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SportsMonday: Sorry, Canada

I feel bad for Canada. Everyone agrees the hosers who live up there care more about a certain Olympic sport more than any other athletic pursuit, eh? Although I am generally loathe to generalize about these sorts of things, it is clear that the Winter Olympic host nation's heart is housed in a hockey rink. And Sunday's loss had to burn, burn, burn.

I was happy when the U.S. men's hockey team triumphed 5-3 in Vancouver on Sunday evening. But I know I wasn't nearly as happy as millions of Canucks were hacked off that their team had let them down. Then again, I'm a sap for even thinking about this. If I may paraphrase Da Coach: In life there are winners and losers and if the former doesn't want to become the latter, it won't waste time thinking about feelings. I would say "Just win, baby" at this point except the forever Raider famous for the phrase actually just loses these days. Instead I'll go with, "My condolences, Canada."

Because while the host country's team isn't eliminated, it almost certainly blew its shot at a gold medal with this loss. The real Canadiens will now have to win a play-in game just to make the quarterfinals. And then they'll have to knock off a highly-seeded foe before they even get a sniff of a medal (in the semifinals). My guess is they bounce back to make the quarters and even muster an upset there to grab a spot in the semis. But with a spot in the final on the line, they falter and end up playing their final game for the bronze.

The Americans, on the other hand, who were led by Red Wing defenseman Brian Rafalski's two goals and one stellar assist (Rafalski only has five goals all NHL season, but after scoring the first two American goals of Sunday's game, he had scored four straight U.S. goals in two pool play games), are in a great spot. The top-seeded U.S. team will now have a bye into the quarterfinals along with Russia (No. 3) and Sweden (which clinched No. 2 with a 3-0 win over Finland later Sunday).

As for the local angle, well, Patrick Kane isn't making much of an impact on the Olympic hockey tournament. The Blackhawk star had very little ice time in the first period Sunday (I'm guessing he messed up a defensive assignment in the first few minutes and then sat almost all the way until the first intermission) and while he showed flashes of his skill in the game's final 40 minutes, he didn't have anything to do with any of the five American goals. The guys with more grit, like Ryan Malone, Chris Drury, Ryan Kessler and especially Jamie Langenbrunner were on the ice a great deal more.

Of course the Blackhawk with the most grit, Jonathan Toews, played a big role for the Canadiens, first assisting on the goal that tied the game at two and impressing with his controlled physical presence.

It was a great win for the U.S. team but it was also a win that was disproportionately determined by the effectiveness of the goaltending. I'm glad the U.S. team has Sabre goalie Ryan Miller between the pipes, and it would appear the Canadiens screwed up by going with geezer Martin Brodeur instead of younger standout Roberto Luongo. But it has to be said that games like this make hockey a slightly lesser sport than others where the better team wins more frequently.

As for the rest of the Olympics . . .

* My television conked out out a little after 9:30 p.m. last night, so I am unable to file a comprehensive report on the second round of the Olympic ice dancing competition, which wasn't quite complete at that point. I apologize for this unforgivable shortcoming and hope that readers will somehow find it in their hearts to forgive me.

* The sliders from the rest of the world have not come through. Last week I urged non-German lugers and bobsledders to step up and prevent the Germans from competing with the Americans for the top spot in the medal table based in large part on their ability to sit and ride sleds and over-sized capsules. If anything, Germany's dominance has just become more pronounced since then. After women's skeleton (silver and bronze) and two-man bobsled (gold and silver) success over the weekend, Germany now has a ridiculous nine sliding medals with the big bobsled competitions yet to come. That accounts for exactly half of their overall medals at the 2010 Games.

In other news . . .

Give it up for Gar! There is plenty of reason to believe the Bulls' general manager did as well as he could have done last week. He didn't trash this season and he made moves to both create cap space (good-ye John Salmons and his player-option for almost six million next year) and to get something for malcontent Tyrus Thomas (veteran shooter Ronald Murray and a first-round pick for Thomas and two second-round picks), who the Bulls were almost certainly going to have to just release at the end of the season.

I wasn't a huge fan of the Forman hiring during the offseason but so far, so great. And the team liked the moves too, given a road win over Minnesota on Friday and a home trouncing of the 76ers on Saturday to make it four wins in a row.

And over at spring training . . .

Enough stories about how Carlos Zambrano is ready and raring to bounce back in a big way after last year's sorry season. Hey Carlos (who has never won more than 14 games in a season despite his huge-money contract), when you win your 15th game this season, that's when we can talk about how much you've matured and the big strides you've taken as a pitcher and as a man.

-

Jim "Coach" Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Nov 26, 2021