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Abundance of Physical, Gritty Forwards: The United States will have plenty of speed in Sochi, but the real strength of the forward group will be the physicality, shot-blocking, defensive ability and penalty-killing skill that it will provide the team. Gritty players such as Callahan, Brown, Backes, Kesler and Parise will outwork their opponents and win physical battles in all three zones.
Playing a heavy game was a perfect system for the Americans in Vancouver, and even though the ice surface will be larger in Sochi, there's no reason for head coach Dan Bylsma to not emphasize a game plan with the proper amount of grit and truculence.
Deep and Talented Group of Goalies: The United States has more talent and depth between the pipes than every other medal contender except Finland. Quick gives the Americans a goaltender who can completely shutdown a high-powered offense from Canada or Russia while also making clutch shootout saves if that option is needed to find a winner.
If Quick gets hurt, Team USA will have two quality backups capable of leading the squad to a medal. Very few nations have that level of depth. The primary reason why the Americans are one of the top gold-medal contenders is because of their superior goaltending.
Lack of Elite Talent at Center: The United States' depth and amount of elite talent at center is far less than that of other top medal contenders such as Canada and Russia.
Kesler is the team's only No. 1 center expected to make the roster, but his durability (he's missed 36 games over the last two years) is a concern heading into Sochi. If he's unable to play at the Olympics, Bylsma may have to play an inexperienced forward such as Alex Galchenyuk on the fourth line.
Team USA will be counting on someone like Stastny to impress the coaching staff during the early part of the 2013-14 NHL season and earn a spot on the final roster to bolster the team's depth down the middle.
Youth and Inexperience on the Blue Line: The United States will have plenty of offensive skill on the blue line, but its lack of Olympic experience and the youth of a few players are concerns.
Several players expected to make the 25-man roster—including Yandle, Shattenkirk, Bogosian and McDonagh—all have zero experience on the Olympic stage. In fact, the only defesemen on my projected final roster that were also on the 2010 team are Suter, Orpik and Johnson.
This shortage of experience on the blue will make the leadership roles of veterans such as Orpik and Suter very important.