I have no idea why we even bother predicting the Olympic hockey bracket. There are always crazy stories along the way, and the Latvia story this evening ranks as one of the all-time moments—or certainly one of the major ones since the NHL arrived on the Olympic hockey scene.
The table is now set for the quarterfinal and here's how I see things:
1. Sweden will beat Slovenia. You don't need me to tell you this, but it is worth mentioning that two teams should enjoy an easy time of it tomorrow. Sweden is one. I'm still onside with the Abba's making the gold medal game, but that injury to Zetterberg hurts a lot. Final score: Sweden 5, Slovenia 1.
2. Russia over Finland. The Finns have enjoyed a strong tournament with some impressive results (the Soviets were the play-in team for this one). I like this club as the #5 in this year's Olympics, but Russia will outplay them in this contest. I expect Ovie to have a big game and this might be the weekend that defines him as an international player. Final Score: Russia 3, Finland 2.
3. Canada over Latvia. This is a stroke of absolutely brilliant luck for Team Canada. If he's wise, Mike Babcock will use this game to add Martin St. Louis into the group. This will not happen. The Canadians have so much firepower it probably won't matter. However, if they're down 3-2 in the third period to the USA on Friday (or on Sunday to the Russians or Swedes) there's going to be more hell than a little bit. Final Score: Canada 6, Latvia 1.
4. USA over Czech Republic. The American public is absolutely in love with Phil Kessel and the high powered offense. I don't think they'll deliver at the same level in the elimination round, but Team USA has been impressive. The Czechs are unlikely to overcome their coach or the strong American team, but I do think they'll show well in this game. Final Score: USA 3, Czech Republic 1.
I think the two teams that have the easy games tomorrow (Sweden and Canada) will play in the Gold medal game on Sunday.