The Indian Head won’t be on the ice until Feb. 27, but 10 players from the team are playing in the Sochi Olympics. Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of predictions for those Hawks players
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Niklas Hjalmarsson, 6 GP, 0 G, 6 A, +1 Rating: Hjalmarsson will more than likely play a very small role on Team Sweden. With Jonathan Ericsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Kronwall, and Erik Karlsson also on Team Sweden, Hjalmarsson will more than likely be stuck on the third pairing. With that being said, games against teams like Canada and Russia will yield small playing time for the Hawks defenseman, yet group games against Latvia and Switzerland should mean a lot of playing time. He could rack up as many as five assists during those games, but don’t expect much from him besides those. I’m predicting 4 assists during those two games and two throughout the other four games.
Johnny Oduya, 4 GP, 0 G, 1 A, -2 Rating: Oduya might be the odd man out in Team Sweden’s defensive gameplan, which might be the right decision as well. Oduya is good on defense, but provides next to nothing on offense. I expect him to play poorly leading to a demotion to “healthy scratch.” Hjalmarsson might even play better with a different partner, leading to the +3 difference between the two players.
Marcus Kruger, 0 GP: Kruger shouldn’t see action in the Olympics, unless there is a major injury to a forward
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Marian Hossa, 5 GP, 7 G, 2 A, -2 Rating: Hossa should be on a line with teammate Michal Handzus and brother Marcel. Hossa will be the obvious star up front for Slovakia, who has a great top defensive pairing in Zdeno Chara and Lubomir Visnovsky, as well as a very solid goalie in Jaroslav Halak. Slovakia is by no means the worst team in this tournament, and should get one win in Round Robin play over Slovenia. Two losses to Russia and the USA will drop them into a very manageable Qualification game, yet a difficult draw in the Quarterfinals. I don’t see Slovakia getting past any of the top six teams in the tournament, but Hossa should be among the leading scorers when his team exits. He will be one of the top goal scorers of the tournament due as much to necessity as skill.
Michal Handzus, 5 GP, 1 G, 4 A, -3 Rating: Handzus is not an offensive powerhouse, and would probably be on a lower line were it not for being teammates with Hossa. Handzus will get some assists due to playing with Hossa, but won’t score many goals and being dominated in Round Robin games will lower his +/- rating.
Team Czech Republic:
Michal Roszival, 1 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 Rating: Roszival is left as a scratch on a very deep Czech team. A huge second Round Robin game against Sweden will tell the Czechs where they will sit heading in to the Qualification Round. A win, which is unlikely but not impossible, will make the final game against Switzerland very important for the team, who will be on their way to clinching one of the Qualifying byes and advancing straight to the Quarterfinals. A loss will make the game meaningless, as their decent team will put them higher on the goal differential tie-breaker than teams like Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria, Latvia, and Norway. No point in keeping in all starters for a meaningless game, meaning Roszival should get in one game of action, despite barely touching the ice.
Patrick Sharp, 6 GP, 4 G, 3 A, +4 Rating: Sharp may or may not be playing with teammate Jonathan Toews, which would affect his stats in a major way. I’m predicting he will play with Toews on the team’s second line. Toews has shown his ability to set up Sharp in the past, and both players tend to step their game up in big games against other star players. In the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, Sharp won MVP. He can play with the best players in the world, and I think he will have a good tournament. Playing with Toews and probably Jeff Carter or Jamie Benn will make the chemistry between himself and Toews even more necessary.
Duncan Keith, 6 GP 2 G, 5 A, +7 Rating: Keith and Drew Doughty will more than likely combine to be Canada’s top defensive pairing. Keith and Doughty can both score, and that blue line pass should create multiple goals for Canada. Doughty has very similar stats in my projections, I’m predicting 3 G, 3 A, +7 Rating for Doughty, and the two will be the best defensive pairing of the tournament.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Joanthan Toews, 6 GP, 4 G, 6 A, +5 Rating: Toews could be MVP of the tournament again. He will set up not only Sharp and his other linemate well, but will get defenseman Keith, Doughty, Shea Weber, and possibly P.K. Subban the puck and let them fire away from the point. Six assists is definitely not out of the question, and he could even get more. Toews will take a leadership role in the locker room, regardless of Canada’s decision to name Sidney Crosby as Captain. While I don’t expect another MVP performance out of Toews, 10 points and a gold medal are definitely attainable.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Patrick Kane, 6 GP, 6 G, 4 A, +8 Rating: I could very well see Kane as MVP of the tournament. Kane will more than likely be paired with Ryan Kesler and Zach Parise in Sochi, a line that contains two two-way playmakers and an offensive-minded scorer. Kesler and Parise will more than likely look to feed Kane the puck. Kane is one of the best passers and stickhandlers in the game, but his scoring prowess should be put on display for Team USA. While other lines are mostly larger and defensive, Kane and Parise are smaller forwards who will need to do most of the scoring for the team. 10 points for Kane should earn him MVP if the team wins the Gold Medal. But that would require at least two wins over teams like Sweden, Russia, and Canada, which could be a problem for the US team.