When it comes to hockey, no country will experience more pressure than Canada to succeed.
The men and women are expected as a whole to be victorious.
The men’s team has been scrutinized for months by the media, and the talk of who was going to be on Team Canada was the primary discussion by people at bars throughout the entire country in the fall.
When the team was announced in late December, Steve Yzerman, Canada’s Executive Director, was critiqued more in his new position than at any time when he played the game for the Detroit Red Wings over a 22-year Hall of Fame career.
I may show some national patriotism, but I believe Canada will win gold in men’s and women’s hockey. In the men’s game, I like Canada’s defence– even without Norris Trophy candidate Mike Green. Dan Boyle, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith will bring stability on the power play. Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger bring leadership, and Brent Seabrook and Drew Doughty bring youthful enthusiasm and experience beyond their years. With a defense like that, goalie Martin Brodeur should be very comfortable.
Russia will battle Canada because of their offensive depth. Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, Datsyuk, Malkin, Semin. But what they have on offense, they lack on defense. There will be a lot of pressure on Fedor Tyutin, Denis Grebeshkov and Anton Volchenkov to step up to the plate and help Sergei Gonchar and Andrei Markov on defense.
The Americans are my darkhorse and my pick for bronze. Ryan Miller has been great for the Sabres while he has posted lights out numbers. Offensively, gone are the likes of Guerin, Tkachuk, Weight and Modano and in are the likes of Dustin Brown, Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, Patrick Kane and Bobby Ryan. This is a new wave of Americans who have great speed throughout the lineup, and good enough to get on the podium.
For the women, it will be a battle between Canada and the United States for gold. Canada has momentum, but the Americans are coming on strong. The reason I like Canada is because I think their line of Hefford-Agosta-Ouellette is the best in the world, and were dominant in the pre-series games against Team USA. If the Americans become victorious, it will be because of head coach Mark Johnson’s ability to match the right line combinations and shut Team Canada down. Either way, it will be a Canada/US final unless a major upset occurs as it did in Torino when Sweden shocked the Americans in the semi-finals. Just don’t expect it to happen again.
Finland will also play Sweden for the bronze medal in a tightly contested matchup. I like the Finns to squeak by in a defensive battle. Finland beat Sweden 4-1 to win the bronze medal at the World Championships last year on Finnish soil. Even though Finnish goalie Noora Raty only posted a save percentage of .886 and a goals against average of 3.51, Finland has the better team defense, led by Jenni Hiirikoski, the top defenceman at the 2009 Women’s World Hockey Championship.
Men’s Hockey– GOLD– Canada, SILVER– Russia, BRONZE– United States
Women’s Hockey– GOLD– Canada, SILVER– United States, BRONZE– Finland.