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Olympics Men’s Hockey Preview, my way January 26, 2010

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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Here are the major teams, in the order I think they’ll finish in. Feel free to argue in the comments…

RUSSIA – Gold Medal Winner

Why they’ll win: What was it I said about Canada being stacked? Yeah… the same thing can be said for Russia. Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Kovalev, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Gonchar, Andrei Markov… Their goaltending situation is pretty solid too: Evgeni Nabokov, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Semyon Varlamov.

The roster is more of an all-star team from top to bottom, and I think they’ll overwhelm most everyone.

Why they won’t: I don’t think they’re going to beat themselves; I think someone is going to have to beat them. That being said, there’s a lot of pressure on these guys, based on what we’ve seen in the past.

CANADA – Silver Medal Winner

Why they’ll win: Have you seen this roster? It is STACKED! Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur, Rick Nash, Roberto Luongo, Chris Pronger, Ryan Getzlaf – the list goes on and on.

Why they won’t: Pretty much every prognosticator has identified Russia and Canada as the teams to beat. Yes, Sweden, the US, Finland, and even Slovakia have competitive squads. Despite that, Russia and Canada seem to be the odds-on favorites. That’s a lot of pressure; a lot to live up to, especially in your own country. Can you imagine the looting in Montreal if the team doesn’t finish in the medals? I shudder at the thought. A gold medal isn’t even just expected – it’s demanded. Canada invented hockey – if they don’t win, it will be a huge blow to the collective ego of Canada.

Also, this team could go the way of some recent Team USA basketball “Dream Teams”. The chemistry just may not come together.

UNITED STATES – Bronze Medal Winner

Why they’ll win: This is a YOUNG roster – perhaps the youngest in the tournament. Why do I think this is a good thing? Because of the larger ice surface. Sure, there are good skaters on other teams, but the US team is known for its skating. Even the older guys like Brian Rafalski and Jamie Langenbrunner are good skaters, and when you add younger players like Zach Parise, Jack Johnson, and Bobby Ryan, this becomes a formidable team to chase around the ice.

Their overall size on defense might help them too. Guys like Brooks Orpik, Ron Hainsey, Ryan Suter, and Mike Komisarek will be physically intimidating, especially against smaller offensive players. Phil Kessel and Ryan Malone, among others, bring grit to the forward position as well.

It can’t be overlooked that the US carries the best goaltender into the Olympics: Ryan Miller. Yes, I know this is a Sabres blog and I could be accused of being bias, but even non-Sabres fans can appreciate the season he’s having. Tim Thomas, who was thrilled to be named, and Jonathan Quick are both very capable goaltenders too – it’s not like the quality drops off right after Miller.

One last reason they’ll win: they don’t have the same pressure some of the other teams are facing. Yes, these guys all play in the NHL, and some of them have gone to the Stanley Cup finals, or at least been in the playoffs. Yes, most of them have international experience. But that doesn’t mean they’re expected to win.

Why they won’t: Only three of the players on the roster have been to the Olympics before. As I mentioned above, these guys aren’t exactly green, but they haven’t experienced the grind of an NHL season AND the Olympics. Their inexperience will be their greatest hurdle.

SWEDEN – Fourth Place

Why they’ll win: Another good, but not great, roster. The team is led by Daniel Alfredsson, the Sedin twins, Nicklas Backstrom (the other one), Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, and Nicklas Lidstrom. Goaltending will be a strong point for them if Henrik Lundqvist plays like he can. And he’d better, because goaltending falls off after him.

This team has a lot of experience, and much of it is at a high level. That will help them overcome adversity.

Why they won’t: Because they’re old. Top to bottom I don’t think they can keep up with the likes of Canada, Russia, and the US.

FINLAND – Fifth Place

Why they’ll win: I hate to say it, but they won’t win unless some of the stronger teams basically beat themselves. Their roster highlights include Teemu Selanne, who is still hurt as far as I know. Joining him are Joni Pitkanen, Sami Salo, Kimmo Timonen, Olli Jokinen, Mikko/Saku Koivu, and Jere Lehtinen, among others.  Goaltenders are Nicklas Backstrom, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Antero Niitimakki.

Why they won’t: Good goaltenders, but not as strong as the Russian, Canadian, and US goaltending corps are. The rest of the roster is also not as competitive as their opponents. They could sneak into the medals, but I doubt they’ll win.

SLOVAKIA – Sixth Place

Why they’ll win: You can’t count the Slovaks out, and any team that does is taking them too lightly. Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, Zdeno Chara, and others could burn unaware teams.

Why they won’t: Overall, the Slovakian team doesn’t have enough talent, and what talent they have is aging. Their goaltending is significantly downgraded in comparison to their opponents – it appears to be a dead heat to see if Jaroslav Halak or Peter Budaj will start.

CZECH REPUBLIC – Seventh Place

Why they’ll win: They won’t. Not enough talent on the roster. Their starting goaltender is Tomas Vokoun, who can’t hold up the team by themselves. Their roster highlights are Tomas Kaberle, Milan Hedjuk, Jaromir Jagr, Milan Michalek, Tomas Plekanec, and Martin Havlat.

Why they won’t: Good players all (above), but not good enough to dominate in this tournament.

So what do you all think? Am I totally batty? Let me know!



1. CR - January 28, 2010

Looks to me like you’re right on the money– there could be some upsets or injuries that throw a monkeywrench into the mix, but I think your predictions are better than most.

2. jasmollica - January 27, 2010

I don’t think the Russians (I so wanted to call them the Soviets) will win gold. I don’t care how much offense they have, they have no defense. I think the Swedes, Canadians, and U.S. defense is better. And, I think Canada has a more balanced roster.

If Miller takes it to an even higher level (I call it the Mike Richter level), the U.S. will take gold.

Love the preview and blog!

manda903 - January 27, 2010

You make a good point about the defense for the Russians, and Canada probably does have the most balanced roster. But I stand by my predictions!

Thanks for the kudos!

3. PKB - January 26, 2010

If I’m not mistaken, I think most games will be played in the Canucks home arena on a normal NHL sized ice surface.

manda903 - January 26, 2010

You’re right – I didn’t think about the fact it was a North American rink. Oh well, the good skaters will still have an advantage. 😉

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