This much-anticipated matchup could determine the winner of Group B
Coming into these Winter Olympics, it appeared that the showdown between Team USA and Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) would determine which team would make the quarterfinals and which team would be fighting for its survival. That may still be the case, but both teams have had to overcome upset losses in the first game, with the U.S. losing to Slovenia and Russia dropping its opener to Slovakia.
However, the teams bounced back to win their second games so a lot will still be riding on Saturday’s matchup.
United States vs. Olympic Athletes from Russia
Faceoff: Saturday, Feb. 17 at 7:10 a.m. ET
TV Channel: NBCSN
Three Things to Watch
1. Were the upsets flukes?
For decades, U.S. and Russian Olympic hockey teams were made up of college all-stars or amateurs who had been playing together for years. Then during the NHL era, the teams consisted primarily of NHL stars who were used to playing with and against each other. The two teams playing on Saturday represent a new era in Olympic hockey, being comprised of an assortment of college athletes, European professionals, and retired NHL players. It is possible that these teams are taking a little longer to gel and that the upsets were flukes. Russia’s 8-2 throttling of Slovenia certainly indicates that it may be the case for its team.
2. The game will likely determine which team finishes atop Group B
Since both teams won their second games, Saturday’s matchup will likely decide which one finishes at the top of Group B. That means the winner will advance to the quarterfinals, while the loser will have to win a qualifying game to make the quarterfinals.
All four teams in Group B are 1-1, but Team USA is in the lead because it lost to Slovenia in overtime. The scoring breaks down like this: teams get three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime win, one point for an overtime loss, and no points for a regulation loss. Team USA has four points and Russia has three. If the U.S. wins in regulation, it will clinch the quarterfinal berth outright. If Russia wins in regulation, it will take that spot if Slovenia beats Slovakia. If the game goes into overtime, Slovakia will be in the driver’s seat for the quarterfinal placement.
With a team composed primarily of its professional Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Russia was the favorite to win the gold coming into the games and it looks like it may be living up to expectations with its whipping of Slovenia. If so, Team USA may have a tough time slowing the Olympics Athletes from Russia’s attack.
Prediction: Olympic Athletes from Russia 4, United States 2