Cleaning off the crystal ball

Year-old men's tournament predictions go 14-for-18 so far

Canada Hockey Place Vancouver British Columbia Canada

(Almost) as predicted, the U.S. beat Switzerland by two goals in the opener. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images

VANCOUVER – On March 28, 2009, I wrote an article entitled “How will 2010 play out?”, predicting the men's results at these Olympics long before even the advance rosters were known. As of the end of the preliminary round, I'm doing reasonably well.

(Of course, I can't be satisfied with what I've accomplished so far – it's nice, but I'm focusing on the games ahead, and I have great respect for everyone else who tried to predict the outcomes.)

I correctly picked the winners of 14 of the 18 games played so far at Canada Hockey Place. Games where “the other team” won included the USA's 6-1 thumping of Norway, Slovakia's 2-1 shootout victory over Russia, the USA's 5-3 upset against Canada, and Sweden's 3-0 shutout versus Finland. (As you can see, a little risk-taking was involved.)

However, admittedly, the whole thing is about to go haywire. That's because when forecasting results, any miscalculations whatsoever throw off the pairings for the elimination games. Therefore, only three of the four prediction qualification playoff matchups have materialized.

Apologies to anyone who was planning to use the article as their guide to Las Vegas riches.

And as for that ultimate prediction of Canada beating Sweden 3-2 in the gold medal game...well, that's very much a work in progress. (Especially since Mike Green couldn't be here to score the winner.)

Nonetheless, the general success of the predictions goes to show that the basic pecking order in men's international hockey still exists. While lower-echelon teams are capable of pushing superior opponents harder than ever, in the end, they still predictably lose.

Take a look at how the preliminary-round predictions compared with reality.

Tuesday, February 16

Predicted Game 1: USA 4, SUI 2: Americans pepper Jonas Hiller with 43 shots en route to victory

Real Game 1: USA 3, SUI 1: Pretty close, although the real Americans only got 24 shots.

Predicted Game 2:
CAN 6, NOR 2: Per-Age Skroder scores two goals, but host nation pulls away in third

Real Game 2: CAN 8, NOR 0: The prediction was a little too generous to the Norwegians, but did reflect their staunch effort they delivered in the first period.

Predicted Game 3: RUS 8, LAT 1: Morozov, Zinoviev combine for six points as Russia gets off to fast start

Real Game 3: RUS 8, LAT 2: This was a good call, especially considering the major contribution  KHLers made on the scoreboard.

Wednesday, February 17

Predicted Game 4:
FIN 4, BLR 0: Kiprusoff earns first Olympic shutout with 19 saves

Real Game 4:
FIN 5, BLR 1: Sergei Kostitsyn, how could you do this to me? Still, the general accuracy is acceptable.

Predicted Game 5:
SWE 5, GER 1: Nicklas Bäckström has three assists as Tre Kronor's power play clicks

Real Game 5: SWE 2, GER 0: Correct result, but slower than anticipated start for the Swedes. Obviously Bäckström was saving his best for the Finns.

Predicted Game 6:
CZE 4, SVK 3: Slovaks outchance Czechs through 60 minutes, but fall in shootout

Real Game 6: CZE 3, SVK 1: Czechs actually rode the great play of Jagr and capitalized on Slovak mistakes. I was a day early on shootout fever.

Thursday, February 18

Predicted Game 7: NOR 3, USA 2: First big upset as gutsy Norwegians tally twice on PP, including OT winner

Real Game 7: USA 6, NOR 1: As Wayne Gretzky once said, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take. The big upset of the tournament is yet to come – this wasn't it.

Predicted Game 8: CAN 4, SUI 1: Canada gets revenge for 2006 loss as Getzlaf, Nash dominate down low

Real Game 8: CAN 3, SUI 2: I underestimated the Swiss, and so did Team Canada, apparently, not to mention Jonas Hiller's amazing game in goal.

Predicted Game 9: RUS 6, SVK 3: Porous Russian defense makes it close till Ovechkin's natural hat trick

Real Game 9: SVK 2, RUS 1: Couldn't have been much further off in terms of the tone and result of this game. The only hat trick Ovechkin got was a trio of penalty shootout attempts, and he went 1-for-3.

Friday, February 19

Predicted Game 10:
SWE 6, BLR 3: No Tommy Salo-style bloopers, and Lidström has four helpers

Real Game 10: SWE 4, BLR 2: When Belarus rallied to within one goal in the third period, this actually had a Salt Lake City tinge. Slightly overgenerous on Lidström's (thus far non-existent) offensive output, too.

Predicted Game 11: CZE 7, LAT 2: Czechs seem distracted until Elias scores shorthanded in middle frame

Real Game 11:
CZE 5, LAT 2: Considering the Czechs scored three goals in five minutes to open the seem, they weren't too “distracted,” but otherwise this one's a pretty solid call.

Predicted Game 12:
FIN 2, GER 1: Ugly, grinding affair decided by Hagman's late rebound goal

Real Game 12: FIN 5, GER 0: Must have been thinking of the more successful über-defensive, early 2000's, Hans Zach-era Germans in this instance.

Saturday, February 20

Predicted Game 13: SUI 4, NOR 1: Switzerland finally generates some offense, and checks well

Real Game 13: SUI 5, NOR 4: Really, would it have been too much effort for Tore Vikingstad to give me a call and mention he was planning to score a hat trick?

Predicted Game 14: SVK 5, LAT 1: Wonky Latvians surrender three goals on first eight shots, never recover

Real Game 14: SVK 6, LAT 0: Those greedy Slovaks--they stole Latvia's only goal!

Predicted Game 15: BLR 5, GER 3: Kostitsyn brothers hook up for 2-on-1 clincher midway through third

Real Game 15: BLR 5, GER 3: Pats on the back for myself for my only bang-on prediction--except for the fact Andrei couldn't be here, of course.

Sunday, February 21

Predicted Game 16: RUS 3, CZE 1: Nabokov, Vokoun both shine, but Semin's dazzling rush decides it late

Real Game 16: RUS 4, CZE, 2: Semin set up Malkin's winning goal and the goal deficit is correct, so this one's pretty sharp.

Predicted Game 17: CAN 5, USA 4: Four points for Crosby as hosts edge American rivals in thriller

Real Game 17:
USA 5, CAN 3: The score was almost correct, but the winner was not. Credit Ryan Miller with one of the best top-level goaltending performances for a U.S. team versus Canada since Mike Richter at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

Predicted Game 18: FIN 3, SWE 2: Dogged Finnish checking opens way for Saku Koivu's winner with 5:36 left

Real Game 18:
SWE 3, FIN 0: After two five-goal outings, the Finnish offense dried up. We called Loui Eriksson “Sweden's best-kept secret” before these Olympics kicked off: evidently the secret is out now.





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