Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympic Hockey FAQ

1.  I'm seeing a lot of headlines about USA winning like the final game against Canada.  What happened?

The men's U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated Canada 5-3 in the final game of the preliminary round of play.  The Olympics began with three groups of four teams each.  Each team then played three games against each of the other members in the group.  A win in regulation resulted in 3 points, a win in OT or shootout resulted in 2, while a loss in either resulted in 0 or 1 point, respectively. As an aside, the points awarded in the preliminary round reflect a fair and accurate distribution of points based on the victory obtained.  In the NHL, you receive 2 points for a win (in regulation, OT, or shootout), but 1 point for an overtime or shootout loss.  This results in an extra point being awarded to a losing team--which rewards teams like San Jose and hurts teams like my beloved Kings. 

2.  So, you're saying this game was not that important?

No, that's not what I'm saying.  When Cal plays Stanfurd, the game is always important, regardless of the actual stakes.  Likewise, the USA-Canada hockey rivalry is storied.  In 2002, for example, the Canadians beat us on our soil to win the gold.  On top of that, Canada entered this tournament a favorite to win the gold (along with Russia).  To beat them 5-3 sends a strong statement.  We have 10x the population of Canada, but our hockey program is largely relegated to a few colleges in the midwest and northeast.  Canada has players entering the lower level pro leagues at 17. 

3.  OK, but aside from the sentimental crap about hockey minor leagues, there was nothing at stake in this game?

Au contraire.  By beating Canada, and by having a large enough goal differential, the United States is the number 1 seed and gets an automatic berth to the quarterfinals.  Teams ranked between 5 and 12 must play an additional game to move on to the quarterfinals.  Think of it as a bye in the NFL playoffs.  With the number 1 seeding, we will play the winner of the 8/9 seeded teams--meaning we play the winner of Switzerland/Belarus.  Neither is a hockey powerhouse, and neither has more than a few NHL players on their roster.  Not to put the cart before the horse, but the US has a good chance of beating either of those teams and advancing to the semi-finals.  In the semis, we will face either Latvia, Czech Republic, or Finland.  On the other hand, Canada falls to the sixth seed and must play Germany (0-3 so far) to advance to the quarterfinals.  In the quarterfinals, it will face Russia.  That means of the two teams favored to win, one will go home without a medal.  

4.  That means the US should waltz into the gold medal game?

I'd like to think so, but you can't completely discount the Czech or Finn.  I think the U.S. has a better team than either of those two countries, but there are a few subtleties of international play that can hurt us.  Most importantly, the rink is about 13 feet wider, which favors a less physical, more skilled passing style of play--the traditional domain of the Europeans.  Also, while team USA beat Canada, we did not exactly dominate them.  They controlled the puck more than the US and got far more scoring opportunities.  Thankfully, Ryan Miller made some remarkable saves.  Incidentally, it appears that Miller is single-handedly keeping Buffalo in the playoff hunt.  Yes, he's that good. 

5.  Screw hockey, when does the World Cup start?

Not soon enough. 



Blogger LDUTheCoach said...

For a Daily Guide of who to watch for gold, visit:

2/22/2010 6:07 AM  
Blogger McWho said...

Russia is GOOD. I watched the CR/Russia game, and Russia should be a clear gold medal favorite over the Canadians. Haven't seen the US play, will look forward to the QF round.

2/22/2010 9:11 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

Russia also lost to Slovakia in a shootout.

2/22/2010 9:22 AM  
Blogger Varty said...

Apparently the NHL is annoyed that the Olympics cuts into its schedule and doesn't send them money to compensate (and sends back its players hurt). It's "seriously considering" banning NHL players from participating in the Olympics. Not sure what level of consideration they're realistically at since there's not vote scheduled, but Ovechkin has already said that being in the Olympics is number one priority for him and would basically quit the NHL if need be. So besides bad press, the league stands to lose some amazing players (and potentially fans).

2/22/2010 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I would have guessed that hockey is one of the few sports that could beat the Olympics in a turf war. For most sports, being an Olympic sport is necessary because the sports federations will put financial support only into Olympic sports.

WC soccer is an obvious exception and so the soccer folks can and do push around the Olympic people. I assumed that the NHL could easily get away with that too, but maybe I'm wrong.

2/22/2010 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In this olympics, they are actually playing on NHL size ice, not the normal Int'l size so the Canadians and US teams actually have an advantage since they play on this ice most of the time.

2/22/2010 12:12 PM  
Blogger Sean said...


That would be true if all of the top teams weren't packed with NHL players.

2/22/2010 1:08 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Armen, you forgot one:

6) Why the fuck wasn't this game on network television?

I don't know, but it probably has something to do with Jay Leno.

2/22/2010 1:23 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Sean, just because someone plays in the NHL does not mean that their style of play is ideal for an NHL sized rink. The wider international rink is generally beneficial to European players (whether they play in the NHL or some other league).

12:12, thanks for pointing that out, but how can they get away with it? I know there are other differences, such as the size of the neutral zone. Are those NHL as well?

Varty, the NHL as an organization is retarded. Most of the time hockey is relegated to obscure cable networks (versus!). The Olympics is the one time where you see really great hockey games in prime time with amazing ratings--which conveniently feeds into the fury of a playoff hunt in the NHL--and somehow this is a bad thing in the eyes of Betman? Ugh.

Dan, I think another reason is there are no TV timeouts. So they had to show the US game live, but if you do so, you minimize the revenue from ads. That's why nothing is live on NBC. Nothing.

2/22/2010 1:39 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Interesting. At least that means they're not just incredibly stupid. Still bugs me.

2/22/2010 1:41 PM  
Blogger Varty said...

It's not a matter of whether the NHL can walk away from the Olympics, but rather whether they should. In the near future they're almost guaranteed a loss of the top Russian players in 2014, or at least face imposing suspensions or fines (seeing as how 2014 is set to be in Sochi, Russia). Plus, I would imagine the Russians aren't the only ones that are adamant about representing their respective countries. This will be a big standoff between the league and the players when the current agreement expires in 2011.

2/22/2010 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curling ftw!

2/22/2010 1:58 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

"have an advantage since they play on this ice most of the time."

That is what I responded to. The players on the teams of other nations also play on that ice most of the time,namely, the NHL season.

Maybe Euro players skate differently, I cannot speak to that, but wouldn't that also mean they are inferior players in the NHL?

2/22/2010 3:24 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

It's just a style of play. US and Canada are physical. They dump the puck and crash the net, forecheck, cycle, etc. European style is much of a pin-point stick to stick passing game. A wider rink benefits this style because players can evade the checkers and have wider passing lanes.

I wouldn't really call the leading goal scorer in the NHL inferior though. Call that one a hunch.

2/22/2010 3:34 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

I too would not call him inferior. But if one were to accept that European players are disadvantaged on NHL size ice, as compared to American and Canadian players, then how can someone explain Ovechkin performing better than them? Is he just a freak exception to the general rule?

I enjoy hockey, but I do not follow it religiously. I never noticed Swedish or Finnish players struggling to perform at a very high level on NHL ice in the regular season in my casual viewing though.

2/22/2010 4:02 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

I think what you are getting at is just a matter of magnitude. If you have open ice, Ovechkin will play THAT much better. Wayne Gretzky's style of play was very much stick-to-stick, pin point passing, and laser sharp shooting. He played even better during 4-on-4 situations, so for a while they got rid of the 4-on-4 because it basically amounted to a power play for Edmonton.

12:12 said Canadian and USA teams are advantaged. That is true, because they can check and stifle the European offenses (which is what Slovakia did to Russia). This doesn't translate to European players in the NHL being disadvantaged. There's a few assumptions there that aren't warranted.

2/22/2010 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A quite comprehensible and even informative post from Armen. Well done. I take back what I said about Wormtongue and Doc Review.

2/22/2010 4:14 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

4:14 (the one that's not me): Even a broken clock is right twice a day. I wouldn't give up on your initial impressions just yet.

2/22/2010 4:23 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

I took issue with the statement that the USA and Canada were advantaged due to a more constant use of that size of ice. My argument was that there are NHL players on all of the competitive teams, and all of those players play on NHL ice just as much.

Your point is that larger ice better suits a finesse game, and small a power game. I do not deny that. My point was it was not like, say, having a US Football team play a Canadian Football team on a US field with US rules. Most of the players are used to this style, even if it is not ideal for how they play.

2/22/2010 5:15 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

I don't think we disagree.

2/22/2010 6:20 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Any of you internet gurus know where I can find video of the Men's Ski Cross final? NBC clearly does not understand what year this is.

2/22/2010 7:54 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

2/22/2010 8:10 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Sean, you're a gentleman and a scholar.

2/23/2010 10:32 AM  

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