Well folks, tomorrow the greatest hockey tournament in the world kicks off and I couldn't be more excited. I won't lie, I wasn't as stoked as I've been in the past for this tournament in the weeks leading up to it. Maybe it was because I am Canadian and I'm still hurting from our seventh place finish four years ago. I remember taking a "sick" day to watch that game, only to have my heart broken when the final buzzer rang and Russia was leaving Canada out of the semi-finals.
With that said, I am incredibly excited for the tournament to be kicking off tomorrow, mostly because I am caught up in Olympic fever. I have watched just about every event thus far, screaming and yelling at every accomplishment Canada has made. I'm sure a lot of our American and European readers can relate to what I'm going though, it's awesome to see your country have success on the world's largest stage.
Looking ahead, it's also incredibly exciting to know that as soon as this tournament is over, a compressed NHL schedule means a lot of great stretch-drive hockey for us to enjoy. Oh, and there is also that Trade Deadline thing just days after this all ends. It's going to be one the craziest deadlines ever, no worries there.
Here are a few reasons why I am excited for the 2010 Olymic Hockey Tournament:
Some of our favourite stars of the past are back to thrill us once again. I'm a huge Ziggy Palffy fan and cannot wait to see him back in action. He's been flying in his home country, putting up almost two points-per-game! He's still got it and along with a few other strong Slovaks like Jaroslav Halak, they have the potential to really upset some teams. I'm also excited to see Jaromir Jagr back on the ice. It sounds like a strong tournament could land him back in the NHL next season, which wouldn't be a bad thing at all. I'm also excited to see some others, such as Russia's Morozov and Sweden's Forsberg...it should be a blast.
Every year there is always that big upset that changes everything. In 2002, it was Belarus beating Sweden in the quarter final, a result that nobody could have ever predicted. In 2006, it was the Swiss beating Canada, giving Canada a very unfavourable Quarters match with Russia. Who will it be in 2010? Teams like Latvia, Germany and Norway would love nothing more than to play the roll of spoiler for one of the world's top nations.
Nothing is more exciting than seeing an entire nation embracing a sport. I love seeing the Canadians, the Americans, the Swedes, etc. cheer on their nation, knowing everything is on the line. I encourage you all, no matter where you are from, to watch the games with a large group of people. It gets intense and there is no better feeling.
Here is how I am predicting things will go down.
While many people will have Sweden, Finland or Czech cracking the top three, I am going to give the Bronze to the United States. Yes, they are underdogs, but Ryan Miller is good enough to steal a game when it matters, and I think that will be what propels the U.S.A. to Bronze. If Ryan Miller is good enough, a trip to the finals isn't out of the question.
The Russians may have the most deadly offense in the tournament. Malkin, Ovechkin and Kovalchuk are going to dazzle us with their skills and keep them in every game they play in. For me, the Russians have two big questionmarks, however. #1 - Are the players from the KHL good enough to keep up with the NHLers from Canada and U.S.A? #2 - Is this defense strong enough to keep things close? I think they're good enough for Silver, but not good enough for Gold.
From 1st, to seventh, back to first in 8 years. I wrote a column for a local newspaper back in December where I begged Yzerman to not make the 2006 mistake of picking experience over skill and it's clear he read that paper (hehe). The Canadians are as skilled as any of the other teams, while their defense is by far the strongest of the tournament. They also have the most depth in goal, which will be key if one of Brodeur or Luongo struggle early. Up front, guys like Crosby, Nash, Heatley and Thornton give Canada enough firepower where any result but gold will be a disappointment.
The puck drops tomorrow and I couldn't be more excited.