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The men’s ice hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Games is expected to be the most thrilling and popular even at the Olympics. We’re breaking down all 12 teams until the tournament begins on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Canada competes in Group B in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are five reasons why they could totally medal in Sochi:
1. They have the best player in the world.
Most of the teams in this tournament have an NHLer. Some teams have plenty of them. But only one team has the best NHLer, and that's Sidney Crosby. Crosby was the difference in 2010, literally, as he scored the tournament-winning goal, and it's a safe bet he'll be a difference-maker in Sochi.
2. They almost left P.K. Subban at home.
It would have been an insane and egregious oversight -- the dude deserves to be on this team, and thankfully, Hockey Canada agreed. But Subban, one of the best defencemen in the world, was a bubble guy right up until the last second. The argument against him was based, mostly, on Team Canada's blue line depth chart, especially on the right side. Featured in this group: two Norris trophy winners in Subban and Duncan Keith, two finalists in Drew Doughty and Shea Weber, future superstar Alex Pietrangelo, and a trio of steady, underrated left-siders in Jay Bouwmeester, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dan Hamhuis.
3. Martin St. Louis was a late replacement.
Speaking of crazy depth, the fact that Marty wasn't on this team from day one is a testament to that as well. This team is so stacked that, when Steven Stamkos gave up on rushing his rehab to join his teammates in Sochi, GM Steve Yzerman had to settle for his second choice: the most productive scorer in hockey since the Vancouver Olympics.
4. Patrice Bergeron, shutdown corner.
Little has been made of what Bergeron could mean to this team, but he really could be the key to it all. There isn't another team in the tournament that's as loaded with scorers as Team Canada is. The other clubs that could threaten -- Russia, Sweden, and the United States, mostly -- have clear first lines. But this is where Bergeron thrives. He's one of hockey's best centres, but his contributions don't always show up on the scoresheet, because he's not a big-time scorer. He wins match-ups. And if you've got this guy winning the match-up against the other team's top lines, that leaves your other lines to tip the scales in your favour.
5. They're supposed to.
Seriously, all five of these reasons could have just been "LOL duh". But an assignment's an assignment. In case it wasn't already quite clear, Team Canada are the heavy favourites. They're stacked. Five of their skaters are among the top 10 in scoring in the NHL, and three -- Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, and John Tavares -- are in the top three. The biggest flaw anyone can point to on this team is their goaltending, which is elite, but, you know, only just barely. How will they ever manage?
C’mon, Can These Guys Actually Medal?
Yes. And take it from a Canadian: they'd bloody well better, or they can stay over there. In any other sport, we'll settle for bronze, a.k.a. Canadian gold, but in hockey, anything less than gold for Team Canada will be considered a failure.