Although Russia are the hosts of the 2014 Olympic Games and were expected to win gold in the men’s hockey tournament, they didn’t look like quality suitors in the preliminary round. As a matter of fact, they didn’t do enough to even earn a bye into the quarter-finals, which means they’ll have to qualify by beating Norway.
Russia Can Win Because…
This will be elementary. Norway has arguably been the worst team in the tournament as they’ve lost all three of their games so far. They’ve scored just three goals and coughed up 12. Although Russia put themselves in a position where they’ll have to play an extra game, this is not a situation where they’ll be threatened in any way.
Russia had a rough couple of days over the weekend. They lost in a shootout to the Americans in a very intense, emotional game and then on a quick turnaround, had a letdown against Slovakia and needed a shootout to put them to bed. Overall, this is still an extremely talented team that can go the distance.
Norway Can Win Because….
Russia has not been as good as advertised. Let’s face it: Russia was challenged by Slovenia in their opener as it wasn’t until late in the game that they pulled away. Then Russia lost on home soil to the Americans, who was supposed to be an inferior club, and then needed a shootout to beat Slovakia. Normally, Slovakia is pretty good but this year’s team has lost all three of their games and been outscored 11-2. That gives you a good indication of where the Russians are at right now.
The pressure is on them and they appear to be vulnerable. Norway has an opening.
Outlook & Pick
The Russian contingent shouldn’t worry very much. Remember, Canada needed to play in the qualifying round of the 2010 Olympic Games and they still won gold. And they still have a pretty easy path to gold as an offensively-lacking Finland would be up next and then an injury-hampered Swedish team after that.
For Russia, a day off will be exactly what the doctor ordered. They’ll refresh themselves and lay the boots to Norway in this one.
Hockey Pick: Russia -4.5 -131 at Pinnacle