February 20 – Day 132 – Bronze OAR fourth for the Finns?

Tuesdays are usually chock full of action, and that’s definitely true today with the Olympics still in full swing. In total, there’s 14 tilts eligible for the distinct honor of being named DtFR’s Game of the Day.

We start with the Olympics. The rest of the men’s quarterfinals are slated to be played this morning at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time. Finland squares off against host South Korea for a chance to  play Canada, and Sweden awaits the winner of Switzerland vs. Germany.

In NHL action, there’s nine games to be played this fine evening, starting with four (Florida at Toronto, Columbus at New Jersey, Montréal at Philadelphia [RDS/TSN2] and Tampa Bay at Washington [TVAS]) at 7 p.m. and Nashville at Detroit half an hour later. Next up are two puck drops scheduled for 8 p.m. (San Jose at St. Louis and Los Angeles at Winnipeg), with Boston at Edmonton waiting an hour before getting underway. Finally, Colorado at Vancouver completes the night’s action at 10 p.m. All times Eastern.

But wait, there’s still more hockey on today’s schedule, as there’s three games yet to be played in PyeongChang. The Czech Republic will play Team USA at 10:10 p.m. in the men’s quarterfinals, followed by the OAR vs. the winner of last night’s Slovenia-Norway match at 2:40 a.m. Also at 2:40 a.m. is the women’s bronze medal game between Finland and the OAR. All times Eastern.

Beyond the Olympic games – all of which are important – I’m most drawn to the activity in Missouri due to the Blues and Sharks being tied at 72 points apiece. However, which game do we ultimately go with?

Since medals are being handed out in the wee hours of the morning, it’s hard to ignore the Olympics. Let’s head over to Kwandong Hockey Centre to see how this game goes down!


Before we get underway, it should be pointed out that all stats were collected before the fifth-place game between Switzerland and Japan. The potential for either team to fall above or behind Finland and/or the OAR in a given statistic is slim, but still mathematically possible.

By simply looking at statistics, the loser of this game seems to be abundantly clear. The Olympic Athletes from Russia had a terrible group stage, losing all three games in Group A with a combined goal-differential of -14 (eclipsed only by Korea’s -19 in its opening three tilts). While the OAR did manage to upset Switzerland 6-2 in the quarterfinals, they were swiftly knocked out of gold medal contention in the semifinals by losing a 5-0 to the Canadians.

The OAR rank seventh out of eight teams in the three statistics I consider most important in determining the quality of a team: goals per game, goals against per game and shots against per game.

Offensively, Большая красная машина – The Big Red Machine – has averaged only 1.4 goals per game. They have only one weapon of any real significance in F Anna Shokhina, as she’s scored three of the OAR’s seven goals en route to 3-2-5 totals for the tournament.

Make sure you read that correctly: Shokhina has five points, while the OAR have only seven goals to their credit for the entire tournament. To keep a long story short, the OAR are effectively helpless when she’s not on the ice.

Allowing 40.2 shots against per game, the defense has been no better than the offense in The Big Red Machine’s first five games. That’s made life exceedingly difficult for G Nadezhda Morozova, and she may have stolen the only game she could against the Swiss. Morozova has posted a measly .889 save percentage for the tournament, which doesn’t pair well with her 3.98 GAA. Those defensive efforts combine for the OAR allowing 4.4 goals against per game.

Meanwhile, Finland has simply fallen victim to the fate that befalls almost every national women’s hockey team in the world during the Olympics: it’s not from North America. With the exception of games against the United States and Canada, the Naisleijonat – Lady Lions – have earned two victories in two tries.

However, in tournaments with only eight teams, squaring off against the two best squads in the world is unavoidable, hence the reason Finland finds itself playing only for bronze.

The Finns’ biggest strength is almost certainly their attack, as the 2.8 goals they average per game is the fifth-best of all eight teams at the Olympics. The Lady Lions’ brightest star has been first-liner F Riikka Valila with her 4-1-5 totals, but linemate F Michelle Karvinen has also been stellar with her 3-2-5 marks. Both have averaged a point-per-game this tournament and show no signs of slowing down.

Naisleijonat isn’t quite as spectacular on the defensive end having allowed a third-worst 31.6 shots against per game, but they’ve been more than bailed out by the solid play of G Noora Raty. She’s posted a .911 save percentage in her 295:25 of action, good enough for a 2.84 GAA. As such, Finland allows an average of only 2.8 goals against per game.

It was only six days ago that these teams last saw each other in Group A play, and it’s a tilt the OAR would much rather forget. Led by a dominant two-goal performance by Karvinen, Finland easily handled the OAR to a 5-1 victory.

Of course, that game counted only for seeding. With hardware on the line and a victory against Switzerland under their belt, I expect a much better showing from the OAR.

However, don’t misread that and think I’m picking the OAR to win this game. Finland is far and away the superior team in this match, and they look to be an almost certain lock for their third Olympic bronze medal.

Team USA turned on the jets in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as the Americans beat Slovakia 5-1 at Gangneung Hockey Centre in the qualification round of the men’s Olympic tournament to advance to a quarterfinal matchup against the Czech Republic.

Team USA was the first to get on the board, but they didn’t score until the 1:36 mark of the second period. F Troy Terry (a fifth-round pick by the Ducks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft) drove through the center of the zone for a solid scoring opportunity, but he did too much and slid his backhanded shot past the goal post and into the boards. The loose puck bounced back above the goal line, eventually ending up on Bruins prospect F Ryan Donato’s (D Matt Gilroy and Terry) stick for him to beat G Jan Laco to the far post.

Arguably the biggest event of the game occurred only 26 seconds later. F Ladislav Nagy ended up in G Ryan Zapolski’s crease, making contact leaving Zapolski with an injury to his left knee. Before play was stopped, another D Michal Cajkovsky hit Donato in the head with his shoulder, drawing blood. Much to backup G Brandon Maxwell’s chagrin, neither player’s ailments took them out of action. However, Cajkovsky did earn himself a 25-minute match penalty, removing him from play.

That whole sequence left Team USA with a five-on-three advantage, which they converted into a goal only 17 seconds later. Doing his best W Alex Ovechkin impression, D James Wisniewski (Terry) one-timed a slap shot from the left face-off circle to beat Laco for what proved to be the game-winning goal. F Mark Arcobello set the score at 3-0 with 6:30 remaining in the frame by flipping a snap shot past Laco’s glove.

Slovakia finally found a goal with 3:06 remaining in the second. with  F Jordan Greenway (a second-round pick by the Wild in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft) in the penalty box for slashing and F Tomas Surovy acting as a screen, D Peter Ceresnak (D Dominik Granak and Nagy) ripped a slap shot from the blue line to pull the Slovaks back within a 3-1 deficit.

A little bit of tic-tac-goal is what led to Team USA’s fourth goal of the game, probably the prettiest tally I’ve seen at this tournament. F Broc Little slid a one-touch pass right across Laco’s crease, setting up F Garrett Roe (Little and F Brian O’Neill) to elevate his shot over the netminder’s right pad. To keep with tradition of scoring two goals against Slovakia, Donato (Wisniewski) scored the Americans’ last goal, setting the 5-1 final score and locking up a date with the Czechs.

Zapolski earned the victory after saving 22-of-23 shots faced (.957 save percentage), leaving the loss to Laco, who saved 28-of-33 (.848).

That’s four-straight wins by teams officially designated the road team at the Olympics in the DtFR Game of the Day series. As such, the visitors have pulled within 18 points of the 70-45-17 hosts.

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