All the talk about Olympic rosters and who will matchup against who is finally over. The best hockey tournament in the World starts on February 12th. Team USA and Team Canada will not open until February 13th. The USA will begin it’s Olympic schedule with Slovakia. Team USA is facing a lot of pressure this time around after their Silver medal performance four years ago. Blackhawks star Patrick Kane stated in an interview earlier this week, “It’s the Gold Medal or Bust”.
Kane who skated on the third line for Team USA earlier this week is the lone Blackhawks representative on Team USA. My speculation is that Kane is on the third line to spread out some of play making forwards. The perceived weakness of this squad is their lack of scoring depth. One of their strengths is goal tending, Team USA might have three of the best goalies in the world. Jonathon Quick will get the start against Slovakia. Quick is the number one goalie but don’t be surprised if Ryan Miller makes a start during the qualifying round. Most experts do not expect Jimmy Howard to see any ice time in this Olympics. That is not a knock on Howard who is a good NHL goalie but Quick and Miller have just been better this season.
Slovakia like the USA is trying to prove their run in Vancouver was no fluke. They made a surprising run to fourth place in the Vancouver Olympics. They defeated power house countries Sweden and Russia in Vancouver. Team Slovakia boasts Blackhawks Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus. They also have former Blackhawks forward Tomas Kopsecky on their roster. Marian Hossa will also be playing with his brother Marcel Hossa. Marcel had played in the NHL/AHL from 2000-2008. Marcel current plays with Dinamo Riga in the KHL. Marcel and Marian were also teammates in 2010.
Slovakia is also making headlines off the ice. Captain Zdeno Chara is known as the most photographed man at the Sochi Games. Chara who is a great players, had this to say about the tournament:
“I don’t think we will ever be among the favorites,” captain Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins told the IIHF website. “We won’t go into the World Championships or into any kind of tournaments as a favorite. But we do have potential and when we play as a team, as we have shown before, we can be a very strong team. But honestly, to predict who will win or even who will be the toughest team to beat is hard.” Quote Courtesy of NHL.com
The USA and Slovakia will play at 7:30am et time on NBCSN.