Olympic Hockey 2014: Gold-Medal Odds for Every Semifinalist
Canada survived a scare against Latvia, while the U.S. is pummeling opponents. The Swedes had the easiest path to the semifinal, as Nordic neighbor Finland fought its way into the final four by ousting the host Russians.
The semifinals are set, with Sweden and Finland squaring off on one side and Canada meeting the U.S. in a rematch of the 2010 gold-medal game on the other.
Who is the favorite to take home gold in Sochi? Read on to find out the odds of each team finishing on top.
Best asset: Team chemistry
The U.S. doesn't have the flashiest roster, although every member of the team is no slouch in the NHL. It's not as deep on defense as Team Canada or as disciplined as Team Finland. But what the U.S. has is an obvious team chemistry, from defensive pairings to the forward lines—which have remained essentially the same since the puck dropped on its first game of the tournament.
Bringing back many of the same players we saw in Vancouver at the 2010 Games and reuniting some forward combinations while adding newcomers who play together successfully in the NHL—like Toronto Maple Leafs stars Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk—has been magical for the U.S.
Potential downfall: Overconfidence
Things have appeared relatively easy for the U.S.—T.J. Oshie's shootout heroics against Russia notwithstanding—and if the players allow themselves to believe no one can touch them, they could find themselves in the difficult position of crumbling when things get tough or there's a bad bounce.
Who are we kidding? These guys are definitely the favorites now.
Gold-medal odds: 3-2
Best asset: Star power
You hear the same thing every four years: Team Canada could ice two teams and have both win medals. It's probably a bit of a stretch, but there's no question the Canadian team has the most impressive list of NHL stars on its roster. Now, they just have to hope that those stars rise to the occasion in the semifinal game against the U.S. in a rematch of the gold-medal contest at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Potential downfall: Team chemistry
It's hard to believe that one of the biggest storylines for Team Canada in the tournament is how hard it is to find linemates for Sidney Crosby—arguably the most talented player in the world. Head coach Mike Babcock has tinkered with the lines all tournament, and some wonder if the constant shifting is the best thing for the team's unity and ability to develop chemistry on the ice. The nail-biting quarterfinal game against Latvia did nothing to dispel that.
Gold-medal odds: 5-2
Best asset: Henrik Lundqvist
As impressive as Sweden's forwards and defensemen have been throughout the tournament—especially blue-liner Erik Karlsson—its goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, has been the team's MVP in the tournament. He's played and won every game, with two shutouts, a .949 save percentage and 1.25 goals-against average.
Potential downfall: Untested offense
Sweden is the only team that has won every game in regulation time, but it hasn't been tested as much as the other semifinalists. The Swedes were in the weakest group with the Swiss, Latvians and Czechs, and they easily dispatched Slovakia in the quarterfinals. Thanks to Karlsson, who is second in tournament scoring with seven points in four games, the goals have been coming despite the absence of marquee players Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin; however, the Swedes have yet to face one of the favorites.
Gold-medal odds: 5-1
Best asset: Commitment to a system
The Finns aren't flashy, overly speedy or even all that exceptional offensively. Yet, they somehow find ways to score timely goals and shut down teams much more talented—on paper—than themselves. Finland always plays strong in international competitions, regardless of the year. Despite not winning gold, it's the only country to earn a medal in every men's hockey tournament at the Olympics since NHLers began to participate in 1994. The reason for the consistency is a dedication to playing the same way—physical, grinding, defensive and opportunistic.
Potential downfall: The penalty kill
Although Finland has taken the fewest penalties in the tournament, it has also performed the poorest when with a man down, allowing three goals on four short-handed situations. Even one or two penalties could sway momentum in Finland's opponents' favor, putting a lot of pressure on goaltender Tuukka Rask to make sure that statistic gets turned around the rest of the way.
Gold-medal odds: 6-1