good will as that team brought with their play they still finished 2nd place to Canada.

Tomorrow will be a chance for American hockey to shed that 2nd place label and will cause all of Canada to admit that we are not only their biggest rival but their equal. American hockey got a major boost last year at the 2013 World Juniors when American defenceman Seth Jones stated that the US team was the best in the tournament. His team then went out and backed it up by smacking Canada in the semi 5-1 on their way to winning the tournament. (Hopefully history repeats itself.)

Tomorrow USA hockey has a chance to make that same statement on the biggest stage.

Get your minds right.

(Other) USA- Canada Storylines

1. The Meat line vs Sid’s line: You had better believe Bylsma will have his toughest line out there trying to wear Sid down. He knows all of his tendencies.

WE WOULD LIKE SOME SYRUP FOR OUR BREAKFAST THANK YOU VERY MUCH

WE WOULD LIKE SOME SYRUP FOR OUR BREAKFAST THANK YOU VERY MUCH

2. Quick vs Price: The starting goalies from the 2010 game will both be on the bench and it will be these two guys chance to leave their legacy in the rivalry.

3. Who scores more; Kessel or Weber/Doughty?: Phil the thrill has been team USA’s best player so far in the tournament and the combo of Weber and Doughty have brought all of Canada’s offense from the back end. Which one will show up tomorrow?

4. Team USA has been the better team through 4 games: No one will remember that if they don’t win tomorrow

5. Will Canada win to relieve the pressure?: These people care a lot about hockey. A LOT

6. Will TJ Oshie get another shot to show off his shootout skills?: Remember there is only a 10 min OT period before we go to another shootout. He may be needed again. This time a showdown with Sid and Toews awaits.

7. Bylsma vs Babcock Part II: The two last coached against each other in an elimination game back in 2009. It worked out alright for some of us, not for others…

(You knew I was going to fit that in somewhere.) If you read this SI piece on Bylsma you can tell there is some animosity between the two coaches. Bylsma played for him in Anaheim and like any good rivalry there is respect but I bet they each want to beat the hell out of each others teams. (I assume we will have part 3 in the first round of the playoffs this year. Excuse me while I go walk around outside and scream at the top of my lungs.)

8. This might be the last of the NHL at the Olympics: So soak it in

9. Prediction: USA 3-2 in OT. Kane gets the winner and then we dance.

Finland- Sweden Storylines

Passing the torch

Passing the torch

1. This game is just a big a rivalry if not bigger: Not only do these two teams hate each other, the countries are hostile in almost every sport. It should be a fantastic game and I encourage you to wake up early to watch it.

2. This is a big moment for Finland: Sweden has already won two gold medals and is considered the superior of the two countries. Finland isn’t far behind winning medals at 7 of the last 9 Olympics but they have yet to win gold. This is their moment to get the monkey of their back and beat their rival.

3. Teemu’s last hurrah: He has played in so many Olympic games its absurd. These last two will be his chance to leave his legacy as not only the best Finnish player ever but a chance to help give his country a gold medal. You know he wants this.

4. Olli Maatta’s welcome party: Just as Teemu’s career is ending there is another bright spot as 19 year old defenceman Ollie Matta (and Pittsburgh Penguin) has led all Finish d men in ice time and is showing skills far beyond anyone would expect at his age. He may be taking the torch from Teemu.

5. Rask vs Lundqvist: These two have faced off many a time in the NHL with Boston and New York and now will do it on the international stage. Hank already has a gold to his resume and Rask could get his own.

6. Prediction: Finland 3-1. Teemu gets the empty netter, just because.

Enjoy it tomorrow. Go USA

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