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Talk of the Games

The medal standings tell only part of the sports story of what's happening at the Games. For the rest, check out the latest dispatches from The Seattle Times' sports crew of columnists, reporters and producers.

February 19, 2010 at 2:57 PM

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Canada's OT hockey win could have bigger implications

Posted by Bob Condotta

You're excused if you don't really know how the Olympic men's hockey tournament works --- Sidney Crosby admitted after Canada's 3-2 shootout win over Switzerland last night he wasn't sure of the format for tie games.

Every Olympics, the rules seem to get tweaked a bit, so here's a quick primer on the tournament:

--- There are three pools of four teams with the U.S. and Canada each in Group A along with Norway and Switzerland.

--- Each team plays three pool games --- playing each of the other three teams in its pool.

--- The winner of each pool advances straight to the quarterfinals as does the second-place team with the most points (teams get three points for a win, two points for an OT win and one point for an OT loss). That means four teams automatically go to the quarterfinals.

--- The other eight are then seeded 5-12 and play a qualification round, with the four winners also going to the quarters.

So what this means is that the U.S. and Canada will play Sunday and the victor will be the winner of Group A and advance to the quarterfinals (we won't worry yet about the seeding for the top four spots of the quarters).

The loser could have to play a qualification game, especially if it's Canada, which has just five points to the U.S.'s six after having to go to a shootout to beat Switzerland on Thursday.

The qualification games are Tuesday, and teams that fall to that round would have to win an extra game to take the Gold, as well as playing seven games overall instead of six. Some think that's not necessarily a bad thing --- with the teams having had so little time to play together, an extra game might help build some cohesiveness (and not as if all the NHL players aren't in the mode of playing every other day right now, anyway).

The quarterfinals are Wednesday, the semis on Friday and the Gold Medal Game Sunday at 12:15 p.m.

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