Throw in the fact that NHL fans are just getting over the third greed driven work stoppage in the last 20 years, and the purity of the Olympics is just too appetizing. The Olympics don’t have any of that: There is no free agency in Olympic Hockey (sorry, Jaromir), there are no trade demands: there are no contract negotiations – the only thing more pure than Olympic Hockey is playing on a backyard pond with your buddies during a frigid evening after school, but let’s be honest – nobody wants to watch that shit. Olympic Ice Hockey is simply the best.
Olympic Hockey is like the NHL without Adderall: There’s no rhyme or reason to scheduling, there’s often times no rhyme or reason as to strategy because of a lack of practice time, and best of all, multi-millionaires are usually sleeping three deep in a jail cell disguised as a hotel room. There are just so many variables. The Olympics are an opportunity to see your favorite players play together, or even against each other.
Want to see world-class players Alexander Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk play on a line together? The Olympics has that.
Want to see Sid and Geno square off for the chance at Gold? The Olympics has that.
You want to see how the absolute best of the best adapt to playing with new teammates while “cram-learning” new systems? The Olympics has that.
Want to listen to “Chicken Parm” Ray Ferraro, the best color man in the game, give you his brutally honest assessment of something? The Olympics has that.
Want to watch Austria play Finland in a Group B throwaway game at 3am on a Wednesday Morning? The Olympics has that…February 13 actually.
Want to see Crosby-Toews-Tavares, three of the top five players in the World, play on the same team? The Olympics has that....
Want to see if the members of Team Russia are publicly executed if they don’t win the Gold on their home soil? Wait, they don’t do that in Russia anymore…nevermind.
Pool A: Russia – USA - Slovakia – Slovenia
Pool B: Canada – Finland - Norway – Austria
Pool C: Sweden – Czech Republic – Switzerland – Latvia
So what teams will overcome the pressure, big ice surface, and compact schedule? What happens after the puck is dropped is anyone’s guess, Here is how I see it playing out:
12 – Latvia – No Chance.
11 – Austria – No Chance.
10 – Slovenia – No Chance.
9 – Norway – No Chance.
The aforementioned teams don’t stand a chance at qualifying for a medal; however, a tie or an upset win against one of the top 6 would be the equivalent of a medal for any of those teams.
Cool Runnings Division:
8 – Switzerland
7 – Slovakia
6 – Finland – The losses of Mikko Koivu, Saku Koivu, and Valterri Fillpula really puts a burden on a scrappy Finnish Team looking to outduel Canada in Pool B. In order to defeat a loaded Canadian squad, the offensively challenged Finns would need all hands on deck, and they certainly don’t have that. Although Goaltending will be a strength for the Finns, with Tuuka Rask, Antti Niemmi, and Kari Lehtonen all being more than capable options between the pipes, the defense leaves something to be desired.
Player to watch: Super Rookie Aleksander Barkov could be the surprise of the tournament if the Finns are to advance.
4 – Czech Republic – The Czechs are my pick for the dark horse of the tournament. Everyone is talking about one of three things in Ice Hockey: Russia winning the Gold on home-ice, Canada repeating as champions, or the USA being able to upend either of the two aforementioned squads. While I don’t feel the Czech Team is as talented as Sweden, anything can happen in the first game of the tournament. I say the Czechs surprise a banged up Sweden in Game 1, but eventually a lack of depth comes back to haunt them.
Player to watch: Obviously, Jaromir Jagr, one of the five greatest players of all-time. What an absolute stud, he’s 42 years old and no one is even talking about this being his last Olympics.
Player to watch: Henrik Zetterberg will play on the Power Play, Penalty Kill and any important even strength situation.
Silver Medal - Russia – Maybe I’m going with my heart and not my head here, but I just think it would be awesome to see the Russian people working themselves into a hockey driven frenzy for two straight weeks! Sochi would be going ABSOLUTELY BONKERS (amidst the rubble). While most speak of Russia’s high-end offensive talent that features an embarrassment of riches, the surprise of the tournament is going to be Russia backstop Semyon Varlamov…with the free wheeling style of play that the Russians favor, Varlamov will need to be fantastic for the Russians to succeed.
Yes, the same Semyon Varlamov that is responsible for this:
The last reason I like the Russians is that I have 6 to 1 odds of a major refereeing scandal before the games are over, directly involving Russian Dictator Vladimir Putin. Think to put it past the Russian Leader? Check out this article and realize anything can happen in Sochi …