2010 Winter Olympics: Goaltending Key to Olympic Hockey Success

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2010 Winter Olympics: Goaltending Key to Olympic Hockey Success

The most-anticipated hockey tournament ever begins today, and the buzz around the city and the world is undeniable as teams prepare to battle for Olympic glory.

For the first time in four years, every player's focus is on the Gold, not the Stanley Cup, as the NHL takes a break from its prolonged season.

In both pursuits, a team's goaltending can make all the difference, and it's especially the case in a short tournament like the Olympic Games where anything can happen on the strength of a stellar performance between the pipes.

For the top contenders—Canada, Russia and Sweden—it will often determine which country takes home the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal.

For a long shot like Switzerland, fighting an uphill battle against the world's best, a strong netminder is an absolute must if there's at all hope to compete for a medal.

Similar to any Stanley Cup champion, past Olympic champions have often sported a great goaltender that steals a game or two throughout the tournament en route to the Gold medal.

At the 1998 Nagano Games, the Czech Republic's Dominik Hasek single-handedly won the Gold for his country, while breaking the hearts of other nations. Hasek was a brick wall during the medal round with only two goals against in the three games, including a 1-0 shutout victory over Russia in the final.

In Vancouver, where the greatest international hockey tournament ever will unfold in the next two weeks, the goaltenders will never be more important.

Bleacher Report breaks down the goaltending of top contenders and how it might determine what color medal, if any, their nation brings home.

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