Free Picks: 2014 Winter Olympics Ice Hockey Odds Preview

David Lawrence

Friday, August 23, 2013 1:03 PM GMT

The 2014 Winter Olympics will be taking place in Sochi, Russia, and now that a number of countries have announced their preliminary men’s hockey rosters, it’s worth taking a look at the odds to see who’s expected to win.

Here’s a piece of sports betting advice: Austria is NOT worth a flier at 900/1. Sorry, Austria, it’s not happening.

Canada…Not Favored?

Don’t worry, it’s not the apocalypse. If you’re Canadian and you’re reading this, step back in off the ledge: yes, Team Canada is not favored to win the gold medal in Sochi. Remember, this is a tournament of All-Stars and the 2014 Winter Olympics are taking place in Russia, which means the Russians will have a home-ice advantage.

Even though Canada is (normally) expected to win this tournament each and every time it happens, the reality is that the Canadian team has a big flaw. That being…

Who’s In Net For Team Canada?

For years, Team Canada had an embarrassment of riches in net. From Patrick Roy to Martin Brodeur, they’ve been fielding Hall of Fame starters for nearly two decades. But Roy has long retired and now head coaches the Colorado Avalanche and Brodeur is long in the tooth. That means the torch has been passed to…Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price or Mike Smith? Really?

Sure, Crawford had a great year for the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks and Mike Smith is a veteran who has played well in spurts but is this really all Canada has to offer? Holtby and Price are young up-and-comers (Price has even been an All-Star) but the jury is still very out on their consistency (more so with Holtby). And Luongo? The guy who was booed, then benched, then given a vote of confidence, then benched, then booed again, only to find out that the Canucks traded away Cory Schneider and want him to be their franchise goalie again? Oddly enough, it was Luongo and his fragile psyche that backstopped Canada to a gold medal in 2010.

The question becomes: can Canada overcome a mediocre goaltender? That’s going to be the theme of the tournament. They’re loaded everywhere else and will probably field the best blue line (and overall roster everywhere else) but questionable goaltending is the reason why they are not favored.

Wait…Who’s In Net For Russia?

While a lot of the conversation will be focused on who will be between the pipes for Canada – what about the man who’ll be in net for Russia? If the Russians had someone reliable between the pipes, they’d be reeling in gold medals every four years. However, they rarely do, so why are they favored?

Sergei Bobrovsky, Evgeni Nabokov and Semyon Varlamov figure to be the trio of masked men. Bobrovsky was the Vezina Trophy winner in 2013 but we all know who he was before that: a very pedestrian goalie. If Bobrovsky fails, so will the Russians.

USA! USA! USA!

Team USA is at 6/1 in the hockey betting odds but are they a tad undervalued? U.S Hockey has come a long way – more than people will give them credit for – and they’ll likely field the best tandem of goaltenders in Sochi. Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard and Schneider (Ryan Miller, Craig Anderson and John Gibson will also attend preliminary camp) form as good of a trio as you’ll find. Anderson led the league in GAA last season while Schneider was fourth in save percentage. Quick will get the starts, though, and when he’s on his game, he’s arguably the toughest goaltender to beat.

Meanwhile, their forwards unit will be star-studded as snipers like Patrick Kane, Paul Stastny, Zach Parise, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown will likely be there. Sure, they don’t have the firepower of the Russians but they should have a very balanced lineup.

Size Does Matter: Remember The Olympic Ice

One of the reasons that we see the European teams getting a bump in the betting odds is because the 2014 games will be played on the international-sized rink. That means that the North Americans (Canada and USA) will have to adapt to the larger size. In the 2010 Games in Vancouver, it was the opposite.

The bigger ice means that the game will be free-flowing with a greater emphasis on skating, finesse and skill. Those big bruising defensemen who like to muscle everyone around won’t have as much use here – they might even be a liability, so thake that into account when selecting your hockey picks.

Teams like Russia and Sweden have blueliners that tend to get exposed on the North American ice but should thrive in Sochi (see: Slava Voynov, Sergei Gonchar).

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