In men's Olympic hockey, some interesting story lines are afoot. Certain results were predictable, while others came as quite a shock.
Sweden, even without three of their top players, blasted Slovenia to make it into the semis. The US squad handily defeated the Czech team. These were fairly predictable results.
Team Canada barely nipped Latvia to qualify as well A bit of an eyebrow raiser, but they won and move on.
The shocker was Russia going down to Finland. Being the host country, a lot of pride was at stake for the Russians in hockey, and it is suspected that anything less than a gold meal would have come as a disappointment. But to get bounced before even reaching the medal rounds has to be absolutely stunning.
Perhaps a fair comparison could be drawn if the same thing happened to the US basketball team in the Summer Olympics. Everybody in the States typically expects gold of their "dream teams" -- but no medal at all would certainly rattle them to their core. Like Russian hockey, such a thing is unheard of. This is not... supposed... to... happen.
But in these Olympics it did to the Russians. Alas, they're out.
Yet that sets up other interesting scenarios. Sweden will play Finland in the semis while Canada takes on the US. The battle for Scandinavian supremacy and the dogfight for the same in North America will have equal billing. Who will win either contest in anybody's guess.
The guess here is that Sweden will be slightly favored over the Finlanders, but knocking out Russia in their own back yard speaks a lot in itself. These guys can definitely play with the best of them.
On the other hand, good luck trying to predict who will win between the Canucks and the Yanks. Both are loaded with NHL talent, and major bragging rights are definitely at stake -- on both sides of the border.
Who wants it more? No doubt Canada. While Americans have a lot of different leagues in a lot of different sports to spend money on and cheer for -- few would question hockey rules supreme in Canada as their national pastime. If the NFL is the gorilla in the room for American sports fans, hockey is King Kong for Canadians.
My picks? I think Sweden defeats Finland, but it's close.
And though I'm an American, Team Canada prevailing in their match against the US would be OK by me.
It's somewhat of a big deal south of the border, but we've already won enough Olympic medals, and always have plenty of glory to spread around amongst other sports.
But hockey is absolutely HUGE north of the border. For that reason, and the firestorm of nationalistic pride it would set off -- I hope they win it.
Yet that's still only the semi-finals.
Though I get such things right about as often as Peter King predicting the outcome of NFL football games or Mel Kiper having a clue about the draft, I hereby predict Sweden wins it all in the end.
Why? Canadians may have their bacon, but I've always been a much bigger fan of Swedish meatballs.
Especially the blond variety of such cuisine. Yum.