We could have just posted the Fifth Feather's preview here from Saturday's Indian, but we know you like us to put our own spin on it, so I'll do my best. Anyway, let me first say that I find at least half the events at the Winter Olympics bone-crunchingly stupid. I know I'm supposed to watch figure skating because girls like it, but it's not a sport. Anything that's judged is not a sport. So that goes to you, Rotten Tomato or whatever the fuck I'm supposed to call Shaun White. Your flips and flying is impressive and all, because the results are based on the opinions of people I'm pretty sure I don't want to meet, you don't compete in a sport. So fuck you, Shaun White.
Cross-country skiing with the rifles? What? Shouldn't they be shooting clay foxes or something? Wouldn't that be more wintery-woodsy? Whatever. Short-track speed-skating is a watered down roller-derby with less contact, tattoos, and attractive women. I'll be at UIC Pavilion if I want to see that. Anyway, I'm getting off on a rant here. As much as it terrifies me, and I think stopping the season is moronic, I do enjoy International hockey. It is, after all, the highest level of the sport. So, here's your guide.:
CANADA- If this were played in a vacuum, Canada would win this pretty easily. But it is not. The pressure on these 23 men is going to be other worldly, and some of these guys aren't exactly known for flourishing under pressure. Unless of course you're comfortable having anything riding on Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. But even if they fail to turn up, Sidney Crosby will be foaming at the mouth, Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews might genuinely eat people, and Patrice Bergeron and Eric Staal can even carry a team when needed. On the blueline, we've been horrified by the performances of Marlboro 72 recently, but even if that continues, Doughty, Pronger, Boyle, Niedermayer, and Weber are very capable of shutting down anything coming in front of them. To me, there's still questions about the goaltending, but just small ones. Martin Brodeur has only been just ok recently, and has had a meltdown in four consecutive postseasons. We've seen what happens to Roberto Luongo when the chips are down, and Marc Andre-Fleury isn't great, merely good. Any one of them can steal a tournament, but they're just as capable of going the other way. Still, Silver medal at worst.
USA- Bob and John at the Feather have been banging the "this team is better than you think" drum since the squad was announced. But any team with Chris Drury on it can't be that good. The #1 center on this team is probably Paul Stastny, which doesn't really inspire, does it? Top wingers of Kane and Parise is an exciting prospect, and a 2nd line of Pavelski, Ryan, and Kessel is actually pretty good. If Dustin Brown, David Backes, and Ryan Kesler are on the same line, it may be the most annoying line to play against in the history of International hockey. However, I have grave concerns about the US blue line. Losing Paul Martin was a huge blow, as they don't have a puck mover of his caliber. I suspect when Brian Rafalski is taken away from Nik Lidstrom, The Emperor is going to have a lot less clothes. If this tournament were played in November, than Erik and Jack Johnson would look awfully imposing. But it's not, and they've both cooled off.
But the US has the best goalie in the tournament, and in a situation where you really only have to put three good games in a row together, Ryan Miller can take the US pretty far if he's in the mood.
SWITZERLAND- Remember when Jonas Hiller was performing various acrobatics in nearly taking out Scum singlehandedly in the second round last year? Yeah, multiply that by 10 and that's what you'll get here. Oh, and Mark Streit's here as well, so those who bleat endlessly about how much you hate Brian Campbell but never ever suggest what should have been done instead, here's someone that would have been an acceptable solution. Study hard.
NORWAY- It was after a game against Norway that Herb Brook made everyone do the wind sprints for an hour, right? Yeah, that's all I got.
CZECH REPUBLIC - Well, with Tomas Vokoun playing as well as he is, the Czechs could be dangerous. If he does carry them, it will only ramp up the calls here and elsewhere for the Hawks to go and get him, even if he's got the exact number of playoff series wins as Huet. With Kaberle, Kubina, and Zidlicky on the blue line, the Czechs won't struggle for transition either. Jaromir Jagr is still alive, if you didn't know, and playing. Old pal Marty Havlat will be paired with bestest buddy Patrik Elias on the top line, probably centered by date-rapist look-a-like Tomas Pleckanec. Martin Erat will score an annoying goal or two, but depth at forward is not something the Czechs boast.
LATVIA - Who?
RUSSIA - I strongly suggest smoking some kick-ass dope right before this team goes on the power play, because what they might do with the man advantage is going to be hilarious. Geno Malkin is going to be on the 2nd line, for fuck's sake! However, in all honesty this blue line straight up sucks. The top pair will probably Markov and Gonchar. Good luck with that. Evgeni Nabokov may have already played too many games, but is capable of getting hot for a week. Or completely shitting himself. Russian teams in hockey are like African team in soccer. They're all nuts, and are capable of anything. I wouldn't be surprised if they won the whole thing, or just decided to go to the nightclub instead of showing up to their first game. Seriously, anything is possible here.
SLOVAKIA - For some reason, our dizzy star Marian Hossa is going to play. This should enrage all Hawks fans. If he's healthy, they'll be as dangerous as he and Marian Gaborik decide they are. Past that, Zdeno Chara is going to have a heart attack trying to cover for everyone else. Quarterfinal cannon-fodder here.
BELARUS - Assuredly will have awful uniforms.
FINLAND- Oh my god are there a boatload of annoying assholes on this team. Both Ruutu's, Selanne, Gay McGayerson Valteri Filppula, Jere Lehtinen, and more. No one will like playing this team, and you'll probably hear the hit that gets Tuomo suspended while you're at work. The Fins could start any three of their goalies and have a shot in Niittymaki, Kiprusoff, and Backstrom. Expect them to try at least two of them in the prelims before deciding on the horse they'll saddle in the elimination round.
SWEDEN - Old, good, and boring. A very tough out, unless teams figure out that you can beat Lundqvist high pretty easily.
So you probably know, but just to go over you play everyone in your group once, and get three points for a regulation win, two for an OT/shootout win, and 1 for an OT/shootout loss (wow, that makes sense! Why don't they do that in the NHL? Oh right, logic and Bettman aren't bedfellows). The OT's will be 4-on-4. If teams are tied on points it'll go to goal differential, then goals scored, and on and on.
The top four teams automatically go to the quarters, so basically Canada will play four important games at most. The stress level isn't as high as some think.
You can basically write in Canada and Russia for one of the four byes. Sweden is probably getting one, leaving Finland, the US, and the Czechs to fight for the last one. It really could come down to how badly you beat the powder-puffs in your group.
With all that said, I think Russian wins this, because they're going to score and score a lot. And bang a lot of models and probably Lindsey Vonn. She looks like she likes to get down. I think they'll take out Canada in the semis, which is just going to be hilarious, and probably run over the Yanks in the Gold medal game that Ryan Miller will have gotten them to. But even he can't stop all of the 65 shots the Ruskies will fire at him. So, Sam's Olympic prediction:
Silver - Yanks
Bronze - Hosers.
Let's get it overwith.