The World Junior Championship starts tomorrow, but today's release of the Russian Olympic roster has me thinking about the real show that's just around the corner in Vancouver.
Naturally, I feel that it's my duty to add my own two cents to the mix of Olympic hockey predictions. So if going for a quick wheel with the boys at the local pond or rink is your idea of winter fun then you're in for a treat as I breakdown the outlook for this year's Olympic hockey tournament.
Gold Medal: Canada — No one can match Canada in terms of goaltending and defensemen and that goes a long way in a single elimination playoff format. Oh yeah, Sidney Crosby and the rest of their forwards aren't too bad either.
Silver Medal: Sweden — The Rangers would have a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup every year if they let Henrik Lundqvist wear his team Sweden jersey all year long. Also, don't forget that half the Swedes will be well rested since they've been dogging it all year in Detroit.
Bronze Medal : USA — On the positive side, Ryan Miller is on fire this year (to the extent that last year's Vezina trophy winner will be riding the pine) and the young D-corps has some solid potential. On the downside, David Booth was going to be counted on as one of the top scorers before Mike Richards scrambled his eggs.
Fourth Place: Russia — In case you haven't heard, the Russians are one the most intimidating offensive juggernauts in recent memory and number one goalie Evgeni Nabokov is no slouch either. However, their defensemen remind me more of the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators than Olympic champions.
Fifth Place: Czech Republic — It's a close call between the Czechs and Finland but the Czech's dynamic group of forwards (which includes the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, et al.) set them apart.
Sixth Place: Finland — Miikka Kiprusoff is a good start in net, but I don't think they have the players elsewhere to compete with the top guns.
Seventh Place: Slovakia — When you're trying to compete in the Olympics it's not a good thing to find yourself counting on the likes of Jaroslav Halak or Peter Budaj to keep you in games.
Eighth Place: Belarus — It's too bad they don't get to shoot on Tommy Salo anymore.
Ninth Place: Switzerland — It takes more than two players to carry a team in the Olympics (especially when one of those is a goalie with only one year of NHL experience).