Winter Olympics Mens Hockey Pick

The Winter Olympics are set to get underway in Sochi in under 2 weeks time and the talk still surrounds the Men’s Ice Hockey event and which country will come out on top in the one International tournament that pits the actual top players of each country against one another.

I’m basically saying that the World Championships mean nothing and the World Cup hasn’t been played since 2004, so the Olympics really is the deciding tournament for Men’s International hockey.

Let’s take a look at the odds first to see who the oddsmakers think are the top contenders for gold in Sochi.
• Canada 3.00
• Russia 3.25
• Sweden 6.00
• USA 7.00
• Czech Republic 12.00
• Finland 12.00
• Switzerland 26.00
• Slovakia 31.00
There are the 8 teams that have any shot at winning the Olympic gold medal in ice hockey. As expected Team Canada is the favourite to win the tournament and on paper there is nobody close to the talent that Canada posses per player. That said, hockey is a team game and the games do still have to be played.

I’m going to eliminate the Czech Republic, Finland, Switzerland and Slovakia from the discussion right away. That is because, as much as each of these teams have the ability to win a single game against one of the other top four teams I would be extremely surprised if they were able to win a semi-final game, as well as the finals. The Czechs have the best chance in my opinion, with a solid NHL lineup basically from top to bottom, but the Finns, Swiss and Slovaks simply don’t have enough high end talent to truly battle with the big boys in Sochi.

Russia at 3.25 is not a good bet either. Sure, playing at home should help their team and many of their players will be used to the ice surface, but the defensive core is just not good enough to shut down the opposing teams. The Russian forwards will have to score 5+ goals in big games to win the tournament and I don’t think this will happen against a strong defensive team.

The last time the Olympic Ice Hockey tournament was held on an International size ice surface was in 2006. If you are a fan of either Team Canada or Team USA you know what happened. Team Canada finished 7th and Team USA finished 8th. Sweden won the tournament with Finland securing silver, the Czech Republic bronze, Russia fourth, Slovakia fifth and Switzerland 6th. In Nagano in 1998, neither the USA or Canada were able to win a medal either.

This is in stark contrast to 2002 and 2010 when the Olympic tournament was held in North America. Both times Team Canada won gold and Team USA took home silver. This fact cannot be overlooked when betting on this years tournament. The ice surface plays a huge factor, as can be seen by the North American teams winning gold and silver at both of the North American Olympics over the past 4 years, while neither medaled at either of the International ice surface Olympics.

For this reason I’m going to take Team Sweden at 6.00 when I bet on the 2014 Olympics Ice Hockey Gold Medal Winner. Team Sweden has the next best team to Canada on paper in my opinion and they will have a better understanding of how to adapt to the International ice because the players grew up playing on the larger ice surface. The Team Canada players will only have ever played on the big ice in International competitions and that lack of familiarity will be their undoing.

Posted in Hockey
Niko de Jonge

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Professional sports tipster and writer.

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