Scenes From Sochi

2014 Winter Olympics In Sochi

The eyes of the world are focused on Sochi, Russia this February as the 2016 Winter Olympics take place. CBS4’s Steve Goldstein earned the right to call the action for some of the ice hockey games in Sochi and has been sending in his thoughts about what he sees in the area and what he sees on the ice.

From hockey to the hotels, Goldstein’s seen it all and in his fourth Olympics, he’s at the top of his game as the US men’s and women’s teams go for the Gold in Sochi.

Arrival

The USA women are on a gold medal collision course with Canada. Both teams are 2-0, with wins over Finland and Sweden, and they play in what should be a gold medal preview on Wednesday. The US beat the Swiss today 9-0. It was an impressive offensive display, highlighted by Amanda Kessel, who’s brother Phil plays for the men’s team. Kessel had 2 goals and 2 assists as did her linemate Kendall Coyne.

The men’s teams are practicing and the U.S. starts play Thursday against Slovakia. Tomas Kopecky of the Panthers will play for Slovakia. There are eight teams that realistically think they can get a medal. Of those, five have a legitimate shot at the gold: U.S., Canada, Russia, Sweden and Finland, which has the Panthers Alexsander Barkov as its top center.

All five teams feature top notch goaltending at this Olympics. The pressure of the the Olympics will be great particularly for the home team, Russia.

It should be a great tournament, one that could be decided by goaltending, and which team handles the pressure and bigger ice better. The international ice surface is 10 feet wider and longer than North American rinks. Goalies must adjust to the angles and skaters have to make the mental and physical adjustments, realizing they have more room.

The US plays it’s first game Thursday at 4:30 Sochi time, 7:30 a.m. eastern. I am broadcasting with former Panther Bret Hedican on Westwood One radio network and all games will be picked up on Sirius/XM satellite radio as well. Check local listings for which stations will air the games.

The Olympic village is super and the proximity of the arenas and things to do in the Olympic Park is outstanding. My hotel room is perfect and security everywhere is tight. I do not share the negative image being portrayed by some in the media.

In the 24 hours I’ve been here in Sochi, and this is my fourth Olympics; the setup couldn’t be better. And it was 55 degrees and sunny today, making me feel like I was back in South Florida! The staff at the hotel and everywhere else are helpful and it’s evident they have much pride in these games being in Russia.

I am still feeling the affects of the long trip and nine hour time change! Until next time…

February 10

Preliminary Matchup Second To None
It’s the one that everybody has been waiting for ever since the Olympic schedule was released: a post Valentine’s Day match-up for the ages: USA vs Russia (7:30am ET on NBCSN).

It is rumored that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be in attendance come Saturday as this game carries heavier weight than just a preliminary round hockey game. The history of the relationship between these two countries is well documented and the 1980 Miracle on Ice is still the greatest upset in sports history.

As far as the game goes, it should be an emotionally charged Russian team. The U.S. will need to be ready for that opening push by Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and company. That will be key.

If the young American defense, which played well in the first game in a 7-1 win over Slovakia on Thursday, can keep the Russian offensive stars under control early in the game; the US will then have the opportunity to show its full compliment of skills.

Forwards Phil Kessel and Patrick Kane are having super NHL seasons and seem very confident on and off the ice. The bigger ice surface plays right into their hands.

Kessel had a wry smile after the opening win over Slovakia when I asked him about the extra room to maneuver.

The hard nosed style of David Backes and St Louis Blues teammate TJ Oshie was a factor against the Slovakians. Dustin Brown, the LA Kings captain, and NY Rangers captain Ryan Callahan likes to throw the body too.

This is a team that has great skill, is tough and has defensemen that can move the puck and skate well. The USA is the complete package as a team. Of course, goaltending is always important and it will be interesting to see how the goalies handle the big moment for both sides.

I’m personally looking forward to calling this one. It’s a part of hockey history. I know many American players are relishing the chance to wear the red, white and blue jerseys and take on the Russians on Russian ice. It will quite the spectacle here in Sochi.

February 16

For the secon straight Olympics, Team USA has won its first three games. Here in Sochi, they’ve outscored their opponents 15-4 in the three games. The latest being a 5-1 win against Slovenia. Phil Kessel was the star with a hat trick, the first two goals coming in the opening 4:33 to set the tone.

Any thought of a letdown after the dramatic shootout win vs Russia was gone in a hurry. Ryan Miller got the call in net and had his shutout spoiled by a Slovenian goal in the final minute.

It’s now on to the quarterfinals, where the pressure starts. Losers go home, winners go to the semis to play for a shot at gold. By winning its group, the US has a bye into the quarters which allows the team two days off.

Everything here in Russia has been top notch, accommodations, transportation, food and security has been as good as any of the other three Olympics I’ve been a part of through the years.

The hockey action now picks up in a big way, although even with medals on the line, it will be tough to top the thrilling eight round shootout between the U.S. and Russia.

If there was an example of why the NHL should continue to send its players to the Olympics every 4 years, that game was it.

The buzz created in America by that game was off the charts and many people who never watch hockey were watching and listening to that game. Dramatic sporting events create fans. That game was as dramatic as they come.

February 17th

In what is the least surprising development of the Olympics, the U.S. and Canadian women’s teams will play for the gold medal.

They are clearly the two best teams in the world and the games here in Sochi, Russia have proved that.

Team USA is 3-1 in Olympic play heading into the gold game; the only loss coming to Canada last week, 3-2. In their three wins, the Americans have outscored the opponents by a combined 18-2.

One of the stars has been Amanda vessel, the sister of Toronto Maple Leaf and team USA men’s star Phil Kessel. The other NHL link on the US team is winger Alex Carpenter. Her father Bobby was the first American to score 50 goals in a season in the NHL. He was also on the 1995 New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup winning team.

Team USA is coached by Katey Stone, who is the head coach at Harvard University.

The team also features twin stars…literally! Jocelyn and Monique Lamoureux play on the same line and are dynamic offensive players.

Canada has won the gold three times in a row after losing to the U.S. in Nagano in 1998, including a 2-0 gold medal game victory in 2010 in Vancouver. Former Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen is Canada’s head coach.

The two teams openly dislike one another and this is a rivalry that is so heated, the two teams brawled twice during games leading up to the Olympics. The gold medal game in Sochi should be a doozy!

February 20

It’s the match-up everyone anticipated…the one game that makes shutting down the NHL for a few weeks worth it…USA vs. Canada.

The rivalry resumes here in Sochi, Friday at noon eastern time, 9pm here in Russia. A spot in the gold medal game is on the line, the winner playing the winner of the Finland-Sweden game.

Team USA has been the best team in the tournament so far. The Americans have scored the most goals, led by Phil Kessel’s five. Canada struggled to score, amazingly the forwards have had a poor showing so far. But defensively Canada has been strong, limiting scoring chances and getting solid goaltending.

Defensemen Drew Doughty and Shea Weber have been forces offensively. They’ll need the forwards to start putting the puck in the net to keep winning.

Cary Price gets the start in goal in the biggest game he has ever played in. Team USA goes with Jonathan Quick in net.

In their quarterfinal win against the Czech Republic, Team USA’s offense featured a balanced attack, with the 5 goals coming from 5 different players.

In addition, captain Zach Parise got his first point and goal of the Olympics while defenseman Ryan Suter hit the scoresheet for the first time with three assists.

It’s a match-up made in hockey heaven, USA-Canada…it doesn’t get any better than this!!!!

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