|Olympic hockey: Group B breakdown||02.16.10 at 1:55 pm ET|
Continuing to break down the Olympic hockey rosters, Group B looks like the deepest of the three groups. Russia is the standout favorite while the Czech Republic and Slovakia field strong teams. The joke about the group is that if the Czechs and Slovaks were still one country (Czechoslovakia) then it would be a powerhouse. Of course, that is not the case. Latvia will will attempt to fight for respectability.
Note: After the preliminary round, each of the 12 teams will be ranked on the basis of points. The top four teams advance to the quarterfinals, with the remaining teams playing to advance.
Schedule (All times ET)
Feb. 16 ‘ Russia vs. Latvia, midnight
Feb. 17 ‘ Czech Republic vs. Slovakia, midnight
Feb. 18 ‘ Russia vs. Slovakia, midnight
Feb. 19 ‘ Czech Republic vs. Latvia, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 20 ‘ Latvia vs. Slovakia, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 21 ‘ Russia vs. Czech Republic, 3 p.m.
Captain ‘ Aleksey Marozov
Assistants ‘ Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk
Goaltenders ‘ Evgeni Nobokov, Ilya Bryzgalov, Semyom Varlamov
Players to Watch ‘ Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov
Breakdown ‘ Malkin, Ovechkin and Datsyuk all were finalists for the NHL’s Hart Trophy last year as the league MVP. That is about as impressive of a trio as it gets in Vancouver. The Russians have scoring power to spare but could use a top-flight goaltender to cover the back end. Nobokov is a good, serviceable NHL goaltender but he is never going to be confused with Patrick Roy. The matchup nightmare comes as the Russians roll out line after line of great goal-scorers (Kovalchuk, Ovechkin) mixed with good set-up men (Malkin). Expect the Russians to have a say in the medal rounds.
Captain ‘ Patrick Elias
Assistants ‘ Tomas Kaberle, Jaromir Jagr
Goaltenders ‘ Tomas Vokoun, Jakub Stepanek, Ondrej Pavelec
Players to Watch ‘ Jagr, Vokoun, Milan Michalek
Bruins on the roster ‘ David Krejci
Breakdown ‘ The Greatest Show on Ice returns to North America. That, of course, means Jagr. Now plying his wares in the KHL, Jagr is one of the top five greatest players of the last 20 years and can still skate well. It will be interesting to watch him take on NHL talent again, and Group B is full of it. Krejci is an interesting member of this team and likely will serve as a second- or third-line center to try to set up Michalek and company. For the Czechs to be there in the end, it will come down to Vokoun. The backstop has played well for a bad Florida Panthers team this year and probably will appreciate having some talent in front of him for once.
Captain ‘ Zdeno Chara
Assistants ‘ Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra
Goaltenders ‘ Jaroslav Halak, Peter Budaj, Rastislav Stana
Players to Watch ‘ Chara, Halak, Marian Hossa, Miroslav Satan
Bruins on roster ‘ Chara, Satan
Breakdown ‘ The strength will be in the defense, with Chara leading the way in front of Halak or Budaj. Milan Jurcina and Andrej Sekera give the Slovakians decent depth on the blue line. The Czechs probably are a little bit deeper overall, but this is a second-tier team that could turn some heads if Hossa gets hot and one of the goaltenders can sustain a roll. Satan will play a part, but do not expect him to carry the team.
Captain ‘ Karlis Skrastins
Assistants ‘ Herberts Vasiljevs, Aleksandrs Nizivijs
Goaltenders ‘ Ervins Mustukovs, Sergejs Naumovs, Edgars Masalskis
Players to Watch ‘ Skrastins, Oskars Bartulis, Martins Karsums
(Former) Bruins on the roster ‘ Karsums
Breakdown ‘ Latvia is better known as Dinamo Riga of the KHL. Fifteen players from Dinamo Riga are on the Latvian roster, including Karsums, who was assigned to HC MVD of the KHL from the Tampa Bay Lightning AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals but did not join the team and instead went to Dinamo. Bartulis and Skrastins are both defensemen and the only Latvian players currently on NHL rosters (Flyers and Stars, respectively). Latvia has never finished higher than ninth in any international competition and should get handled easily by the other three teams in the group.