Slovakia vs. United States
According the hockey betting odds the United States is a -300 money line favorite, and is -1.5 (-110) on the puck line. The posted total in this game is 5.5. These teams will be competing in Group A in the round robin portion of the tournament along with Russia and Slovenia. The United States is listed as +175 to win Group A, and +600 to capture gold. Slovakia is +900 to win the group, and +3300 to win the gold medal.
Dangerous Dark Horse
This is a better than advertised Slovakian team. They advanced all the way to the semifinals in Vancouver before narrowly losing to the eventual gold medal winning Canadian to in a narrow 3-2 defeat. They then proceeded to lose to Finland 5-3 in the bronze medal game, and finished a surprising 4th in the tournament. This is a veteran Slovakian team that averages 29.2 years of age, with over half of their players currently on NHL rosters. They will be led by 6’8 defensemen Zdeno Charra. They also possess some extremely dangerous forwards in Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik. The goaltending will be in good hands with either Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis) or Peter Budaj (Montreal) getting the call.
Getting Over the Top
The United States had a successful run in the 2010 tournament in Vancouver before losing an overtime heartbreaker to Canada in the gold medal game. The 2010 tournament MVP Ryan Miller returns in 2014 but it’s unclear if he will be the #1 option. Miller struggled in the last couple of weeks of the NHL regular season schedule prior to the Olympic break. It’s a distinct possibility that Jonathan Quick will get the nod at least initially for the opening game versus Slovakia.
The #1 strength of team USA will be by far their overall team speed. Opponents will have their hands full slowing the United States especially with the expanded neutral zone implemented for this tournament. Their defense is extremely mobile, and will present a constant threat of jumping into the play in the offensive zone. This match-up should prove to be full of goals, we'll add the over to our sports picks.
Free Pick: United States/Slovakia to go over the total of 5.5