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What will be the must-watch game of the group stage?
The only matchup between likely gold medalists in the group stage is between USA and the host nation on February 15. The vaunted American defense will be tested against elite scoring lines that are without a doubt superior, while the question of Russia's defensive depth will be examined against a team with four strong scoring lines.
Which team will be the biggest surprise?
While the general consensus is that there are only seven true medal contenders, a case is gradually being made for an eighth. Switzerland has solid goaltending, an NHL-caliber blue line and could be only a lucky break or a fluke upset away from the bronze-medal game.
Which team will be the biggest disappointment?
The Czech Republic made some truly curious roster decisions, including leaving an entire top-six scoring line at home, along with their best defensive blue liner, Jan Hejda. Throw in one of the NHL's least effective starting goalies in Ondrej Pavelec, and you have a recipe for a third seventh-place finish in the past four Olympic tournaments.
Which superstar will flop?
Finland is felt to have the edge in goaltending, but Tuukka Rask's recent play calls that into question.
In his last 13 starts he's been chased and/or allowed at least five goals five times, despite Boston's excellent defense. This nation has only failed to medal twice since 1984, and their success has often been thanks to mind-blowing goaltending by netminders like 2006 Olympic MVP Antero Niittymaki. Expectations are so high on Rask that it almost seems impossible to avoid coming up short.
Which goaltender will be most impressive?
Very few factors influence the outcome of a short series of games more than goaltending, and yet even fewer are so unpredictable. Obviously the goalies on the more inferior teams will have more opportunity to shine, like Slovakia's Jaroslav Halak or Switzerland's Jonas Hiller.
That being said, a good rule of thumb is always to select the goalie in the tournament with the longest track record of elite play. That's Sweden's Henrik Lundqvist.
Who will be the tournament MVP?
In a tournament that pits the best against the best, there's only a single player that stands out by even a slim margin, and that's Canada's Sidney Crosby. He's a generational talent who is in his prime and playing for a monster team.
The medal winners will be…
In a three-game, single-elimination tournament, practically any outcome is possible. Even a team that finds themselves a 2-1 underdog for all three games has at least an 18.5 percent chance of winning a medal. Likewise a 2-1 favorite has the same chance of skating home with nothing.
That being said, the most likely outcome is probably Canada beating either USA or Sweden for the gold, while the other knocks off Russia for the bronze.