Come this weekend, the 2014 Winter Olympics will begin in Sochi, Russia. Sure, there will be corruption and oppression and luge, but there will also be hockey. For perhaps the last time, the NHL's players will participate. I am very much excited for this. The last Winter Olympics, in Vancouver, has some very good hockey, and a well-received final game. Since NHL players are involved, and since the league will be out of action for a couple weeks, I decided I should turn my attention to this event. So here are some of my predictions for how the men's hockey tournament will play out (as for the women, it will be the USA over Canada, because don't those two always play in the gold medal match).
The tournament begins with three groups of four teams. They all play one another, some tiebreakers happen, and then they are placed in a bracket. The top four teams get a bye to the quarterfinals. Here is how I think the groups play out:
Group A: I'll go with Russia, United States, Slovakia, Slovenia. Russia has the home-ice advantage. Plus, as you have probably heard, this game will be played on the "big ice." This does mean something, especially for teams that have players that are in Europe on the regular. Slovenia is a one-man team, but that one man is very good in Anze Koptiar.
Group B: I'll go Canada, Finland, Austria, Norway. Austria is interesting to me, although I don't think they will make much noise aside from perhaps beating Norway.
Group C: This is the toughest group top to bottom I think, but I shall go Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Latvia. Long live Arturs Irbe.
For the byes, I'll go with Canada, Russia, Sweden, and Finland. I just think Finland is the second team most likely to go 2-1, but it should be noted in the Olympics it is three points for a regulation win and two for an overtime win. That could come into play. I won't bother to project everybody's finish. I'll just go with my medal predictions.
With the bronze, I'll choose Canada. The silver? I'll go with Russia. And then for the gold, I'm going with Sweden. Henrik Lundqvist has turned around his play, this team is quite good, and they are European and have that slight big ice advantage. Nothing for the United States. Maybe they will make it to the bronze medal game. Actually, they probably will. I think they are the fourth best team in this tournament. However, upsets can happen, and I am intrigued to see how things play out. Enjoy the remaining NHL games, and them get ready for some Olympic hockey!