Friday, February 21, 2014
Showtime at Sochi
However, we have a feeling that Grapes will find the consolation prize to his liking.
Friday in Sochi brings the Olympic Men's Semi-Finals and in both games, long time rivals take to the ice to settle the final line up for the Gold Medal game on Sunday.
And while there will be interest in how the Swedes and Finns fare in the early game, the premiere match up of the day, and in the mind of some, of the tournament comes when Canada and the USA take to the ice at the Bolshoy.
A match up that offers all the indications that it could deliver a classic, much like the two nation's women's teams provided on Thursday.
For Canada, the road to the semi finals has been a winding path, a few scares thrown in along the way, (Hello there Finland, likewise Latvia) but in all instances, the final results keeping the Canadians on their mission to claim Gold in Sochi.
For the USA the road has been more of an expressway, with the exception of a nail biter with the Russian squad, the Americans have had little trouble with their opponents at Sochi. The American offence in sync, the shots finding their way to the back of the net, the wins adding to the confidence level of a team that seemed self assured even before its arrival.
The Canadians finding frustration in the goal scoring department thus far, scoring enough to win, but not as frequently as the home folk might like. A situation highlighted by a 57 shot performance in a 2-1 victory against the Latvians, a game that left Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis exhausted but an instant Olympic legend.
And while an inability to beat a goaltender more than twice on a 57 shot night might alarm Canadians, the Latvian game perhaps provided the best tune up for what is to come with the USA on Friday.
The Latvians played a hard, physical style of hockey, something that the Canadians hadn't really found in their previous outings, the bumping, mucking and hard hits of the quarter final game, should serve Canada in good form as they prepare for the American showdown.
A game that returns to Canada to a grounding of sorts, gone are the traps, and clogging style of previous opponents, ahead a game that is quite familiar to Canadians, a physical, fast paced game, one shared by brothers of the same pond, all be it from different ends of it.
Still, considering the offensive talent on the USA squad, scoring is something that Canada will be looking to improve on, making the best of their chances when presented.
The Americans have already knocked off the host squad, starting the derailment of the dreams of Russian success at the rink in their Olympics, a situation aided by the peculiar decision making of the Russians in the games that mattered most.
The momentum that the US has built up through the tournament will make them a formidable opponent, as they have been in the past.
The lure of the opportunity to advance to the Gold Medal game of Sunday perhaps equal in importance as the opportunity to knock off the North American hockey cousins, settling some old scores of four years ago and setting the stage for future battles.
For Canada, the mission remains much as it was when the team was selected and the defence of their Vancouver Gold Medal underway.
One shift at a time, one shot at a time and if the wishes of the fans back home have their way, one goal to grab the win and advance.
As the Olympic games begin their final countdown towards extinguishing the flame, there will be one heated battle ahead from two teams that know each other very well and will hold nothing back to seek their place in the Tournament final.
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February 20-- With John Tavares out, Canada's men's hockey team turns to Matt Duchene
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February 20-- Canada-US Olympic men's hockey semifinal story lines
February 20-- For U. S., payback just as sweet as gold-medal game
February 20-- Team Canada not fazed by panicked hockey fans
February 20-- Canada worried about a semi final date with U. S.? Not a chance
February 20-- Zach Parise, Team USA seek sweet revenge in Olympic semifinal
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February 20-- Canada - U. S. Men's semifinal likely to be highlight of Olympic tourney
February 20-- USA Hockey has a shot ad redemption vs. Canada on world stage
February 20-- Proud rivals known for hard-nosed hockey meet in semi-finals
February 20-- Tough Americans on a roll with dangerous Canadians up next
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February 20-- Confident U. S. Men Will Overcome Rival
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February 20-- High-powered US offence to give Canada a new test in men's hockey tournament