Sunday, February 14, 2010


With the XXI Olympic Winter Games underway in Vancouver, it’s just a short time until the main event drops the puck on the most anticipated hockey tournament in North America since 2002.

That year was special in not only the fact it was on home soil in Salt Lake City, Utah but because it was the last time the great Herb Brooks would coach on the world’s stage. The United States lost to Team Canada in a classic gold medal battle that Joe Sakic and Mario Lemieux led to a 5-2 victory.


On Tuesday at high noon this year’s installment of the Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament will get underway as the United States will take on Switzerland, followed by the hometown and odds on favorites Team Canada playing "host" to Norway.

The 30 game, 12 team tournament, will consist of three pools of four that will play round robin for seeds 1-12. The top four teams, three pool winners and one wild card will have a bye into the quarterfinal round. The eight remaining teams will play for the final four spots of the quarterfinal round making up the eight team field competing for the Olympic Medals. It will conclude on February 28th with the Gold Medal Game at 12:15.

This will be the first time that the Olympics will be played on an NHL sized rink (200 x 85 ft) rather than an Olympic sized sheet (200 x 98.5 ft). Apparently it was suppose to save millions on renovations and will allow more people to be in the building.

It will be the first time the two referee system will be used in international play. The NHL adopted the two referees and two linesmen system in 1998. NCAA Hockey recently started this format.

The NHL goaltenders won't have to deal with worrying about getting called for delay of game if they want to play the puck in the Olympics. International rules don't mandate an area behind the goal where net minders can only handle the puck. It will be a free for all for the likes of Marty Brodeur. Too bad Marty wasn't playing in these Olympics.


Predicted records in parenthesis ex. USA (2-1)

In Group A

Canada (3-0)
United States (2-1)
Switzerland (1-2)
Norway (0-3)

Group B

Russia (3-0)
Czech Republic (1-2)
Latvia (1-2)
Slovakia (1-2)

Group C

Sweden (3-0)
Finland (2-1)
Belarus (0-3)
Germany (1-2)


Brenden Morrow

He will be asked to play mostly third probably fourth line checking roll. They won't look for him to score but be an energy player and use his grit against softer teams in the tourney.


Jere Lehtinen

He’s been with this group before and has won medals in the past including silver in the 2006 Turin games. He'll be in a leadership roll on the team and with his work ethic and mind for the game; the Finns could be in the mix again. This year they have Mikka Kipprasouff as well to go with the team that finished 2nd in '06.


Loui Eriksson

The second leading goal scorer on the Stars will add depth to the returning gold medalists. He could be on the wing of the top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin when the Swedes drop the puck on their gold medal defense. No gold medal winning team has repeated since the Soviet Union won in 1984 and in Calgary in 1988.


Karlis Skrastins

The Captain of the Latvian squad. Heart, work ethic, toughness, that's naming a few qualities that make up one of the guys that keeps the Dallas Stars in the playoff hunt. If the Latvian squad plays half as hard as Skrastins and in a one game scenario, I feel a big upset coming in the Olympics.


Prelim Upset Warning: Switzerland over the US??

I am not going to go as far and say as I am going to predict it, BUT...the opening game for the US could be tough against a Swiss team that is playing their last tournament for their national team coach of 13 years Ralph Krueger. Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks will start in goal and this season has been stellar on a subpar Ducks squad going 25-17 with a .917 save pct.

The United States played down to their competition in the 2006 preliminary round tying Latvia 3-3. All I am saying is that the US better not take it for granted otherwise a hot goalie and a motivated group could pull the upset!

Team Latvia over the Czechs

In the prelim round I think this is the one that could go down. If the Czechs arent careful they could run into a Latvian team that has the most team chemistry. 13 players on their roster play together in the KHL with Dynamo Riga. Dynamo is in the race for the KHL playoffs and at the time of this blog they sat 6 points up in the race. You can't mess with team chemistry and an aging Czech team might get caught off gurad by this "TEAM".


With not enough talent and just too much world class talent available to the other countries the first four to fall will be Switzerland, Norway, Germany, and Belarus.


That leaves the final eight for quarterfinal play

8. Latvia





Canada over Sweden
Russia over USA

Canada Gold
Russia Silver
USA Bronze
Sweden 4th


I think the US gets by anybody but Russia or Canada. This year is not theirs. Brian Burke, David Poile and co. went with youth over experience. Fortunately for the US, their best player I believe for them in this tournament will be their goalie Ryan Miller. It won't be enough. They aren’t explosive enough to keep up with Russia, and aren't deep and experienced enough to match Team Canada.

They will be poised for Olympic Gold their next run, as they have 17 players under the age of 30, and that includes 13 that won’t be 30 during the 2014 Winter Games. They could surprise someone in the next two weeks but it will all be on Ryan Miller. Another guy to keep an eye on in this tourney is Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone. He may be underrated in this tournament. With the absence of physical play an the grit and toughness he posses around the net, he could create him and his linemates space. They also have some explosive offensive talent in Zach Parise, Phil Kessel, and Patick Kane, not to mention long gone are the days of "The Hotel Incident" of the 1998 Nagano Games. The leadership of this version of Team USA starts with Jaime Langenbrunner the team captain, and key players Paul Stastny, Dustin Brown, and Brian Rafalski.

The best the US does is win Bronze

Loaded and maybe the most anticipated and pressure packed event in Canada period! GM Steve Yzerman had his hands full when he took this position but if it ends up like 2002 he'll be as happy as Wayne Gretzky was when Canada took the gold in Salt Lake.

The team will be captained by Scott Niedermeyer and the assistants will be Chris Pronger, Sidney Crosby, and Jerome Iginla. The team has so much depth and balance, on the back end Duncan Keith who runs the Chicago Blackhawks high powered offense will be joined by the rocket shot of Shea Weber, and skill and puck moving skills of Dan Boyle.

The forwards showcase Sid the Kid of the Pens and two time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley, and Joe Thorton of San Jose. So much offense to name but when you can add grit, depth, and specialists like Boston Bruins Patrice Bergeron for his two-way play and propensity for winning key draws it rounds out the best overall team in the tournament.

You notice I didn't mention goaltending? I didn't have to because Canada has the best goalie of all time, three time Stanley Cup Champion and 2002 Olympic Gold Medalist Martin Brodeur.

This team also boasts six NHL Captains. If your wondering, Brenden Morrow DAL, Jerome Iginla CAL, Sidney Crosby PIT, Scott Niedermeyer NJD, Mike Richards PHI, and Joe Thorton SJ.

The only thing I can see bringing this team down is that they have too many stars and too much pressure that overrides there sheer talent. Thats not a bad negative to have.

Canada wins Gold over Russia: because they are deeper defensively and possibly as explosive.

Enjoy the tourney. Hope I am wrong on the predictions! USA USA USA


Thunderpuck said...

Wow! Thanks for the wonderful run down on all things Olympic Hockey. I am one of the few Americans who feel strongly that Olympic hockey is actually better (yes I said it, better) than NHL hockey.

Maybe rink size, maybe rules differences, I dunno what it is, but Olympic hockey is more exciting and more fun to watch than our own home brand, I hate to admit. This should be a great tourney, been waiting for it since Torino!

On a side note: I sure don't miss the days when, as a Texan fan of hockey, I had to wait for my Hockey News magazine to come in the mail in order to get my hockey info a week late. Thanks again for the Olympic primer!

Thunderpuck said...

DOH! No haters stopped by to tell me how wrong I was in saying that Olympic hockey is better than the NHL. And I was all ready to gloat after the amazing games on display Sunday, Feb. 21st.

The USA - Canada game was a classic, I hope everyone got a chance to enjoy it. Russia - Czech Rep was no slouch either. Not meaning to spam anything Bob, but I wanted to let everyone know that all three complete games are available online right now at the NBC Olympics site if anyone missed them.