The Winter Olympics can be compelling for a variety of different reasons, but for NHL fans it invariably comes down to one event: men’s ice hockey. Both the Canadian and American teams kick off today, with Team Canada starting against Norway at 4:30 Pacific Time.

Coach Mike Babcock has elected to start Roberto Luongo in net against Norway, while Martin Brodeur will get his first game on Thursday against the Swiss. Babcock explained that the move would give Brodeur a few more days of rest:

“Marty has played a lot of hockey and this gives him a couple of days’ breather. Marty will play against Switzerland and after that I will make the decision. That’s what we came up with.”

Babcock’s words indicate that the decision about who will be the number one goalie for the remainder of the tournament has not yet been decided. Brodeur remains the overwhelming favourite for the job, on the basis of his strong resume and success in championship games, but the recent history of both players makes things less clear cut. Frankly, I still think it’s Brodeur’s job to lose; in Detroit Babcock has traditionally gone with total track record over recent results in making his goaltending decisions (Hasek over Osgood to start the 2008 playoffs, Osgood over Conklin in 2009), but that doesn’t mean that Brodeur can’t lose the job and I’d assume Babcock is keeping an open mind.

As for Canada’s opposition, Scott Reynolds did a great write-up on Norway during his preview of Group A, as they aren’t terribly imposing. Patrick Thoresen (pictured above) is an incredibly underrated player and should probably still be in the NHL, but when he’s the best forward on the team it doesn’t take a particle physicist to realize that these teams are not on even footing. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen headlines the defence, and aside from those two there aren’t any players particularly recognizable on this side of the pond.

This shouldn’t be close.

Other Notes

Team USA starts the tournament off with a game against Switzerland at 12:00 PT. The Swiss have improved a lot over the last decade, and Jonas Hiller is the key player for them. It will be interesting to see how they fare against the Americans prior to their game against Canada, and this should be the closest of today’s games.

Continuing the theme of mismatches, the very scary Russian team plays Latvia, and while the Latvians have some players (notably Karlis Skrastins) they’re minus their older ex-NHL stars Irbe and Ozolinsh, and if they can keep the score to within three goals it will represent a major accomplishment.

A lot of the stuff I’m including here comes from Scott Reynolds’ excellent Olympic previews; I linked to his Group A article above but I strongly recommend reading both his Group B and Group C articles as well.

Comments (17)

  1. Jonathan:
    What do you think of the line combos from practice yesterday?
    Rick Nash-Sidney Crosby-Patrice Bergeron
    Eric Staal-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
    Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Dany Heatley
    Mike Richards/Brenden Morrow-Jonathan Toews-Jarome Iginla
    …also any thoughts on pronger niedermayer not paired together?
    I know nothing is concrete at this point, especially with Babcock, but to me Bergeron on the first line is a joke no matter how well he played with Crosby for one tournament! The guy would not be on my team to begin with, and in this group he has 13th forward written all over him to me. If Mike Richards is not dressing while Bergeron plays, that is a shame. To me its simple, richards in, iginla up to line 1 and Bergeron where he belongs watchin the game( although it should be while on vacation instead of named to the team!)

  2. This is why we’re not in Vancouver right now and Babcock is. Bergeron obviously brings something to the table. Who knows, maybe Crosby and Bergeron play well together and will rip it up tonight. You can’t judge a book by its cover. So give it a game or two, because I’m sure there will be a few line shuffles.

  3. Benjamin:
    I agree with the line shuffles statement(infact I included that in my original comment), but if you look at the numbers he doesn’t even belong to be on the team, let alone the first line! I will cheer for him just the same however I will be the first to say I told you so if he doesn’t produce. They did play together in the world juniors which i refrenced above, however 37 points and 12 goals in 54 games is not first line material on this team! ANYONE would play well with Crosby out of this forward group, just as any of these guys would have had major stats at the WJHC if skating with Crosby… just sayin dude.

  4. Patrice Bergeron’s a hell of a player, in my opinion, and he’s been playing some brutal minutes in Boston. I actually don’t mind him starting the tournament with Crosby and Nash; his skill set should mesh nicely with those two.

    It wouldn’t have been my choice, but I don’t have any objections to him getting a look in that role.

  5. Good game to make sure all players will eventually see some action . Surprised that Getzlaf is not being rested first game as well . Good game to test how extra forward,etc. might fit in due to injuries down the line . Should not affect first day outcome no matter whom they put in to any marked degree .

  6. The defensive pairings, btw, are this:

    Keith – Seabrook

    Niedermayer – Weber

    Pronger – Boyle/Doughty

    Doughty’s probably going to sit. I don’t see any major surprises here.

  7. Fair enough.
    Thing is, it is a short tournament and he should and will light it up against Norway and Swiss, however when it comes time to start playing the big boys, valuable time for better players to mesh on first line will be lost. IMO this team could and should look much better than whats skating out for tonight’s game, and I felt the same way in Italy and we got smoked. Hope Im wrong more than anyone, but it seems to be common for us to be saying that we will just try them out! Last time we won gold Iginla was insrumental in our success, now hes a fourth liner who has 20 more points including 15 more goals than Bergeron! And Richards who (again this only my opinion), is the player best suited to play a fourth line role in this tournament is not even going to dress!? Patrice Bergeron is not and will never be the player that Iginla or Richards are! Not even close

  8. D looks fine to me, if Boyle looks shaky Doughty might get shot later on in tournament. Back end is much more suited to play against top notch forwards than last olympic team, with concrete skated Foote and Redden. Fine with that aspect of the team, and goaltending is being handled correctly as Luo and Brodeur absolutely should split first two starts.

  9. I’m not sure that there’s such a huge difference between Bergeron and Richards, honestly. They don’t play the exact same type of game, but having 1 in over the other isn’t a game breaker, no matter who plays.

    I’m not sold on Bergeron as a first-line player only because I think he’s the best defensive forward on the roster and should be used in that capacity above all, IMO. The Crosby line should be a power line and in that regard, I think Iginla would be a better choice. But that would put two RW on the first line, which isn’t ideal… So if we agree not to disturb lines 2 and 3 for chemistry reasons, that leaves Bergeron, Richards and Toews to play wing on the first line (I count out Morrow because he’s not suited for it and Iginla because he’s a RW). From there, I don’t think Bergeron’s a bad choice at all.

  10. This is International Hockey 22 guys dress, no one sits except the third goalie.
    IDIOTS

  11. Easy does it Kennsy. You’re right of course, but we’re all used to NHL rules here and it’s an easy mistake to make before the first game.

  12. Where can you lissen online to the Radio coverage of the game?

  13. Best defensive forward on the team is Richards, followed closely by Toews. I would rank Bergeron 3rd but he did have great chemistry with Crosby at the WJC so who knows really. Only in Canada can we be afforded the opportunity to argue over the make up of our 4th line.

  14. I think Ryan Getzlaf is the best player. I hope his ankle can hold up for Olympics. And go CANADA!!! and the USA

  15. Shawna you cannot cheer for both honey……pick one

  16. Gee doesn’t seem to matter we look great! Still things sure started to click once Iginla was moved up with Crosby and Nash though… like I said, better player should be on top line!
    Kennsy, no one cares that you called them an idiot, just makes you sound like a spaz bud…
    Great Start, now time to punish the Swiss for what happend four years ago!

  17. Awesome win for Canada. Howedy you were right with Iginla. Just too bad once the olympics are over Iggy will have to go back to Calgary and that Stajan goodness.

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