Olympic Hockey: Germany, the Perfect Underdog

Chad KlassenCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2010

Believe it or not, Germany has a chance to make some noise at the Olympic men's hockey tournament in Vancouver.

The Germans opened up Group C action on Wednesday night against the defending champions from Sweden and had a great showing, albeit in a 2-0 loss.

Playing in front of passionate fans from both countries, including their own chanting "Deutschland" throughout the game, they played some inspired hockey and undoubtedly built a lot of confidence moving forward in the group stage, which will include battles with Belarus and the 2006 Silver medalists, Finland. 

Germany is among the group of third-tier hockey countries in this stacked tournament and not expected to come close to a medal.

They didn't qualify for the medal round at the 2006 Torino Games after posting a winless record (0-3-2) in the round robin and only sport six NHL players in 2010—just enough to fill a starting lineup.

But it's a team that surprised a lot of hockey observers in its opener after outshooting the Swedes 7-6 in the opening period with quality scoring chances and played well in the third as well with an 11-9 shot advantage.

While they failed to beat Swedish netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who posted his first career shutout in the Olympics, the Germans proved they belong in the tournament and might actually be able to battle for a medal with a few lucky breaks along the way.

In addition to the offensive chances, including a few posts and crossbars that could've shifted momentum, Germany's goaltender Thomas Greiss, who backs up Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose, was stellar between the pipes and gives his country a great chance in any game.

The Sharks backup made 23 saves and allowed a mere two goals against the offensively-gifted Swedes, a group which includes the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Peter Forsberg, and Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

The format of this year's Olympic tournament—with the top four teams earning automatic quarter-final berths after the three round-robin games, leaving the remaining eight to battle it out for the other quarter-final spots—could also lend itself to a German upset along the way if Greiss stands on his head.

A victory over Belarus is on the horizon for Germany, but an upset victory over Finland on Friday will position the country well for the qualification round, where the eight will compete for their right to play in the quarter-finals.