It’s that time again, the Winter Olympics where the worlds best athletes convene for a few weeks in one location.
Sochi, Russia, is that place in 2014.
Put aside all the security concerns and racism, and this is one of the greatest events in the sport’s world, and what is arguably the biggest medal in the Winter Olympics, the gold medal in hockey.
One medal and 12 teams, now, those are tough odds.
So the questions arises, out of those 12 teams who is going to take home that coveted medal, that all young hockey players dream of, leading their country to the gold.
The answer to me is tough, but at the end of the day, I side with the country I grew up in, the United States of America.
There isn’t a better time to capture gold for the yanks in my mind.
The roster is made up of 13 returning players from Vancouver in 2010 which saw the United States miss gold and settle for silver, and many new faces young and old that have been having stellar years for their respective clubs.
Newly appointed United States captain and Minnesota captain Zach Parise will have to lead the way for the red, white, and blue.
Parise is in the middle of a good year with 35 points in only 42 games played, missing a bulk of time earlier in the season with an injury, but Parise is now firing on all cylinders.
Parise has tallied eight points in the last three games and is looking in top form.
Helping lead the way with the Captain though will undoubtedly fall on the shoulders of two-time Stanley Cup winner Patrick Kane.
Kane is having one of his best seasons ever at the moment, and it couldn’t come at a better time with Sochi right around the corner.
Kane has compiled 63 points in 58 games for the defending Stanley Cup Blackhawks, and that point total is good for fourth in the league behind only elite company.
That’s just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to the American’s talented roster.
The roster also includes big names such as Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan, Dustin Brown, Phil Kessel, and Joe Pavelski on the forwards’ section.
That’s the offense, but the defense and goaltending will be the real reason if the United States claims gold in Russia.
The United States defensive corps features only two returners from Vancouver (Suter- MIN, Orpik- PIT) but that’s far from a disadvantage for the United States.
The blue line also features young talent and experienced NHL veterans.
Last but not least is the United States goaltending trio.
This group to me is the best and deepest in the entire Olympic tournament, it features 2010 Vancouver MVP Ryan Miller, Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick, and franchise Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.
The goalie situation will prove interesting though, as a heated competition has been unraveling all season since the rosters were announced between Miller and Quick.
While Quick has the better stats and a Cup, Miller arguable lead the US squad in 2010 all the way to the gold medal game.
Penguins boss Dan Bylsma who has had immense success in his coaching career will coach the United States.
Bylsma has led the Pens to a Stanley Cup championship as well as five straight playoff appearances and an impressive record of 240-108-27 and the 2011 Jack Adams Award.
So in all those ways the United States might not have the most talented roster but it has the will to win and great goaltending behind them.
If there’s a clear-cut favorite for the hockey gold medal in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, it’s the Canadians.
It’s Canada’s Gold medal to lose.
With a roster stacked with NHL all-stars, Team Canada is a 2-1 favorite to take home gold in Russia this winter.
The ungodly depth at forward plus the mobility on defense plus goaltending that should be good enough to backstop a champion.
Canada’s talent pool is so strong that a team made up of all countrymen left off the roster would be a serious medal contender.
The team going to Sochi will be headlined by Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews and a slew of other elite players at every position.
All-Stars Claude Giroux, Logan Couture and others who impact NHL games on a nightly basis didn’t even make the team.
Crosby cemented his status as a national hero with the gold-medal winning goal in Vancouver and leads the team into Sochi.
Canada has plenty of talent, especially at the forward position.
Sidney Crosby, who scored the gold-medal winner in 2010 against the Americans, leads the team’s high-profile scorers.
The two-time Stanley Cup winner will be joined up front by Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews, as well as other high-profile scorers like Patrice Bergeron, Jamie Benn and Chris Kunitz, among others.
Also, with guys like Rick Nash and a host of other great forwards means that it’s not all on Crosby, and the Canadians can send out line after line capable of lighting up the goal.
All five centers have Olympic and World experience and are all proven winners.
The strength of this team is definitely their ability to get down the middle of the ice.
Canada’s back end is unbelievable in that they can transport the puck up the ice and get it going in a hurry.
Furthermore, with Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, P.K. Subban and others in front of Roberto Luongo it’s not going to be easy to score against the defending champs either.
But there is a weak point for the Canadians. Luongo is the weakest link of team Canada.
The other goalies are a bit better, but goaltending overall is the weakest part of the team.
The last Olympics did not require Canada to have fantastic goaltending to win because of their strong team.
Moreover, Canada’s size on the wings and those players’ ability to skate as well or better than anyone else is sure to be a huge asset for them.
I don’t think it’s even close, but that could just be me being an American attempting to over-inflate Canada’s tires until they burst.
Hopefully, the player that no one is talking about due to him being injured is Steven Stamkos.
The Tampa Bay center recently rejoined the Lightning at practice as he continues to recover from a broken leg.
Stamkos says he’ll be ready to go in Sochi, but Canadian officials have the right to replace him on the roster if they don’t agree.
All in all, this Canada team is stacked from top to bottom and as stated above, this is the Canadians’ Gold Medal to lose.
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