Another rainy day in Vancouver didn’t provide too many nice views of the mountains. However, there was some good hockey played today.

I failed to mention that Finland advanced to the semis after toppling the Czech Republic 2-0. Thanks to the IIHF rule of requiring players to wear their helmets, the Finns scored the winning goal on the power play. Pavel Kubina had his lid knocked off by Nik Hagman, when Kubina vacated the front of the net (in fear of putting his team two-men short) Hagman tipped home the winning goal.

The Finns face the USA on Friday and Canada plays Slovakia. It promises to be a very loud building.

I had a pretty solid hockey talk with Joe Micheletti during dinner. While the Rangers color commentator dusted me in terms of what kind of team I would build if I was running an NHL franchise, it was a really cool moment.

Later in the evening, before I worked stats for the Slovakia/Sweden game, Joe was ribbing me about my allegiance to the Sabres. I knew the ribbing was good natured so, I took the opportunity to pass him a note about Daniel Alfredsson’s gaffe in game five of the 2006 playoffs. This was shortly after he had commented on Alfredsson’s ability to man the point on the power play. After the game we had a good laugh about the note, the best line coming from Joe,

“You know Chris, there is going to come a time as you move forward in this business that you won’t be able to relate every moment in a game to something that happened to the Buffalo Sabres.”

We both had a pretty good laugh about it as we have developed a pretty cool working relationship over the past week or so since I have had the privilege of being the stats guy for most of the men’s late games that Kenny Albert and Joe have called.

It looks as if my last stats game at the 2010 games will come tomorrow during the women’s bronze game between Sweden and Finland. It certainly has been a wild ride and the weekend promises to bring even more action.

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You can thank Ryan Miller, Brian Rafalski and the rest of Team USA for waking up Canada. Specifically, Thomas Griess, Evgeni Nabakov and Team Russia can thank the USA.

Canada has potted 15 goals in two games and are on a collision course with the gold medal game. Unless there is some serious line matching going on for the Slovakia/Canada semi-final, it looks as if the hosts will be playing for gold come Sunday.

Let me preface that with a scolding to the Russians. For years people have said the Russians don’t show up in big games, and that they only play well when it doesn’t really matter. Well, they certainly proved that to be true today. Alex Ovechkin & Co. were dominated by the Canadians for 60 minutes today.

It started at the top, or bottom I guess. Evgeni Nabakov – who, in my opinion, is the reason San Jose never makes it out of the second round – was awful today. He wasn’t bad, he wasn’t victimized by a bad team in front of him, he was just plain awful. Only the first goal of the game could not be placed on him, the others he surrendered, on his shoulders. Ilya Bryzgalov, who should have been the Russian starter, was mediocre in relief, although he suffered from the same shooting gallery that Nabokov did.

Then there was the suspect Russian defense. The group of eight that I thought was the key to an early tournament exit for the Reds. Today they were bad as well. Dmitri Kalinin scored a nice goal but he and Anton Volchenkov were unimpressive. Not to mention the train-wreck that was the Dennis Grebeshkov-Konstantin Korneyev pairing. Those two make Mike Wilson look like a Norris winner. Overall, the Russian defense was bad, and they paid for it in spades.

Last, but not least, are the Russian forwards. Alex Ovechkin, the best player in the world for my money, was a ghost. Kudos to Mike Babcock and Lindy Ruff for cooking up the scheme to shut down Ovie. The Ovechkin line (Ovie-Malkin-Semin) saw Shea Weber and Scott Neidermayer every time they stepped on the ice. Also, Brendan Morrow, Rick Nash and Jonathon Towes were the line match for the Ovechkin trio.

Ovie actually played on three lines. When it was evident that Malkin was useless as his center, Sergei Fedorov was moved between Ovie and Semin. Then, when Semin decided to dog it Malkin was placed on the wing. Obviously none of these combos worked. But, Malkin and Semin were the two biggest duds for the Russians. Aside from a third period breakaway, which he missed, Malkin was a ghost today. As for Semin, he contributed nothing until a monster hit on Dan Boyle late in the game.

Semin’s hit upset Boyle to the point where he decided to slew-foot the Caps winger. How he didn’t get a game for that is beyond me. It was one of the dirtiest, most blatant slew foots I have ever seen. Realistically, Boyle should sit for the Slovakia game.

I give kudos to Ryan Getzlaf for chirping Malkin from the bench after he missed his breakaway. No team that plays that disinterested deserves to skate away with out a ton of chirping.

The Slovakians have given us our first major upset. It only took until the quarterfinals for it to happen.

Timely scoring and superb goaltending pushed the fourth-time Olympians past Sweden 4-3. This is the third-straight Olympics that the defending gold medalists have been knocked out in the quarterfinals (thanks Kenny Albert for that nugget). For the Swedes, this is the second time in the last three Olympics that they have been upset in the quarterfinals (2002 vs. Belarus).

I’m glad to see an upset like this one, but I’m not relieved to know that the Canadians have “an easier road” to the gold medal game. However, the Slovaks have the make-up to stifle the Canadian attack.

Slovakia has a strong top-six, boasting Pavol Demitra (who has been sensational on home ice), Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa. Not to mention, Joszef Stumpel and Ziggy Palffy, who have shown flashes here in Vancouver. The Slovaks checking lines are also strong with the likes of Michal Handzus and Richard Zednik, among others.

The there is the back-end. Zedeno Chara is the obvious anchor, but, Andrej Meszaros and Andrej Sekera have shown no glimpses of their regularly minus play in the NHL. Milan Jurcina’s size makes him a difficult adversary in the d-zone, while Lubomir Visnovsky and Martin Strbak are a serviceable pair as well.

Jarosalv Halak will have to be outstanding to beat the Canadians. I have faith that he can show up for another big game. We will see on Friday.

The US stole one today. There isn’t a better way to say it.

Jonas Hiller played 55 minutes of stellar hockey but, it was that five-minute lapse that allowed the Americans to capitalize with a 2-0 victory.

Hiller dodged a bullet at the end of the second period when he knocked a puck into his own net. Luckily for him time had expired.

However, his rebound control woes did not end there. On a US power play in the third Zach Parise redirected a Brian Rafalski point shot that Hiller juggled and found its way into the net.

Ryan Miller stood tall in net forĀ  the Yanks for all 60 minutes, earning his first Olympic shutout.

Parise added the empty netter late in the game for the US who advance to play Finland in the semi-finals.

Who would have thought the US would be guaranteed to, at least, play for a medal at the 2010 games?

The tour guides fail to mention the campus doesn't look this nice the four months you are there with a foot of snow on the ground.

I’ve been temporarily transported back to the bowels of Pacelli Hall at John Carroll University. I’m dropping $1.50 per load of laundry tonight as I am officially out of clothes.

The best part of it is that I almost exclusively brought dress clothes to be part of a staff that is required to wear jeans to work. I know it’s never bad to be overdressed, but it is so damn uncomfortable.

There were almost two HUGE upsets on the second day of quarterfinal play. However, in both cases, the favorites prevailed.

Latvia took the Jagr-less Czech Republic to overtime at UBC while Norway gave Slovakia everything they had for all 60 minutes. When the dust settled the Czechs won in overtime and the Slovaks staved off the Norwegians. But, these two games go to show you that in a short tournament, every game can be a shocker.

Canada turned in the only real clunker of the afternoon as they rolled over Germany 9-2. Nothing too exciting in this one as the Germans played the hosts tough for the first 10 minutes before the Canadians took control.

The early game went to extra time, although the game itself was very boring. Belarus played a tight-checking game and the Swiss did the same. The Swiss showed they were the better team, controlling play for much of the game but rarely solving Belorussian legend, and former Flint General, Andrei Mezin. The Swiss earned the right to face the USA in the quarterfinals, in what will be the second meeting between the two teams.

The highlight of the day had to come during the Norway/Slovakia game. The Slovaks scored three goals on their first two power plays, thanks to a five-minute major, and held a comfortable 3-1 lead deep in the second. Then Tore Vikingstad (best hockey name ever) potted the second Norwegian goal. Then, with .1 seconds remaining Anders Bastiansen fired a laser top cheese on Jaroslav Halak to tie the game at three.

The tying goal came by virtue of a blown offside call, but the result of the play made for a much more entertaining game. Miro Satan gave the Slovaks the lead in the third. But, the Canadian crowd again got behind the underdogs as Norway tried to tie the game. One of the loudest cheers I have heard at any game came as Norway brought the puck up ice with under a minute to play.

It really says a lot about the quality of fans at the Games, as no team has been neglected, save for the Americans. The Norwegian men received an ovation similar to that of the Slovakian women’s team earlier in the tournament.

It was a cool moment, and a great way to end the day.

PS- For those of you watching the Norway/Slovakia game out east, I gave the note comparing Bastiansen’s last-second tying goal to that of Mark Johnson’s against the Soviets 30 years and 1 day prior.

The US and Canada advanced to the 2010 Gold Medal game, while Finland and Sweden will play for bronze.

This year saw a large number of lopsided scores on the women’s side, particularly an 18-0 drubbing by Canada on the first day.

But, I think the future of women’s hockey at the Winter Games is safe. For now. Finland played two very strong games against perennial powerhouses USA and Canada. The Finns established themselves as a solid number three team in the world of women’s hockey. A few more years and the Finns will be right with the USA and Canada in terms of competitiveness.

However, Sweden did quite a bit to hurt the sport. As did the Canadians. The latter never stepped off the gas pedal in all of their lopsided wins. The USA were guilty of the same thing, but the Americans took their foot off the pedal much earlier in their wins.

Sweden, the reigning silver medalists, did not impress in any of their wins. Especially a 13-1 loss to Canada and a 6-2 win over Slovakia – a game in which the Slovaks held a 2-2 tie for some time.

So long as the second-tier teams can establish themselves as something more than a 5-goal underdog to the Big Four, then the sport will survive. The biggest issue will be if these teams can get to that point in four years time.

Until then, it will be another US/Canada gold medal game. I feel that the US squad has enough talent to win, but the Canadians have the firepower that will win gold.

My veiw for USA-Canada. Centre ice.

Super Sunday ended up being exactly what it was built up to be, super.

The Russians and Czechs played a spirited game to start the day. While the nightcap was dry, Henrik Lundqvist put on a decent show and has played eight periods of Olympic hockey without allowing a goal.

Of course, the best of the day’s action came between the USA and Canada. Going in I was expecting a Canadian victory, by a large margin. But, some suspect netminding from Martin Brodeur and strong defensive play gave the USA the biggest win in the men’s tournament thus far.

I almost forgot, this guy named Ryan Miller happened to be spectacular between the pipes for the USA.

My training as a journalist says that I can have no bias. Today, however, I wanted only one outcome. I managed to hold back enough when the US would score, but I’m sure the people in the suites behind me knew who I was pulling for the entire game. Luckily the suite directly behind the commentary booth was filled with US fans.

At the end of the game the only fans that could be heard were the US ones. As the raucous crowd was silenced by Miller’s play and some hustle goals from the US.

Immediately after the game I thought that this had surpassed the 2008 Winter Classic as my greatest sports experience. It may do just that, but it is hard to compare. At the Classic I was simply a fan. Today, I had a job to do. Although, I was able to pull for the US as well. The atmosphere was indescribable for the entire game, save for the last 30 seconds. I can honestly say I have never been in a louder venue before in my life, and I don’t expect it to be beat. The crowd was so loud we could not communicate over our headsets because the background noise was so great.

Brian Rafalski did enough on his own to silence Canada Hockey Place. Chris Drury, Ryan Kesler and Miller just added to it. The unsung hero has to be Ryan Callahan. He had at least six blocked shots in the final five minutes. He should just change his name to Chris Drury Jr. because that what he is. I would trade just about anyone on the Sabres roster for him-and Kesler as well.

Not enough can be said about guys who hustle each and everyday.

Here’s to the USA getting a win today

Today promises to be the most action-packed day of Olympic hockey at the 2010 Games.

With rematches of the past three gold medal games, there should be at least one good game starting this afternoon. Also, all three games will determine the winner of all three pools. So, the winner of each game guarantees themselves a bye to the quarterfinal round.

There isn’t much to recap from yesterday. Germany ended a four year and one day Olympic scoring drought when Dennis Seidenberg tallied on the powerplay in the first period. Of course, Germany lost so the scoring streak ending becomes somewhat moot. The silver lining is that Germany and Belarus provided the single best period of hockey that we have seen so far. The entire 60 minute effort, not as strong as the final 20 miles.

Everything kicks off tomorrow with the Czech Republic vs. Russia. USA vs. Canada in the afternoon (evening on the East Coast) and Sweden vs. Finland to end the night.