Defense Wins Championships: The 10 Best NHL Defensemen At This Year's Winter Olympics
The 2010 Winter Olympics are underway and already we have seen tragedy and triumph.
As the last couple of games get over today, most NHL fans will look to the Olympics next. Instead of watching NHL teams face each other, they will be cheering for their respective countries and everyone will be dreaming that their team takes home the gold.
Like in years past, the favorites are Canada and Russia. Team Sweden comes in as the defending champs though and are in no rush to give up the gold this year.
The first games get underway Tuesday and as much as people like to watch goals scored, the key to this year's Olympics will be defense. As the saying goes defense wins championships and this year will be no exception.
With that said lets take a look at the best defensemen at this years Winter Olympics.
Zdeno Chara- Slovakia
When you are the biggest man to ever play in the NHL, it's safe to say you're going to have an impact every time you're on the ice. Zdeno Chara is no exception.
Chara currently plays for the Boston Bruins in the NHL and is the reigning Norris Trophy winner. He has one of the hardest slapshots in the NHL, winning the title for fastest shot the past three years and is a force to be reckoned with.
Chara's slapshot from the point has helped him score 17 goals in 2007 and 19 in 2008. He is the captain of Slovakia for the Olympics and will have to be on the top of his game if he wants to help them medal.
Scott Niedermayer- Canada
Team Canada is loaded once again and looking to take home the gold this year. They have plenty of good defensemen but their best is Scott Niedermayer.
Niedermayer will be captaining Canada, who he won gold with at the 2002 Winter Olympics. He is in his 18th season in the NHL and plays for the Anaheim Ducks.
Although he is already 36 years old, he has shown no signs of slowing down. This year he has put up five goals and 30 assists but his plus/minus is minus 17.
The Canadian team will all be looking up to Niedermayer for leadership and he will be an integral part if they want to medal this time around.
Chris Pronger- Canada
Chris Pronger is another one of the great players for Team Canada at this year's Winter Olympics. Pronger, who is currently playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, is one of the best defensemen in the game today.
Pronger is in his 16th year in the league and will provide veteran leadership for Team Canada. He was the first defensemen to win league MVP since Bobby Orr did it back in 1972.
Pronger is one of the best hitters in the NHL today and hits just about anything that crosses paths with him. He puts up a good amount of points for a defensemen and will be a major player in Team Canada's push for gold.
Nicklas Lidstrom- Sweden
There might not be a better defensemen in the NHL or at this year's Winter Olympics right now than Nicklas Lidstrom.
Lidstrom, who is the alternate captain this year for Sweden, has been one of the best if not the best defensemen this decade. He has won the Norris Trophy six times this decade alone.
Lidstrom, who plays for the Detroit Red Wings, is playing in his fourth Winter Olympics. In 2006, he helped Sweden take home the gold medal.
Lidstrom has also been named to the NHL All Star Game 11 times and won the Stanley Cup four times. With a guy like Lidstrom manning the blue line, Team Sweden has a good chance at repeating gold.
Niklas Kronwall- Sweden
Niklas Kronwall is a teammate of Nick Lidstrom both on Team Sweden and on the Detroit Red Wings.
Kronwall is only in his fourth full season with the Red Wings but has already established himself as a premier defensemen for years to come. He was drafted in the first round by the Red Wings in 2000 but didn't play for them until 2003. His first full season wasn't until 2006.
Kronwall has already won gold twice with Sweden, helping the Swedes win both the 2006 Olympics and World Championships.
Kronwall has become one of the best hitter in the NHL and along with Lidstrom will help Sweden shut down opposing players.
Mattias Ohlund- Sweden
I might have gone a little overboard on the amount of players I picked from Sweden but they do have some very good defensemen. This is the last one though so don't worry.
Mattias Ohlund is the alternate captain for Sweden this year. Over the years Ohlund has played in a number of different tournaments for Sweden. He has won gold twice.
The first came in 1998 at the World Championships in Switzerland. He won Gold again with Sweden at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Ohlund is known as an offensive defensemen. He tends to be a more at home defensemen and will be a big help for Sweden at this year's Olympics.
Brian Rafalski - USA
Brian Rafalski is the veteran member on the defense for Team USA this year. He is the only defensemen over the age of 30 and will be a good veteran presence in the locker room and out on the ice.
He is an alternate captain for the USA. Rafalski is in his 10th year in the NHL. During that time he has spent most of his career with the New Jersey Devils but now plays for the Detroit Red Wings.
The past couple of seasons Rafalski has put up a decent amount of points for a defensemen and will be a big help for the USA. He helped the US take home silver at the 2002 Winter Olympics and will be a big help when it comes to the pressure of playing in the Olympics.
Team USA is a young team, but guys like Rafalski will help them in their quest for the gold.
Sergei Gonchar- Russia
Russia is one of the favorites to win Gold at this years Winter Olympics and rightfully so. They are top heavy on the offensive side but are lacking a bit on the defensive end.
Sergei Gonchar will play a big part on the defensive side of the puck though. Gonchar who plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL and is in his 16th year in the league.
He has established himself as somewhat of an offensive defensemen the past couple of years finishing with 67 points in 2006 and 65 in 2007. He was a big part of the Penguins Stanley Cup run last year, which ended with the Penguins winning the whole thing.
If Russia is going to have a shot at gold, they are going to need the defense to be strong and that's where Sergei Gonchar comes in.
Andrei Markov- Russia
Andrei Markov will look to help Russia win gold at this years Winter Olympics. Markov is in his ninth year in the NHL. He currently plays for the Montreal Canadiens who he has spent his entire career with.
Coming out of Russia, Markov was considered to be one of the best defensemen in 2000 and has played just about up to how good he was supposed to be.
Markov is a defensemen but he has put up a lot of points throughout the years. In 2007 he had 58 points and in 2008 he did even better finishing with 64 points.
This will be Markov's second go around at the Olympics after playing for Russia in 2006 in Turin. He has already won gold once at the 2008 World Championships and will try to bring gold back again to Russia this year.
Kimmo Timonen- Finland
Kimmo Timonen is the lone player represented here for Team Finland. He is the alternate captain for Finland at this year's Winter Olympics and is also the alternate captain for the Philadelphia Flyers during their home games.
Timonen is looking to help a Finland team that won the Silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics. He is in his 11th year in the league, most of which he spent with the Nashville Predators.
He holds the record for most assists all time with the Predators. He has continued is excellent play with the Flyers for the past three years. This will be his third go around at the Olympics.
He has won a medal both of his previous times at the Olympics, taking home bronze in 1998 and silver in 2006. If Finland is going to make it back to the championship game, then Timonen is going to have to be on top of his game.