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First, hosting the Olympics can be a lot more difficult than playing in another nation. There are more distractions and pressure, plus hosts do not earn the tangible home-ice advantage of last line change or last stick down on faceoffs. Higher-performing teams may technically be home teams for games.
Additionally, everyone knows the casual fan overvalues scoring. Team Russia will score like probably no other team, having elite offensive skaters at forward and on the blue line. Their first line will almost certainly be the most dangerous one in the world on the attack.
Finally, the casual fan puts too much emphasis on is the top line. Anyone can see Team Russia's first line is extraordinary—even better than Team Canada’s. But what gets one through an entire Olympics—six to seven games in two weeks—is depth.
1. Alex Ovechkin-Evgeni Malkin-Alexander Semin, Andrei Markov- Fedor Tyutin
2. Alexei Kovalev-Pavel Datsyuk-Ilya Kovalchuk, Sergei Gonchar-Anton Volchenkov
3. Nikolai Kulemin-Artem Anisimov-Nail Yakupov, Nikita Nikitin-Slava Voynov (Ilya Nikulin)
4. Alexander Radulov-Andrei Loktionov-Vladimir Tarasenko (Viktor Tikhonov), with Sergei Bobrovsky, Evgeni Nabokov and Semyon Varlamov in net.
Team Russia will likely have players not quite good enough to be in the NHL picked for the team, and fourth-line/third-pair players in those roles for them. That being said, they have too much scoring ability to beat without winning the battle in net. Only they have elite talent there, too.
They can go with their top goalie of the last two Olympics who just brought the New York Islanders back to the playoffs for the first time in five years. They also could choose the 2013 Vezina Trophy winner who brought his Columbus Blue Jackets to the playoffs for the second time ever. Or they go with a guy who beats them both.
Still, over the two weeks they will have to shorten their benches enough times to make those key players a little less effective in the medal games. That, coupled with the pressure, results in a tough loss to the United States in the semifinal game.