At long last, the 2022 Beijing Olympic Men’s Hockey tournament is coming to an end. The bronze medal game this morning between Slovakia and Sweden ended in an outstanding performance from 17-year-old Juraj Slafkovsky. The Slovak forward scored two goals, ending the tournament leading the Olympics with seven in seven games. To say he’s elevated his draft stock is an understatement. Expect to hear more of Slafkovsky’s name as the 2022 NHL Draft slowly approaches.
But enough about the bronze — let’s talk gold. The Russian Olympic Committee is raring up for their most challenging game yet against Team Finland. Both teams have played spoiler to some of the best teams within the tournament, knocking out Sweden and Slovakia with little difficulty. Now, these two depth-ridden teams face off tonight to claim the rights to Olympic gold.
But where can you watch them — and who should you keep an eye on? Do you cheer on Valtteri Filppula as he chases his first gold medal, or should you root for Russia to show the strength of the KHL?
Finland vs. ROC
When: Friday, February 19th, 11:10 PM EST
Where: Peacock, NBCOlympics.com, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV
Why you should root for them: If Red Wings alumni are who you want, unfortunately, ROC hasn’t brought Pavel Datsyuk along. They do, however, have what I call “player purgatory” — skaters too good for the KHL and AHL, but not good enough for the NHL. Among them are Vadim Shipachyov, Nikita Gusev, and Anton Slepyshev. Sometimes it’s nice to root for the “what if”s of NHL hockey — and this might be just the excuse to do so. Plus, even if you don’t want the ROC to win but think they’ll win, you can bet on it with DraftKings to soften the blow.
Why you should root against them: The ROC brought along Slava Voynov, who, if you aren’t familiar, was banned from the NHL after facing deportation due to domestic abuse charges. If you need any reason to root against the ROC, cheering on the downfall of a domestic abuser should be more than enough justification.
Why you should root for them: It’s Filppula’s last shot at going for gold! While he won bronze back in 2010, a gold medal would be an excellent way to cap off a solid, strong career. In addition, a series of old NHLers like Leo Komarov, Sami Vatanen, and Marcus Granlund make up the roster. This might be the last opportunity many of these guys have at an Olympic win for their country.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: Maybe you put a bet on the ROC to win it all. Or, maybe, you have a favorite Russian player you want to win it. You may even be a little bitter at late-career Filppula’s blunders in 2019-20 and 2020-21. Heck, you might not even care and you might just be rooting for the best team to win. No matter your reasons, the answer will become clear tonight.