yay goal

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.

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The basics

The US men’s national hockey team is currently ranked 6th overall by the IIHF. All 25 of the players on their roster are NHLers, they’re coached by Dan Bylsman, and they finished second at the 2010 Winter Olympics. (To Canada. Not sayin’, just sayin’.)usa

Member since 1920
Total Players 510,279
Male Players 137,766
Junior Players 306,813
Female Players 65,700
Total Referees 0
Indoor Rinks 1,898
Outdoor Rinks 85
Nation Population 316,668,567
President Ron DeGregorio
Men’s World Ranking 6
Women’s World Ranking 1

(I’m starting to think the IIHF might not have the most accurate statistics on referees per country. Call it a hunch.)

Group

A, with Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Roster

GOALIES NHL Team
Jimmy Howard Detroit Red Wings
Ryan Miller Buffalo Sabres
Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings
DEFENSEMEN  
John Carlson Washington Capitals
Justin Faulk Carolina Hurricanes
Cam Fowler Anaheim Ducks
Paul Martin Pittsburgh Penguins
Ryan McDonagh New York Rangers
Brooks Orpik Pittsburgh Penguins
Kevin Shattenkirk St. Louis Blues
Ryan Suter Minnesota Wild
FORWARDS  
David Backes St. Louis Blues
Dustin Brown Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Callahan New York Rangers
Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
Ryan Kesler Vancouver Canucks
Phil Kessel Toronto Maple Leafs
T.J. Oshie St. Louis Blues
Max Pacioretty Montreal Canadiens
Zach Parise Minnesota Wild
Joe Pavelski San Jose Sharks
Paul Stastny Colorado Avalanche
Derek Stepan New York Rangers
James van Riemsdyk Toronto Maple Leafs
Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets

Biggest names

Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Ryan Suter, Ryan Miller, that one guy on the roster who plays for your favorite team. Relax.

Depth

Yuuup, boatloads. But you knew that.

Strengths

usa2The American’s great strength is that they’re going to be an absolute b**ch to play. If every team in the Olympic tournament played a best of seven against every other team on NHL-sized ice, I’m thinking the Americans go undefeated. David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Kesler, TJ Oshie, Zach Parise, James Van Riemsdyk, Ryan Suter, Brooks Orpik… I mean, it’s just a hard-working, easy-to-hate, take-no-s**t-from-anybody type of group. And I don’t mean “easy to hate” from a fans perspective – fans love players like that. I mean it from a “Mannn, why does David Backes have to try so hard and be so mean I hate that guy” player perspective. It’s really easy to see why Brian Burke loving the bananas out of this team.

Ryan Miller is in the conversation for best goalie in the world, and they’ve got a couple offensive wonders in Kane and Kessel.

Weaknesses

The D-corps, compared to other contending teams, is straight dicey. Carlson, Faulk, Orpik, Fowler, Paul Martin…I mean, these aren’t bad defensemen, at all. But they aren’t exactly NHL all-stars either. Ryan Miller is used to seeing a lot of quality chances, but not every one he sees is on the stick of a top NHL talent, as he can expect from the semifinals in.

The only other minor quibble would be that past Kane and Kessel, those “grindery” (totally a word) guys mostly rely on the tip/rebound type goals (those in the “dirty areas,” as coaches love to say), and aren’t necessarily the type of game-breakers you may need to beat some of the best defenseman in the world a few times a game.

Route to the Olympics

Ranked sixth by the IIHF, top nine get in without qualifying events.

Prediction

I’ve got the Americans bringing home the bronze medal, beating Russia in that game. Like I said – if this tournament’s on a smaller rink, I may have them higher.

Schedule

Times are GMT+4, (MSK – Moscow Standard Time)

Thursday, February 13th: SVKSlovakia 16:30 United StatesUSA
Saturday, February 15th: USAUnited States 16:30 Russian FederationRUS
Sunday, February 16th: SLOSlovenia 16:30 United StatesUSA

Curious thing here: Russia clearly wanted Canada to play the later game so it would be on at watchable hours in North America. They also clearly wanted the Americans to be on at a different time than Canada, knowing we all want to watch both teams over here on this continent. That meant scheduling the Americans at the same time as the host country, Russia. Which in turn meant that the Americans are they only team who plays in the smaller Shayba Arena twice (holds 7,000, is apparently a “multi-purpose portable venue,” whatever that means). So that’ll be interesting.

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Other Previews

Canada

Sweden

Russia

Finland

Czech Republic

Slovakia

Switzerland

Norway

Latvia

Austria

Slovenia