Defending gold-medal winner Canada, silver-medalist United States and homestanding Russia could very well wind up side-by-side at the medal ceremony in Men’s Olympic Hockey. Canada is the overwhelming favorite at 2/1 odds, but there are other contenders who will challenge for the hardware. Since we are in Sochi, Russia, failing to medal at home in 2014 will be viewed as something close to a disaster for the Russians. The bigger ice surface always presents challenges for North American players and it will dictate how teams fare because that lack of speed will get exposed on the bigger ice. The teams with the faster skaters are not to be overlooked. Below is my preview of the Top 3 countries along with a sleeper pick who could steal a spot on the podium. The Olympics get started this Friday and Bovada has all your 2014 Olympic Betting Odds.
For team Russia the talent is definitely there to challenge for gold, particularly at forward. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are clearly two of the best in the world, and Pavel Datsyuk isn’t far behind. Semyon Varlamov is the likely choice to start in goal and can be a brick wall at times. Sergei Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets goalie has been on fire as the Olympics near. He’ll likely start as Varlamov’s backup, but if the Avalanche star falters, Bobrovsky seems more than ready. Illya Kovalchuck disappointed some U.S. fans when he bailed on the Devils and signed with SKA St. Petersburg in Russia’s KHL. He may get an opportunity to do it again if the nations meet on the Sochi ice.
When you look at the overwhelming talent available to Canadian coach Mike Babcock, it seems the odds are good we’ll hear “Oh, Canada” at the medal ceremony once again. Crosby cemented his status as a national hero with the gold-medal winning goal in Vancouver and leads the team into Sochi. But Nash, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, the Islanders’ John Tavares and a host of other great forwards mean it’s not all on Crosby and the Canadians can send out line after line capable of lighting up the goal. With Doughty, Keith, PK Subban and others in front of Luongo it’s not going to be easy to score against the defending champs either.
Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos 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. Reguardless they have the talent to win gold without him, he’s just a bonus if he’s good to go.
The Swedes are plagued by injuries, leaving question marks on the roster, but they are set in goal with Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist and Henrik Zetterberg leads a potentially dangerous group of forwards who could find the medal stand. Sweden has replaced an injured Detroit Red Wings forward with a healthy one. Gustav Nyquist was given a spot on the roster on Monday to replace Johan Franzen. The 24-year-old Nyquist has been a key player lately for the Red Wings and that likely helped him earn a spot for the Sochi Games. Marcus Johansson of the Washington Capitals and Patrick Hornqvist of the Nashville Predators, both of whom have more points than Nyquist this season, were also potential candidates to play for the Swedes. Franzen was ruled out to play in Russia because of a concussion.
After taking Canada to the brink four years ago, the Americans still boast a lot of talent. Patrick Kane is always among the NHL points leaders and was clutch in last year’s Stanley Cup win for the Blackhawks as well as the Vancouver Games. Ryan Miller, the MVP of the 2010 U.S. team, returns to mind the net and Ryan Suter is among the NHL’s best defenders. Team USA will get a big boost if Suter’s Minnesota Wild teammate Zach Parise returns from injury in time to wear the red, white and blue.
2014 Olympic Ice Hockey – Mens Gold Medal Odds:
Canada – 2/1
Russia – 9/4
Sweden – 9/2
USA – 6/1
Finland – 11/1
Czech Republic – 12/1
Switzerland – 33/1
Slovakia – 40/1
Norway – 200/1
Latvia – 400/1
Austria – 1000/1
Slovenia – 1000/1
2014 Olympic Ice Hockey
When: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Pick: Russia – 9/4
The Bottom Line: Canada is always the favorite, but with the Russians on home ice they are, and will be, favored to win gold. They are stacked will guys the can produce goals at a rapid pace. They must finish in the top of their group to avoid playing better countries. We recommend you sign up with Bovada to receive a 10% sign up bonus heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics.