2018 Olympic Hockey Preview

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Olympic Hockey
pose for photos ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 8, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.

For the first time in 24 years the best players in the National Hockey League will not be present at the Olympic Winter Games. One might automatically think that Team Canada could be in a lot of trouble, and not able to win Olympic gold for the third consecutive time in men’s action.

Even though Team Canada should not be favoured to win gold, they should be definite contenders for an Olympic medal. There is no question that the Olympic Athletes from Russia, led by four-time Lady Byng Trophy winner and three-time Selke Trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk, should be considered the favourites with the wealth of players they can choose from in the Kontinental Hockey League.

2018 Olympic Hockey Preview

However to say O.A.R. are the dominant favourites is not accurate. They should face a formidable test from Sweden, Finland and even Canada.

The Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team may not have the most recognizable defence, no flashy skill up front and goaltenders who have not always been consistent, but they do have one competitive advantage over the rest of the pack. That is with coaching. Team Canada’s head coach is former Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins, who was an assistant coach for Team Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship in Ottawa.

Desjardins’s assistant coach is the legendary Dave King, who coached Team Canada to a fourth-place finish at the 1984 Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo and the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, before winning the silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville. King knows the international hockey style of play better than any coach in Canada and should be a very valuable asset at age 70.

Canada’s Offence

There is no doubt that Team Canada will try to generate offence by committee. The team includes forwards Wojtek Wolski, Mason Raymond, Chris Kelly, Derek Roy, Rene Bourque and Maxim Lapierre, who have a wealth of NHL experience. Yes, the team might be lacking when it comes to big names on the blueline, but a defensive minded coaching staff could close the gap.

Women’s Hockey

The Canadian women meanwhile have an immense amount of momentum heading into the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. They defeated the United States in five of eight games leading up to the Olympics. However it should be noted, the Americans dominated Canada in two of their victories—5-2 in Quebec City and 5-1 in the final of the 4 Nations Cup in Tampa Bay.

It is also important that Team Canada does not head into the Olympic Winter Games overly confident. That plagued the United States at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, as they were co-favourites with Canada 12 years ago, but lost 3-2 to Sweden in the semi-final in the biggest upset all-time in the history of women’s hockey at the Olympic Winter Games.

Finland is definitely making strides. Don’t forget they defeated Canada 4-3 at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship in Plymouth, Michigan and are the clear favourites to win Olympic bronze.

Here are my predictions in Olympic hockey:

Men:
GOLD—Olympic Athletes from Russia
SILVER—Canada
BRONZE—Sweden

Women:
GOLD—Canada
SILVER—United States
BRONZE—Finland

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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