SOCHI 2014: Team Slovenia

SloveniaHockeyLogoThe Slovenian men’s national team is making the Olympics for the first time ever. Although there’s not many players you’ll recognize by name, you might want to get familiar with them now.

Let’s start with a familiar family.

Anze Kopitar currently plays for the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League and he’ll be right at home with Team Slovenia. Hell, the team is coached by his father Matjaz. His brother Gasper, who played junior with the Portland Winterhawks will also be suiting up along side him. It’ll be a one-two Kopitar punch.

371px-Robert_Kristan_17112009Slovenia’s best goaltender Robert Kristan, will likely see his time to shine. He has represented Slovenia on numerous occasions and has accumulated an extensive history of awards. His last IIHF tournament, he boasted a .904 save percentage. He currently plays for KHL Medveščak Zagreb.

Right winger Marcel Rodman spent his junior years with the Peterborough Petes. Drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2001, he never did quite make it up to the big time. He went back and played for numerous Slovenian teams, including representing the national team on several occasions and he currently players for Schwenningen Wild Wings of the German Elite League.

Although most of the names on the Slovenian roster are not well known, it’s no reason you should overlook them. Competing in Group A alongside Russia, The United States and Slovakia, they definitely have their work cut out for them. Between them, Latvia and Switzerland, one team could emerge as the underdog and surprise everyone. (I mean, remember Canada and Belarus? Torino disaster.)

The Sochi Olympics are coming fast and furious. Not much long to wait now folks.

NHL Agrees to Allow Players in 2014 Olympics

After spending the week debating on will they or won’t they, they National Hockey League has ruled in favour of letting it’s players participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics. The joint decision was made after months of talks by the Olympics themselves, the League and the National Hockey League Players Association. It’s a good thing because some players were threatening to go even without the league’s blessing.

sochi-2014-logoThe Olympics, which are being held in Sochi, Russia, will feature a dozen nations competing for gold. These nations include Canada, The United States, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Finland, Norway, Czech Republic, Latvia, Switzerland and Sweden.

The NHL will shut down its season for two weeks in February to allow for the players to complete in the games. The stake is set high for Team Canada as they will be looking for a repeat as gold medal champions. If successful, they will become to the first nation to repeat as champs since the Soviet Union in 1988.

Another shock to the 2014 games is the first time competing of Team Slovenia. Slovenia is slated to be in Group A along Russia, Slovakia and the United States. They definitely have their work cut out for them. Team Austria will be competing in their first Winter Olympic games since 2002.

Now that the ruling has come down to allow for the players to participate in the Olympic Games, the National Hockey League should be releasing its 2013/2014 regular season schedule at some point later today.

SOCHI 2014: Team Czech Republic

Czech Mate!

6929Time to look at one of my personal favourites going into Sochi 2014, Team Czech Republic. The Czechs have been on the podium in the past 3 World Championships and are not going to go down without a fight. In Vancouver they finished a distant 7th but don’t count them out as the IIHF has them ranked 3rd in the world. That’s saying something.

2010 Winter Olympic GamesThey have a depth of talent on the forward front. Lead by veterans Jaromir Jagr and Patrick Elias, look for David Krejci, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Plekanec and Jakub Voracek to all earn their keep.

On the defensive side, Marek Zidlicky and possibly Tomas Kaberle could be your first lining pair. Along with Filip Kuba and Roman Hamrlik, these are two strong defensive pairings. Almost wall like. As long as Kuba doesn’t play like he did in Ottawa.

ondrej-pavelecGoaltending has a wealth of depth as well. Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec will definitely start followed by Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. All 3 have had plenty of experience under pressure situations and well be sure to be rock solid.

One thing’s for sure, don’t count out the Czechs.

SOCHI 2014: Russian Federation

Russia-hockey-logoTime to check out the host nation in our look at the Sochi 2014 Olympic games.

Starting in goaltending, you’d think they’d have a lot to pick from but in reality they don’t. Their best shot is 2013 Vezina Trophy Sergei Bobrovsky (friend of the show….). An incredible young goaltender that still makes me question why the hell the Flyers got rid of him. Speaking of the Flyers, Bobrovsky’s teammate and probably backup is non other then his starting goaltender in Philadephia, Ilya Bryzgalov. Rounding out the goaltenders is Semyon Varlamov. Which isn’t too shabby. And gives me an excuse to use this:

Kovalchuk. Ovechkin. Malkin. Doesn’t that sound like a sweet first line to you? It’s music to my ears for me. Datsyuk. Tarasenko. Yakupov. Sweet jesus, a fire powered second line too?! Anisimov. Radulov. Semin. HOLY DEPTH CITY. I’m not even gonna write any more about them.

Defence defence defence! And they slightly have none of it. Markov, who did absolutely nothing in Montreal last year is in the ranks along with Montreal teammate Emelin, Kulikov, and everyone’s favourite ex-Sen donkey Sergei Gonchar. Oh boy, split the D boys, it’s your only chance.

SOCHI 2014: Team Sweden

6567Next team we take a look at on our road to Sochi is Tre Konor, aka Team Sweden.

Hellooooooo defence. Lidstrom’s retired you say? Ha. Just take a look at this list of defensive depth: Erik Karlsson, Alexander Elder, Niklas Kronwall, Stanley Cup champ Johnny Oduya, Tobias Enstrom, Victor Hedman and there are a few other names that could pop up from now until the roster is finalized. Pffftttt. Who needs Lidstrom?

Forwards: Alright, so everyone knows the Sedins and that should be their backbone. Oh no no no my friends. Don’t forget about Hennrik Zetterberg, Patrick Berglund, Niklas Backstrom, Johan Franzen, Loui Eriksson, Gabriel Landeskog, and if Captain Ottawa decides to keep playing Alfredsson will be a welcome addition.

Don Draper eat your heart out. (Photo: kokopono. flickr.)
Don Draper eat your heart out. (Photo: kokopono. flickr.)

Goaltending isn’t as deep but that doesn’t matter when your star goaltender is Henrik Lundqvist. Tampa Bay’s Anders Lindback could wind up being back up but we all know he won’t see much playing time unless Lundqvist gets hurt.

Either way, Sweden is pretty evenly spread out. It’ll be interesting to see where they end up finishing.

Sochi 2014: Team Finland

Finland_hockey_logoThe Olympics are not far away so it’s time to brush up on our international hockey teams.Team Finland has not been very strong in their national department of defence on the ice. That being said, their dynamite offensive forwards make up for a lot of that.

Although the roster’s won’t be finalized for a while there are a few players that we can speculate on. Two big names that play in their favour are Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. The fire power on these two and veteran sense can come a long way in a tournament like the Olympic games. Also, god bless Teemu.

Koivu’s younger brother Mikko and Valtteri Flippula are also two big strong offensive pieces to their puzzle. And then there’s Olli Jokinen….

How to draw Olli Jokinen.
How to draw Olli Jokinen.

Goaltending. You want to talk about depth. The top 3 goaltenders the Fins have are Pekka Rinne, Antti Niemi and hot flavour of the moment Tuukka Rask. My god the Flyers would invade for that kind of lineup.

Timonen.
Timonen.

The defensive line is old and speaking of the Flyers, leading the way is Kimmo Timonen. Along with Sammi Salo, they both provide leadership and veteran qualities to help out young pups like Sami Lepisto.

Finland is apart of the ‘Big 7’ and won bronze in Vancouver but nobody ever seems to remember that. Well, I do and I’m these guys could shock a few people.