Handicapping the men's hockey field

  • Updated: February 2, 2014 - 8:14 AM
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Team Canada is a juggernaut, starting with its captain, Sidney Crosby.

Gold medal canada

How much talent is on this team? Look at these names: Martin St. Louis, Claude Giroux, James Neal, Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Dan Boyle, Brent Seabrook. Now consider that not one of those players made the team. They would be some of the finest players on rosters of other nations but couldn’t squeeze their way onto Canada, which as always will have the eyes of a hockey-loving nation praying for a repeat gold. Like the U.S., the big question will be how the Canadians translate onto the bigger ice sheet.

Who to watch: Deeper and more intimidating than any team in the tournament, Canada starts with strength up the middle in Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron. They’re so good, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter and Matt Duchene, some of whom would easily be the best center on other nations’ teams, including the U.S., will likely have to move to wing. Canada’s wings are big and fast, from Rick Nash to Corey Perry to Jamie Benn. On the back end, they are led by Duncan Keith. Drew Doughty, formidable Blues duo Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester and power-play point men Shea Weber and PK Subban. The big question is in goal. Roberto Luongo and Carey Price will be 1-2 and have been inconsistent, although Luongo took over for Martin Brodeur in 2010 and backstopped the Canadians to gold.

History: After winning gold in six of the first seven Olympics, the Canadians went a span of 50 years before winning in 2002 at Salt Lake City. Then on home ice in 2010 in Vancouver, Crosby scored the “Golden Goal” in overtime after the United States’ Zach Parise scored in the final seconds of regulation.

silver medal united states

Dan Bylsma was posed an interesting question at Olympic orientation camp in August. The U.S. coach was asked which player could be this year’s Mike Eruzione. Bylsma said it was an unfair question from the aspect that this is a team full of NHLers, but it did get him raving about a leadership corps that includes Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Spring Lake Park’s David Backes and a deep roster built so every night a different hero could step to the forefront.

Who to watch: It starts with goaltending; Bylsma has two tremendous choices in the Kings’ Jonathan Quick and the Sabres’ Ryan Miller. Up front, the U.S. has some terrific wingers, such as Parise, Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel. Up the middle, Backes and Ryan Kesler are having sensational seasons, and one has to wonder if versatile Joe Pavelski, who can thrive in any role, will play center. The blue line is fast and mobile, and Ryan Suter, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan McDonagh should lead the way in terms of ice time. If this team comes together, all the tools are there despite not having the star power of its neighbor from the north.

History: When the Games have been played in North America, the NHLers have medaled, winning silver in 2002 and 2010. The same success hasn’t occurred overseas, so the U.S. brass tried to build this team from the back end, with defensemen who can get the puck up to the forwards. The most success the U.S. has ever had came in 1980, when the Americans shocked the world with a miracle gold. They also won gold in Squaw Valley in 1960.

bronze medal russia

The Russians have some amends to make after getting embarrassed by Canada in 2010. Playing on home turf can go either way for the brash, confident players. They can either be inspired by playing in their own nation or they can succumb to the pressure, as in the 2000 world championships in St. Petersburg when they were booed off the ice after an 11th-place finish. Keeping Alex Ovechkin from partying until all hours of the night in the Russian village the way he reportedly did in 2010 will go a long way toward that.

Who to watch: There’s an interesting makeup to this team with 10 players coming from Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, including Ilya Kovalchuk, the sniper who bailed on the Devils last year. Up front, the Russians are led by goal-scorer extraordinaire Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and young guns Vladimir Tarasenko, 22, and Valeri Nichushkin, 19. A suspect blue line will be led by Slava Voynov and Andrei Markov, but goaltending will be a strength. A month ago, Semyon Varlamov looked like the clear No. 1, but Sergei Bobrovsky returned to his Vezina Trophy form in recent weeks.

History: From 1956 to ’92, the Soviet Union won eight of 10 Olympic gold medals, including 1992 as the Unified Team. Russia won the 2012 world championship but hasn’t medaled in the Olympics since winning bronze in 2002.

Medal contenders

Sweden: The tournament’s X factor. The Swedes edged rival Finland 3-2 for the gold in 2006 in Turin and are coming off a fifth-place finish in Vancouver. It all comes down to Henrik Lundqvist, who can be all-world in a short tournament but is having a pedestrian NHL season with the Rangers.

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LA Angels - LP: C. Rasmus 6 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: R. Webb 7
Seattle - WP: H. Iwakuma 5 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: T. Bauer 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 11 FINAL
Detroit - LP: A. Sanchez 4
Washington - LP: S. Strasburg 0 FINAL
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 3
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 6 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: D. Gee 0
Milwaukee - LP: W. Smith 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: A. Cobb 5
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 4 FINAL
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 0 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: M. Leake 3
Colorado - LP: T. Matzek 3 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Baker 4
NY Yankees - WP: B. McCarthy 12 FINAL
Texas - LP: N. Martinez 11
Minnesota - WP: K. Gibson 2 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
Oakland - WP: E. Scribner 7 FINAL
Houston - LP: C. Qualls 4
Atlanta - LP: A. Varvaro 4 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: B. League 8
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Ross 3
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 3 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 1
NY Giants 8/3/14 7:00 PM
Buffalo
Winnipeg 7/31/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Toronto 8/1/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Brt Columbia 8/1/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Saskatchewan 8/2/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/7/14 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Connecticut 80 FINAL
Atlanta 89
Washington 76 FINAL
New York 80
Chicago 74 FINAL
San Antonio 92
Seattle 74 FINAL
Tulsa 80
Los Angeles 69 FINAL
Phoenix 90

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