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, Austria and Finland.
|Ken Andre Olimb|
|Mats Rosseli Olsen|
|Mats Zuccarello||New York Rangers|
Mats Zuccarello. Ex-NHLers Tollefsen and Thoresen can play too. (…And Tore Vikingstad, based entirely on his awesome name. He was on the team in 2010…not so much this time around, sadly).
The nicest thing I can say is that the drop-off from the top players to the bottom ones isn’t comically bad. A number of international teams have an absolute stud or two at the top (think Kopitar and Slovenia), but by the time you get to the bottom you’ve plummeted clear past the barrel’s bottom and into the bedrock (keep thinking about Slovenia).
Mats Zuccarello is quite good at hockey, and is apparently quite a charming fellow as well.
It depends how you look at “weaknesses.” This is a team that hasn’t beat Canada in 30 years, so it’s safe to say they’re weak everywhere if you stack them against the best. With teams like this, the biggest problems tend to be on defense. There are a lot of players out there who can stickhandle and shoot a puck in the net. Not so many who can handle Phil Kessel bearing down on them on the wing.
Route to the Olympics
As one of the top nine countries in the IIHF world rankings, Norway received an automatic spot in the Olympic tournament. They were able to achieve this ranking with some notable upsets in the last few World Championships. They beat the Czech Republic in 2010 and Sweden in 2011 (they also narrowly lost 3-2 to Canada). In the 2012 World Championships they beat up on the minnows of the hockey world. They beat Italy (6-2), Latvia (3-0), Germany (12-4) and Denmark (6-2). While they didn’t beat any of the super powers in 2012, they were respectable in every game, losing to Sweden (3-1), Russia (4-2 & 5-2) and the Czech Republic (4-3). So watch out for Norway, they are certainly capable of a lot more than most hockey fans might think.
I’ve got Norway in 9th. They tend to hover between being Swiss-like pesky, and being truly bad. (And by the way – when I say “bad,” I mean compared to teams in the Olympic tournament.)
Times are GMT+4, (MSK – Moscow Standard Time)
Thursday, Feb. 13th: CAN 21:00 NOR
Friday, Feb. 14th: NOR 21:00 FIN
Sunday, Feb. 16th: AUT 12:00 NOR