14 Ghuman

The 2014 Sochi Olympic Men’s Hockey Tournament will be one for the ages. While Canada remains the strong favourite to repeat its Gold Medal performance from Vancouver, never have so many other nations been so hot on our heels. Let’s be honest, Canada’s roster has been analyzed more times than a 1L’s midterm grades. With that in mind, here are some of the other countries that will be giving Sidney Crosby and Co. a run for their money.

First, let’s take a look at the team that I think is the second most talented in the tournament. The Soviet’s are lead by the best goal scorer in the NHL, Alex Ovechkin. Mother Russia will also be bolstered in talent by the likes of Evgeni Malkin and the exiled one himself, Ilya Kovalchuck. The biggest question for the USSR will come in net, as it is unclear whether reigning Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky, or Semyon Varlamov will be able to handle the added pressure of playing at home in an international tournament. This team should bring home a medal, however the added pressure of playing at home may be too much to bear.

Next, the Detroit Red Win…er…I mean Team Sweden will pose the greatest threat to Canada’s gold medal aspirations. Although the Swedes are aging, one would be foolish to count out the veteran experience of Daniel Alfredsson, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall. Unlike Russia, this team will have no questions in goal as Henrik Lundqvist may in fact be the best goaltender in the entire tournament. Look for this team to be in medal contention.

One cannot write an article about Sochi contenders without mentioning the 2010 silver medalists from the United States. Lead up front by the red hot Phil Kessel, this team boasts a talented forward group that also includes James Van Riemsdyk, Patrick Kane, David Backes, Zach Parise and Ryan Kesler. Their defense and goaltending also pose tough matchup problems for opposing coaches. Ryan Suter plays some of the toughest minutes in the NHL and it will be interesting to see how Dan Bylsma uses his workhorse against teams like Canada and Russia. The trio of Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard and Ryan Miller provide the USA with the deepest goaltending in the tournament.

A team that I do not see as a medal contender is Finland. Although they are lead in net by Tukka Rask, their defense lacks a true top pairing and their forwards are…well…old. Unfortunately for Teemu Selanne it is no longer 1998 and I do not see Olli Jokinen or Mikko Koivu lighting the lamp too many times. This team may be able to keep the puck out of their net thanks to Rask, but they will have a lot of trouble scoring. Not a good recipe for success in a tournament like this.

My Prediction:  Gold- Canada, Silver- Russia, Bronze- Sweden

Go Canada Go!