Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Olympics!!!!

It's my favorite time of the four year cycle - the Winter Olympics. I love every single sport that competes and I can (and do) watch hours and hours of Olympic programming.

Of course, my favorite sport of the Olympics is ice hockey (couldn't see that one coming, could ya?), and conveniently I did a hockey preview for my university's radio sports show (don't know what I'm talking about? Follow my Twitter). So, because I am a fervent supporter of recycling, below are the notes for my hockey preview which probably comes across better over-the-air, so just imagine a psychotic girl's voice rapidly reading the points.

The Olympics started this Friday and seeing Wayne Gretzky, the Great One, light the Olympic cauldron proved one thing: Hockey will be prevalent at these Games, if only due to the fact that they are being held in the hockey-mad country north of our border.

- Russia and Canada are the teams to beat, Russia barely edging out Canada for the top of the pre-Olympic ratings

- Russia is a wicked team offensively this year. Don't believe me? Imagine a line with Alexander Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, and Evgeni Malkin followed by Sergei Fedorov, Alex Semin, and Ilya Kovulchuk. That's an average of 54 NHL points per person per line. And those are only the NHL players, Russia supplementing their roster with top players from the KHL, the Russian top league
  • Their goaltending is also a positive, as both Ilya Bryzgalov and Evgeni Nabokov are statistically among the top 10 goaltenders this year.
  • Perhaps their weak point is their defense, if you can call a defensive pairing of Sergei Gonchar and Andrei Markov a weak point.
  • Throw in the fact that Russia has a relatively easy Group, having only the Czech Republic as true competition, and I would not be surprised if we are seeing the Russians in the medal game
- Canada is looking to improve on their disappointing 7th place finish in 2006 and return to the gold of 2002. This could easily be the team to achieve that.
  • Canada has an extremely potent team this year. Expect excellent goaltending from Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo, solid defense led by Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger and an offense led by Sidney Crosby. I could go through and name all of their star power on the team, but I think I'd be here for another twenty minutes. Canada probably could have fielded two top notch teams for this tournament, so I would not expect the best of the best to disappoint, especially with a home-ice advantage
- The defending gold medal winning Swedish team is ranked third this year, probably the only time the reigning best in the world could be considered as flying under the radar
  • 13 players return from the 2006 team, among those include the 36-year old Peter Forsberg who has been sidelined from the NHL with various foot injuries. Add in a 39-year old Nik Lidstrom and I wonder if this team has a little too much experience and perhaps peaked in Torino. Nevertheless, Team Sweden should not be overlooked in this Olympics
- Squeaking in at four on the pre-Olympic rankings is Team Finland, coming off of a Cinderella run to the silver medal at the last Games. Finland has never won gold at the Olympics, and while their team has good goaltending with Nicolas Backstrom and, I'm not sure their corps of forwards can keep up with those of Canada and Russia.

- The question in these great United States always is "Is this the year we follow up the Miracle on Ice?". My prediction is, unfortunately not this year.
  • The USA is ranked fifth
  • A younger team than normal for the US - only three players have previous Olympic experience - 13 of the players are under 25
  • I think the strength in the US team lies in their goaltending - Ryan Miller is top of the league in save percentage, while the young Jonathan Quick is tied for the top in number of wins
  • While the US has good forwards, it doesn't have the quite the starpower of the other teams, and I feel that this team does not have enough pure firepower to combat the Canadian and Russian teams. Add in two injuries already on defense and this team may have trouble keeping up.

The best chance for the US to win a hockey medal may lie with the US Women's Hockey team. They led the pre-Olympic standings and it looks like this year it will come between the US and Canadian teams for gold, as the other teams don't quite pack the same punch - Yesterday Canada beat Slovakia by a tally of 18-0, and today the US beat China 12-1.

So, to recap, Russia and Canada are the teams to watch out for, the US is in a rebuilding year of sorts - but who knows? There's nothing more the world loves than a good underdog story.

The first men's game is on TODAY at 3pm as the USA takes on Switzerland. Watch it!

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