2014 Olympic Hockey Preview: USA

Posted: February 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

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Four years ago, the United States came within one goal of their first Olympic gold medal since 1980. With an overtime loss to Sidney Crosby and Team Canada, the U.S. had to settle for silver in Vancouver. Now, the runner up will head to Sochi, Russia aiming to clear the hurdle that held them down in 2010. Their mission is to win gold. To do so, they’ll have to overcome many trying opponents including Canada (the defending champions), Russia (the home team), the Czech Republic, and Sweden.

Team USA was slotted in Group A for the round robin preliminary round. Joining the Americans in this grouping are Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Not only do these opponents conjure memories of Soviet Union-USA battles in the past; they’re also some of the toughest competition any team will face. Slovenia should not be too difficult of a task for the American team. But, the Slovaks, led by goalkeeper Jaroslav Halak, defender Zdeno Chara, and forwards Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa, present a real test for the defending silver medalists. Obviously, Russia will be no picnic either, as the home nation is represented by superstars like Alexander Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk.

The Americans will have a tough test in Sochi. But, their roster this year might just be even better than the grouping that took Canada to overtime in the gold medal game four years ago.

Forwards

8 – Joe Pavelski – The San Jose Sharks’ Centreman returns to team USA for the second consecutive Olympics. One of the breakout players of the year in the NHL, Pavelski is third in the league with 29 goals. The 29-year old is also a co-owner of the North American Hockey League’s Janesville Jets.

9 – Zach Parise – The last time Parise was in this tournament, he was a New Jersey Devil. He also delivered the game tying goal against Roberto Luongo and Team Canada in 2010’s championship game. The 29-year old has since moved on to Minnesota, where he signed a massive megadeal two years ago. Parise lists his father as the most influential person in his career. Jean-Paul Parise played 14 seasons in the NHL as well as representing Canada in the 1972 Summit Series.

12 – Derek Stepan – A first time Olympian, New York Rangers’ C Derek Stepan is merely 23-years old. However, he makes up for that inexperience by playing a vastly superior two-way game than that of his opponents. A noted tap dancer, Stepan won the 2010 World Championship gold medal with Team USA.

17 – Ryan Kesler – A key contributor to the 2010 team, Vancouver Canucks’ C Ryan Kesler will be back for one more go around in 2014. Expected to be one of the team’s biggest leaders both on and off the ice, Kesler is nicknamed Bull because of his ferocious, no holds-barred attitude on the ice. The 29-year old was once nearly a Philadelphia Flyer after signing a 1 year offer sheet with the club as a rookie in 2007. However, the Canucks matched the deal and have held Kesler’s rights since.

21 – James van Riemsdyk – The former Philadelphia Flyer has experienced a rejuvenation since the ill-fated deal that sent the 2007 2nd overall pick to Toronto for Luke Schenn. At 24, van Riemsdyk is still young. But, his experience playing in big games with both Philadelphia and Toronto should help in Sochi. The veteran wears #21 to honor Peter Forsberg, who won Olympic gold in 1994 with Sweden.

23 – Dustin Brown – The Los Angeles Kings’ winger returns for the second consecutive tournament with Team USA. Named an assistant captain, Brown leads by example on the ice, as he is one of the most physical players in the game. A fan of pregame pasta and chicken meals, Brown won the 2012 Stanley Cup as the captain of the Kings.

24 – Ryan Callahan – The captain of the New York Rangers, Ryan Callahan is back for another go with Team USA. Despite trade rumors surfacing in recent weeks, Callahan continues to lead the Rangers in the thick of the playoff race after missing most of 2013 with a torn labrum.

26 – Paul Stastny – A key part of the 2010 team, Colorado Avalanche C Paul Stastny is a talented playmaker with tremendous hockey heritage. His father is Hall of Fame inductee Peter Stastny, who competed for Czechoslovakia in 1980 and Slovakia in 1984. His uncles, meanwhile, also competed in those Olympics and his brother Yan used to play in the NHL.

28 – Blake Wheeler – The former Boston Bruins’ forward is headed for his first Olympics this winter. Wheeler was an accomplished amateur baseball player before abandoning our nation’s pastime to focus on hockey. A fifth overall pick by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2004, Wheeler never signed with the bewildered club, opting to play collegiate hockey instead.

42 – David Backes – Team USA welcomes St. Louis Blues forward David Backes onto the roster again. The 2010 Olympian brings a physical presence not often seen in international hockey. At 29, Backes doesn’t have the offensive prowess that he once had. But, “Inglourious Backes” never backs down from anyone and should be considered one of USA’s most valuable pieces.

67 – Max Paccioretty – There’s no love lost between Boston fans and this Montreal Canadiens forward. However, the wrath felt by New England residents towards the 25-year old will be forgotten for two weeks this month. Paccioretty earned the nickname “Wolverine” after his fast recovery from a devastating spinal injury suffered in 2011 when he was hit into a stanchion by Boston’s Zdeno Chara. His teammates gave him the name because he had “mutant healing abilities.”

74 – T.J. Oshie – Timothy Oshie is one of three St. Louis Blues on Team USA’s roster. The 27-year old is making his Olympic debut after playing for USA in the 2009, 2010, and 2013 World Championships of Hockey. T.J. stands for Timothy junior, as Oshie was named after his father. A former University of North Dakota star, Oshie was named the 2007 & 2008 Cliff Purpur Award winner. The award is given annually to the school’s athlete who best demonstrates hard work and determination.

81 – Phil Kessel – The former Boston Bruin is back for more, returning to Team USA for the second time. At 26, Kessel is still quite young despite his success and experience on the ice. The veteran was traded to Toronto in 2009 in exchange for multiple first round picks that ended up becoming Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. In October, Kessel signed an 8 year, $64 million extension with the Maple Leafs.

88 – Patrick Kane – Since the 2010 Olympics, Patrick Kane has seen his career blossom. Just four months or so after his team fell short of Olympic gold, Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup against Philadelphia. Three years later, Kane got his second ring by triumphing over Boston in June. The former first overall pick now has two Stanley Cups. But, the Olympic gold medal still eludes his grasp.

Defensemen

3 – Cam Fowler – One of the youngest players on the team, Cam Fowler will look to overcome his lack of experience behind his tremendous talent. The 22-year old was taken in the first round of the 2010 draft by Anaheim after dropping to 12th despite many reports that he was in consideration for a top five pick. One of the best puck moving defenders in the game, Fowler will be a key contributor to Team USA.

4 – John Carlson – Another young star joining the nation’s best in Sochi, John Carlson possesses perhaps the most blistering shot on the team. The 24-year old is the first Washington Capitals’ player selected to Team USA since NHLers were allowed to participate in the Olympics in 1998.

7 – Paul Martin – Considered an offensive dynamo but a liability in his own end, Paul Martin was a bit of a curious selection. Unless, of course, you remember that Team USA is coached this time around by Martin’s NHL coach, Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma. The 32-year old brings experience and perhaps desperation after missing the 2006 and 2010 Olympics due to injury despite being selected to the team.

20 – Ryan Suter – One of the best shutdown D-men in hockey will represent USA for the second straight Olympics. Suter’s father Bob was a member of the 1980 squad that upset Russia en route to Olympic gold, the last time the Americans won such a feat. Suter was a member of the Nashville Predators the last time around. But, he’ll enter this year’s games as a member of the Minnesota Wild after joining Zach Parise by signing with the club in 2012.

22 – Kevin Shattenkirk – Part of the monster trade that sent 2006 first overall pick Erik Johnson from St. Louis to Colorado, Shattenkirk will be making his Olympic debut this month. The 25-year old is a talented two-way blue liner capable of scoring goals and providing defensive support anywhere on the ice. It’s important to note that Shattenkirk played collegiate hockey for Boston University, which probably means he is not a very good person.

27 – Ryan McDonagh – Mac-Truck joins Stepan and Callahan as New York Rangers on the Olympic team. The 24-year old is part of a youthful blue line for Dan Bylsma. The former Wisconsin Badger is the nephew of former NFL quarterback Steve Walsh.

44 – Brooks Orpik – Another Pittsburgh Penguins defender, which is curious considering that defense is the weakest aspect of the Penguins’ team. The 33-year old Orpik is easily the oldest player on this team. The good news is that he’s a former BC Eagle, which means he has class of the highest regard.

72 – Justin Faulk – At 21, Justin Faulk is the youngest member of Team USA. A member of the Carolina Hurricanes, Faulk takes naps on game days and was named to the 2011/12 NHL All-Rookie Team.

Goalkeepers

32 – Jonathan Quick – The 2012 Conn Smythe Award winner led the Kings to the Stanley Cup that season. The 28-year old was a member of the 2010 team, although he did not play much during the tournament. He will by Ryan Miller’s primary backup once again.

35 – Jimmy Howard – The 29-year old netminder for the Detroit Red Wings is heading to his first Olympic Games as the team’s third goalie. Howard was considered a very valuable prospect out of the University of Maine. While he has yet to win a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings, he has certainly lived up to expectations.

39 – Ryan Miller – The team’s MVP four years ago, Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller returns for perhaps one final hurrah at the age of 33. After playing lights out hockey throughout most of the tournament, Miller allowed the game winning goal to Sidney Crosby in overtime of the gold medal game. Since then, his Sabres have experienced mostly losing and have just 7 regulation victories this season.

 

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Comments
  1. angie says:

    that does not help .-.

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