Chicago Blackhawks

Pass-Fail Marks for Each Olympic-Bound Chicago Blackhawk in Sochi

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2014

Pass-Fail Marks for Each Olympic-Bound Chicago Blackhawk in Sochi

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    The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the most honored teams in the NHL as far as Olympic participation is concerned.

    The Blackhawks had 10 players named to participate, representing five countries. With the initial honor of getting selected having been absorbed, it's time to look at those players and determine what kind of tournament they need to have for the experience to be successful.

    In this piece, we lay out what it will take to pass or fail the Sochi experience. The "grade" estimations are based on the player's individual skills and talents and his chances for getting a medal at the end of the tournament.

RW Patrick Kane, USA

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    What he needs to pass:

    Player                          Goals                   Assists           Plus-minus       Team results

    Patrick Kane                   4                          2                     plus-4                Bronze medal

     

    Kane is going to be one of the most important players on Team USA. After winning the Conn Smythe Trophy last June as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Kane is expected to be one of the go-to scorers for Team USA. 

    Kane was challenging Sidney Crosby for the NHL scoring lead earlier this season, and Team USA head coach Dan Bylsma needs Kane to put the puck in the net. If Kane is not one of the top scorers in the tournament, it is doubtful that the U.S. will be in the gold medal game in Sochi. 

    Can the U.S. win gold? Yes, but the Americans will have to overcome the host Russian team and the Canadians. Both of those teams will be favored over Team USA. Most Americans would be satisfied to come away with any kind of medal, but after getting to the Finals in 2010, it would be painful to settle for anything less.

RW Marian Hossa, Slovakia

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    What he needs to pass:

    Player                       Goals            Assists           Plus-minus       Team results

    Marian Hossa               2                   3                     plus-2                Bronze medal

     

    The Slovakian team has a chance to be very impressive with Hossa, his brother Marcel and Marian's best friend Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins all playing key roles.

    It's clear that any game against the Slovakians is going to be a challenge for the best hockey-playing countries in the tournament, but that does not mean the Slovakians are going to come out with a medal.

    They simply don't have the depth that some of their opponents have. That will make it tough to compete against the Canadians and Russians for 60 minutes, but a good start could allow them to steal a game or two against the best competition.

    If Hossa can help Chara with the leadership and play consistently, the Slovakian team will be dangerous.

     

C Michal Handzus, Slovakia

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    What he needs to pass:

    Player                            Goals           Assists           Plus-minus       Team results

    Michal Handzus                 0                  3                     plus-1                Bronze medal

    Handzus may have been named to the Slovakian Olympic team, but did he really deserve the honor and opportunity? Handzus has scored four goals and six assists this season, and he has been a big disappointment.

    Handzus has played center next to Patrick Kane for a large part of the season, and he has not set up Kane for one even-strength goal. That's hard to fathom, considering Kane is one of the most explosive scorers in the league.

    Handzus will probably play a role as a face-off man and as a penalty killer. Don't expect him to get more than 10-12 minutes per game, if that much.

D Michal Rozsival, Czech Republic

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    What he needs to pass:

    Player                            Goals          Assists           Plus-minus       Team results

    Michal Rozsival                 1                 4                     plus-3                Medal round

    Michal Rozsival is a strong defenseman with a solid pedigree. He is basically a stay-at-home type, because he takes his responsibilities of protecting the Blackhawks' zone seriously.

    However, he is not without some offensive capabilities. He was solid during the playoff run last year and was credited with four assists. Two of those helpers came in Game 4 in Boston, and that's the game in which the Blackhawks turned the series around.

    Rozsival has a hard shot from the blue line and he is the kind of player that opponents may overlook. He's not a star, but he is steady and can help his team win. 

D Johnny Oduya, Sweden

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    What he needs to pass:

    Player                            Goals          Assists           Plus-minus       Team results

    Johnny Oduya                  1                  4                     plus-4                Silver medal

    The Swedish hockey team has talent, depth, experience and knows how to win big games. They have a real shot at a medal and if neither the Canadians nor the Russians are at their best, the Swedes could take home the gold.

    Oduya will play a key role on the blue line. He is an excellent skater with strong instincts. He knows when to move into the play on the offensive end, and he also knows when to lay back. If he is on his game, he can make big plays when the game is on the line and serve as a difference maker.

    Oduya will occasionally lose his confidence, but that has not been a big issue since the end of the lockout. His consistency should be a big asset for Team Sweden.

D Niklas Hjalmarsson, Sweden

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    What he needs to pass:

    Player                              Goals          Assists           Plus-minus       Team results

    Niklas Hjalmarsson              1                 4                     plus-4                Silver medal

    The other half of the Blackhawks' No. 2 defense pairing will be one of the most important defenseman on the Swedish team. Hjalmarsson is having a sensational season with the Blackhawks, as he has scored four goals and 15 assists to go with his plus-12 rating. Hjalmarsson is also averaging 21:12 minutes of ice time per game.

    Hjalmarsson is a swift skater with first-rate hockey instincts. He has a powerful shot and he is an accurate passer. Like most Swedes, he has patterned his play after all-time great Nicklas Lidstrom.

     

C Marcus Kruger, Sweden

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    What he needs to pass:

    Player                           Goals               Assists           Plus-minus       Team results

    Marcus Kruger                 1                      3                     plus-2                Silver medal

    Kruger will not be expected to take a regular shift on the ice and he is clearly a role-playing forward.

    However, that is a very important role. He is smart and energetic, and he uses his talent well in the face-off circle and will also kill penalties.

    Kruger is winning 56.3 percent of his faceoffs this season, and that means he can be used when the Swedes need to win a crucial draw late in the game. He should also do a solid job when the Swedes need to defend against an opponent's power play.

LW-RW Patrick Sharp, Canada

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    What he needs to pass:

    Player                           Goals              Assists           Plus-minus       Team results

    Patrick Sharp                  3                      2                     plus-3                Gold medal

    Sharp is one of the best goal scorers in the game, and that's why he was named to the Canadian roster. While he deserved strong consideration from the start, Sharp clinched a spot for himself with his outstanding first half of the season.

    He has scored 25 goals and 24 assists through the Blackhawks's first 49 games, and he also has a plus-21 rating. Sharp has a booming slap shot and a devastating wrist shot. He is an excellent skater who moves with confidence. If he gets hot, he is the kind of player who could score a goal per game in this kind of tournament. 

C Jonathan Toews, Canada

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    What he needs to pass:

    Player                           Goals              Assists           Plus-minus       Team results

    Jonathan Toews               2                     5                     plus-5                Gold medal

    There's only one acceptable result for Canada in the Olympics, and that's the gold medal. While they will be playing away from home this time around, no Canadian is going to accept the silver medal (or worse) gracefully. 

    Most Canadians, whether they are players, coaches or fans, believe it is the Canadians' birthright to be the No. 1 hockey team in the world. If that is going to happen, Toews must have an outstanding performance. While he is not an explosive scorer like Sidney Crosby, he is as strong an all-around player as there is in the game.

    There will be significant pressure on Toews to perform in the face-off circle, dominate on the defensive end and score clutch goals. He is capable in all three areas, but he has scored just five goals in his last 24 games through Jan. 14, and he will need to pick up his goal scoring in the Olympics.

D Duncan Keith, Canada

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    What he needs to pass:

    Player                           Goals              Assists           Plus-minus       Team results

    Duncan Keith                   2                     4                     plus-4                Gold medal

    Keith is probably the leading candidate to win the Norris Trophy this season as the NHL's best defenseman. He has scored three goals and 41 assists through 49 games with a plus-18 rating. 

    Head coach Joel Quenneville depends on him heavily, as he is averaging 24:33 minutes of ice time per night.

    Canadian head coach Mike Babcock is going to depend on him nearly as much. Keith needs to be on top of his game if the Canadians are going to meet expectations and find a way to bring home the gold.

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