Olympic Hockey Preview

Will Jarome Iginla lead Team Canada to the Gold Medal?

Top 5 teams

The odds on favorite to win the gold and they rightfully should be. Anything but a Gold Medal will be a disappointment. Strengths Offense and Goaltending. Offensively their top 3 lines are loaded. They are led by their top line of Sakic ,Iginla and whoever fills the left wing posistion that Mario occupied on that line. I expect to see Simon Gange to fill that void nicely on the left side. This teams taxi squad would be a top 2 line on any team in the NHL so you get my drift about them being loaded upfront. One player to watch for Team Canada will be Joe Thornton. Since being traded to San Jose he has been dominant. Expect more of the same once the tournament beings.. Goaltending wise, what can you say. Marty Brodeur is the best goaltender in the world when it comes to big games, winning three Stanley cups, gold medal in 2002 and the world championships in 2004 for Canada. Their defense is above average but the loss of Niedemeyer is going to hurt this team in the long run.
My take: Anything but a Gold medal is a disappointment for this squad.

Czech Republic: The Czechs come into the tournament with two world class goaltenders in Dom Hasek and Tomas Voukon. Defensively the Czechs are lead by Tomas Kaberle who will be the catalyst of there power play. Kubina and Malik will be keys for this team as they will be matched up against the others countries #1 lines. Offensively they are lead by the best player in the world Jaromir Jagr who leads the National Hockey League in goals and points. Jagr has a strong supporting cast in Straka Pruca, Heijduk, Lang and Prospal and Rucchinsky to fill out their checking line. One player to watch for them is Adam Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers. I was very impressed with his skill level when I saw him play against the Pens in january. Very underrated player. Overall they are not as deep as Canada but Jagr could be the difference once the medal rounds are upon us.
My take: Expect to see this team in the medal round.

Sweeden: This team heads into the tournament with their medal hopes on the back of rookie sensation Henry Ludqvist in goal. He has been phenomenal for the Rangers in net, but this will be his first time on the international stage so how he plays on the big stage. On defense they are led by Niklas Lindstrom who has been one of the best defenseman in the world for the past 10 years. He is backed on D by Mattius Ohlund , Mattius Nordstrom and Kenny Johnson. Offensively they are lead by Petr Forsberg and Mats Sundin. Forsberg is a big question mark because of all injury prone he is. My take – I don’t think this team is as good as people make them out to be. The loss of Nasland is going to hurt big time but when you have a goalie in Lundqvist, a defenseman in Lindstrom who will log 30-35 minutes of ice time, and a superstar in Forsberg if healthy, a medal is a strong possibility.
Prediction – Expect a finish anywhere from a Bronze medal to 5th place

Hands down this is the most dangerous team in the tournament. Their top 2 lines are lethal. 1st line Kovalchuk – Datsyuk – Kovalev , 2nd line Ovechkin – Malkin – Afinigonov. When a team has a player like Alex Yashin on its third line, you know you are very deep at the forward position. Defensively this team is strong and one player to keep a eye on will be Sergei Gonchar. He has picked up his game of late. Goaltending will be the weakness for this squad which will be their downfall.
my take – This team has the skill level to make it to the gold medal game, but goaltending will be the main issue. If they get solid goaltending expect a bronze medal or 4th place finish at worst. If they dont get the goaltending this team wont make it past the quarterfinals.

Team USA is not even close to the team they were in 02 but their not as bad as people make them out to be. Offensively they will be fine. They have a nice mix of older and younger players. Defensively their a old bunch but they will fine. Brain Rafalski will be the key for them. The goaltending situation is a different story. Their is no #1 goalie so it’s up in the air as of right now who will be the starter. Dipietro will most likely be the starter but dont be surprised to see John Grahame get a shot at proven his self to.
my take – Expect them to start out strong and finish in the top 5. A medal is not a certainty but not out of the question for this team

Now to my predictions

Gold Medal game: Upset Special Canada Vs Czech Republic
-winner Czech republic

Bronze Medal game: Russia VS Sweeden
winner – Russia

Most dangerous team: Russia – offensively there are just loaded. Datsyuk, Kovalev Ovechkin will be the key for this squad. If those three strike fire during the tournament dont be surprised to see them make a run and end up in the gold medal game.

Most surprising team will be: USA – Nobody is giving this team a chance, but this team is not as bad as people think. The defense is a bit old but looks stable, and offensively they are strong. Key players for them are Keith K’tkachuk and Brian Gionta. If Dipietro can regain his form and play lights out night after night, this team will be in the thick of things.

Most dissapointing team will be: Team Canada – anything short of a gold medal will be a dissapointment for this team. The injurie to Scott Niedemyer is going to hurt this team more than anything else. He is their best player and catalyist of their potient power play. Keep a eye on the health of Chris Pronger and Rob Blake. Both are nursing slight injuries and if those two aren’t 100% healthy Canada will be in trouble once the medal rounds upon them.

Two teams to keep a eye on

M.V.P. of each team will be

Czech Republic – Tomas Kaberle

Canada – Jarome Iginla

Russia – Alex Kovalev

Sweeden – Henry Ludqvist

Findland – Kari Lehtonen

Slovokia – Marian Gaborik

USA – Brian Gionta

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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