After a week of play in Vancouver, the Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament is shaping up to be a classic. The Caps have five Olympians on three of the top teams at the conclusion of the preliminary round – Tomas Fleischmann is playing for Czech Republic; Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Semyon Varlamov are playing for Russia; Nicklas Backstrom is playing for Sweden.
Fleischmann and the Czech Republic began group play with wins against Slovakia and Latvia. Against Latvia, “Flash” recorded an assist on David Krejci’s first period goal, giving the Czech Republic a 1-0 lead in a game they would go on to win 5-2.
With key contributions from Backstrom, Sweden cruised through the preliminary round with wins against Germany, Belarus and Finland. Backstrom leads Sweden with five points (one goal, four assists). He is tied for first for the overall points lead with seven other players. Backstrom had points in all three games, including a goal and two assists in Sweden’s group-clinching 3-0 win against Finland on Sunday night.
Placed in arguably the toughest group in the Olympics, Russia opened the preliminary round with an easy win against Latvia, followed by a shootout loss to Slovakia. In Russia’s opening 8-2 win against Latvia, Semin had the primary assist on Ovechkin’s first of two goals in the contest. Ovie scored once on three shootout attempts, but Russia fell 2-1, after seven rounds. In a pivotal contest against the Czech Republic, Ovechkin’s open ice hit on Jaromir Jagr led to Evgeni Malkin’s game-winning goal in the third period, set up on a cross-ice pass from Semin. Through three games, Ovechkin has four points (two goals, two assists) and Semin has two assists.
Both Russia and Sweden earned a first-round bye in the playoff round. On Wednesday, Russia will face the winner of Canada vs. Germany, and Sweden will take on the winner of Slovakia vs. Norway. The Czech Republic will face Latvia on Tuesday, with the winner of that game set to take on Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.