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 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’.)
(I’m starting to think the IIHF might not have the most accurate statistics on referees per country. Call it a hunch.)
A, with Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
|Jimmy Howard||Detroit Red Wings|
|Ryan Miller||Buffalo Sabres|
|Jonathan Quick||Los Angeles Kings|
|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|
|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|
Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Ryan Suter, Ryan Miller, that one guy on the roster who plays for your favorite team. Relax.
Yuuup, boatloads. But you knew that.
The 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.
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.
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.
Times are GMT+4, (MSK – Moscow Standard Time)
Thursday, February 13th: SVK 16:30 USA
Saturday, February 15th: USA 16:30 RUS
Sunday, February 16th: SLO 16:30 USA
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.