One of the easiest teams to look at as a favorite is Russia. Aside from playing in their home country, Russia would be a favorite to win the gold even if it weren’t for their home field advantage. Russia has one of the best and most dangerous offenses out of any team in the Olympics. People like Marian Hossa, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin can score at will, and good goaltenders like Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov can turn games into blowouts quickly. Its defense is not the strongest, but with its offense Russia can make up for it.
The next team to look is the returning gold medalists, team Canada. Canada is one of the most complete teams competing at the Olympics. It has some of the best scorers in Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, some great defenders in Duncan Keith and Shea Weber and great goaltending in Carey Price and Mike Smith. All in all, team Canada really has it all. It certainly isn’t far-fetched to see the Canadians potentially taking the gold home again this year. While the injury to Steven Stamkos may hurt them a little bit, they simply replaced him with another great scorer in Martin St. Louis, showing that even players not originally selected to the team can step in and produce if necessary.
Another team to watch out for is the silver medalists from 2010, team USA. The United States made it to the silver medal game in Vancouver due to amazing goaltending, and it looks like the team will have it again with Johnathan Quick and Ryan Miller. Great goaltending is what is going to get the United States far once again in this year’s Olympic games, because, while it has decent scorers and solid defenders, its offense isn’t as stellar top to bottom as Russia’s and its defense isn’t as good all-around as the Canadians. Players like John Carlson, Justin Faulk, Max Pacioretty and T.J. Oshie might do very well or very poorly, but nobody really knows. The United States has great talent up top, but its third and fourth line talent that is questionable at the moment.
And last, but certainly not least, my pick to actually win the Olympic games this year: team Sweden. Much like Canada, there isn’t a spot on the Swedish roster that is a weak point. Nearly every forward, including Daniel Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Alexander Steen could score on the ice at any given moment. Their defense isn’t anything to scoff at either. Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Erik Karlsson are all Swedish defenseman who can not only play well at the blue line, but also score goals. The Swedes are also fortunate to have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL in Henrik Lundqvist. Behind solid scorers, a stout defense and a tremendous goalie, I see team Sweden taking gold.
Of course this is all speculation. Teams like Finland, Slovakia and even the Czech Republic can surprise us all and make an extraordinary run in this year’s Olympics. But, don’t take my word for it- see for yourself.