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.
The Slovakian national hockey team is currently ranked 8th overall by the IIHF. They’re carrying 14 NHLers on their roster, they’re coached by Vladimír Vůjtek, and finished 4th, just out of the medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. And yes, “ů” is apparently an actual letter.
A, with Russia, Slovenia, and the You-nited States of a Mer’ca.
|Peter Budaj||Montreal Canadiens|
|Jaroslav Halak||St. Louis Blues|
|Zdeno Chara||Boston Bruins|
|Martin Marincin||Edmonton Oilers|
|Andrej Meszaros||Philadelphia Flyers|
|Andrej Sekera||Carolina Hurricanes|
|Lubomir Visnovsky||New York Islanders|
|Marian Gaborik||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Michal Handzus||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Marian Hossa||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Tomas Jurco||Detroit Red Wings|
|Tomas Kopecky||Florida Panthers|
|Richard Panik||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Tomas Tatar||Detroit Red Wings|
Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, Lubomir Visnovsky (now unlikely to play), Jaroslav Halak.
This is where the Slovaks are going to run into some trouble. They have enough talent on the roster to cause teams major headaches. They have some elite scorers, they have one of the best defensemen in the world, and they have good goaltending. But after their 14 NHL dudes (a couple of which are on the fringes of their club’s rosters to begin with), the pool becomes fairly shallow, especially when you consider who these guys are going to have to face to medal. In their preview, I mentioned that Finland might have enough players that they could surprise some teams if they shorten their bench. I’m gonna say Slovakia is just on the wrong side of that conversation.
Their top-end talent is exactly that: top-end. Names like Zdeno Chara, Lubomir Visnovsky (again, he’s on the maybe train, but it seems unlikely), Marian Hossa, and Marian Gaborik (if healthy) make pretty much every Olympic team out there (sans Canada), so if those guys play well individually, they should be able to get the puck moving in the right direction often enough to score a few goals. And, Jaroslav Halak has been known to get hot and steal games. That could happen too.
Their D-corps, after that top pairing, is going to have their hands full with the forwards from legitimate contenders in the tournament. They’re also going to need young players like Tomas Tatar and Richard Panik to contribute, which is tough to see given the talent they’ll be facing and the pressure presented by The Games.
Route to the Olympics
Ranked eighth by the IIHF based on international play, top nine get in. Turns out it isn’t just the Olympics that matter.
I’ve got them finishing seventh. I also think the tournament only has seven teams who could realistically medal, so, quick math….I’ve got them in that group. (Sorry, Switzerland.)
Times are GMT+4, (MSK – Moscow Standard Time)