Why they’ll win: The Russians have star power and offensive prowess in players like Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovulchuck and Evgeni Malkin. The offense looks unstoppable and will score a lot of goals for their home fans.
Not only do they look great offensively, they will be playing in front of a hometown crowd and staying in the comfort of their own country. Home ice has been beneficial for Olympic teams in the past. Russia comes in confident that this home ice can push them to the podium.
Why they won’t win: In recent years, the Russians have developed a reputation for being immature and under-performing in international competition. This year, there is pressure to win in front of the Russian faithful. Will they perform well under that pressure? That remains to be seen.
The Russians have offensive talent, but their defensive depth and goaltending is weak for this type of competition. Russia will be forced to rely on heavy scoring when the defense doesn’t hold up. Plus, with a larger ice surface, defense will come at a premium. Russia doesn’t have that, exposing them to a tournament where the offense will most likely play catch-up.
Why they’ll win: Canada is an all-star team and wherever Canada plays, it will always be the early favorite. The team has depth, experience, leadership and talent on both ends of the ice. Just look at that roster. Go on, look at it and tell me they can’t win gold again.
Why they won’t win: Last Olympics in Vancouver, Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Canadians the gold medal. The goal seemed to redeem him, because the entire tournament, Crosby did not play effectively. If Crosby had played well, the USA probably wouldn’t have even had a shot at gold.
This may be a star-studded roster, but each player will have to compete at a high level in order for the team to succeed. At the end of the day, however, this team is built around Crosby. Chris Kunitz will be on the first line with Crosby, and he will have to help Sid bring his A-game. Otherwise, another team may take the chance for back-to-back Olympic glory from the Canadians.
Why they’ll win: The United States of America brings Olympic experience and a hunger to take the gold after a heartbreaking loss to Canada in the gold medal game in 2010. The USA brings depth, just like Canada does, and the run that the Americans had in 2010 was not a fluke.
Why they won’t win: Without seeing this team play together, it looks like David Poile put together this team like he put together the Predators: a gritty, defensive-minded team that will score goals off of defensive opportunities. Snubbing Bobby Ryan from the team looks like a mistake. Ryan may not know how to spell “intensity,” but he is a goal-scorer and the Americans need a lot of that. The U.S. may have a good penalty kill, but they may miss out on 5-on-5 chances.
Editor’s note: This is the second part in a two-part series previewing men’s hockey in Sochi, Russia. Read part one here.