Winter Olympics: Ice Hockey Final Four Too Close to Call

Sweden's Henrik Lundqvist is chasing his third shut-out of the 2014 Olympics

Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist is chasing his third shut-out of the 2014 Olympics

The Winter Olympics, as always, are great fun for those (i.e everybody) who don’t watch these sports for four years and then suddenly realise how much fun snowboarding on a half-pipe looks, how ludicrous the Luge and Skeleton are and of course, the all-round wonderful viewing experience that is watching curling.

In a week, you can go from being a curling neophyte to an expert on who has the hammer, the poor accuracy on draw shots, should they take the one or blank the end. All this to the extent that you start making up your own mind on what shot the skip should play, as you with a week’s viewing experience know more than the poor skip, who has spent a lifetime in ice rinks honing their curling craft.

Now, this article is about Ice Hockey, one of the more recognisable sports among those featured in the Winter Olympics. However it is surprisingly difficult to find regular NHL coverage in the UK and watching Brits play American sports (Basketball, Ice hockey, American Football etc) is a depressing, soul crushing experience on a par with the time in my first ever job I spent a whole day putting shredding decades-old financial documents. That’s how grim and sad watching the London Towers play basketball back in the day was.

But, I’ve played enough Ice Hockey on various games consoles to know the basic rules and read just enough articles about the sport on Grantland to have a vague idea of which teams and which players are good and bad. Even if you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I feel I know enough to not know about the sport intelligently.

Winter Olympics Men’s Ice Hockey (Outright Winner) Betting Odds:

Canada – 2.50

Sweden – 3.50

United States – 3.50

Finland – 6.50

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

While it’s a shame that watching the sport on television is not as fun as playing NHL 07 on a Playstation 2 (for one thing, actually seeing where the puck is when watching on telly is surprisingly and irritatingly difficult) it is still a good watch (when you get used to tracking the puck’s movements) and comes with the bonus of Cold War rivalry, at least until Russia were eliminated in the quarter-finals, after America and Russia played out a thrilling 2-2 tie last Sunday that came down to Ice Hockey’s equivalent of the penalty shootout, with America, as in real life, winning the war in the end.

And of course, there is the chance of a brawl breaking out at any time. Almost everybody likes watching a fight, it’s much better than participating in one. With players wearing pads and helmets, there’s little chance of a brawl resulting in serious injury so the squeamish folk amongst the viewing audience can also enjoy a good scrap.

On the ice, the semi-finals have boiled down to an all Scandinavian match-up between Sweden and Finland, and a meeting between the two North American giants, Canada and the United States (I call them ‘giants’ because they both look big on a map). At the game’s top level, the goaltender is often the guy who can make or break a team’s fortunes, and Sweden have a very good one in Henrik Lundqvist. He’s the only goalie who has played in every minute of every match so far, and he’s kept two shut outs while he’s at it.

Sweden have won every match they’ve played in at these Olympics, winning their three group games before swatting aside Slovenia in the quarter-final in the manner of a sunbathing tourist swatting away a fly (they won 5-0 so they must have swatted them). They will play Finland, who’ve had a tougher path to the semi-finals, losing in overtime in the group stages to Canada and having to play Russia on home ice in the quarter-final. They beat Russia though, so presumably to do that with the fans pulling for the other team shows they have some mental strength.

Betting Instinct Tip – Despite Sweden’s two shutouts, Finland are the competition’s second highest scorers behind the US. More than 4.5 goals in regular time is 1.96 with GR88.com

Canada is passionate about Ice Hockey, presumably in the way New Zealand can’t get enough of Rugby. But, considering their size and population, they’re not very good at sports. They’ve only produced four footballers I can think of (Jason De Vos, Tomasz Radzinski, Paul Peschisolido and Paul Stalteri) and I know from pub trivia that they’re the only summer Olympics host country not to win a gold medal.

They’re much better at winter sports obviously, topping the gold medal table in 2010, but America are good at every sport. Like Australia, they just have this winning knack, even when it’s a sport they couldn’t care less about.

Nonetheless, because they win at most sports I’ll predict they’ll win this one against Canada. And then probably the final. The fact that I want Canada to beat them makes it even more likely.

Betting Instinct Tip – The United States to beat Canada with more than 5.5 goals scored is available at 4.88 with Intertops.eu

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avatar-jackhowes-50JACK HOWES (debaser92) is an avid sports fan who writes about football and Asperger’s Syndrome. The only things he loves more than Mars Bars are his family and Tottenham Hotspur FC.

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