Tag Archives: Olympics

Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Predictions

12 Feb

Here goes my Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey predictions.  Shortly the tournament kicks off with Czech Republic versus Sweden.  While you can take a look at the rosters and make some good determinations based on skill sets, my experience watching European hockey up close over the past two years indicates yo me that there are some other items to consider.  Most importantly, the Olympic ice size is much larger than the surface used in the NHL.  The travel time will be rough on players living in North America.

The jet lag will be bad for all NHL players…for instance, I am not sure that Ovechkin has an advantage because he is Russian by birth as he spends most his time in the U.S. and Canada during the season.

Wayne Gretzky believes the hottest goaltender and the best skater give you the best chance for winning.  Goaltending is huge, so I will agree with him there.  However, I think the best ‘set of skaters’ is much more important than the having the best individual player.  Matchups are also a big deal and the groups are already set.  Based on the Group Round, lets take a look at my predictions.

Group Round

Group A

  •  Russia
  •  Slovakia
  •  United States
  •  Slovenia

Russia is playing at home and were good in the group round for the 2013 World Championships.  With home advantage and being more used to the bigger ice, I think they have the advantage to win the group over the U.S.

The U.S. could surprise Russia on February 15th.  I predict Russia will win, so the U.S. should take second in the group.  Slovakia is a bit of a threat, but it would be an upset if they beat the U.S. or Russia here.  Slovenia probably does not have much of a chance getting off of the bottom here.

  1. Russia
  2. United States
  3. Slovakia
  4. Slovenia

Group B

  •  Finland
  •  Canada
  •  Norway
  •  Austria

Finland or Canada could take this group, but the edge has to go to Finland based on goaltending and because they have fewer NHL players on their roster (yes I said fewer).  Most players in the KHL or SM-Liiga are more than good enough to play at the NHL level, but are just better on the open ice or not as physical as necessary for the NHL.  The Finnish side has several players playing in Russia and Finland currently, which also makse jet lag a non-issue.  Whoever is second place in this division should still score a lot of goals, so they will likely have the best second place team after the group stage–giving them direct entry into the quarterfinals.

Between Norway and Austria, I think it is a bit of a toss up.  Many of the Austrian players play together in the EBEL Austrian League, where the Norwegian players are a little more spread out.  I will give the third place edge to Austria just based on chemistry.

  1. Finland
  2. Canada
  3. Austria
  4. Norway

Group C

  •  Czech Republic
  •  Sweden
  •   Switzerland
  •  Latvia

Switzerland has been the surprise team lately and played extremely well in the 2013 World Championships.  However, they will not have the firepower to keep up with what Sweden has brought to Sochi.  They should still have the edge on the Czech Republic and Latvia though, placing the Swiss side in second place.  Czech Republic can get a shot at the second spot, but are not quite as good as Switzerland.  Latvia is the obvious bottom team here and might be the worse in the Olympics.

  1. Sweden
  2. Switzerland
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Latvia

Qualification Playoff

Based on my predictions, these are the matchups for the qualification playoffs:

United States (5D) vs. Latvia (12D)

This will be an easy match for the U.S. and they will move on to the next round.

Switzerland (6D) vs. Slovenia (11D)

Another easy match with Switzerland walking all over Slovenia.

Czech Republic (7D) vs. Norway (10D)

This could be a good match, but the Czech side should be able to grind out a win in a low scoring affair.

Slovakia (8D) vs. Austria (9D)

This will be an even match, but I think Austria actually has a chance here.  Whoever wins will lose in the next round to the tournament’s top seeded club, so I will take Austria on the mini-upset here….there has to be an upset, right?

Quarterfinals

Russia (1D) vs. Austria (9D)

Austria probably does not have much of a chance here.  Slovakia either.  Their medal chances end with a Russian victory.

Canada (4D) vs. United States (5D)

This will no doubt be a great matchup and is really too close to call.  The U.S. has better speed and goaltending and in the end I think that will be more important than having Crosby (best skater under the Gretzky rule).  The U.S. will take this one and send Canada reeling without a medal.

Sweden (3D) vs. Switzerland (6D)

A rematch of the 2013 Men’s World Championship will end with Sweden victorious again.  They are just too good for upstart Switzerland.

Finland (3D) vs. Czech Republic (7D)

The Czech Republic just simply does not have a championship side and Finland will come out of this victorious.

Semifinals

Russia (1D) vs. United States (5D)

A rematch of the semifinals from the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid and the 2013 World Championship quarterfinals.  Much less of a miracle needed this time.  Russia has home-ice advantage, but they do not have the intangibles to win championships.  They will fall again to the U.S. and will have a chance at third place.

Sweden (2D) vs. Finland (3D)

This will be the match of the tournament and should be great to watch.  For me, it is a coin flip, but edge to Finland for goaltending.

Finals

Finland vs. United States

The game will be close, but not super competitive I imagine.  Finland wins the gold and the American squad takes a silver after a hard run past Canada and Russia.

Sweden vs. Russia – Bronze Medal Game

Russia cannot be shutout in their own country, right?  Sweden can do it, but the Russian side will come out to play here.  Sweden goes from number one last year to number four and Russia celebrates third place in Sochi.

#2013WJC (delayed) #Moneypuck update. Results of pulling your goalie…does it matter?

16 Feb

A quick look at the results of pulling your keeper in the World Junior Championships.  There are some potential problems with this analysis.  First, if you switch goalies because you either leading by a lot or losing by a lot there may not be a reason for the teams to play as hard.  Bench players may also get more time, meaning less skill on the ice, possibly less scoring and defense.  Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to look at the results.

The first keeper pulled was in game 2: Switzerland vs. Latvia.  The Swiss were up 5 to 2 after the second period and Latvia switched in Punnenovs for Merzlikins.  Switzerland’s offensive performance declined in the 3rd period, putting only 9 shots on goal in the 3rd (17 in the 1st and 13 in the 2nd).  However, the Swiss outscored the Latvian side 2-0 in the final period.  Latvia actually played worse in the 3rd period with the new keeper.

Punnenovs got the start in the final two games and finished with a 5.02 GAA.  Merzlikins finished with a 6.23 GAA.

The U.S. switched goalies after going up big against Germany in their 8-0 win.  Though it is hard to say definitively it had an effect, Gibson lost to a much better Russian side in their next match.

Germany moved away from Subban after there 9-3 loss to Canada.  Cupper started the final three games and lost 8-0, 7-0, and 2-1.

In both the U.S. vs. Russia and U.S. vs. Canada losses, Gibson was pulled in the final minutes to give the Americans an extra skater.  Neither instance led to the equalizer.  It would be interesting to see if more offense was generated when Gibson was out of the net, even though there were no goals.

Finland scored in five seconds after pulling Korpisalo in their 5-4 shootout win over Switzerland.  This goal was made by the extra skater, Markus Granlund, but during a faceoff.  Scoring on a possession in the offensive zone within five seconds makes it difficult to credit the goal to having the extra skater.  Nevertheless, that was the case.

So, it appears that in a tournament setting, that pulling your goalie when you are up to give them a rest in later games could affect them negatively in later games.  Also, generally speaking, pulling your goalie more often than not does not lead to that equalizer goal.  The wisdom is that the man advantage gives a team a better opportunity to score, but the extra goal rarely comes to fruition.

 

***This article was originally drafted in January.  Since there was an interesting goalie pulling situation in the under 20 tournament for the Hungarian team.  Mark Plekszan started in goal the first game and was chased out.  Hungary lost that first game.  He was replaced in the following game, but got the start again later.  He was again chased from the net; however, he was pulled early enough in the first period that Hungary was able to come back and win that game.  The mixed result here is that pulling him in the tournament probably didn’t help his confidence.   Yet, making an early decision in a tournament to pull your keeper could be beneficial.  Though, it seems if a team decides to make that switch, then they should stick with their decision for the rest of the tournament.  This was played out in the 2013 WJC and some of the Olympic prequalifying tournaments, as the teams that switched goalies the least had the most success.

What I learned about international hockey this weekend. #Monday thoughts

12 Nov

This was an awesome weekend for me.  I was able to watch the national teams of Netherlands, Hungary, Lithuania and Croatia.  I learned a ton…these are my Monday thoughts:

Budapest is ready for a professional hockey team

Budapest Sports Arena seats just over 9,479 people for hockey games.  Built in 2003, it is a state-of-the-art facility.  There are bathrooms outside of every gate, as well as concession areas.  There was a great video introduction of the team, complete with music, pyrotechnics and 20 or so figure skaters.  Csuszka the Bear (the name which translates into a bird) was greeting fans in the stands.  There was intermission entertainment.

…and the fans.  They were strong.  A complete cheering section of loud, boisterous and supportive fans…and they seemed to have a good grasp of the game.  Four people on the war drums!

Attendance:  4,350 on Friday and over 6,000 on Saturday and Sunday.  Attendance was better in Budapest than in the Ukraine on the final two days and five times the attendance in Japan.

Zagreb, Ljubljana, Vienna, Bratislava and Prague all have teams that seem to be successful.  Why not Budapest?  If the problem is they are looking for a young, energetic, business-minded professional to spearhead the movement with some strong financial backing, then I know just the guy….

Oh, not to mention, the hockey world would get to know this Hungarian classic sing-along that is played after every goal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDyOruGN76Y

Great Britain doesn’t care much about hockey

According to the Nielsen ratings, hockey is the most buzzed about sport during the Winter Olympics.  Great Britain has the 21st ranked team in the world.  Here is the publicity their prequalification win got in the Times today:

Embedded image permalink

It is my understanding the Great Britain had the opportunity to host the prequalification group they were in, but declined.  I feel bad for the players and I am rooting for them to make it, because the hockey world could use the UK’s support.

Live tweeting is hard!

Especially when Hungary decides to put up 13 goals in a game, one game goes to a shootout and the Netherlands put up 23 goals in three days.  My iPhone made it through fine and I am happy to report my thumb is in fine condition.

I am excited for more international hockey

I am considering doing this again for the qualifying tournament somewhere in February and definitely for the World Championships here in April.  I don’t have plans to become a sports journalist, but live tweeting, the recaps and all that other stuff really makes me get into the game and pay attention to what is going on.  These different perspectives of watching a game: as a fan, as a statistician and as someone trying to tell others a story is a lot of fun.

Ok-off to do some paid work (unfortunately) and Advanced Macro homework (even more unfortunate).  Hockey starts back up on Friday when the two Romanian MOL League teams come to Budapest.  A little respite from school.

Hungary vs. The Netherlands – Group G #Olympic prequalifier final in #Budapest. Follow me on Twitter for live updates.

11 Nov

Hungary will take on the Netherlands in front of a Budapest home crowd at the Budapest Sports Arena at 17:30 this evening (GMT +1).  Both finalists have been completely dominant over Lithuania and Croatia in the first two days of action.

Neither team has really seen their goaltenders tested, so tonight’s game should be a battle of who is better in the net.

Hungary has the home crowd advantage and the better skaters.  The Netherlands have the more physical side and Hungary has not seen much physical play yet.  Hungary should take this, especially if Holland continues to come out of the gate slowly.

Anything can happen, but I am going to guess a 5-4 game…..I really can’t pick a winner.  If I was a betting man, I would keep my money in my pocket on this one.  Too many wild cards to take into account.  Both teams can score and neither team has been tested.  Maybe Hungary with the edge because of the fans…

The consolation match is Croatia and Lithuania at 14:00.  I will not be live tweeting this game.  However, you can get live updates of your own at the IIHF Group G website.  After the game starts, there will be a ‘live’ link where you can see scoring and penalty updates shortly after they occur.

Image

Hungary’s Sofron just before scoring on a penalty shot in Saturday’s 13-0 win of Croatia.

Day 2 – Group G #Olympic qualifiers in #Budapest. Follow me on Twitter for live updates.

10 Nov

I will be back at Papp Laszlo arena today live tweeting and providing recaps of the games.  All Europe related hockey news can be found over at EuroHockey.com.  Follow the games by watching the feed on the right of this blog or follow me on Twitter @bourciertm.

The Netherlands and Hungary dominated yesterday.  They will switch opponents today, playing Lithuania (14:00) and Croatia (17:30), respectively.

More to come on this later!

#Olympic Ice Hockey qualifiers – Group G. This weekend in Budapest.

9 Nov

I will be covering the Group G Olympic qualifiers this weekend at the Budapest Sports Arena. Game recaps will be reported here and can also be found over at EuroHockey.com. I will also be live tweeting the games, so check out my feed to the right or follow me on Twitter @bourciertm.

Here is the schedule (all times +1 GMT):

9 November: The Netherlands – Croatia 15:30
Lithuania – Hungary 19:00

10 November: Netherlands – Lithuania 14:00
Hungary – Croatia 17:30

11 November: Croatia – Lithuania 14:00
Hungary – Netherlands 17:30

Enjoy your weekend!