Hey Leafs Nation,
I'm currently fighting a hangover after partying with random Czechs and Slovakians last night on the streets of downtown Vancouver - these crazy Euros have really mastered the international language of drinking!
Yesterday I was at two men's hockey games - Sweden vs. Germany in the afternoon, and the 9pm grudge match between the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Swedish fanbase was pretty overwhelming for two reasons: a) Swedish women are freakishly beautiful, and b) Most Vancouverites cheer Sweden hard on account of the Sedin sisters. I'm really not a fan of the Canucks or the Sedins in any way, and I get it that it's fun to cheer on your home team's players as they compete internationally, but just because The Monster was also on the Swedish roster doesn't mean I was dressing up in a yellow shirt and a viking helmet.
That said, I was marking out pretty hard for Gustavsson in the warmup. I snagged a few pictures.
Anyway, the game was kind of a stinker. Germany trapped and was very passive, as was expected - still, I got to give a hand to Germany. They really stuck to their gameplan and managed to look better on special teams than Sweden, even though the crossbar took away 2 goals from Ze Germans. I think the Germans will qualify for the Quarterfinals because a) Thomas Greiss looked solid b) good team defense works well at short, international tournaments, c) their scoring prowress is underrated - I think the Marco Sturm/Marcel Goc/Jochen Hecht will pot a few goals at this tournament.
As for Sweden, I was not very impressed, nor were many Swedish fans in attendance. The Swedes looked pretty disorganized and one dimensional. The Sedins were terrible, which was pretty funny to watch. They kept trying to start a cycle but with Weinhandl on Henrik's other wing instead of Alex Burrows, they kept on losing the puck behind the net within a few seconds. Forsberg was still great though, as expected - he's a bit slow nowadays but his puck control and vision is still strong as ever. The best Swedish line by far was Eriksson-Backstrom-Alfredsson. Backstrom is playing the best hockey of his career and his wingers can both rip it. I think this team will gel as the tournament progresses, but Canada and Russia are still the heavy favourites in my opinion.
The late night matchup was an amazing game for many reasons. It felt like an incredible honour to get to see Jaromir Jagr not only lace 'em up on North American soil, but even moreso to see him score a breakaway goal and get a key assist! The Czech and Slovak fans created a crazy atmosphere - it felt like I was a neutral observer of a very, very heated rivalry.
What is up with Tomas Kaberle in international play? As soon as he puts on that sweater it's all huge booming windmill slapshots! Here he is teeing one up on the PP. He will score a few of these during these games - he looked amazing all night in both ends of the rink.
Speaking of Kaberle - he, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Havlat and Patrick Elias are the real core of this team, and it shows. They get tons of minutes and they all look lethal out there. I've never seen such crisp, accurate passing. However, the Czech defense, as well as the Slovaks, really deteriorates after the top pairing. I expect Canada or Russia to slaughter either of these teams.
Anyways, I'm off to see Canada play Switzerland this afternoon, and then another late night marquee with Alex Ovechkin vs. the Slovakians. These 9pm games are a great experience - lots of drunk fans on their feet and partying during every intermission. I'm glad that I got tickets to 3 of these late starts - they're much better than the slow elderly people in the aisles/crying baby/kids running everywhere 12pm games.