Hyvä ilta, dobrý večer and good evening State of Hockey legion! Welcome to a special international, global, worldwide Olympic edition of live in-game commentary, right here on Wild.com. Live in-game commentary was supposed to be on a hiatus until March 3, but when you've got five Wild warriors battling for Olympic gold, you don't ask questions, you just get on a computer and start commenting.
Hence, I am now sitting in my Como Park Palace getting ready to watch Mikko Koivu
, Antti Miettinen, Niklas Backstrom
and Finland square off against Martin Havlat, Marek Zidlicky and the Czech Republic in the medal round quarterfinal. I'll be honest, had the United States lost to Switzerland today, I would have found this edition of in-game commentary difficult to do. But thanks to Zach Parise, my all-time favorite non-Wild, non-UMD alum, that's not an issue.
Now, we've got five Wild players hoping to face our Americans on Friday. Tonight, I cheer for five Wild players, but on Friday, I can't cheer for any of them for just one day of the year.
For this one, Finland has decided to go with Miikka Kiprusoff in goal over Niklas Backstrom
. Advantage Czechs. We know here in the State of Hockey that if you want to win, you put in the guy that looks like Eric Bana. Kipper will be facing Tomas Vokoun at the other end for the Czechs.
Now we can talk about attire, and I have to say, I love almost all of the jerseys at this tournament, and this matchup is no exception. The Finns are wearing the white jerseys trimmed in blue and red with "SUOMI" and the standing lion on the chest. The Czechs are in the reds trimmed in white and blue with the Czech crest on the chest. Say that five times fast.
As I wait for coverage of Finns vs. Czechs, I'm watching the recap of the Canada slaughter of Russia, and I think Mike Milbury just said the Russians brought their "Euro-trash game," which was followed by a hysterical face of Jeremy Roenick.
Now we've got the game on, and it's time do to this thing.Period 1
18:36 - Ray Ferraro, tonight's color analyst, wastes no time in calling Mikko Koivu
the "best all-around player in Finland. There's never a bad matchup when Koivu's on the ice." He continues to praise him by saying how great he is with the puck and without it. Oh, we know Ray. We know.
17:18 - Olli Jokinen of the New York Rangers gets the first great scoring chance, trying to cut in front and stuff one in on the far side, but Vokoun gets the right leg pillow out there to stuff him on the doorstep.
15:44 - Already some very...um...interesting calls by NHL refs Brad Watson and Dan O'Halloran. Saku Koivu gets whistled on a ridiculous tripping call, but Finland will still have a four-on-three advantage.
14:38 - Mikko is set up nicely for a one-timer from the top of the right circle, but Vokoun is all over that shot, going down in the butterfly to make the save.
12:38 - I still think Finland should have started Backstrom tonight, but Kiprusoff comes up big on a huge save against Patrik Elias. At the side of the net, Elias has an open net, but Kipper slides to his left and gets a pad on the shallow angle shot. He doesn't know where the puck is, but it's under his pad and stays away from the goal line.
11:19 - Coming off a great game against Latvia, Havlat has a solid opportunity. He corrals a loose puck below the circle and then tries to quickly go upstairs with the shot, but he puts it off Kipper's mask. We're still looking for that first Wild goal of the Olympics.
9:45 - Miettinen, who was benched against Sweden, is out there tonight, and he has a great chance. He takes a centering pass in the slot from Niclas Hagman and one-times it on goal, but Vokoun makes another outstanding pad save.
2:30 - The Finns are on another power play, but they can't get anything generated. The scoring chances have dropped considerably since the first 10 minutes.
0:00 - That's going to do it for the opening 20, with a couple doughnuts up on the board. Both teams will head to their locker rooms for some strategizing in their respective languages. I am going to spend my intermission trying to avoid Geico commercials with the guy asking me if "Ed 'Too Tall' Jones is too tall?'"Period 2
20:00 - I'm feeling very uncomfortable after watching Joe Micheletti's post-game interview with Alexander Ovechkin, who looked like he was about to rearrange his interviewer's face by the end.
18:38 - Mikko gets another chance as Tuomo Ruutu (the less irritating of the two Ruutu's) makes a slick pass from the sideboards, and Koivu redirects it on goal, but Vokoun has his number again.
17:00 - I'm certainly biased, but I'd say it's been Wild players that have been the best players on the ice tonight. This time, it's Havlat firing a high shot on goal from just inside the blue line. Kipper can't hang onto it, and Marty fights his way in to follow his shot and he puts another one back on and nearly finds the five-hole of the Finnish netminder.
14:53 - There's another one! Miettinen seems to have shed his slow Olympic start as he gets his second great scoring chance. Hagman hits him cutting to the net on an odd-man rush. Mittens puts it right on, but Vokoun slides over to make another huge stop on a Wild player.
10:11 - Tomas Plekanec, among the NHL leaders in assists, decides to try a shot on a two-on-one with Elias. He's got some zip on this one, but Kipper makes a big stop again and keeps this thing scoreless.
5:18 - In the Czech Republic corner, Mittens and Zid battle each other for the puck. The win goes to Zidlicky here, as he knocks his Wild teammate off the puck and flips it out of the zone.Period 3
19:00 - All right, I was expecting a few more goals in this one. Let's do this Europe! Or you will be subject to the shocking epithets tossed out by Mike Milbury. Do you want that?
14:51 - Jaromir Jagr, who has been shown about five million times this week getting flattened by Ovechkin, is stymied twice by Toni Lydman. As Jagr fires from the slot, Lydman gets a skate on it. But the puck pops loose and Kiprusoff is ocmpletely out of position as Jagr gets it back. But Lydman makes a remarkable dive to get in front of the shot labled for the open net.
10:54 - Kimmo Timonen has the Finn's best chance of the third as he almost squeezes a wrist shot between the arm and body of Vokoun. The puck drops straight down and Tomas Rolinek slides in and covers it with his glove, which doesn't seem right.
10:13 - The Czechs come the other way on an odd-man rush. Pleckanec sends a cross-crease pass over to Elias, who puts it off the side of the net. The puck then comes out front for Jagr, but he can't get it past Kiprusoff. I still say Backstrom should have played.6:26 - FIN 1 - CZE 0 - There's one! Finland finally dents the scoreboard as Janne Niskala blasts a shot from the point, and Niklas Hagman is right there in front to tip it through the legs of Vokoun. Ferraro points out that Hagman was left all alone because Pavel Kubina had to go behind his net to recover his helmet because he wouldn't be able to play without it. One goal seems like a lot against this Finnish team.
3:21 - Oh my! Mittens has been throwing seven kinds of smoke tonight, but Vokoun has answered every time. Antti streaks into the slot and takes a pass from Niko Kapanen He gets in all alone, but Vokoun denies him with a huge save and keeps his team in it.1:35 - FIN 2 - CZE 0 - What a play by Koivu to help seal this win. With Vokoun pulled, Mikko draws two defenders in the neutral zone and then sends a beautiful cross-rink pass over to Valterri Filppula, who easily puts it into the empty net. Ferraro again praises the play of Mikko, and for good reason. He's the man!
0:00 - It's going to be Finland and the U.S. in Friday's semifinal. It was the Finns that eliminated the U.S. from the 2006 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup. It should be fun. If the U.S. wins, there's a good chance you'll see an in-game commentary during the gold medal game.