Pass-Fail Marks for Each Olympic-Bound Philadelphia Flyer in Sochi
All told, 150 National Hockey League players were chosen to represent their respective countries in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
In Philadelphia, five skaters (although not captain and the team's leading scorer Claude Giroux) are bound for Sochi.
Here's a look at the pass-fail marks for each of those players when the games commence in just under four weeks.
Andrej Meszaros, Slovakia
PASS: One of five NHL defenders named to Slovakia's roster, Meszaros will be called upon to log big-time minutes on the team's blue line. With Lubomir Visnovsky's health (concussion) in question, he could even find himself on the squad's defensive pair alongside Zdeno Chara.
Regardless of where he lands on the depth chart, the three-time Olympian will need to play a 200-foot game and contribute offensively as he's done in recent weeks with Philadelphia (five points in five January games).
A veteran Olympian, Meszaros will come over the boards in all situations and will be of particular importance on the power play trying to feed the puck to Slovakian playmakers like Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa.
FAIL: The 28-year-old defenseman has battled injuries recently, missing 77 games over the last three seasons. If he doesn't play a smart game to keep his 6'2", 220-pound frame healthy he'll be of little use to Team Slovakia.
What's more, beyond Meszaros, Chara and Visnovsky, there's little Olympic experience on Slovakia's back end. As such, Meszaros must be an example-setter by posting a plus or better rating overall.
Michael Raffl, Austria
PASS: One of just three current NHLers on Austria's roster, Raffl will be given plenty of opportunities to be a difference-maker in Sochi.
He likely won't land on the team's first line, which features Michael Grabner and Austria's lone superstar Thomas Vanek, but the 25-year-old forward should secure a spot on Austria's second line and will likely be given power-play minutes as well.
Austria isn't being given much of a chance against hockey's international elite, but if Raffl could chip in a few points here and there as he's done at the NHL level (12 points in 32 games this season), it would go a long way toward keeping the Austrians respectable.
FAIL: It will be quite the task for Team Austria to keep up with the likes of Canada, Russia and the United States.
With so few NHL-caliber players, Raffl will have to have some sort of impact to keep the Austrians afloat. If he can't, Austria stands to fall behind early and often in the tournament.
Finally, Raffl's been relatively disciplined with the Flyers (just 12 penalty minutes in 32 games) and will need to carry that over to the larger ice surface.
Mark Streit, Switzerland
PASS: Switzerland may only have eight current NHLers on its roster, but four of those can be found on the back end. And Streit is the most experienced of the bunch, having patrolled the Swiss blue line during the 2006 Turin Olympics and captaining the squad during the 2010 Vancouver Games.
A puck-moving blueliner with above-average feet on the back end, Streit must be prepared to log huge minutes for Switzerland in all situations. What's more, he will need to provide veteran leadership and set the example for young Swiss defenders like Roman Josi and Philippe Furer.
Finally, even though he's a defender, the 36-year-old Streit needs to find a way to chip in offensively. He's managed four goals and seven points in 13 prior Olympic outings and must use his smooth skating and offensive instincts to take advantage of the larger international ice surface.
FAIL: Switzerland's roster features only two NHL forwards (Damien Brunner and Nino Neiderreiter), so offense will be tough to come by. Streit managed two goals in both the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics and must find the back of the net somehow in Sochi.
Switzerland's captain last time around, Streit has accumulated only 12 minutes in penalties in 13 prior Olympic contests. That kind of discipline must continue in 2014 as the Swiss can ill afford to have one of their most valuable and experienced members lose minutes to the penalty box.
Kimmo Timonen, Finland
PASS: Now a five-time Olympian, Timonen remains Finland's top defensive option.
With 24 Olympic contests under his belt, he will be looked upon to provide leadership for a Finnish group looking to medal for the third straight time.
At 38 years old, Timonen is still Finland's top two-way defender and will play in virtually every situation. What's more, the 5'10", 195-pound blueliner must use his exceptional hockey sense to not only keep goals off the board for the opposition, but to help produce them for his side.
An even rating won't be good enough for Timonen. He needs to be a plus skater and will need to add to the 11 points already on his Olympic resume.
FAIL: Finland's defense corps is the biggest weakness on a roster with medal aspirations.
Joni Pitkanen, Toni Lydman and Sami Salo are the only other NHL regulars set to suit up for the Finns, which emphasizes just how important Timonen truly is.
The Olympic veteran can't afford to be average. If age catches up with the 38-year-old blueliner, Finland could be in serious trouble.
Physicality isn't usually a huge component of international play, but should Finland get locked in a rough-and-tumble battle with one of the other contenders, Timonen's undersized frame and lack of physicality could be exposed.
Jakub Voracek, Czech Republic
PASS: The Czech Republic roster features 17 current NHLers, but few are as dynamic and explosive as Voracek.
A first-time Olympian, the 24-year-old Voracek should find himself on the team's top line alongside fellow NHL playmakers Milan Michalek and David Krejci.
He's managed double-digit goals in five of his six NHL campaigns and is coming off a career-best 22 goals despite the lockout-shortened 48-game calendar from a season ago. With that, Voracek will be relied upon to convert Czech scoring chances.
He'll receive first-line minutes and should be a part of the Czech Republic's top power-play unit, which should lead to a plethora of scoring opportunities for the dynamic sniper. Voracek will need to play with speed and tenacity and will need to regularly produce offensively if the Czechs are to compete.
FAIL: Quite simply, Voracek must provide some offense for his trip to Sochi to be a success.
He'll likely face the opposition's top defensive pair shift after shift, but should be able to use his above-average skating and dynamic playmaking to take advantage of the larger international ice surface. If he can't, it's likely to be an awfully short tournament for the Czech Republic.
What's more, Voracek should be able to use his speed to generate penalties against the opposition, and from there he needs to be a difference-maker on the power play.
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