The Round Of Death
If the opportunity exists for a team to throw a game to allow them an easier path to a medal, the problem is not with the athletes' integrity - it is with the tournament's format. After all, the goal of the athletes is to win the gold. If a team can go 3-2 in the round robin and still be considered gold medal favourites (as Canada is) then the single elimination format is not ideal in determining the top three teams. At the same time, you can't fault Canada for taking it easy in a mostly-meaningless RR and conserving their energy for the games that matter. After all, eight games in twelve days is *nuts.* (Whether they actually did this is irrelevant - my point is that they *could*.) It is unfair that Russia has to face Canada in the QF after putting fourth the effort to finish 2nd in their group.
Clearly, the round robin followed by single elimination is not the best way to evaluate hockey teams when there is such parity among the contenders. So, what is the alternative? The Olympics can't go with Stanley Cup style best-of-seven series, for obvious reasons. I think the WJHC's had it right 10+ years ago with a full round robin format, where each team plays each other team once, and the final standings determine the medallists. All games are "worth" same amount. This would remove the incentive to throw a game (unless a number of teams formed a conspiracy). With eight teams invited, the Olympics could present 28 games (7 per team) over 14 days - a schedule much more sensible than the present one.
Of course, the single elimination format makes for better TV so it's here to stay - actual competition be damned.
As I mentioned, Canada is still inexplicably favoured by the bookies. Evidently, Pavel Datsyuk is nursing a broken finger, while Martin Brodeur tweaked a knee vs. the Czechs. The numbers I've seen say Canada has about a 54% chance of making it through to the semis. Given what transpired between these two teams at the last WHCs (take a gander at the SOG), I am not confident enough to pick a winner. Just for kicks, I looked up a random number generator to make my pick for me. A result from 1 to 46 would mean victory for Russia, while 47 to 100 would lean toward Canada. Here's what happened:
...and the result was:
I kid you not.
This divine intervention gave me the clarity to foresee the other three winners: Slovakia, Sweden and the USA.