Monday, March 01, 2010

Olympic Curling Recap: 2/25-2/27/10

Unfortunately, the Winter Olympics are over...but there's still room for one more recap. I know yesterday's gold medal hockey game was as good as it gets - and yes, I did watch it, albeit on DVR delay - but don't forget about the curling! The curling was pretty fun too.

Men's tie-breaker

End............ 12345678901 |TTL
Great Britain.. 02001110010 | 06
Sweden......... 20210001001 | 07

Great Britain and Sweden each finished with a 5-4 record in round-robin play, so they played an extra match to break the tie for the final playoff spot. First, I should recap a couple of comments from my last curling post:

James: "Sweden beat Great Britain 6-4 in round robin already. Why do they have to play a tiebreaker?"
Me: "I'm not sure why they do it this way, but here's the official rule: 'Although Edin [SWE] defeated Murdoch [GBR] 6-4 when they met in the opening draw, World Curling Federation rules dictate that a team tied for a playoff spot can not be eliminated in any other way than by losing an extra game. Head-to-head records are only used to settle ties for playoff seeding.' (source)"

The round-robin result did carry some weight, however, as Sweden was given last rock in the first end because of it. (In all playoff games, last rock in the first end is determined by playoff seeing, not by a draw to the button.) Given that Sweden needed an extra end to win, it's hard to argue that LRFE didn't make a difference.

In that post, I said I would be "shocked" if Great Britain didn't win this game. And, I guess I was. David Murdoch's team was a bit of a disappointment throughout the tournament. I wanted a Martin/Murdoch rematch, darn it! On the other hand, Sweden's team, led by brash, young skip Niclas Edin (rhymes with "Sedin", as in NHL players Henrik and Daniel Sedin, also from Sweden), turned out to be a very exciting team to watch all the way to the end. So, in hindsight, I'm glad Sweden advanced.

Women's semifinal

End............ 1234567890 |TTL
Switzerland.... 0101100101 | 05
Canada......... 1020020010 | 06

Both semifinals were played at the same time, but of course, television could only show us one. So, for both the women and the men, we got the Canada semifinal. Can't complain about that! (In both cases, the opposite semifinal aired overnight on MSNBC. I recorded them but haven't watched them yet.)

I didn't take notes when I watched these games, so I don't remember a whole lot. All I remember from this one is that Swiss skip Mirjam (pronounced "Miriam") Ott missed a shot in the 10th end that could have scored two. Not that it would have mattered anyway, because surely, Canada would have easily won the game with last rock in the extra end anyway. (How's that for foreshadowing?)

By the way, the Switzerland women's team officially has the most annoying yell of the entire Olympic field. Keep the wine glasses away.

Men's semifinal

End............ 1234567890 |TTL
Sweden......... 001000011i | 03
Canada......... 010122000i | 06

I've noticed that in a lot of matches, one team will dominate the first few ends, then the other team will dominate the rest of the way, as if somebody flipped a switch or something. It certainly seemed that way here. Through the 4th end, Sweden was playing great. Canada had last rock in three of the first four ends and only got two points out of those three ends. Yes, Sweden was still losing overall (2-1), but they had last rock in the 5th end, so things looked good. all came to a crashing halt.

You see...the reason Sweden is exciting team to watch is because the skip Edin likes to make crazy shots. He avoids draws at all costs, because he's much more proficient with crazy, complicated take-outs and runbacks. But there are a couple of problems with that strategy. For one, sometimes, you just have to throw a draw, especially if you're throwing last rocks. As we'll see with the women's bronze medal game, a missed last-shot draw can have serious consequences. But even if you do stick with the crazy shot strategy, you had better make the shots. In the 5th end, Edin missed attempted a runback take-out followed by a double take-out, and missed them both; steal of two for Canada. In the 6th end, Edin had a draw for one available, but decided to try the triple take-out for two and missed horribly; another steal of two for Canada. 6-1, game over. Next!

Women's bronze medal

End............ 1234567890 |TTL
Switzerland.... 01030200-- | 06
China.......... 30201024-- | 12

Let's talk about that 8th end. How the heck do you give up a steal of four?! Now, I realize it's not all about the skips and the last shot, and Switzerland obviously played a poor end up to that point to allow China to be lying four in the first place. But surely, your skip should be able to throw a rescue draw for one with the last shot to keep you in the game. Ott left the draw short; steal of four; game over. Once again - you have to have draw weight in order be a successful fourth. (Yes, I do think it's rather unfair for the skip to be taking all of the criticism. But I don't feel like rewatching entire ends in order to give a proper analysis.)

Women's gold medal

End............ 12345678901 |TTL
Sweden......... 00202000021 | 07
Canada......... 01010120100 | 06

In my opinion, this was the best game of the tournament. It will be saved on my DVR as long as possible. Yes, Bernard missed shots in both the 10th and 11th that could have sealed the game...but I've done enough skip criticism for one day. No skip makes every shot.

That said, I absolutely could not believe that Canada lost this game. They were completely outplayed in the first half, but clawed their way back, and were up by one, with hammer, in the 9th end. That's a very advantageous position to be in. There were two occasions late in the game where I was thinking, "Sweden might as well take off the gloves and get ready to shake. It's over." Nope!

Now, a strategy question. The Canada/Denmark women's game earlier in the tournament also went to an extra end, and just like in this game, Canada had last rock in the 11th. In both instances, the opponent (Denmark then, Sweden here) threw center guards with their first two shots. When Canada played Denmark, they threw two perfect "tick" shots to get the guards out of the way without violating the free guard zone rule; from there it was easy. If all you need is one, and you can move the guards out of the way without violating the free guard zone rule, then you're home free. But Canada didn't attempt any "tick" shots against Sweden. Why not? Canada lead Cori Bartell has already demonstrated that she can make the shots, and two well-executed tick shots often results in a guaranteed one, so...what's the deal? Yes, tick shots are very difficult, but Sweden is a better team then Denmark, so I would think that the time to play the more challenging shots would have been against Sweden rather than against Denmark. But what do I know?

Men's bronze medal

End............ 1234567890 |TTL
Sweden......... 0100201000 | 04
Switzerland.... 1001010002 | 05

I was watching this game with other folks from the Triangle Curling Club at a bar, so I wasn't paying as much attention to the game I usually do. So, a couple of quick thoughts before I move on.

Niclas Edin threw a QUADRUPLE TAKE-OUT in the 9th end. Sick. But...he needed to make a draw in the 10th and missed, allowing Switzerland to get the two and the win.

In the 8th end, Switzerland trailed 4-3 and had last rock. I've already gone on record as saying that the "score in the even ends" strategy is silly prior to the 8th end, but in the 8th end, at the time I was thinking that Switzerland might have been better off taking one rather than blanking. With two ends to play, are you better off trailing by one with hammer, or being tied without hammer? I would guess it's probably about the same odds either way.

Men's gold medal

End............ 1234567890 |TTL
Norway......... 000002010i | 03
Canada......... 010110201i | 06

This game was never in doubt, and didn't really live up to expectations, especially after the women's gold medal final the previous evening. I was hoping Canadian skip Kevin Martin would have to make a clutch final shot for the win, especially since he's missed a couple of those over the years, but it never came down to that. Instead, Martin's last shot was a simple wide open take-out. Note that if Martin missed the final take-out, Norway would have had a wide open draw for three and likely would have tied the game. But teams of this level rarely miss wide open take-outs, where all you have to do is hit something. Canada kept it simple in the 10th end, never doing more than they had to in order to prevent Norway from scoring three.

(Side comment: five of the six medal predictions I made last week were correct. Since my sports predictions almost always go horribly wrong, that means one of two things - either curling is more predictable than other sports, or I just happen to know more about curling than I do any other sport. Or both?)

So, that's it for Olympic curling. 41 televised games in a 12 day period is now followed by 1,443 days (yes, I counted) of no Olympic curling, and therefore, probably no televised curling, either (at least in this country). But don't forget about us! If you're lucky enough to have one nearby, check out your local curling club! While there are efforts to start clubs in Charlotte and in Greenville, SC, I haven't heard of any plans to start a club in Jacksonville, sadly. That just means you'll have to move up here to the Carolinas! Besides having one established and two upstart curling clubs, we also have shorter summers, and we even get snow every now and then! Come on, guys...move to North Carolina! You know you want to.


Jeff said...

Curling songs!

Nick said...

I'm a little dissappointed you didn't talk about the 7th end in the men's championship game.
After lead rocks, Canada had 2 perfectly placed rocks in the house on the center line above the T line, while Norway had 2 guards along the center line. Not sure if I would have started peeling gaurds as Canada almost bit them in the ass, but of course Martin worked his magic when he threw.

Chris Allen said...

Yeah...I don't know why they started peeling the guards either. When I was watching it, I think my reaction was something like, "I have no idea why they're peeling the guards. But this is freaking Kevin Martin we're talking about. He must know what he's doing. How dare I question Kevin Martin's strategy!"