In the sports world, there is one event that is bigger than any record, award or league championship. It is the Winter Olympics, which take place in Sochi, Russia this year February 7-23. The Olympics is the time for the best athletes of each sport to come together to one location and represent their respective home countries. The NHL will halt play for two weeks to send their best stars to Sochi, such as Sidney Crosby of Canada, Patrick Kane of the U.S. and Alexander Ovechkin of Russia.
The format will stay the same as The Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. The four teams with the best records in group play, which include the group winners and the second place team with the best record, advance to the quarter finals, with the remaining teams playing a qualification game. The groups will be as follows:
Group A: Russia, Slovakia, United States, Slovenia.
Group B: Finland, Canada, Norway, Austria.
Group C: Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Latvia.
For Group play, I see Russia, Canada and Sweden winning their respective groups, with the U.S. doing well enough to get the best second place record. That leaves the rest to play in a qualification game to get to the quarter-finals.
In my predictions for the Qualification games, I have Czech Republic defeating
Latvia; Slovakia defeating Norway; Switzerland defeating Slovenia; and Finland defeating Austria. With these four teams advancing to the quarterfinals, the matchups would be Russia vs Finland, Canada versus Switzerland, Sweden versus Slovakia and the U.S. versus Czech Republic. Out of these teams, I see Russia, Canada, Sweden and the U.S. advancing to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Russia would be playing the U.S. and Canada would be playing Sweden. The scoring ability of Ovechkin, Malkin, Datsyuk and Kovalchuk will be too much for the U.S. team to overcome. Canada vs Sweden will be one of the most intriguing matchups of the entire tournament.
Canada has the most talented team in the entire tournament; however, if there is weakness or a point in Canada that can be exploited, it is their goaltending. On the other hand, I think there is too much firepower on team Canada with Stamkos, Crosby, Nash, Tavares and Toews for Sweden to overcome.
With Canada defeating Sweden and Russia defeating the U.S., Sweden and the U.S. will be sent to the Bronze Medal Game. In the Bronze Medal Game, Sweden and Henrik Lundqvist will slam the door on Zach Parise and the U.S. team. Lundqvist will be on a roll and it will be hard for the U.S. to score enough goals to get past Sweden and steal the Bronze Medal.
In the Gold Medal Game, the two best teams will meet up to see which country has the best skill in hockey. Alex Ovechkin will lead hometeam Russia against a Sidney Crosby captained team Canada. Although I believe that Russia has a slight advantage based on emotion and home ice, I do believe that Canada will be able to bring home the gold based on the amount of all around talent and scoring ability.
The Winter Olympics is one of the most exciting spectacles in sports. When you combine that with the great game of hockey, you are assured to have a great time. I look forward to watching the best in hockey represent their country in the quest for the gold in Sochi.
Dominick Falco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.