They have one of their most complete teams in recent memory – especially between the pipes where Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky anchors the team. That’s always been one of Russia’s weaknesses but the thinking here is that either Bobrovsky or Semyon Varlamov will get the job done.
In any case, it won’t matter who is in net on Thursday as Slovenia has no shot here.
Russia Can Win Because…
They are absolutely loaded with talent while Slovenia’s cupboard is pretty bare. The Russians have an embarrassment of riches up front including the NHL’s leading goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin. He’ll be joined by the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Semin and Vladimir Tarasenko. They are going to have a field day on the Slovenian team, which lacks in just about every area on the ice.
The difference with this Russian team, versus others, is that they are pretty solid in net. Not only will Slovenia have a tough time stopping the Russians from scoring, they’ll have a tough time lighting the lamp themselves.
Slovenia Can Win Because…
It looks like Pavel Datsyuk won’t play. There isn’t a whole lot the Slovenians can hang their hats on but that appears to be one thing. Although played in the Detroit Red Wings last game before the break, he didn’t get much ice time and he also missed practice on Monday.
The Russians have all of the pressure here. That can motivate them but it can also backfired on them. Maybe the overlooked Slovenian team can surprise and at least cover a large spread listed by the hockey odds makers.
Outlook & Pick
There’s a lot of pressure on Russia to win gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics and anything but a blowout win here will disappoint the audience. The good news is they get a cupcake matchup to start, so look for them to roll. I’ll add them to my sports picks expecting a 6-1 or 7-1 result.
Pick: Russia -4.5 -127 at Pinnacle