It’s finally here. With the Olympics getting under way and the hockey starting soon, it’s time to roll out our preview of each team between now and puck drop. May the best team win.
B, with Canada, Norway and Finland.
|Michael Grabner||New York Islanders|
|Michael Raffl||Philadelphia Flyers|
|Thomas Vanek||New York Islanders|
Pretty easy with a team like this: Vanek (team captain), Grabner and Raffl.
Thomas Vanek is among the best point producers in hockey, while Michael Grabner is among the fastest. This is a team that needs to get rock-solid goaltending from one of their (hilariously named) goaltenders so if the Vanek/Grabner/Raffl trio can produce some offense they have a chance to steal a game or two. Bernhard Starkbaum will be the starter – he’s posted a 0.931 save percentage with Brynas IF Gavle of the Swedish Hockey League this season.
Depth, obviously. Some of the defenseman in particular have resumès that make them more likely to ask for Sidney Crosby’s autograph than stop him.
Route to the Olympics
In order to qualify for the Olympics, you need to be ranked in the top nine of the IIHF world rankings, or win one of three qualifying groups. Austria was ranked 15th in the world, so they had an uphill climb in order to make it to the Olympics for the first time since 2002.
Austria matched up against Italy, the Netherlands and Germany during the final qualification round. Germany was favoured, but had to play without NHL talents such as Thomas Greiss, Christian Ehrhoff, Dennis Seidenberg, Marcel Goc and Alexander Sulzer. Austria, for their part, were without Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner.
Germany was upset by Italy in the round robin, which set-up a final game between Austria and Germany where by Austria needed only to force Germany to overtime in order to qualify. Just like Latvia, Austria earned a spot into the Olympics with an overtime loss.
I’ve got them pencilled in for second last, 11th, one spot ahead of (SPOILER ALERT) Slovenia. For a team like Austria, making the Olympics is accomplishment enough.
Times are GMT+4, (MSK – Moscow Standard Time)