I am an unabashed Winter Olympic supporter.  Give me people flying down mountains and launching themselves off of frozen ramps, combining skiing and shooting, and even landing sow-cows over a bunch of running and swimming any day of the week.

Like any Olympics though, I generally reserve my rating of the two weeks based upon the quality of the primary men’s team competition.  Sure there are the odd Michael Phelps level historical runs and a case can be made for the women’s gymnastics being the defining moment of the summer games every so often but when I think of Olympics I think hockey and basketball.

I’m a hockey enthusiast by nature and I can say with confidence that I would take a solid two week Olympic run for Team USA over a middling 5 year NHL career.  Now a 10 year multiple All-Star laden career, that may be a different story but I digress.  I love Olympic hockey.  There’s no greater honor than pulling the sweater of your country over your head and going to battle.  Playing for national pride fuels me far more than any pay check could.

So yes I “sacrificed” my sleep this weekend and got up with the Wee One both mornings to watch the US defeat Russia and Slovenia at 6:30am both Saturday and Sunday.  Rather than her typical Baby Einstein or Finding Nemo screenings, my 22 month old daughter began her indoctrination to the world’s most brilliant game as she and I drank our juice/coffee and breathed in some national pride.

Today, given my whole employment situation & having to work during business hours on a Wednesday, I had to record the game on TV and go into a cone of silence for the better part of the afternoon.  It was easier than I thought it would be which I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or bad for the game I’m about to watch (but it was amazing for my productivity at the office).  Regardless, please join me as the puck drops between the US and Czech Republic in the first of the elimination games on the way to the podium.

1st Period

20:00 – I am not a fan of the Czech jerseys.  I get that that’s what your flag looks like but that doesn’t mean you have to wrap yourselves in it.  They need better apparel consultants coming into these games.

18:42 – Wait a second, is that Petr Nedved?  As in NHL 94 Petr Nedved!?  It is!  Where the hell have you been Petr?  Between him, Jagr, Patrick Elias, Martin Hanzel and Tomas Kaberle the Czechs would be a fantastic squad if these games were in Nagano and the year was 1998.

18:21 – Goal USA!!!! James van Riemsdyk scores from what looks like below the goal line on a stuff attempt.  That’s how you start a hockey game and crush a tired team’s spirits.  1-0 USA.

17:50 – For a supposedly tired and old team the Czechs seem to have quite a hop in their step at the moment.  Let’s see if they can keep it up.

15:29 – Wait a second.  A crappy line change allows the Czechs to come in on a rush and in a weird spinning pile in front of the net the puck pops in over Quick and all of a sudden it’s 1-1.

10:42 – The Czechs are laying it on pretty thick at the moment.  So did they just not get the memo that they are supposed to lay down here so the US can rest up for a game against Canada on Friday?  Quick is standing tall and making the saves but he doesn’t appear to be in control.  Pucks are hitting him more than he’s saving them if that makes sense.

10:10 – Every chance the US gets they’re laying the wood on Jagr.  I’d love to see the white board in their locker room.  I bet it says something like, “knock Jagr back to the KHL.”

8:24 – Doc just asked Eddie for the strength of the Czech team and there was a noticeable pause before Eddie could come up with anything.  Is dying your beard/hair a strength?

5:22 – Dustin Brown just totally redeemed himself for his two penalties against Russia on Saturday with a nice snipe to make it 2-1.  Really the credit goes to David Backes after a nick pass threaded through the crease to a wide open Brown on the weak side.  The US is rounding into form taking possession of the puck and moving it with ease to the open man.  More of that please.  2-1 USA.

4:15 – Of all the things I like about the Olympics being held in Russia this year, I think my favorite aspect is the heavy reliance on the Jock Jams CDs by the area media relations staff in order to keep the crowd engaged.

0:01.8David Backes plays a rebound off the back boards for a tough angle goal with essentially no time left on the clock.  3-1 heading into the first break.

End of the 1st Period

The Czechs had more spunk than I think anyone on our side was ready for but the US team weathered the storm and seem to have this one under control.  I’m still not wowed by Quick’s play thus far but he’s keeping the puck out of the net at the end of the day.  There’s an old adage in hockey that you can’t give up a goal in the first minute or the last minute of a period.  The Czechs have essentially done both at this point.  Let’s see how the translates the rest of the game.

2nd Period

20:00 - The Brown/Backes/Callahan line opens against the Jagr line again.  I’m guessing the Czech’s are going to do everything in their power the rest of the night to try to find that line some breathing room.  Watch for quick changes out of them.

18:15 – I’ve never liked Martin Erat. If the Blackhawks traded for him I would actively root against a player on my favorite team.

13:26 – The speed of this game seems to be taking its toll on the Czechs as they are noticeably lacking the spring in their step that was evident in the 1st period.  Maybe it has to do with a quarter of their team being born in the 70s.

11:33 – The first power play of the game.

10:29 – Goal Parise from yet another difficult angle.  After a sloppy first shift on the power play Team USA came right down and Joe Pavelski fired a one timer from the point that missed the net, caromed off the boards, and Parise pounded it home.  This game could be over ladies and gentlemen. 4-1 USA.

10:25 - Yep, it’s over.  One time Blackhawk farm hand Alexander Salak has now taken over in net for the Czechs.  Not a good sign Czech fans.

7:13 – As mentioned above, the Czechs seem to be going out of their way to free the Jagr line from the vice grip that is David Backes and his comrades.

4:29 – Speaking of Jagr, Brooks Orprik just tried to plant him in the fourth row and drew the first US penalty of the game.

3:59 – And the Czechs give the power play right back with a stupid trip on TJ Oshie.  So much for that comeback.

2:50 – Pierre just reminded us all of Ryan Kesler’s hand injury against the Russians.  If you recall he went off in that game doubled over in pain, missed a shift or two and came back with two fingers of his glove taped together.  I was surprised to see him play Sunday in the Slovenia game and thus far tonight I’ve been watching him and have noticed no ill effect until he just now dropped his stick when it slightly got tied up with Michal Frolik.  Pierre said that the US team doctor is amazed how Kesler is doing what he is and he commented on his pain threshold.  In hockey translation that means he broke at least one finger (if not two) and he’s just sucking it up and playing through it.  Suck it every other sport where a hang nail keeps players out for weeks at a time.

End of the 2nd Period

This game is quickly becoming what everyone expected.  The Czechs are looking old and slow and Team USA is taking over.  Their younger legs and higher talent are emerging as the physical game they play is taking its toll on the older team who played just 24 hours before.

3rd Period

18:54 – Maybe the rules got lost in translation but in the game I know, once the ref loses sight of the puck he should be blowing the whistle.  For some reason they just allowed all ten players on the ice to pile into the crease in front of the US net without so much as a tweet.  I think the refs need to make sure the pea is still rolling around in their whistle.

17:59 – Goal by Mr. Tournament Leading Scorer Phil Kessel.  Good job crashing the net and a perfect pass from Kessler equals a bunch of happy humans.  The US team speed is just overwhelming at this point.   5-1 USA.

14:17 – Doc, Eddie & Pierre are debating the value of the political split between Slovakia and the Czech Republic 22 years ago for hockey team depth purposes.  We’ve reached that point ladies and gentlemen.  For the record I am shocked that famed Blackhawk killer Radim Vrbata is not on this squad.

8:15 – Zack Wheeler just took his first shift of the game.  I will forever be upset that Brandon Saad is not on this team.  Saad would bring more than one shift per game worth of value to this team.

7:00 – Ales Hemsky with a wicked wrister to make it 5-2.  That’s how you run a 2-on-2 without passing ladies and gentlemen.

4:48 – Shea Weber has scored a late goal in the Canada-Latvia game to break a 1-1 tie in the building across the street.  Bring on the Canadians!

2:13 – Our announcing crew is now wishing Jagr a fond farewell to his stellar international hockey career.  Are we so sure he won’t be playing in Korea during his 45th year on this planet at this point?

End of the 3rd Period

Ball game.  The US wins in convincing fashion despite a less than stellar performance by Jamie Quick.  It’s not that he did anything wrong but he seemed to be fighting the puck for the majority of the night and that’s just not going to fly in the games ahead as the competition improves.  The good news is the rest of the team looked sharp with the US defense playing solid and the forwards being faster, more physical, and more creative than their competitors.  There’s a very real chance that my cone of silence approach is going to fail me on Friday for a US-Canada tilt.  Say goodbye productivity, let the border war re-ignite!