Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Sochi Olympics: The Biggest Factor to Winning Gold

carey-price-4_3Now that all the men’s hockey rosters have been named for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the analysis will quickly shift from who made the teams to which team will win gold. Looking though the rosters there is very little to decipher between the players for each of the power countries.
“Look at the fire power up front for the Russians.”
“The Swedish defense corps are good enough that Victor Hedman couldn’t crack the team”
“Those wingers on Team USA are scary when they’re firing on all cylinders”
“This Canadian roster looks better then the one that won the gold in Vancouver”

Those four teams look like a collection of All Star rosters with the Fins and Czechs not far behind. We are going to hear every different breakdown, 9000 different predictions and every combination imaginable of projected medal winners. This has already started (Canada Predicted to Finish 7th)
The reason you’ll see so many different predictions is because all these rosters are virtually identical. Any one could win the gold. There is one thing that will separate the winner from the rest and that is goaltending. Which team gets the best goaltending for two weeks.
While every team mentioned above has legitimate All Star goaltending, they also all have question marks. Whether Carey Price or Roberto Luongo, the question for team Canada will be “Can they win the big game?”
1389106914000-henrik-lundqvist-004 Henrik Lundqvist has been bad by his standards this season but he is a guy who has proven he can steal a few games, Jonathan Quick is recovering from an injury that could jeopardize his Olympics, and the Russian combination of Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky is one that is very much untested on the biggest stage. One team that looks like they may have the edge when it comes to between the pipes is Finland, between Tuuka Rask, Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, the Fins have probably the deepest goaltending in the tournament. Now this isn’t a foreign concept. Often a goalie can get hot and drag a team through a round or two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but rarely does the streak last the necessary two months to steal the cup. In the Olympics a two week hot streak is all that’s needed, something we see frequently throughout an NHL season. (the recent success of Martin Jones in Los Angeles is a prime example)
For a few weeks in February the eyes of all hockey fans will be locked on Sochi, we’ll see the best in the world go head to head for the glory of their country. And while getting ready to cheer on your nation just remember that it is almost certainly going to be the team with the hottest goalie who brings home the gold. In a tournament full of uncertainty, that is one thing you can count on.

Tags: Antti Niemi Carey Price Henrik Lundqvist Jonathan Quick Kari Lehtonen NHL Roberto Luongo Semyon Varlamov Sergei Bobrovsky Sochi Olympics Hockey Team Canada Team Finland Team Sweden Team Usa Tuuka Rask

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