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Men's ice hockey

Daily snapshot: February 29

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 28, 2010 12:00 AM

A final, and then farewell: No detailed description is required today. The United States and Canada face off in an incredibly intriguing gold medal men's hockey game at 3 p.m. The closing ceremonies commence at 9 p.m.

The mood at the latter will be determined by the outcome of the former.

McGuire: 'It's Ryan Miller's moment'

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 27, 2010 09:04 PM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- We caught up with NBC men's hockey analyst Pierre McGuire this afternoon to get his take on a certain vent so heavily anticipated here that it is expected to be the most watched program in the history of Canadian television.

The Canada-US gold medal game, of course.

(Seriously, what else would it be? The SalmonMasters finals?)

McGuire, who has New England ties -- one of his first coaching jobs was at Babson College in the mid-'80s and he later served as assistant general manager and coach of the Hartford Whalers -- offered several insights on what each team might do and needs to do . . . including these three things that must happen for the United States to emerge with the gold Sunday.

"Ryan Miller has to be Jim Craig," McGuire said, referencing the unforgettable performance of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" goalie. "That's No. 1. No. 2, [the US] can't give up a lot of odd-man rushes. They can't be over-aggressive, because Canada will eat them alive. And then the third thing is, they have to capitalize on their power play. They do those three things, they can disappoint a lot of Canadians."

Miller made 42 saves on 45 shots on the teams' first meeting in Vancouver, a stunning 5-3 US victory last Sunday.

McGuire said Miller's performance in that game can't be understated, but it may need to be duplicated.

"I'm not sure that whole thing was reported correctly -- Miller deserved even more credit than he got," said McGuire. "The scoring chances were unbelievably tilted in Canada's favor. I mean, he was the story of that game, he was spectacular.

"One thing I think they'd like to do differently, the US, is be a little bit more physical than they were in the first game," he added. "It's really important for them to develop a physical presence early without picking up penalties."

A few of McGuire's other sentiments and opinions:

On whether the US forwards are too quick for Canada's defensemen: "I'm not buying that theory. I think that's fluff. Because [Canada defensemen] Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Scotty Niedermayer, they can all skate. [Chris] Pronger is the only slow guy back there, and he's got such a long stick that he's not going to be intimidated by speed. He goes against [superstar Alex] Ovechkin all the time in Philly. I think that's one of those things where people are reaching. The American speed quotient is high, that's true, they're extremely quick. But I don't think that's going to be a deciding issue in the game."

On whether it's up to the individual play of Canada's stars to determine the outcome: "No. Canada has to play the same way it played against Russia [a 7-3 victory in the quarterfinals]: total team commitment to defense, offense, and matchups, the forecheck, shotblocking, everything. Canada, when they played against Russia, that was their best game of the tournament, and the reason why they were successful is that they took away the Russians' skill and will. They were physical, they took away space, they didn't give the Russians a lot of room, and they dominated because of that."

On whether the loss to the US actually benefited Canada's players, since it meant they had to play an additional game and allowed them to jell as a team: "Every player I've talked to on the team says it did, because it allowed [Eric] Staal to go with [Sidney] Crosby and [Jarome Iginla] and stabilized their lines, it helped create roles for the players that they were comfortable with, and it gave them confidence going into the game against Russia. So the answer is, absolutely."

On any advantage Canada and Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo might have since he's playing in his home arena: "He knows the building here, he knows the nooks and crannies of the boards. I think it's more optics than anything else. [Martin] Brodeur [who struggled in the loss to the US and hasn't played since] could have won that game against Germany [an 8-2 win for Canada] just as easy as Luongo did and I think Brodeur could have won the game against Russia just as easy as Luongo did. There wasn't a lot of testing going. You know, [Friday night], I think the Slovaks through 40 minutes only had 13 shots on goal, so I think Brodeur would have been OK in that game too."

On the importance of scoring first: "The first goal is extremely crucial, especially in a single-elimination game. When you score first in a deciding game of a Stanley Cup playoff series or a gold medal game in the Olympics, the team that scores first usually wins. And especially here, the tension is so amazingly overpowering that it's critical that everybody is energized -- the players, the coaches, and the fan base, because it's going to be a Canadian crowd. . . . If the Americans get it, it's going to be a really tough game for Canada to win. But if Canada gets a goal early, it's got a pretty good chance to be a successful afternoon."

On one player who could be the determining factor: "This is Ryan Miller's moment. Ryan Miller has to stand and deliver. If he doesn't, I think it's a tough game for the Americans to win. And for Canada, if their star players don't score, then it becomes a really difficult game for them to win."

US assured of tying own medals standard

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 26, 2010 05:18 PM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- It's another drizzly day here in Vancouver. But for the US Olympic team as a whole, the forecast remains spectacular.

By virtue of qualifying for tomorrow’s gold medal final in long-track speedskating team pursuit and by earning a spot in Sunday’s gold medal hockey game, Team USA is assured of no less than tying its record 34 medals won at the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

The US could add to that total in the final days of the Games. Short-track speedskating star Apolo Anton Ohno, who is already the most decorated Winter Olympian in US history with seven medals, including a pair here, goes for two more tonight when he competes twice in the 500 meters and the 5000-meter relay at Pacific Coliseum.

Before the Vancouver Games, the most medals the US had ever won at a non-US hosted Winter Games was 25 during the last Winter Olympics in Turino, Italy.

The US has topped the medal standings at only one other Olympic Winter Games – the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Games, when its athletes collected 12 medals.

The record for most medals won by a nation in a single Olympic Winter Games is 36, set by Germany at the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

US finishes off Finland, 6-1

Posted by Kevin Paul Dupont, Globe Staff February 26, 2010 03:07 PM

THIRD PERIOD


USA date in gold-medal game on Sunday official. Yanks drub Finland, 6-1, to advance to championship for first time since 2002 (Salt Lake).
Will take on winner of tonight's match between Canada and Slovakia.

Final shots: 25-25.

With 2:30 to go, smattering of USA fans begin to chant, ''We want Canada!....We want Canada!''


Finns finally get on board at 14:46, cut US lead to 6-1. Miettinen tees up slapper high in left wing circle and deflects to top right corner off of US defenseman. Finnish and pro-Canada fans begin chanting, ''Thomas.....Thom-as......Thom....''

With 8:00 to play, USA still with 6-0 lead.

Thomas takes over USA net with 11:31 to play. First break for Miller, the starting netminder for all five games here at Olympus.

With about 12 minutes to go, Thomas goes to room to get gear. Soon to enter game.

Thomas remains on bench for USA. Looks as if Miller will go distance, despite USA needing less than 13 minutes of first period to stake 6-0 lead.

SECOND PERIOD

Score remains 6-0, USA, at end of 40:00. USA with 22-11 shot lead.

7:00 to go, Yanks still with 6-0 lead.


Other than Jarrko Ruutu's 12 minutes in penalties, a very quiet period.


Thomas remains on USA bench, Miller still in net.


FIRST PERIOD

First period in books. USA with 6-0 lead on strength of 13-4 shot advantage. Yanks all but certain to face either Canada or Slovakia in Sunday's championship game.

Wonder if Thomas gets to move in net for period or two of appreciation duty.

Each time a goal is scored, a loud horn shakes the building, somewhat like at the TD Garden. Checking now if horn operator is seeking treatment for carpal tunnel of right index finger.


OK, stop the insanity, US makes it 6-0 at 12:46
. Stastny shovels in easy forehander off of short dish from Langenbrunner. Gets any easier, coach Ron Wilson might ask Bruins goalie Tim Thomas to take a shift at forward, in full pads.

What a beating. US pots 5-0 lead at 12:31. Kane connects with wrister from right wing faceoff dot, beating Backstrom stick-side to far (left) post.

Essentially all ove at 10:08 when USA makes it 4-0. Kane pots backhander near right post after he collects own rebound from a stuff attempt on left side. Niskala fails: 1. to get loose puck and 2. to pick up the pint-sized Kane. Backstrom replaces the bedraggled Kiprusoff on the Suomi net.

USA increases lead to 3-0 with 8:36 gone. With Lydman in penalty box for boarding Brown, Erik Johnson fires in forehander from low in right wing circle, Pavelski making key diagonal feed from near left post. Finns call time out. Getting ugly.

Yanks on march, up lead to 2-0 at 6:22. With Niskala in box for interference, Parise pops out to open left post and makes forehand stuff of perfect Stastny feed. Looking like easy passage to gold game.

USA gets on board with 1-0 lead with only 2:04 gone. Grand faux pas by Kiprusoff in Finn's net. He wanders straight out of cage to handle routine loose puck and clears it directly on stick of the advancing Malone, who fires 30-footer into empty net. Linemate Kessel, parked at left post, acts as witness to perhaps the Games' easiest goal.

Underway here at Canada Hockey Place. Team USA within 60 minutes of reaching Sunday's gold medal final.

US-Finland live blog/chat wrap

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 26, 2010 02:23 PM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- We barely had time to fire up our interactive live blog/chat this afternoon before the US had already snatched control of today's men's hockey semifinal matchup with Finland, scoring six -- yes, six -- first-period goals. Relive the magic of the US's 6-1 win -- which assures it of a silver medal -- by clicking the "replay" button below. And remember: We'll do it all again right here for the gold-medal game Sunday.

Daily snapshot: February 26

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 26, 2010 12:41 AM

How about nine? Apolo Anton Ohno has won two medals here in Vancouver already, making him the most decorated US Winter Olympics athlete of all time. (Two golds + two silvers + three bronzes = A heck of a trophy case.) The popular short-track dynamo has a chance to add two more tonight in the 500 meters and the 5,000-meter relay. But he might not be the only story for the US on the short track at Pacific Coliseum. Katherine Reutter is a medal contender in the women's 1,000 meters. 9 p.m.

Go, go, Gorgone: The US will have just one representative in the women's parallel giant slalom at Cypress Mountain -- Boston's own Michelle Gorgone. Gorgone will attempt to become just the second US medalist since the event debuted in Nagano in 1998. There are two morning qualifying runs in the parallel GS, with a field of 16 racers advancing to the finals at 3:15 p.m.

And don't forget . . . . . . men's ice hockey, of course. (Not that you would. We're not accusing.) Ryan Miller and the United States face Finland in one semifinal, while Canada -- which looked unstoppable against Russia and has 15 goals in its past two games -- takes on Slovakia in the other. Fair to say we're all hoping for a rematch of the US's 5-3 win Sunday? Because they sure are up here. US-Finland: 3 p.m.; Canada-Slovakia: 9:30 p.m.

US fends off Switzerland, 2-0

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 24, 2010 02:23 PM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Switzerland goalie Jonas Hiller stopped the United States time and time again. But in the end, Zach Parise saved the day.

Parise scored a pair of third-period goals, including a clinching empty-netter with 11.2 seconds remaining, and the top-seeded US men's hockey team overcame Hiller and the resilient Swiss with a 2-0 victory this afternoon at Canada Hockey Place.

The US improves to 4-0 in the tournament and will play the winner of tonight's Czech Republic/Finland game in a semifinal Friday, with a berth in Sunday's gold medal game at stake.

“Overall you have to be happy [with the outcome]," said US forward Patrick Kane. "It’s fun with these kind of games, [but] you put it right behind you and look forward to the next one.”

Hiller, who plays for the NHL's Anaheim Ducks when he's not stonewalling teams with superior talent to the Swiss here at the Olympics (Canada needed a shootout goal from Sidney Crosby to overcome him in a preliminary), made 42 saves, many spectacular and many from close range.

“He’s making every save there was, everyone’s like, ‘jeez, almost, almost, almost," said US defenseman Tim Gleason.

Hiller kept the Swiss in it despite a decided shot advantage for the US -- his counterpart, Ryan Miller, the star of the US's 5-3 victory over Canada Sunday, required just 19 saves in this one for the shutout.

“I knew it was going to come down to a tight game," Miller said.

Hiller was the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce here or there; a Phil Kessel missile ricocheted off a post in the second period, and a goal that Hiller essentially bobbled into the net was waved off after replay determined it had come after time in the second period had expired.

But he was nothing short of sensational through the first two periods, and as his save total mounted, tension built: Was the US on the verge of proving its stirring victory over Canada was little more than an aberration?

Thanks to Parise, the answer was no. Two minutes and 8 seconds into the final period, the New Jersey Devils forward got the US on the board. Stationed at the right post, he chopped at and redirected a Brian Rafalski shot from the mid slot.

The puck bounced over Hiller's glove and trickled inside the left post as the goalie lunged in vain, breaking the scoreless tie.

Parise's tally, his first of the Olympics, came on the power play, which was set up when Kessel drew a tripping call on Philippe Furrer as he attempted to tuck the puck inside the right post.

Rafalski said there was never any hint of panic in the US locker room between the second and third periods.

"It was good," he said. "We said, 'We're getting chances, just keep with it and don't try to do more than you're capable of' . . . it was just a matter of time. Guys weren't panicking; we said 'just keep with it.' "

No one kept with it more than Parise. He was the most energetic of the US forwards, save for perhaps Kessel, so it was appropriate that he got the empty-netter to secure the victory with 11.2 seconds left.

Now the US watches and waits tonight to discover its opponent.

“We’re getting better and better every day," US forward Chris Drury said. "Now we'll just go from there."

* * *

19:49: US 2, SWITZERLAND 0 And Parise gets the empty-netter, poking the puck loose along the left boards in the neutral zone, chasing it down, and flipping it in from the faceoff circle on a 2 on 1. And that's gonna do it. Gritty effort by the Swiss, particularly Hiller. But the US also deserves credit for not panicking or deviating from the game plan after being shut out the first two periods.

Three stars from our perspective:

1. Parise. Two goals, and relentless energy in the decisive third.
2. Hiller. If not for one tough bounce, Switzerland could have found itself in its fourth OT of the tournament.
3. Rafalski. Assisted on Parise's first goal, and seemed to be in the middle of the majority of the US's best chances.

We'll be back to top this up with a wrapup shortly. And don't forget, Mr. Dupont will take you through Russia-Canada starting at 7:30.

18:45: Hiller pulled. Switzerland with the accelarating rush, but no results. How about another Kesler open-netter?

16:58: The US now has two forwards on the forecheck, and the Swiss has opened up its attack a little bit. Erik Johnson just thwarted a quality bid with a sliding block of a shot. He's been big.

15:11: Parise has three shots on goal according to the stat sheet. Seems like about a dozen.

14:14: The US is making Hiller work, Rafalski and Parise leading the way. Erik Johnson has also initiated some decent chances. Right now, Hiller has 41 saves, and Miller is probably now in double figures.

12:23: Puck is really bouncing around right now. Luca Sbisa with a hard slapper from the left point that Miller smoothers. Pretty good bid. This is one Switzerland's better sustained offensive sequences of the game.

9:50: Parise has been the US's most active forward this period. A minute ago, he dinged one off the post after stickhandling through the slot, and seconds ago he just missed connecting on a breakaway via Langenbrunner's pass.

8:00: Penalty killed, but Switzerland gets a few decent opportunities, including one by Romano Lemm that appeared to hit Miller in the mask. Put another stitch on, Cheevers.

4:46: A minute or so after a Swiss shot from the right faceoff circle eludes Miller but hits the far post, then the US has a goal waved off after Kesler is called for interference in front on Mathias Seger, who lost his helmet. As an official communicates with the replay official upstairs regarding the Swiss shot earlier, Kesler sits next to him in the box, still barking about the call. The official's scowl tells the story.

Just showed Tim Thomas on the monitor sitting on the US bench. I have no idea why.

Third period, 18:51, UNITED STATES 1, SWITZERLAND 0: Parise breaks the ice, with the help of a nice bounce. Stationed at the far post, he chopped at and redirected a Rafalski shot from the mid slot. The puck bounced over Hiller's glove and trickled inside the far post as the goalie lunged in vain. The US was on the power play, set up when Kessel -- who has been excellent -- drew a tripping call on Philippe Furrer as he attempted to tuck the puck inside the right post.

Second intermission: Stats: US is outshooting the Swiss, 32-8. Hiller has been just short of phenomenal. Miller has rarely been tested. The US is dominating faceoffs, 26-14. The US is 0 for 3 on the power play, the Swiss 0 for 2. And still, no score.

Quickie analysis: It's hard not to notice that the US is playing like Canada did the other night against them. Dominating play, creating legitimate opportunities, and doing everything but putting the puck behind a red-hot goalie. We'll see if the frustration starts to show, but it should be noted that there are ton of Canadian fans in the arena who are cheering loudly for the Swiss.

End of second period, US 0, Switzerland 0: The US gets one . . . and then it doesn't. It appeared the red, white, and blue had taken a 1-0 lead with 0.1 (or less) remaining on the clock when Hiller, using his stick to haul in the puck after a scrum in front, accidentally flipped it airborne, where it bounced off his left shoulder, then off the cross bar, and, as he bent backward, apparently across the goal line. You could call it a fluke goal, but ultimately it was a goal at all. After quick look at replay, officials determined that time had expired before it slipped over the line. So no break for the US, no flukish misfortune for the Swiss, and still, no score.

16:37: Nothing doing again on the power play, but the US is creating some quality chances now. Langenbrunner had a point-blank bid at the left post but the feed from Kane seemed to hop over his stick -- if he controls it, it's a goal -- and Hiller just made an oooooohhh inspiring glove save on a Suter missile from just outside the left point.

13:45:Domenichelli with a decent 2-on-1 bid out of the box -- then he's immediately sent back for hooking. If the US can't get one here, there has to be some level of frustration setting in soon, right?

11:19: Langenbrunner gets perhaps the US's best opportunity yet, with a diving wrister just inside the right point, but Hiller bats it away. Looked like it was net-bound when Langenbrunner let it go.

US on the power play again. Hnat Domenichelli sent to the box. Suter, Rafalski, Kane, Kesler, and Brown out there right now.

9:35: Switzerland's Julien Sprunger with a backhanded bid on the far post that ties up Miller briefly. So far, Miller has been credited with eight saves.

6:05: Rafaelle Sannitz off for roughing, putting the US on the power play. Nothing doing through the first minute.

. . . and in the final minute, the US can barely get set up, with a sequence of turnovers in the neutral zone. (You can insert your own "Swiss" and "neutral" joke here. Hey, you're lucky we've resisted so far.)

2:41: Switzerland on the power play after Ryan Malone is sent to the box for roughing. US has controlled play early here, with Kessel getting the best chance, a quick wrister from the left point that Hiller juggled. Give credit to the Swiss defense; the US is struggling to pounce on rebounds.

And the penalty is killed. Couple of saves for Miller, but no opportunites that make you hold your breath. Tim Gleason blocked one shot with what appeared to be his big toe.

Second period about to get underway: One thing to keep in mind: Switzerland needed OT to beat Belarus yesterday. You have to wonder how long their legs can hold up against this young (youngest in the tournament) and speedy US team.

Same line that started the game starts the second for the US: Langenbrunner-Stastny-Parise.

Still in intermission: By the way, replay shows that it was Kessel who hit the post with a little under four minutes left. He's been very active, on the offensive end at least.

End of first period, US 0, Switzerland 0: One period down, and still no score. Hiller has 18 saves, and perhaps his best one came with approximately a minute left when he used his blocker to deflect a Parise wrister that appeared headed over his left shoulder and into the net. The US also hit a post with roughly 3 minutes left.

According to the stat sheet, the US is leading in shots, 18-4, but the discrepancy doesn't seem that wide. The guess here is that Miller has six or seven saves, with a lot of Swiss attempts going wide of the net.

The US has for the most part controlled play, and their forwards, particularly the Kane-Brown-Kesler crew, seemed to be in sych a little more as the period progressed. Hiller has been outstanding, and as the Canadians can attest, it's not the first time in this tournament. But if the US stays patient and keeps generating quality chances, they should pull this one out.

You think Ron Wilson is telling them -- in a not-so-warm way -- to put the Canada game behind them, because they're in a fight for this one?

Couple more stats: The US won 14 faceoffs to Switzerland's 7, and there was just one penalty, the hooking infraction on Callahan.

16:53: Ryan Kesler gets off a wrister from the slot that appears to hit Hiller in the chest. Twenty seconds later, Kessel, with a bit of fancy stickhandling, nearly gets the US on the boards, but his shot from the right point goes wide. The US is controlling play for the most part, but there's not a lot of cohesiveness when they break out.

15:18: Love watching Bobby Ryan. He fights for every puck as if it's made of gold, and he's completely overpowered a couple of Swiss defensemen in the corners.

(And as I write that, he gets outmuscled by a smaller player in the corner. So much for that.)

13:42: Not to say they're playing poorly, because their speed is creating chances, but Kane and Brown have been getting a little too cute with the puck, leading to a couple of turnovers in the neutral zone.

10:55: Phil Kessel with some fancy stickhandling and then a shot wide. We're obligated to report any sighting of No. 81.

Nice hit by Brown just before that play, nearly topping Switzerland's Yannick Weber into the bench.

The US is buzzing here, particularly Bobby Ryan. Could get one soon if this keeps up. Switzerland is generating some decent chances as well, though for the most part they seem content to fire it in on Miller and hope for a tip or a rebound. Not a lot of close-range action so far.

8:26: US kills the penalty without much drama. Should note a couple of line alterations for the US. Dustin Brown is now matched with Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler, while Bobby Ryan is in a group that includes Backes, Callahan, and Chris Drury.

6:25: Ryan Callahan sent to the box for hooking. Switzerland is 50 percent on the power play in the tournament, but they've had a few good shots on Miller so far. (The shots: US 6, Swiss 3). We'll see if they can generate anything here. Roman Wick, who has two goals in the tourney -- including the Swiss's lone score against the US in prelims -- has been particularly active.

3:17: The US is buzzing Hiller early and often, but he's up to the challenge so far. Rafalski, who had two goals against Canada (Martin Brodeur might have been credited with assists on both) gets off a good look from the slot, but Hiller is there for the save.

First period . . . : . . . and we're underway at Canada Hockey Place. The US starts with a lineup of Paul Stastny, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Zach Parise, with Brian Rafalski and Ryan Suter on defense. Ryan Miller is, of course, in net.


* * *

Greetings from lovely Vancouver, which officially becomes Hockeyville again in a few minutes when the puck is dropped for the 3 p.m. quarterfinal men's matchup between the United States and Switzerland.

We'll be here live blogging that game, with the esteemed Kevin Paul Dupont taking over for the pontential epic between Canada and Russia at 7:40 p.m.

So be sure to check in here for your updates if you're at work (don't worry, your boss isn't looking) or watching NBC (zing!).

The US is seeded first after its thrilling 5-3 victory over Canada Sunday that secured a berth in the quarterfinals, while Switzerland is eighth. But don't be fooled by the seedings; judging by the teams' previous meeting here in the preliminaries, the US will have to be sharp to earn the win.

In their Olympics opener February 16, the US defeated Switzerland, 3-1, but it was not particularly easy. Bobby Ryan and David Backes scored sensational individual goals -- Backes's end-to-end rush drew comparisons here to a vintage Bobby Orr maneuver, which of course we New Englanders know is the height of hyperbole -- but Switzerland, with three NHL players on its roster, including Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, played a tough and disciplined game.

Switzerland, which defeated Belarus in a play-in to reach the quarterfinals, foreshadowed Canada's eventual troubles against the US. Canada needed a shootout goal by Sidney Crosby to beat the Swiss, 3-2, on February 18.

Daily snapshot: February 24

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 24, 2010 12:23 AM

Two great skiers . . . Let's see: Lindsey Vonn has a gold (downhill) and a bronze (super-G). Julia Mancuso has a pair of silvers (downhill, super combined). Vonn is the most decorated skier in US history and a ready-made star before arriving in Vancouver. Mancuso, who won gold in the event in 2006, is the favorite. Given their friends/rivals/teammates/ok-it's-complicated relationship, it'll be fascinating to see if either, neither, or both can end up on the podium today, especially since Mancuso has announced she will not race in Friday's slalom. 4:15 p.m.

. . . two great matchups: We're livin' in the Land of Hockey here, so it only seems right that the competition heats up on the ice in the culminating days of the Vancouver Games. Today brings a pair of compelling matchups in the quarterfinals: Ryan Miller and the US take on Switzerland(3 p.m.). And Canada, fresh off its mildly reassuring 8-2 rout of overmatched Germany Tuesday night, faces Alex Ovechkin and potent Russia (7:30 p.m.) in what we suspect will be an instant classic.

New heights?: Belmont's Emily Cook is among the aerialists in the finals tonight, qualifying in fifth place despite a troublesome heel that hindered her training leading up to the Games. Cook, on her third Olympic team but a finalist for the first time, said she plans to be more aggressive with her jumps tonight. Could a medal be within reach?

And don't forget . . . Another New Englander with a chance at the podium? We're all in favor. Erin Pac of Farmington, Conn. is in medal contention in women's bobsled; she's in second place heading into today's third heat.

Krejci delivers for Czechs

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 24, 2010 12:15 AM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Even during this extended break, Bruins fans require no reminder that David Krejci and his teammates have had trouble putting the puck in the net this season.

But moments ago, the 23-year-old forward, who has just 11 goals for the Bruins this season, scored a huge one for his homeland.

Krejci scored at 5:10 of overtime, giving the Czech Republic a 3-2 victory over the resilient Latvia tonight in a quarterfinal play-in at Canada Hockey Place.

The Czech Republic took a 2-0 on goals from Tomas Rolinek and Tomas Fleischmann in the first period. But Latvia's Mikelis Redlihs and Martins Cipulis scored in the third to tie the game.

Latvia's Edgars Masalskis was stellar even though Krejci's wrister from the center slot eluded him, stopping 47 shots. Tomas Vokoun had 24 saves for the Czechs.

The goal advances the Czechs to the quarterfinals, where they will face Finland Wednesday night.

Daily snapshot: February 23

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 23, 2010 05:39 AM

They might be giants: Bode Miller goes for his fourth medal of the Vancouver Games in the giant slalom, but the best bet to win an astounding ninth Alpine medal for the US team is Ted Ligety. Ligety, who won gold in the men's super-combined at Turin, Italy in 2006 and had the best slalom time in the event here, is tops in the World Cup standings in the giant slalom, a race in which each skier makes two slalom runs, each on a different course, with the winner determined by combined times. (You know what? We've learned our lesson. We're betting on Bode, too.)

Yo, Canada: Canada's 5-3 loss to the United States was disappointing and damaging, but it wasn't devastating. A loss to Germany today for the home team in the qualifying playoffs? Now that would be devastating. 7:40 p.m.

And don't forget . . . . . . a number of medal events today, including men's speedskating 10,000 meters (2 p.m.); women's biathlon 4x6K relay (2:30 p.m.); women's freestyle ski cross (4 p.m.); and men's Nordic combined 4x5K (4 p.m.).

Record viewership in Canada

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 22, 2010 08:31 PM

There were a number of disappointed television viewers in Canada Sunday night -- several million of them, in fact.

The Canadian men's hockey team's 5-3 loss to the United States was the most-watched sports program on record in Canadian television history, with an average of 10.6 million viewers. The audience topped the previous high set during the 2002 gold medal game in Salt Lake City between the two teams (10.3 million).

Peaking at 13 million viewers, the game was watched in part by nearly two in three Canadians, or 21.5 million viewers (64.3 percent of the Canadian population).

The game was also a boon to MSNBC, which had an average audience of 8.22 million viewers during the broadcast. It nearly topped the record 8.23 million it drew for election night coverage on Nov. 4, 2008.


A friendly rivalry

Posted by Yoon S. Byun February 22, 2010 05:15 AM

Preliminary game is a main event for Canadian and US hockey fans. (Video by Yoon S. Byun, Globe Staff)

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Catching up with Jim Craig

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 21, 2010 06:30 PM
Tedy Bruschi
(AP File Photo)
For those of a certain generation, the 1980 US Olympic hockey team's "miracle" victory over the mighty Soviet Union stands as possibly the "Where were you when it happened?" sports event of all-time -- a notion that was bolstered when "Sports Illustrated" named it the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.

The lasting image from that impossibly dramatic upset -- save for perhaps this one -- is the picture you are looking at right now: scruffy and indefatigable goalie Jim Craig, the pride of North Easton, Oliver Ames, and Boston University, wrapped in the American flag as he searches for his father in the stands.

It's as timeless as timeless gets.

The 30th anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice" will be prominently featured this weekend as the Olympic hockey tournament heats up with Sunday's much-anticipated US-Canada showdown; NBC has a mesmerizing piece planned in which Craig, Mark Johnson, Mike Eruzione and broadcaster Al Michaels return to Lake Placid and reminisce about the magic that happened there.

We caught up with the gracious and friendly Craig, now 52 and a successful Boston-based motivational speaker and businessman, via telephone this week as he prepared to make his second trip to Vancouver during these Olympics. Here are a few of his recollections and opinions from our conversation:

They always stick together: When asked for a certain player to watch on any of the hockey teams in the Olympics, Craig -- naturally -- picked the Team USA goalie:

"It looks like Ryan Miller will be in there every night, so there's going to be a lot of a pressure squarely on his shoulders," Craig said. "He's an outstanding goalie, he really is, but there is going to be a lot of expectations of him because this is a young team and you're not quite sure how some of the inexperienced guys here are going to respond to certain situations.

"But they've got a good guy there behind them. Miller's outstanding, and I think he's going to be up to whatever they ask of him. I like watching him a lot."

Craig said he thought the United States did the right thing in giving an opportunity to young players rather than going with the Modanos and Tkachuks, the longtime veterans who formed the nucleus of a team that won just one Olympic medal, a silver in 2002. In fact, he's like to see the US program go one step further.

"I actually wish it would take a turn back to amateurs," Craig said. "But these young guys on the US team should have no fear. They haven't been afraid to play so far, and the talent is there. They just need to be poised and stay out of the penalty box and they can accomplish some things.

"I actually think it was really smart, what [Brian Burke and Team USA officials] did. You had some older veterans who were kind of used to losing here. Experience is a great conditioner to winning. If you look back on our team '80, Herb Brooks didn't take all the best players when he put us together. He took winners, whether it was his [University of Minnesota] guys or those of us from BU who were NCAA champs [in 1978]. If you have a bunch of players who have that one thing in common -- they want to win above all else -- they will bond as a team. It's a process, but it's worth it when you get there."

Herb Brooks was a good man: The legendary mastermind of Team USA was notoriously gruff and demanding of his players -- the pivotal skate-with-the-lights-out-'til-you-drop scene in the movie "Miracle" was only slightly Disneyfied, Craig said.

Adjusting to the coach's style was not easy for many of the players, but Craig said he realized even then that while Brooks could be distant, there was a reason he took that approach.

"There was always a method to Herb's madness," Craig said. "He treated all of us as individuals depending upon what he thought we needed and what he thought would get the best out of us, not only as players but as a whole.

"For me, he was a father figure. My mom had died [Margaret Craig died of cancer in 1977], my dad had just lost his job, and there was some pressure on some of us to skip the Olympics and turn pro so we would get some money. It was like, 'Why would you play in the Olympics? You could be getting paid to play.' But my mom had dreamed of me playing for the US, I was going to do that, fulfill that, for her, and Herb knew what my frame of mind was.

"Sure, he was tough. But he understood why it mattered to us, why it mattered to me and where I was coming from in my life, and I will always appreciate that about him."

Craig chuckles. "And I think history shows that he knew what he was doing, right?"

Happy to reminisce: It's been 30 years -- 10,950 days, give or take a sunrise or two -- since "The Miracle on Ice," and Craig acknowledges that a day does not pass when he isn't reminded of the accomplishment or asked to share a memory or recollection.

It would be understandable if he bristled at the notion that he is defined by the moment, or grew weary of reliving it time and again all these years. But that he says that is not the case whatsoever, and his jovial tone adds a layer of conviction.

"I get asked if it gets old all the time, and the answer is no, it doesn't," Craig said. "I understand where people are coming from with the question, if it's like "Groundhog Day" or something like that. But it's not, not really. It's such a special thing to be part of something that meant so much to people, to be part of something that happened 30 years ago and something that people will probably still be talking about 30 years from now."

Craig's legacy and role in the victory has benefited him to some degree both financially and professionally, of course, but he says his appreciation for the "Miracle" as much to do with what it means to other people as it has to do with what he and his teammates accomplished during those golden days in Lake Placid.

"What we did became an incredibly emotional, personal thing for people and it's such a positive memory for me and all of us who were a part of it," Craig said. "If anything, I'm lucky to have been involved in something that mattered to so many people."

US-Canada hockey live-blog/chat wrap

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 21, 2010 05:19 PM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- If you weren't prescient enough to stop by our special edition live-blog/chat with Boston.com's Chad Finn for the US-Canada instant classic, click the "replay" button below to relive the magic.

Daily snapshot: February 21

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 21, 2010 01:13 AM


The showdown: The Americans lead Group A with six points, one more than the Canad . . . oh, who needs stats and standings? This one is the coveted ticket here in Vancouver, and the matchup is almost as much about emotion and national pride as it is a shot at the quarterfinals. I learned that from the roughly 62,000 people wearing red "Crosby 87" jerseys in the streets right now. 7:40 p.m.

And don't forget . . . Bode Miller has a bronze in the downhill and a silver in the super-G. Do we hear a gold in the super combined? 3:15 p.m. . . . Tanith Belbin and her partner Ben Agosto are in fourth place entering tonight's original dance (7:15 p.m.). We know Johnny Weir will be cheering for them -- Belbin is his roommate during the Olympics.

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