Rivalry day at the Olympics…

1998 Gold Medal Game: Czech Republic vs. Russia.

2002 Gold Medal Game: USA vs. Canada.

2006 Gold Medal Game: Sweden vs. Finland.

Sunday’s Olympic Men’s Hockey schedule boasts re-matches of all three of the last Gold Medal Games.

In order.

At 2:00pm, Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, Maxim Afinogenov and a host of other potent scorers lead Russia against the 1998 Gold Medal winning Czech Republic. Martin Erat will be the first of four Nashville Predators to play on Sunday (five if you count Alexander Radulov) as he tries to find the Czech scoresheet for the first time since tallying an assist just 2:30 into the game against Latvia.

Russia may be ranked number one by the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) but struggled against, and ended up falling to, Slovakia on Friday. The loss raised questions about the Russians 8-defensemen system, about using Ovechkin – who’s not known as a breakaway scorer – multiple times in the shootout and whether the high-flying Russians are more “self” thinking as opposed to thinking about what’s best for the team.

On the other hand, the Czechs disposed of Slovakia in regulation and then took care of Latvia 5-2. Hardly a favorite for the Gold Medal, with former Predator Tomas Vokoun in goal, the Czech Republic could easily pull an upset at any given time and find themselves in the medal round.

The Fighting Ovechkin’s and the Czech Republic take the ice on NBC.

The final Men’s Hockey game of the preliminary round will be a re-match of the Gold Medal game from Turino as Patric Hornqvist leads Sweden against arch-rival Finland. The Swedes are considered a favorite to repeat as Olympic champions but the Finns currently lead Group C thanks to goal differential.

Finland made quick work of Bealrus in their opener, winning 5-1. Then they went on to destroy Germany 5-0 in their second game. Albeit neither of those teams boast the same firepower and talent as the Swedes do, but Finland’s confidence is sky high right now. Why wouldn’t it be? They’ve scored five goals in each of their first two games, they have one of the NHL’s best in Miika Kiprusoff between the pipes and they have the all-time leading Olympic scorer in Teemu Selanne.

As far as Sweden is concerned, they haven’t come close to reaching their full potential. Sure Henrik Lundqvist has held the fort in net and sure they’re won both of their games, but the uber-talented line of Peter Forsebrg, Hornqvist and Henrik Zetterberg just hasn’t produced. There should be no motivating speech needed when it comes to facing their geographical neighbor Finland so, if you need a reason to stay up late, this should be a good one.

Hornqvist, the Predators leading scorer this season, doesn’t have a single point yet. The only numbers on his stat line are two penalty minutes and six shots on goal.

The late night game can be seen on MSNBC.

But the game everyone that everyone in North America will be watching (except those with just network television) is Team USA and Canada. The puck drops between the two most popular countries at these Olympic games at 7:00pm.

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller is the man in net for the Americans as they try to knock off one of the tournament favorites. The host country won Gold by beating the Americans on their own soil back in 2002 and the US hopes they can return the favor come February 28. But first things first: win Group A and earn a qualifying round bye by beating Canada on Sunday.

Nashville’s Ryan Suter leads Team USA in ice time (40:36) while the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ryan Malone leads Team USA in scoring with three points.

Names like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman may not be on it anymore but Canada has a lineup that would make any team cringe. For starters, arguably the best goaltender of all-time is between the pipes. Martin Brodeur not only has three Stanley Cups but he also has a Gold Medal.

The forwards aren’t sub-par either. The face of the NHL Sidney Crosby is tied for the team lead in scoring (4 points) and even scored the shootout winner in their last game against the Swiss. Calgary Flames captain Jerome Iginla leads the team with three goals and San Jose Sharks sniper Dany Heatley shares the team lead in scoring with Crosby.

The Predators’ Shea Weber and the Sharks’ Dan Boyle lead all Canadian defenseman with two points.

The North America game will be shown on MSNBC.

No matter which game you choose to watch, all three games promise to be epic battles.

One Comment

  1. henrik lundqvist goalie

    February 21, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    USA won! Now for Sweden to beat Finland, again.