For the Olympic hockey players, Monday was a day of rest. No teams were in live game action, as they had all completed their group play and were busy preparing for the elimination round.
For group winners Russia, the United States and Sweden, along with Finland, they will receive a bye directly to the quarterfinals. Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov noted coming out of the group with a bye was the hope for the Olympic squads.
“That was our goal,” said Nabokov of winning the group.
The bye provided some with more than a break from games.
“Today we had a day off,” said Douglas Murray
Even as a favorite, capturing first in group play was not as easy as it would seem. There is a lot of talent on most teams and an extra goal from a player not counted on to score can alter a whole tournament.
“I thought our group was the hardest,” said Nabokov of matchups with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Latvia. “Most of the teams we had were really good.”
Russia did not skate unscathed through the opening round, stumbling against the Slovaks 2-1, but they did do what was necessary to earn the bye.
“Maybe they weren’t as young as us, but they were experienced,” said Nabokov.
So what did that hard work earn Russia? A date with the winner of the Canada-Germany match in the quarters, showing that even the teams that do have a bye won’t have an easy road.
One day, people were wondering what was wrong with the Russians and the next day, everything seemed right. The same could be said about Canada if they win their next game. That is the reality of the Olympic tournament.
Now that the elimination round is upon the players, the intensity could be unlike anything the athletes could see in an NHL season. For instance, if the seeds were to hold up, the Russians would have to topple Canada, Sweden and the United States to earn the gold medal, with each game a “win-or-go-home” scenario.
“It’s probably comparable to three game sevens in a row in order to win the gold,” said Nabokov. “Now is the time it will really kick in. It’s definitely not going to be easy.”
If fans thought the U.S.-Canada game provided some great intensity on Sunday, just wait until tomorrow’s elimination games begin.
The Olympic Village has been set up as mini-countries with most republics in their own facility, so it’s not like the Swedes and Americans are crossing paths every moment of the day.
“Every country has their own house and our team has almost its own floor,” said Thomas Greiss
Still, there is room for interaction with fellow countrymen and women in other sports, as well as athletes from other nations.
“There are so many people here,” said Nabokov. “I met a couple of people from my hometown in Kazakhstan.”
The social portion of the village is located in the lounge where athletes can interact on a casual level.
“We don’t have TV’s in our room, but we have a couple in the lounge area,” said Greiss. “They have video games, big screen TV’s, billiards.”
There was no table tennis though like in the Sharks dressing room at Sharks Ice.
Between the rigorous schedule of practice and games, there isn’t a lot of time for the athletes to take in everything going on around them. Still, there are moments to get away and appreciate the grandeur of the Olympics.
“We went downtown a little bit,” said Greiss. “There is so much going on and Vancouver is a great city. The whole atmosphere is great. I (went to) the Canada-U.S. game with a pass, but didn’t get to see the other sports.”
While the Canadians are the host country, the European countries have made their presence known at the hockey venues and made the guest athletes feel a little at home.
“The Germans travelled well,” said Greiss. “We had a lot of fans at the last game and it was fun.”
Fun for Greiss will be the next contest as Germany faces Canada in a winner take all situation. The Germans are still looking for their first victory and would love nothing more than to post the dramatic upset.
“We don’t have any pressure at all,” said Greiss. “We have nothing to lose.”