Canada could be the team to beat.
Perhaps the only team with more pressure than Canada to succeed in the men’s hockey tournament is Russia, the host nation. Every loss on the world stage is a slight to the country that boasts hockey as the national pastime. Having taken home the gold medal in the last Olympics—as the host—Canada is of course looking to establish dominance with a repeat.
The Canadian team has been carefully crafted from a pool of acceptable talent with a specific focus in mind. Names like Sidney Crosby, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, Rick Nash, Patrick Marleau and Matt Duchene comprise possibly the strongest unit in the tournament.
The buck doesn’t stop at scoring goals, either. According to comments made to The Canadian Press (via CBC.com), a well-rounded game is just the kind of thing that Hockey Canada general manager Steve Yzerman is looking for.
"I really like our group up front," he said. "We have a whole bunch of guys that can skate, move the puck, are really dangerous offensively but understand how the game's supposed to be played with and without the puck.”
The way the forwards will be expected to play, the defensive unit will have all the help it can handle and then some. Comprised of the best that Canada has to offer, the blue line will be about as porous as a rock and just as solid as well.
Add to that the ability to pitch in offensively, and Hockey Canada becomes quite the foe for all.
Despite taking home a gold medal on the strength of stellar goalkeeping in the final of the 2010 Games, Roberto Luongo may see his starting role dissipate due to injuries and substandard play lowering his stock. Carey Price hasn’t been much better, as his Montreal Canadiens have been struggling just as much.
Keep an eye on this as the biggest chink in Canada’s shiny armor.
Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene offers up a different perspective.
“I don’t see many weaknesses,” said Duchene. “The only weakness I can see is that we don’t play on big ice year round, and it might be a bit of an adjustment, but we have a hell of a team. It’s kind of gold or bust, I guess.”