In 1980, the world witnessed one of the biggest upsets in sports history when the USA men’s hockey team defeated the Soviets in the Olympics. It became known as the “Miracle on Ice” when Herb Brooks led his team whom no one believed could pull it off as they took the gold. Well, men’s hockey is about to begin in Sochi and on paper, it looks as though Team Canada is in line to win it hands down here in 2014.
Not so fast. Sure, this team has the best depth up and down their lineup including the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby. But when I took a close look at it, we may be up for a surprise similar to that in 1980.
Here is where I rank my teams from bronze to gold in this year’s Olympics.
Bronze Medal: Sweden
I really like this team, especially their defense they have going into this tournament. The blueline is filled with both offensive defensemen along with a couple stay-at-home players who will make it frustrating for offensive powerhouses like Canada and Russia.
Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings will lead the pack at this position along with Oliver Ekman-Larson, Johnny Oduya, Erik Karlsson, Alex Edler and Henrik Tallinder (who may be the most sought-after defenseman at the NHL trade deadline).
Even if this strong group of defensemen allow an odd-man rush here and there, they have one of the best goaltenders in the game over the last six years, Henrik Lundqvist. He will be backed up by Jonas Gustavsson and Jhonas Enroth, although King Henrik may not need a lot of help.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg may be skating with current teammate Daniel Alfredsson who would love nothing more than to win the gold in his last chance to do so at the age of 41. However, the one thing that could hold Sweden in gaining more than bronze is Henrik Sedin sitting out of the Olympics due to injury. Players like Alex Steen and Gabriel Landenskog will be called upon to pick up the slack on the score sheet.
Ryan Getzlaf is penciled in to be the fourth-line center… that is disgusting. There are a few select players who will truly stand out for this team of juggernauts, so grab a pen.
Crosby of course is going to do his thing, but Martin St. Louis will be looking to have a big tournament. He probably should have been named to the team at first, but the injury to Steven Stamkos brought St. Louis onto the roster as a replacement. Look for him to put up big points seeing how he will most likely skate with Crosby and Chris Kunitz.
Another player to be on the lookout for is Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks. This guy is a gamer and probably the most overlooked player on this roster. With the exception of last year’s shortened season, Sharp has recorded at least 20 goals every season since 2006-07. He is one of the most consistent players in the NHL over the last several years.
The only thing I really see wrong with this team is their goaltending. Roberto Luongo is backing into Sochi with his Vancouver Canucks losing seven in a row. He is not playing well at this juncture and the big question will be- can Carey Price deal with the pressure? My answer is no. Price is one of the most overrated players in sports and he is certainly no Martin Brodeur.
Gold: United States
Here are the cold hard facts. Team USA has the best goaltending out of any other country. Anyone who watches the game today will tell you that defense and goaltending wins championships and thus, it will be great enough for Dan Bylsma to bring home the gold.
Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has been named the starter for the opener Thursday morning in Sochi as they take on Slovakia. Even if he decides to go to his backup Saturday, Ryan Miller is more than ready. He was money for USA in Vancouver in the 2010 Olympics. Despite giving up the overtime goal to Crosby in the finals, Miller resembled the great Jimmy Craig facing numerous shots and keeping his team in the game.
People are saying Canada has too many weapons on offense, but those are forgetting the talent on Bylsma’s roster. They have potent scorers in Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie and Ryan Kesler. They have great two-way players like David Backes and Ryan Callahan. And they have tough, physical and in-your-face forwards like Dustin Brown, Joe Pavelski and James van Riemsdyk.
Honestly, this team has it all. It is hard to call this an upset, but then again if you look at it on paper, jaws will drop when USA defeats Canada in the finals.