Sweden takes second in field behind U.S., then Russia, Finland
February 22, 2010 3:00 PM
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Russia's Alexander Ovechkin, right, checks Czech Republic's Jaromir Jagr to the ice
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The immediate aftershock of the United States' upset of Canada could be a change in the Canadian goal.
Coach Mike Babcock, only two days after pledging that he would stick by Martin Brodeur for the tournament, said late Sunday night that he was leaving that open.
"I'll watch the game tonight," he said, referring to video, "and make my decision."
Most observers took that to mean Roberto Luongo, Brodeur's backup, will get the start Tuesday in the qualification-round game against Germany.
Marc-Andre Fleury has yet to play.
Brodeur stopped 18 of 22 shots in Canada's 5-3 loss and looked erratic on more than one occasion, but he also stopped several point-blank chances the Americans generated. And one of the goals was deflected past him by teammate Sidney Crosby.
He did not sound satisfied with his showing
"It didn't go as well as I wanted," Brodeur said. "There got to me at times."
Canada canceled its practice for today, so it is not known when Babcock might make his decision.
Sweden No. 2
Sweden, with its 3-0 shutout of rival Finland late Sunday night, claimed the No. 2 spot in the overall seedings -- behind the United States -- after the preliminary round that ended with that game.
The other two teams that earned byes to the quarterfinals were No. 3 Russia and No. 4 Finland.
The qualification round will have four games Tuesday to pare down the Nos. 5-12 seeds: Czech Republic vs. Latvia, Canada vs. Germany, Slovakia vs. Norway, and Switzerland vs. Belarus.
The most surprising seed of all, of course, is the Canadians' No. 6. To understand how they fell that far, it is necessary to know that Olympic standings award three points for a regulation victory, two for victory in overtime or shootout. Canada routed Norway but needed Crosby's shootout goal to beat Switzerland, 3-2. If Canada had merely beaten Switzerland -- a team with two NHL players -- in regulation, its quarterfinal draw would have been Finland rather than the current target, Russia.
Also, the U.S. had a little help Sunday night with Sweden beating Finland. If Finland had won, it would have been the No. 1 seed, and the U.S. likely would have faced Slovakia in the quarterfinals. Now, it will face Switzerland or Belarus.
The Russian fives
The Russians, with former Soviet star Slava Bykov as coach, have been playing with five-man units, a tactic that harkens back to the old USSR powerhouses.
How logical is that, given that three-quarters of the Russian roster is culled from the NHL?
"I guess it's normal back home," defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. "I haven't played on the national team for a while, and you have to adjust to it. It's up to the coaches if they're going to stick with it or if there's going to be changes. We'll do whatever it takes."
Elder Malkin in the house
Vladimir Malkin, Evgeni's father, was in the stands for the Russians' game.
"I've been looking forward to the Olympics since last year," Vladimir said.
NHL ties? Please
Ryan Kesler, left winger for the U.S. team as well as the Vancouver Canucks, raised some eyebrows with this remark in the Sunday editions of the Vancouver Province, when asked about facing Canada: "I hate 'em. It's a big rivalry ... well, I don't really hate them."
Any animosity might be mutual after Kesler scored the sealing empty-netter for the Americans Sunday night.