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Blackhawks Thu Feb 20 2014
Of the 10 Blackhawks who packed up and headed for Sochi for the Winter Olympics, just seven remain for a chance at Gold. On Wednesday, Patrick Kane and Team USA beat Michal Rozsíval and the Czech Republic by the final of 5-2 in the quarterfinals.
Just a handful of minutes later, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp and Team Canada took down Latvia in a nail-biter by the final of 2-1 at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Both teams will now face each other on Friday in a rematch of the 2010 Winter games from Vancouver, with the winner taking on either Sweden or Finland for the Gold.
Kane has had a very good tournament, doling out assists, mostly to newly found friend Phil Kessel. And while not a lot of Blackhawks players have found the back of the net, sans Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, each player has done their best trying to find a rhythm with otherwise opponents in the NHL.
Even Michal Handzuš, who although played well for the Blackhawks in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs but still lacks speed up and down the ice, proved to be serviceable playing alongside Hossa for the past week. Unfortunately for them, the Czech Republic bounced Team Slovakia Tuesday; however, it at least provides a little extra rest for the Blackhawks' elder statesmen.
Team Sweden, the number-one overall seed in these Olympics, won each of its games in the preliminary round and features Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Marcus Krüger from the Blackhawks. The swedes took out the Czech Republic with ease, blanked Switzerland and then dispatched of Latvia in the prelims, then sent Anže Kopitar and Team Slovenia back west.
The matchup in the "Battle of Nordic Countries" against Finland should be an entertaining one, especially with goalie Tuukka Rask keeping Finland in it as of late -- just ask Putin and host country Russia (ouch!).
The game between the US and Canada should be an interesting one, considering everything that has led to this moment. The Gold-medal game in 2010 was epic and has been on the minds of every member of Team USA since. Team USA seems to be playing a little more loosely, considering they've been quoted as saying they have nothing to lose. Even though that's looking ahead on their part, there wasn't much doubt the US would make it at least to the semis.
Ever since St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie wowed the masses with his four-for-six shootout performance against the Russians, it seems as though head coach Dan Bylsma's team is playing with a little extra swagger. And while keeping up that chip-on-your-shoulder attitude is a great motivational device, Team Canada easily could put four goals on the board before the first intermission.
On the women's side, Team USA and Team Canada will once again play for Gold on Thursday. Both teams have been impressive on their way to this expected matchup, and just like the US men's side, each player is going in with the mindset of having nothing to lose but everything to gain.
These two teams meet for an unprecedented fourth time for Gold in the last five Winter Olympics, with Team Canada holding a 2-1 advantage. Palos Heights native Kendall Coyne (@KendallCoyne) and her teammates are hoping to exact revenge on the team's 3-2 loss in the preliminary round to the Canadians.
The next four days are going to be as exciting as any in international play, with the chance of the United States bringing home the Gold for both the men and women. For the men, any combination of the remaining seven Blackhawks taking Gold would make this city feel some pride (mostly for Kane, of course). But regardless of the outcome, a safe remaining two games and trip home would set an entire city at ease, especially with a game against the Rangers looming in less than one week.