I was composing sprots-journalism like thoughts throughout this game. The theme was the contrast between the Czech team and the Slovak team, both overmatched, but the games they played were very diffferent.
At least, that’s what I was going to say when the Slovaks led the Swedes 2-1. Although the boys in yellow and blue were on the attack most of the time, the red, white, and blue weren’t rolling over. Scrappy, tough counterpunchers, you could be having a tea party at their end of the ice only to turn around and discover that they’re sitting in your living room, reprogramming your remote control.
Not long after that, Sweden was up 4-2 and I was mentally erasing all that I had thought. The dominant team had arived.
Then it was 4-3 and the Slovaks were looking pretty tough. They’d figured out the Swedish forechecking and their swift strike had drawn blood. The Swedish goaltender faced relatively few shots, but could never rest — when the Slovaks took a shot it was often out of nowhere and consistently dangerous. There was a face-off at mid ice; the Slovaks surged and two seconds later had a scoring chance.
I love watching games with teams like that. There is never a moment that doesn’t hold the potential for something breaking out.
Then Sweden scored again, and it seemed that all was lost. I revised my story again.
While Slovakia never had the lead again, they were never beaten. When the jerks scored to go up 6-3 my brother wrote to me: ‘Not a good day for the slavs’. I had barely tapped out ‘Not unless you count the russians’ when the slovaks went bing-bang-boom and made the game interesting again.
The final goal, the swede’s seventh, was an empty-netter. The only thing that would make hockey better would be a tradition where the winning team just drops the puck behind the net rather than ringing up the meaningless empty-net goal. That would be classy.
I’m sorry the Slovaks didn’t win. They had the fire in their bellies, the hustle, the grit, the je ne sais quois of a championship team. In the end the Swedes were better, however. Now I think it’s between the Russians and the Canadians. The Russians looked awfully good today, and the tournament is in Moscow this year.