Saturday, February 8, 2014

Olympic Hockey Preview: Group C

Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Greetings everyone. Now that its the Olympic Break (for the Wild at least) I figured to give you a little preview of the Olympics considering it will be the only news worthy thing in hockey for the next two and a half weeks. We will do a little group by group break down starting today with Group C.

Czech Republic: The Czechs boast more of a veteran team at the Sochi games, bringing 10 players aged 30 or higher. The elder statesmen of the team, Jaromir Jagr and Petr Nedved (yes, that Petr Nedved), look to improve upon the Czech's seventh place finish from the Vancouver games. They will need Jagr, circa 1995, to show up for these games as the Czechs appear to have a lack of scoring up front and will need to rely on their defense and goaltending. The latter appears to not be likely considering Ondrej Pavelec will be the starting goaltender.

Latvia: When there is only one active NHL player on the roster, its gets pretty easy to predict where the Latvian team is going to finish in Group C. The team may have had noted NHLers Arturs Irbe, Karlis Skrastins, and Sandis Ozolinsh in the past, but for the Sochi games they only have Buffalo Sabres F Zemgus Girgensons on the roster from the NHL. Not to be too terribly blunt here, but Latvia will have a swift three and out due to the other talent in this group.

Sweden: Coming in to the Olympics, Sweden should be (and I'm pretty sure, is) considered as the Group C favorite. Behind a rather skilled defense (Erik Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Kronwall, etc.) and Henrik Lundqvist in goal, the Swedes look to get back up on the medal podium after being upset by Slovakia in the 2010 games (before that, the Swedes won gold in 2006).They are rather talented up front (Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Backstrom, and Loui Eriksson to name a few) and should be able to provide enough punch to get them a good seed for the medal round.

Switzerland: In the 2010 Olympics, the Swiss made some serious noise thanks in large part to the efforts of Jonas Hiller. Problem for the Swiss was the fact they couldn't score. Coming into Sochi, it appears the Swiss will have the same problem. Wild F Nino Niederreiter and Devils F Damien Brunner lead the Swiss up front, but behind them are a cast of characters you probably haven't heard of. Defensively they have a few more familiar faces (Mark Streit, Roman Josi, Raphael Diaz) and the presence of Hiller back between the pipes. This team can make some noise again, but they just have to find a way to score.

Team of 18,001 predicted order of finish: Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Latvia.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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