DAY 4: HERE WE GO AGAIN!
By Derek Jory, Canucks.com
It’s the fourth day of action already, amazing how time flies.
I’ve covered nine games in three days with three more today; the Sedins lead the Swedish charge against Belarus at 12 p.m. (PST), Czech Republic hosts Latvia in the 4:30 p.m. (PST) middle game, and Team Finland, backed by Sami Salo, goes up against Team Germany and Christian Ehrhoff at 9 p.m. (PST).
As an expecting father with a baby due in late May, all I’ve heard the past few months is about how trying being a parent is. It’s long days and late nights, crying and chaos that requires uber patience and understanding, resulting in a boatload of happiness.
That’s what covering Olympic hockey is like as well.
The long days and late nights have had me at the rink from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. each day (no way a newborn has me up that much!), the garbage princess has provided the screaming (no way a newborn is worse than her!), chaos comes in the mixed zone where interviews can be like pulling teeth (no way a newborn has worse English than the Slovaks!) and that’s where the patience comes in.
The boatload of happiness is being here live watching hockey history as it's written.
Maybe I’ll commemorate my experience at the Games by naming my little one Olympics.
Olympics Jory – it does have a certain ring to it…
BEHIND THE SCENES OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY
Finland and Germany just hit the ice. Salo vs. Ehrhoff. This is going to be good.
Both Finland and Germany seem like teams that would be pleased to go to a shootout even at 0-0.
With the amount of offence put forward in the first period, it’s safe to say my assumption was bogus.
Finland outshot Germany 8-6 with the Fins scoring the lone goal, which Tuomo Ruutu tipped over the goal line after Janne Niskala’s point shot beat goaltender Dimitri Patzold but died before leaving the blue paint.
Neither Salo or Ehrhoff played a major part in the period, although Patzold was thankful he practiced his kegels before the game because he put every muscle in the lower half of his body to use in keeping a Salo bomb out of the net.
At the other end Niklas Backstrom was awesome, especially on his glovely to meet you swipe of the mitt on Manuel Bakos’ fireball that had eyes for the back of the net.
Germany hasn’t scored yet this tournament and I don’t think our friends in black, yellow and red are about to get it done this game.
They came close, like bumper to bumper close, midway through the second frame when Jochen Hecht tipped a Korbinian Holzer point shot past Backstrom but it didn’t have enough momentum to carry over the goal line.
If Germany does score, it’ll be Ehrhoff. His shot has been juuuuust off the mark this game and he’s due.
The Fins did score in the second to take a 2-0 lead. Kimmo Timonen put home a perfect pass from Olli Jokinen with Saku Koivu picking up the second assist. Koivu is now one helper away from equaling the all-time Olympics mark of 22.
Speaking of records, when Finland took a 3-0 advantage, it was Timonen scoring again, assisted by Sami Salo and Teemu Selanne.
The Finnish Flash, whose poster I used to have when I was a young prairie boy rootin’ for the Winnipeg Jets, needed only one point to become the career points leader in Olympic men’s hockey.
Selanne is now the all-time points leader.
Congrats to Salo for the assist too, it just wasn’t quite the milestone of Selanne’s helper.
There wasn't much left to decide in the final period except whether I'd eat my arm in starvation or not.
I survived, despite my arm looking delicious.
The Germans needed Gretzky, Bossy and Lemieux to not only come out of retirement, but somehow become German, to help the underdogs pull off the phenomenal comeback.
That also didn’t happen as Finland scored another two goals, Jarkko Ruutu and Pitkanen picked them up, in a 5-0 shutout win. Backstrom stopped all 24 shots faced.
The highlight of this period wasn’t a goal, it wasn’t even the fantastic wave that flew around for what seemed like hours with fans unable to put their arms down, it was when a puck was sailing in the air through centre ice and Ruutu, a former Canucks agitator, leaped like Michael Jordan to grab it.
He gloved the puck and tossed it to a teammate for a rush down the ice; no jokes that Ruutu looked like Santonio Holmes when he made that diving grab to win the Super Bowl two years ago.
That’s it from day four of hockey. Twelve games down, 16 to go!
SWEDEN WINS, SEDINS DREAM OF FACING CANADA FOR GOLD
(Click here for a replay of Belarus vs. Sweden)
Belarus got up to play Sweden Friday in the fourth day of hockey action at Canada Hockey Place, but unlike in 2002 when Belarus shocked the world with a 6-5 win over Sweden in the quarter-finals, there was no upset this time around.
Daniel Alfredsson scored twice and Daniel and Henrik Sedin had two points each as Sweden beat Belarus 4-2, despite an inspired effort from the little guys.
Sweden was comfortably ahead 3-0 in the second period before Belarus beat netminder Jonas Gustavsson midway through the frame on a man advantage to swing the pendulum its way.
Belarus scored again 11:33 into the third to make the score 3-2 and give Swedish fans a flashback to 2002, but a late Alfredsson goal with 10 seconds to play iced the game and improved Sweden’s record to 2-0-0.
”We played a pretty good game up to 3-0, then they got the power play goal and 3-1 is a small lead in hockey,” said Daniel Sedin, who scored the game’s opening goal off a feed from Henrik 6:40 into the first period.
”They’re good skilled guys over there and they played tight defensive so it was tough game.”
Not ready to dissect what some would consider a lackluster effort from the Swedes, Daniel defended his team’s play because in the end, they got the job done.
“We won the game, that’s all that matters. Canada played Swiss last night and they won in a shootout. Everyone thinks it’s so easy to win games in these kinds of tournaments, but it’s tough.”
Sweden outshot Belarus 38-19 with the Sedins coming together for 10 scoring attempts, eight going Daniel’s way. The twins combined for a goal and three assists and a plus-4 rating.
”We’ve got to prove every game that we can score because we have a lot of firepower up front and if we don’t score its going to be someone else taking our spot, that’s the way it has to be,” said Henrik Sedin.
Next up for Sweden is a date with archenemy Finland on Rivalry Sunday. Assuming Finland beats Germany in the final game Friday evening, the winner of Sunday’s contest will finish atop Group C and earn a bye to the quarter-finals.
There will be a lot at stake for both teams with three Canucks, the Sedins and Sami Salo, figuring to play prominent roles.
”From when you grow up Finland is the biggest rival for us in every sport, it doesn’t matter what it is,” said Henrik, looking ahead to Sunday. “We’ll see how they do against Germany, but it should be the deciding game Sunday night.”
OUT AND ABOUT
The Sedins haven’t had a whole lot of time to take in the sights and sounds of the Olympics around Vancouver, but Henrik has seen enough to get caught up in the spirit of the Games.
Compared to the Torino Games in 2006, Vancouver 2010 is the Disneyland of Olympics.
”It’s just an unbelievable atmosphere and to walk down the streets, there’s people in restaurants sitting outside cheering for us, so it’s great,” said Henrik.
”I read a lot of things in the paper about this being a failure and the weather’s been bad, but look outside, I walked from the village to Yaletown and it’s blue skies and you see the mountains. All they talk about on the bus is how beautiful it is and what a great Olympics it is.”
BRING IT ON CANADA
Winning gold, again, would be the cherry on top of the Olympics for both Sedins, especially if it comes at the expense of Team Canada.
”Oh yeah, for sure,” said Henrik in response to if he wants to face the Canadians for gold. “I hope in the finals, but we’ll see. It’s something we’re really looking forward to if it happens because that’s where you really get the crowd into it.
”There’s two Swedes on this team and only one Canadian from the Canucks so they should cheer a little for us,” Henrik laughed.
“That’s the way it is, there’s always a lot of expectations when you’re the home country. It’s almost like it’s two Olympics here, it’s the hockey Olympics and it’s the rest of them. There’s a lot of atmosphere around the hockey so it’s a lot of fun.”
Added Daniel on who the fans would side with in a Canada vs. Sweden final: "We’d expect them to cheer for Canada, it’s their home country, but that would be dream come true to play Canada in their own country.”