Saturday, February 18, 2006

Slovakia wins 2-1; Finland and Czech Republic tied 2-2

Slovakia wins 2-1, and improves to 3-0. With wins against USA and Russia, Slovakia has to be considered a serious medal contender. I pegged them at sixth at the beginning of the tournament, since I didn't think Peter Budaj to be a top-flight goaltender, and I thought their defense looked a little suspect. Slovakia has games against Swedan and Kazakhstan, and could end up being the only team with an unblemished 5-0 record going into the quarterfinals. Currently, Slovakia and Finland are the only teams remaining in the tournament with a perfect record.

With the loss USA, now has 1 win, 1 loss and 1 tie, for three points in three games. With only two tough games left on their schedule against Swedan and Russia, the American team needs to be careful. The only need to finish in the top four to make the quarterfinals, and they aren't in any serious risk of being passed by Kazakhstan or Latvia, but their record so far is a cause for worry. If Kazakhstan had managed to steal a point from Russia today (they lost 1-0), I might been a little more worried. Latvia probably has the best chance of jumping into the quarterfinals, although they would need a win against Kazakhstan, at least a tie against Russia, and hope that USA loses their last two games. Actually, the either need a tie against Russia, or a massive blowout against Kazakhstan, as the tie-breaker with the USA would be based on goal differential. Currently, USA is +2 and Latvia is -8. I suppose if USA gets blown out by both Russia and Sweden, Latvia has a chance to squeak in without managing a tie against Russia. I don't think Kazakhstan, Italy or Germany hae any hope of making the quarterfinals. As it stands, it looks pretty certain that the teams making it in will be, although the seeding is still to be decided:

Group A

Czech Republic

Group B


I'm watching the Finland-Czech Republic matchup now, rooting for the Finns. Finland tied it up 1-1 midway through the first, when Florida Panthers captain Olli Joikinen tapped in a pass from Montreal Canadians captain Saku Koivu on a 2-on-1. Koivu did a great job selling the shot and freezing goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

There was a scary moment in the second period of the Finland-Czech Republic matchup. Jaromir Jagr, arguably the NHLs best player, went down in a big hit by Jarkku Ruutu. Jagr's head was down, so he was in a vulnerable position. Jagr's helmet came off, and has a nasty cut somewhere on his head. The announcers said that Jagr was wearing a non-standard helmet that the NHL would not allow a player to use.

They called a 5-minute boarding major and a game misconduct on Ruutu. It was a relatively clean hit, so I'm not sure the penatly is entirely warrented - it was an unfortunate situation - the reason Jagr got hurt was that he was bent down at the waist, and had his head near the boards. Hopefully, Jagr will be alright.

USA is down 2-1 with 3 minutes to go in the third. Both games have been fast-paced and entertaining so far.

Midway through the second period, Finland scored on the powerplay to take a 2-1 lead. Dallas Stars forward Jere Lehtinen just snuck one by, allowing the Finns to take a 2-1 lead.

Finland just got two penalties called against them, and the Czechs tied the game 2-2 on the two-man advantage.