2018 Olympic Hockey Final – GER v OAR

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Team Germany defeated Team Canada 4-3 and will face the Olympic Athletes from Russia for the 2018 Olympics gold medal game. In the other semifinal game, the Russians defeated Team Czech Republic 3-0 with another strong showing.

Pavel Datsyuk will be a key player for the Russians at the 2018 Olympic finals
(credit KHL.ru/http://levpraha.cz)

The German Miracle on Ice

Germany defeating Canada in ice hockey sounds like Canada defeating Germany in soccer, isn’t it? However, since the Olympics, unfortunately, aren’t a best-on-best tournament anymore, it is much less of a shock. Teams level is more equilibrated, and the Germans were amongst the least affected teams from the non-participation of NHL athletes.

The game was hard for Team Canada since the beginning, and the team coached by Willie Desjardins really had an unusually high number of mistakes that the Germans used to score at least two of their four goals. Team Canada managed to score two goals when they were down 4-1, including a beautiful goal from Mat Robinson, but it was too late already. Canada has also lost the goaltending matchup, with Danny Aus den Birken excellent once again. Aus den Birken is now 33 years old. If he was younger, at this point his agent’s cell phone would be bombed as he had a truly excellent tournament as he was probably the best thus far behind the Russian goaltender Vasili Koshechkin.

Danny Aus Den Birken Team Germany
Team Germany goaltender Danny Aus Den Birken. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)

Former NHL player Marco Sturm managed to assemble an excellent roster, without stars, but with plenty of hard-working players who managed to put on three consecutive upsets by defeating Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada. History shows that when a team rolls like that, it’s hard to stop, even if the opposition is superior. On paper, the Germans were inferior to all of these three teams, so what’ll be different in the game against the Russians?

The Russians are Still Favorites

If we scroll the rosters, the Russians are simply too good not to win the gold. The game against the Czechs only cemented this feeling: the OAR didn’t play a particularly good game, yet they left no chances to the opposition. Koshechkin was once again very good on net, but he didn’t face too many true dangers. The Czechs shot too much from outside and he is hard to beat from the blue line. Pavel Francouz had a couple of saves early on, but then a great pass by Pavel Datsyuk to Nikita Gusev and a great 2-on-1 breakout finalized by Vladislav Gavrikov pretty much ended the game.

Vladislav Gavrikov
(Vladislav Gavrikov scored a key goal for the Russians in the semifinals. Photo: HC Lokomotiv)

As said, the Russians didn’t play particularly well, but they were very solid, buried a couple of very good chances and also could have scored another few goals, in particular with Kirill Kaprizov, but Francouz had a good game and didn’t allow the team coached by Oleg Znarok to score more.

The Russians have everything to win the gold medal: a solid roster, a great determination, and the necessary depth. In the different games pretty much every player scored or had an important role, therefore only closing the Datsyuk line won’t be enough.

The Bottom Line

Just watching blindly at the rosters, everyone would agree that the game may be a walk in the park for the Russians. But it won’t be like that. After all, this is an Olympics final and there are a lot of things up in the air, not to think about the German triumphal march in the playoff round. Predicting the outcome for this game will be hard, although OAR will have the upper hand in this game. While Marco Sturm showed that he can coach a team and win unexpected games, the difference in rosters is probably too much this time. With that being said, the Russians must avoid thinking about themselves with gold medals on their neck just because they avoided playing against Canada.

The 2018 Olympics Finals are scheduled for February 24 at 11:10 PM EST.