Olympics 2014: Men’s Hockey

Olympic Hockey Face Off

Russia’s Viktor Kozlov (52) face off Czech Republic’s David Krejci (46)in Russia’s 4-2 win over the Czech Republic In the Preliminary Round at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Paul Kitagaki Jr./ZUMApress/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: zumaamericassix754186

Hockey is one of the premier Winter Olympic events and the 2014 Sochi Games will again feature the best players in the world. The NHL will suspend play in February to send their players to Russia for the games. The NHL players will help most of the 12 teams who have qualified, which will make men’s hockey a must see event.

The countries have already begun the team selection process and will bring the players into camp at the end of August. There is no clear favorite to win gold but the top teams all have great potential. But no team is without holes.

Team Canada always has pressure to win any hockey event but it will be a lot less then the team faced in 2010 as the host country. The big question mark for Canada will be in goal. They have a lot of talent but Roberto Luongo has struggled since back stopping them to gold in 2010 and the other potential goalies are coming in with very little Olympic experience.

Canada is stacked in every other position with arguably the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby joined by the likes of Jonathan Toews and Rick Nash up front. The defense is anchored by Blackhawks teammates Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook who have won gold and two Stanley Cups together.

Luongo Save

Team Canada goalie Roberto Luongo (R) makes a save off shot by Slovakia’s Michal Handzus during semi-final game in men’s hockey at Vancouver, BC Friday, February 26, 2010 during the 2010 Winter Olympics. CanWest/ZUMApress/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: zumaamericassix694767

Canada Gold Defence

Team Canada’s Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith pose for photographers after beating the USA 3-2 in overtime in the men’s hockey gold medal game at Canada Hockey Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sunday, February 28, 2010. The trio plays for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. Ric Ernst/MCT/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: krtphotoslive403231

The Americans will be going into the games with one of the top goal tending cores with Jonathan Quick the favorite to win the job from long time starter Ryan Miller who will be back to try and again get a spot on the team. USA Hockey will return forwards Patrick Kane and Zach Parise who will lead the scoring for the team which will likely be needed as the defense could be suspect.

Jonathan Quick Save

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) makes a save against the San Jose Sharks. Rob Carmell/Cal Sport Media/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: csmphoto759184

If the Americans don’t have the best goaltending team then it will be Finland who has their choice of top NHL goalies: Niklas Backstrom, Antti Niemi, Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne. Only Backstrom made the team in 2010 but the other three have really grown since then, making deep playoffs runs. The other big question for Finland is whether or not Teemu Selanne will return for another Olympics to play to earn his first gold or fourth Olympic medal.

Finland goaile Pekka Rinne

Goaltender Pekka Rinne (L) of Finland makes a save on Tomas Rolinek of the Czech Republic during their Ice Hockey World Championships match in Cologne May 20, 2010. GRIGORY DUKOR/REUTERS/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: rtrlthree990665

Selanne final run

Finland’s Teemu Selanne raises his stick to the crowd after the Men’s Hockey game between Finland (FIN) and the Czech Republic (CZE). Patrick Fallon/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: zumaamericassix757297

Finnish rival, Team Sweden, already knows they will have a changing of the guard at these Olympics. Long-time team Sweden members Nicklas Lidstrom and Daniel Alfredsson will not be making the trip to Sochi. Jonathan Ericsson has already had to fill Lidstrom’s skates in Detroit so he should be fine. Ericsson will be joined by Red Wing teammate Henrik Zetterberg along with the Sedin twins and Henrik Lundqvist – meaning Sweden should contend for a medal if they avoid a early loss like they had in 2010.

Jonathan Ericsson knock down

Sweden’s Jonathan Ericsson (L) fights for puck with Czech Republic’s Petr Prucha during their 2012 IIHF men’s ice hockey World Championship quarter-final game in Stockholm May 17, 2012. PETR JOSEK/REUTERS/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: rtrlfive246395

Zetterberg dangle

Sweden’s Henrik Zetterberg (R) and Italy’s Diego Iori during the Group S Icehockey IIHF World Championships match between Italy and Sweden at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, 12 May 2012. PONTUS LUNDAHL/EPA/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: epaphotos373436

Making what will probably be a last run with their core players is Team Slovakia. In 2010 Slovakia came up one game short of their first medal losing in the bronze medal game to Finland. Slovakia has all the pieces with goaltending, the best defenseman in Zdeno Chara and talented scorers Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik. What will hurt Slovakia is their depth, they are nowhere near as deep as other teams but they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Hossa puck carry

Slovakian player Marian Hossa (L) fights for puck with Aleksandr Makritsky from Belarus their Ice Hockey World Championship match. INTS KALNINS/EPA/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: epaphotosfour259113

Marian Gaborik Jump

German Sebastian Osterloh (bottom) fights for the puck with Slovakia’s Marian Gaborik (top) during their preliminary round match at the Ice Hockey World Championships. ANATOLY MALTSEV/EPA/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: epaphotosthree398616

With the home ice advantage comes all the pressure. Team Russia is be expected to bring home gold just like Canada was in 2010. The good thing for Russia is that they have one of the most talented teams with a lot of top- tier NHL players.

Most of the pressure will fall on the forwards like Ilya Kovalchuk. He will get a lot of attention after retiring from the NHL to return to Russia and play in the KHL. Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk will also be looked to for a lot of scoring on the wider Olympic ice because of the magical things they can do with the puck on NHL ice.

Pavel Datsyuk dangle

Russia’s Pavel Datsyuk (red) and Czech Republic’s Pavel Kubina (white) seen in the ice hockey men’s preliminary game between Russia and the Czech Republic on day 10 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place. Belousov Vitaly Itar-Tass Photos/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: tassphotoslive259526

The player with the most pressure going into the games is without a doubt Alexander Ovechkin. Leading Russia to gold would do wonders for Ovechkin as he tries to stay in the conversation of best player in the world. Crosby was able to shine in 2010 and, to keep up with him, Ovechkin will have to make 2014 his time.

Ovi Cellly

Alex Ovechkin of Russia celebrates a goal against Canada by Russian Sergei Gonchar during their men’s ice hockey play-offs quarterfinals at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 24, 2010. SHAUN BEST/REUTERS/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: rtrlthree840828

Rounding out the field of 12 are the teams from Slovenia, Norway, Austria, Latvia, Czech Republic, and Switzerland. Even thought they don’t get a lot of attention, crazier wins have come in the Olympics and Switzerland is getting a lot of buzz. Now the only questions that remain is who will make the final rosters and whether the Russian gay oppression will have any effect on gay rights supportive hockey players.

The one thing I know is it will be exciting. I can’t wait for the puck to drop. For many more photos of men’s Olympic hockey check out Newscom.

Bolshoy ice dome

A general view shows the Bolshoy ice dome, the hockey venue for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, at the Olympic Park in Adler, near Sochi February 21, 2013. KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: rtrlfive751230

Inside the Bolshoy ice dome

A general view shows the inside of the Bolshoy ice dome, the hockey venue for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, in the Olympic Park in Adler, near Sochi February 21, 2013. KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: rtrlfive751189

Putin Puck Drop

Russian President Vladimir Putin drops the puck to start an ice hockey match during a festival of Russia’s amateur hockey in Bolshoy ice dome, the hockey venue for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, in the Olympic Park in Adler, near Sochi, 10 May 2013. SERGEI KARPUKHIN / POOL/EPA/Newscom. License this image from Newscom.com: epaphotos852972

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