Winners and Losers of the Group Stage of Men's Olympic Hockey

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2014

Winners and Losers of the Group Stage of Men's Olympic Hockey

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The NHL and the Olympics make beautiful music together. Since the world's best league has released its players for the tournament, each event has been memorable.

    The Sochi Olympics are creating incredible stories. From the magic of T.J. Oshie in the shootout to the train wreck coaching for the Czech Republic, the 2014 Olympics have supplied exceptional stories for hockey fans.

    Here are the men's hockey winners and losers at these Olympic Games.

Loser: Finland's Injury List

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    RUDI BLAHA/Associated Press

    Finland was considered a medal long shot before the Olympics. Its chances have been steadily decreasing over the last few weeks due to injury.

    Things are getting worse. As Heather Loney from Global News reports, center Aleksander Barkov was unavailable for the game against Canada Sunday. She tells us Barkov will miss the rest of the tournament with a lower-body injury.

    The Finns were already without stars Saku Koivu, Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula. Teemu Selanne has endured injury problems during the Olympics. The loss of another player in Barkov compounds the problem for Finland.

    It also makes its effort against Canada even more impressive.

Winner: Jonas Hiller, Switzerland

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    Bruce Bennett/Associated Press

    Every goalie begins a game with the idea to stop everything in sight. Jonas Hiller may be on the way to actually doing it.

    As Extra Skater indicates, Switzerland has yet to be scored on during Hiller's time in net. The only goal against Switzerland occurred when Reto Berra got the start.

    The Swiss style of hockey is to defend first, then look for offense. The biggest factor in their Olympic hopes wears goalie pads and has yet to be beaten in Sochi.

Loser: Alois Hadamczik, Czech Republic

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Alois Hadamczik is under fire after a poor performance by the Czech Republic at the Olympic Games. The coach made several curious decisions during the tournament, including his goaltending choices early on.

    Hadamczik chose to pass over NHL starter Ondrej Pavelec early in the week. Then on Saturday, he ignored the Winnipeg Jets player during the 1-0 loss against Switzerland.

    With time winding down, Pavelec tried to get Hadamczik's attention for the call to the bench to add an extra attacker. Pavelec finally took matters into his own hands and skated off the ice after several seconds had wound off the clock.

    There are many strategies in hockey, but this play suggests Hadamczik may have been a poor choice for head coach of the Czech Republic.

Winner: Phil Kessel, Team USA

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Phil Kessel continued his torrid scoring pace with an exceptional performance against Slovenia Sunday. He leads the Olympics in scoring and has dominated the preliminary round.

    His three goals came on just four shots and only 12:56 of playing time.

    Kessel's dominance has been a key story for Team USA, which looks poised for a deep run into the medal round this week.

Loser: Team Sweden

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Henrik Zetterberg was to be a key member of the Swedish effort to win the gold medal in Sochi. Injury has taken away his Olympics and will impact his country's chances of winning it all.

    As Greg Beacham from the Associated Press reports, Zetterberg has a herniated disc and was playing through pain. His tournament is over.

    Every team faces injury issues, but the importance of Zetterberg to Sweden was massive. If Sweden doesn't win the gold medal, his injury will be remembered as a major factor.

Winner: Drew Doughty, Canada

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Drew Doughty is enjoying a strong Olympics so far, reflected by his two-goal performance against Finland Sunday.

    He's been an offensive force at even strength. Doughty has scored three of Canada's five-on-five goals so far in the tournament.

    Team Canada has had a difficult time getting goals from its forwards. Doughty is helping with his big shot from the point. If goals continue to be scarce, his prominence on the offensive side will increase.

Loser: Mike Babcock, Canada

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Team Canada is expected to medal in the Olympic competition, but coach Mike Babcock's roster decisions are increasing the degree of difficulty.

    On a team with so much talent, there's always going to be controversy. However, the decision to demote both Martin St. Louis and P.K. Subban to part-time status is a questionable one. Team Canada is also mixing up lines in an effort to find chemistry. At this point the lines and pairings should be set.

    These Olympics are long on safe players and short on game-breakers. Sunday's game against Finland is an excellent example of what happens when teams play it safe. Holding back St. Louis and Subban against the Finns was an opportunity missed for Canada.

    If the roster choices remain rigid, it has the potential to be a major story should Canada fail to win.

Winner: Erik Karlsson, Sweden

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Erik Karlsson is an impact defenseman in the NHL. The big ice in Sochi is giving him an opportunity to create even more. The results have been devastating to opponents.

    He is among the leaders in the Olympic scoring race. Sweden won all three of its preliminary-round games, and the brilliant Ottawa Senator defender was front and center in each win.

    Karlsson is a famous NHL player and already owns a James Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman. The open ice in Sochi is giving him an opportunity to showcase his enormous talents.

Loser: Alexander Radulov, Team Russia

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Alexander Radulov is a skilled forward for the Russians at these Olympics. Radulov has a reputation of lacking discipline, and that was on display during the Saturday game against Team USA.

    Twice during the game, Radulov took bad penalties, and twice the Americans scored on the ensuing power play. In a close game like the instant classic between Russia and Team USA, the penalties made the difference.

    The reaction was immediate. As Kevin Allen detailed in USA Today, Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov reacted to Radulov's performance by saying that a healthy scratch was an option. A selfish day and two selfish plays by Radulov can't be repeated as the tournament games increase in importance.

    As if on cue, Radulov found redemption Sunday in the shootout against the Slovaks. His goal sealed an important victory for the Russians.

Winner: T.J. Oshie, Team USA

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Do you believe in miracles? How about incredible moments that blow up Twitter? St. Louis Blues winger T.J. Oshie played hero in the shootout Saturday for Team USA against Russia.

    Oshie took six shootout attempts and scored four times, the final tally putting the game in the record books in favor of the Americans. This set off a major Twitter event detailed by NHL.com that resulted in the official White House Twitter feed sounding off about it.

    This brings us to an obvious question: What will Oshie do for an encore in the medal round?