There’s less than one week until the Opening Ceremony kicks off in Sochi to start the 22nd edition of the Winter Olympic Games. The time’s about to right to call out the predictions of the Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament.
Will Russia win its first Gold Medal since becoming the Russian Federation? Or will Canada repeat? Which team will pull off the biggest upset? Here’s how I think the final standings will play out.
Almost everyone will be cheering for Slovenia this year as they defied the odds in the Olympic Qualifiers this year. However, it will take them a few miracles to even win a game playing in the toughest round-robin group in the tournament.
Qualifying for the tournament for the first time in eight years, Austria will add some sizzle to its offence with Vanek and Grabner. Aside from that, the Austrians will be unlikely to make any sort of noise in Group B.
Latvia has been consistent in qualifying for the Olympics, and this year could be the year they make some ground. Their experience in playing powerhouses at the Games plus the leadership of Ted Nolan will help in the long run this year.
Featuring a team headed by star KHLer Patrick Thoresen and breakout forward Mats Zuccarello, Norway will enjoy the best team it has had in years.
Slovakia will look to build on 2010 when they came within a whisker of tying their semifinal game against Canada. However, they’ll be in tough this year as they’ll be playing without their elite scorer Marian Gaborik.
7. Czech Republic
Starting out in a group that is full of aspiring teams with great skaters, Czech Republic’s roster decisions will come back to haunt them as they chose to skip out on younger, speedier forwards such as Vrbata, Hudler, and Fleischmann.
Switzerland has surprised the hockey world lately by winning a Silver Medal at the World Championships last year. Loaded, experienced, and injury free, the Swiss will be readying themselves for a deep run in this tournament.
The abundance of many young prospects on the Finnish squad will surely up its speed and energy. But with two of their top centres in Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula gone, Finland will run into trouble putting the puck in the net.
Boasting a talented core of players at their prime, USA will be a dominant and disciplined team filled with leaders. Their poor record overseas however, puts them in a tough spot.
The roster that’s filled with the biggest names in hockey, one could find hundreds of reasons why Canada will take Ice Hockey gold in Sochi. Like USA however, it has yet to prove its ability to win on the road lately.
Even now without Henrik Sedin, the Swedes have arguably the most balanced roster in the tournament. Their creative offence gives them countless chances to score at any given time in the game. Sweden will no doubt sweep through the tournament but will fail to turn Russia’s home ice advantage against their hosts.
As we’ve learned from the Canadians in 2010, immense pressure on at home will actually be a good thing. The influx of KHLers playing in Sochi will feel just at home playing in Olympic-sized ice plus the arrival of Alex Semin only adds another component to Russia’s success equation.
Above Photo: Sidney Crosby celebrates with Scott Niedermayer after scoring the game winner in the gold medal game at the 2010 Olympics. (Yuri Kadobnov, Getty Images)