Through the quarterfinals, the Olympic hockey tournament has gone swimmingly for the Chicago Blackhawks. Not the “Chicago Blackhawks” per se, but the Blackhawks-at-large—the members of the Chicago franchise playing for various nationalities in Sochi.
Of the four pre-tournament favorites, the only team without any Blackhawks has been eliminated—that was Russia. Canada, Sweden and the United States—along with the tournament's surprise team, Finland—are still alive. Under those flags, a total of seven local skaters are still on the ice. Maybe even seven and a half. Depends on your math.
Want to root for the home team—even if the home team is Swedish? Here are the Chicago players to keep your eye on during Friday's semifinal games.
Finland (0.5) vs. Sweden (3), 6:00 a.m. CT
Finland's backup goaltender is Antti Niemi, who starred in net for the Blackhawks during the 2010 Stanley Cup run. So he counts as a half-Hawk. As for current Hawks, the Finnish are void.
Sweden, however, has three Blackhawks. Defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya pair up on the blueline for the Swedes (just as they do in Chicago), contributing to the best defensive team in the tournament. Playing in front of them is 23-year-old center Marcus Kruger, who has played for Chicago since 2010.
Sweden, which coincidentally has more Blackhawks, will probably win.
Canada (3) vs. USA (1), 11:00 a.m. CT
Canada, the most talented team in Sochi, has three Blackhawks. In fact, an argument can be made that there should be more—goalie Corey Crawford and defenseman Brent Seabrook both received serious consideration for a roster spot.
Jonathan Toews has yet to tally a goal in this tournament, but Chicago’s captain played a key role in defeating the Americans four years ago. He'll be joined by Olympic veteran Duncan Keith and Olympic newcomer Patrick Sharp, who scored in Canada’s 2–1 quarterfinal victory over Latvia.
The Americans have only one Blackhawk, but as the saying goes, quality over quantity.
America has the most talented Hawk in the Olympics—Patrick Kane. No. 88 hasn’t scored in Sochi, but he’s outskated, out-maneuvered, and, most noticeably, out-passed the international competition. Kane is also tied for the Olympic lead in assists.
Here, for example, Patrick Kane threads a perfect pass to teammate Joe Pavelski to give USA the lead over Russia, 2–1. The Americans won the preliminary game in a shootout, 3–2. Can they do the same against
the Canucks Team Canada?
The point is, Chicago, you have a lot of hockey to watch on Friday. The weather looks terrible. It’s a fine day to spend time with the TV.