|Olympic hockey: Group C breakdown||02.16.10 at 4:56 pm ET|
With all the great names in Group A and B, it is easy to overlook the fact that Group C has the gold and silver medal winners from 2006 in Sweden and Finland, respectively. It also could be called the Group of Brothers, as some prominent siblings dot the rosters such as Daniel and Henrik Sedin of Sweden, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn of Belarus (though Andrei will not play because of injury), and Jarkko and Tuomo Ruutu as well as Saku and Mikko Koivu of Finland. This group should be a battle between the Nordic clubs, with Belarus able to steal some points and Germany an also-ran unless the injuries that forced some last-minute turnover to the Belarus roster cripples the team.
Schedule (All times ET)
Feb. 17 — Finland vs. Belarus, 3 p.m.
Feb. 17 — Sweden vs. Germany, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 19 — Belarus vs. Sweden, 3 p.m.
Feb. 19 — Finland vs. Germany, midnight
Feb. 20 — Germany vs. Belarus, midnight
Feb. 21 — Sweden vs. Finland, midnight
Captain — Nicklas Lidstrom
Goaltenders — Jonas Gustavsson, Stefan Liv, Henrik Lundqvist
Players to Watch — Nicklas Backstrom, Peter Forsberg, Daniel and Henrik Sedin
Breakdown — Sweden is the defending goal medal winner and will be tough in Vancouver. Lundqvist could carry the team to the medal round if he gets hot, and the Sedin brothers are a formidable pair wherever they play. Forsberg has two gold medals to his credit, as he scored the game-winner in the 1994 games in a shootout in the gold medal game. The Sedin brothers do not have to travel far, as they play for the Vancouver Canucks and will be in their home building.
Captain — Saku Koivu
Assistants — Kimmo Timonen, Teemu Selanne
Goaltenders — Niklas Backstrom, Miikka Kiprusoff, Antero Niittymaki
Players to Watch — Tuomo and Jarkko Ruuto, Mikko and Saku Koivu, Selanne and any of the three goaltenders
Breakdown — The biggest decision for Finland coach Jukka Jalonen will be which goaltender will get the majority of the time. Based on NHL numbers this season, the pick would be Kiprusoff (.925 save percentage, 2.18 goals against for Calgary) over Niittymaki (.917, 2.55) but that would be to forget that Niittymaki was the MVP of the 2006 Olympics with only eight goals against during the entire tournament despite losing to Sweden at the end. Selanne was named the best forward in 2006, and with Timonen, they give the team a solid veteran backbone.
Captain — Ruslan Salei
Assistants — Viktor Kostiuchenok, Alexei Ugarov
Goaltenders — Vitali Koval, Maxim Malyutin, Andrei Mezin
Players to Watch — Sergei Kostitsyn, Salei
Breakdown — Belarus is ranked eighth in the International Ice Hockey Federation rankings and has a smattering of NHL talent in the Kostitsyn brothers, Salei of the Avalanche and Grabovski of the Maple Leafs. Belarus is not at the level of the Great Seven of the United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, but it definitely has enough talent to be better than Norway, Latvia and Germany. The team has lost a little depth with Andrei Kostitsyn and Mikhail Grabovski missing because of injury along with four other non-NHL players who were on the original roster. A quarterfinals appearance is not out of the realm of possibility.
Captain — Marco Sturm
Assistants — Dennis Seidenberg, Sven Felski
Players to Watch — Sturm, Seidenberg, Jochen Hecht, Alexander Sulzer, Marcel Goc
Bruins on the roster — Sturm
Breakdown — As Germany is a major industrialized nation, it is a wonder that this country has never been good at hockey, even after being reunified. Sturm, the Bruins’ leading scorer, is the headliner of the roster and Seidenberg is a good defenseman. Predators teammates Sulzer and Goc provide some NHL experience, and Hecht played in the 2002 Olympics but missed the 2006 games with an injury.