Three of the four NHL-era Olympic gold medal winners are out. Three hockey "little brothers" remain among the final four. Finland, USA and Slovakia are the party-crashers whose presence, while not shocking, is still hardly playing to script. This is why international-style group play before the knock-out stages is so cool. (It's also an example of what a more logical points system can create.) When group play upsets happen, it mixes up the bracket in delightful ways.
USA (4-0-0) vs. Finland (3-0-0-1) | 3 p.m. EST, NBC/CTV/V
Canada (4-0-0-1) vs. Slovakia (3-1-0-1) | 9:30 p.m. EST, CNBC/CTV/V
Personally I'd prefer tourney favorite Canada lose today or Sunday, in my naiive hope for a reality check for the vocal jingoist set who take this hockey birthright thing waaay too seriously and in turn suck the life out of the game. Seems like that crowd could use seeing this as a beautiful game again, and not as just a heavy-burden expectation mechanism whose only joy lies in staving off defeat. (I do realize so many of you Canadians are far more grounded about it; but you know, it's the squeakiest wheel that irks the writer.) Regardless, if Canada does fall short, I hope the prevailing response is to admire a great game and awe at how "their game" has spread wide enough to make losing on home ice possible.
Remarkably, 26 NHL teams still have players in the medal rounds yet Washington has none. Vancouver is guaranteed a representative winning each medal, while Anaheim, Chicago and Los Angeles are among several who are guaranteed to have winners of at least two different medals.
No game analysis from me; I'm just going to sit back and enjoy. Consider this our semifinals game thread. For me, go Slovakia, go USA -- little brothers of the world unite! But root on whomever you wish here, and relish the most exciting top-flight hockey we should see for at least a couple of months, if not far longer.
Prediction: Fiinlaand feeatuures lots of doubled vowels. Canada checks Slovakians up, down, left and right.