The 2014 Olympics begin on February 7th with the opening ceremonies in Sochi, Russia. The men’s tournament will begin the next day with two games. The deadline for countries to finalize their Olympic rosters is January 4th, 2014. In the mean time, we get to have some fun with predictions. Here are the participating countries. The U.S. have already finalized their roster and the rest are yet to be revealed. Stats are as of January 2nd, 2014.
|Group A||Group B||Group C|
Russia: Assuming the Russians go with three NHL goaltenders (which I doubt they will), the best three in my opinion would be:
- Semyon Varlamov (COL)
- Sergei Bobrovsky (CLB)
- Evgeni Nabokov (NYI)
Varlamov would be the ideal guy to get the starting role. With a respectable 2.33 GAA, Semyon will get the nod to start. As for spots two and three, these could go to guys like Vasily Koshechkin (21-9 1.92 GAA) or Alexander Yeremenko (21-4 1.84 GAA) both in the KHL. Nabokov beats out Ilya Bryzgalov in my books because of the uncertainty of Bryz and the fact that he’s only played a handful of games this year.
Slovakia: My predictions for the Slovaks are the exact same as the 2010 roster, only in a different order:
- Jaroslav Halak (STL)
- Peter Budaj (MTL)
- Rastislav Stana (KHL)
Budaj got the start for Slovakia in 2010, but since then Halak and Budaj have switched teams and Halak became a starting goalie in Montreal. Halak is (17-6) this year and despite having some injury issues this year, he will most likely get the start. Stana (10-10 2.33 GAA) in the KHL will battle Jaroslav Janus (12-11 2.95 GAA) also in the KHL for the final spot.
U.S.A: Goalies already announced:
- Jonathan Quick (LAK)
- Ryan Miller (BUF)
- Jimmy Howard (DET)
The only debate the rose with this announcement was whether it should be Howard or Cory Schneider who gets the third position. I would replace Miller with Schneider as Miller has proven this year, he has lost most of his touch.
Slovenia: There is not too much info surrounding the Slovenian team. The projected goalies in my eyes would likely be the goalies that were on the team when Slovenia qualified for the Olympics.
No one is expecting much from the Slovenians. All the best to them in the tournament.
Finland: This year’s Finnish squad is looking at a whole new crop of goalies thanks to the retirement of Miikka Kiprusoff and Antero Nittymaki.
- Tuukka Rask (BOS)
- Antti Niemi (SJS)
- Kari Lehtonen (DAL)
The Hardest choice for Finland will be deciding to start either the statistically better Tuukka Rask (20-9 1.99 GAA) or the more experienced Antti Niemi (22-8 2.39 GAA). I would let them split the round robin games and make a decision for when the quarter finals come around. By then a true #1 will emerge, and hey, maybe it will be good ol’ Kari Lehtonen.
Canada: Canada has the most options in net this year. So if anyone goes down with an injury they will have 10+ goalies waiting in line. I’m guessing Martin Brodeur won’t be making another appearance although he continues to defy odds in the NHL.
- Roberto Luongo (VAN)
- Carey Price (MTL)
- Corey Crawford (CHI)
The 2nd and 3rd spots could easily be switched at any moment. With so many options, these guys will need to be on top of their game to get a look at. Mike Smith (15-9 2.86 GAA) may be swapped in for Corey Crawford (17-6 2.49 GAA). I still can’t understand why Marc-Andre Fleury (22-10 2.15 GAA) doesn’t get any attention. Just because he had a few slip-ups in recent playoffs, he is completely overlooked despite leading the league in wins.
Norway: There’s only one active Norwegian in the NHL and that is right-winger Mats Zuccarello. As for goaltending, Norway doesn’t have much to choose from.
Not that I know much about these guys, but one of the 2010 Olympic goalies Pal Grotnes is aging and may be pushed aside thanks to the young guys like 26-year-old Lars Haugen (5-12 2.67 GAA) in the KHL.
Austria: These guys didn’t participate in the 2010 Olympics but this year they could play spoiler for some teams. There isn’t too many options for Austria in net but here is who I think should start thanks to some help from the web.
All three of these guys could contend to be the starting goalie… as far as I’m concerned.
Czech Republic: A classic Czech roster containing Tomas Vokoun and Jaromir Jagr will most likely await us in February.
- Ondrej Pavelec (WPG)
- Michal Neuvirth (WSH)
- Tomas Vokoun (PIT)
Michal Neuvirth (2-3 2.83 GAA) makes a jump onto the roster this year. Although he backs up Braden Holtby currently in Washington, he has proven to us he can play well enough to earn a spot. I will be amazed if Czech republic decides to go with Alexander Salak in the KHL instead of giving Neuvirth the experience.
Sweden: The Swedes are always hungry for a gold medal and this year is no different. With a rise in young Swedish NHL goalies this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if all three tenders belong to an NHL club and not a KHL one.
- Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)
- Jonas Gustavsson (DET)
- Viktor Fasth (ANA)
Lundqvist is a shoo-in to get a spot but Gustavsson (11-3 2.39 GAA) has definitely deserved his spot on the roster after appearing in 17 games so far thanks to Jimmy Howard’s injuries in Detroit. As for Viktor Fasth, the Ducks goalie could have some competition, among them being Eddie Lack, Anders Lindback and Jhonas Enroth.
Switzerland: No matter who they play, they always seem to play a strong sixty minutes. That wouldn’t be possible without goaltending and Jonas Hiller always delivers for the Swiss in tournaments.
- Jonas Hiller (ANA)
- Reto Berra (CGY)
- Tobias Stephan (Swiss League A)
If Hiller plays like he normally does, than there will be no need for the other two goalies. Reto Berra (5-11 2.92) doesn’t have outstanding stats thanks to playing for Calgary, but may get the nod to back up Hiller. Tobias Stephan was on the 2010 roster and has NHL experience in Dallas.
Latvia: There isn’t one NHL or KHL goalie born in Latvia, meaning they will have to look at the 2010 goalies. Too bad Edgars Masaļskis is a 33-year-old free agent and Sergejs Naumovs is 44-years-old and retired.
- Ervins Mustukovs (SHL)
- Edgars Masalkis (FA)
- Kristers Gudlevskis (AHL-Syracuse Crunch)
I’m placing my bets that Masalkis plays for Latvia despite being a free agent. Gudleyskis is currently with the Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.