The preliminary round of the 2014 Olympics is now over. All twelve
participating teams still will have at least one game to play, the top four get
byes into the quarterfinals while the other eight have a play-in game on
Tuesday. Quite a few of the Habs’ representatives will be suiting up on
Tuesday to keep their gold medal hopes alive. Here is a look at how each
Hab has played so far and where their countries are in the standings.
It’s a case of glass half-full or half-empty for Montreal fans. While
Carey Price appears to have secured the starting job, P.K. Subban as expected
seems to be the odd man out on the blueline. Price has been relatively
untested in both of his games (a far cry from what he has been used to with
Montreal’s defensive struggles) but has only allowed a single goal in each of
those. Subban saw limited minutes in his lone game against Austria and
didn’t really do much to help (or hurt) his chances of getting into another one.
With the Canadians struggling offensively, particularly on the powerplay, Subban
may get another chance before the tournament is finished.
Next Game: Wednesday vs the winner of Switzerland – Latvia
If there’s one team that has really disappointed so far, I’d say it’s the
Czechs. There have been some really odd decisions behind the bench, from
benching their starter in the opening game to quirky lineup moves, to refusing
to willingly pull a goalie for the extra attacker in the dying seconds of the
game. One of their few bright spots, however, has been the play of captain
Tomas Plekanec. His role in this tournament is identical to what it is
with the Habs, play a shutdown role while still being a go-to player offensively
and play in all special teams situations. His team may not be living up to
expectations but Plekanec has done his job.
Next Game: Tuesday vs Slovakia, winner plays USA
The Russians, for all of their firepower, have had some difficulties scoring,
both from their forwards and defencemen. Only one blueliner has multiple
points, that being Andrei Markov. He has been their number one defender so
far and has seen a lot of time particularly on the powerplay. Fortunately
for Montreal fans, he’s still averaging about five minutes less per game than he
does with the Habs. Alexei Emelin has been quiet so far. He leads
the Russians in penalties and while he has started games on the second pairing,
his ice time is that of a third pairing player. Russia’s defence corps
isn’t particularly strong so expect Markov to keep leading the way while Emelin
can work his way into a regular second pairing role if he can pick up his play a
Next Game: Tuesday vs Norway, winner plays Finland
Some might argue that the biggest disappointment so far has been the Slovaks
but I didn’t have them pegged to do much in the first place. Goaltending
has been a concern although much of that falls on the shoulder of former Hab
Jaroslav Halak. Peter Budaj has seen action in just one game in relief of
Halak and didn’t fare particularly well against the Americans although it was
well out of hand when he got to play. Surprisingly, the Slovaks turned to
their 3rd stringer (Jan Laco) instead of Budaj in their last contest in the
preliminary round and left Budaj in the stands. Given how well Laco
played, the net is his to lose meaning that Budaj may not be dressing let alone
playing in another game.
Next Game: Tuesday vs Czech Republic, winner plays USA
Many pundits thought that the Americans would struggle offensively but that
has yet to be the case. Unfortunately for Montreal fans, their success has
had little to do with Max Pacioretty. The Habs’ top goal scorer has seen
fourth line ice time in the two games that he has played while he was a healthy
scratch in their final round-robin outing. I, for one, was hoping to see
Pacioretty click with a centre that isn’t David Desharnais but despite playing
with a strong playmaker in Paul Stastny, that has yet to come to fruition.
It will be interesting to see if he gets back into the lineup for their
quarterfinal matchup or if he too will be on the outside looking in.
Next Game: Wednesday vs winner of Czech Republic – Slovakia