Monday, February 10, 2014

Olympic Hockey Preview: Group A

Photo: Cris Bouroncle-AFP/Getty Images
In what would appear to be the most competitive group, we take a look at Group A today:

Russia: No team has more pressure on it, than the home country of Russia. The country has yet to win the gold since the Soviet Union disbanded (the Soviets won gold in 1988), and has been left off the medal stand since 2002 when they took bronze. Alex Ovechkin leads a talented group of forwards composed of players from the NHL and KHL (remember Ilya Kovalchuk?). Russia's biggest weakness going into the tournament is their defense (Fedor Tyutin and Andre Markov would slot in as their best defenseman). If they can play decent defensively, Russia can compete for the gold. If not, it will be a disappointing showing for the home team.

Slovenia: Another new participant to the tournament is the Slovenian team. Its great news for Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar, who has been hoping for a chance to play in the Olympics. Kopitar is the only NHL player on the Slovenia roster full of players from the European leagues. In a group with gold medal contenders, its hard to imagine the Slovenian team getting anywhere close to a win. They will just be glad the got the chance to play.

Slovakia: Slovakia took a big blow last week when it was announced that Marian Gaborik would miss the games due to injury (I know, big shocker, right?). The loss of Gaborik leaves Marian Hossa as the team's main and only relative big scorer. They have Zdeno Chara leading the blueline, but that blueline took a blow last week as well when the New York Islanders announced that they would not let Lubomir Visnovsky go to Sochi. In goal, the Slovaks will need a big performance from Jaroslav Halak to get them far in the medal round.

United States: In the history of Olympic hockey, there has been no more consistent team at getting second place, than the United States (the red white and blue have taken home eight silver medals). Two out of the past three Olympics, the US has taken home the silver medal losing out to Canada both times. This year, the US looks to capture its third (1960, 1980) gold medal, as they built a roster under heavy watch this time around. Wild players Zach Parise (captain) and Ryan Suter lead the forward and defensive core, while it would appear that Ryan Miller will get another chance at getting the US the gold between the pipes.

Team of 18,001 predicted order of finish: United States, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia

Team of 18,001 Medal Predictions: 
Silver-United States

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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