The World Cup of Hockey Group B - Overview and Predictions
Team Sweden has not been doing as well as many thought they should during the exhibition games. Their main saving grace is expected to be the goal tending skills of Heinrik Lundqvist of the New Your Rangers, who is probably the most experienced goalie in the tournament, has at least 30 wins in every full season he has played in his NHL career. Sweden also boasts a very strong defense which will include Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes, Ekman-Larsson had 23 goals last season and brings speed to the teams as well and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had 13 assists in 26 games during the 2015 playoffs. On their offensive line among others are the Sedin brothers, Heinrik and Daniel from the Vancouver Canucks. Both Sedin brothers make up one of the strongest ans most successful lines the Canucks have fielded an average per game score of .98 over the last 10 years. Completing this offensive line also from Vancouver is Loui Eriksson who made 3 goals in exhibition games with an assist form one of the Sedin brothers on each goal. All in all we can expect a strong showing from team Sweden in the tournament. Though as of now they are predicted to come out 4th or 5th place at the end, they can by no means be counted out of the competition. some experts have even placed them as high as 3rd in their predictions
Finland is ranked 4th in the international Ice Hockey Federation 2015 rankings though there have been several players such as Teemu Selanne who have retired since that ranking came out. Finland still puts together a very competitive team, especially since one of the keys for winning the tournament is strong goal tending. In Goal the have both Pekke Rinne of the Nashville predators, who has a career save percentage of 0.917; and Tukka Rask of the Boston Bruins, who has a save percentage of 0.924 over his career. The weakness for team Finland is their offensive line, who are all relatively inexperienced, especially on the international stage, compared to the other teams in the tournament. Their top defensive line is made up of Oli Matta of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Rasmus Ristolainen of the Buffalo Sabers. Ristolainen has the highest Time on Ice (TOI) of the defensive lines and is the only one to have more than 1 point in the exhibition games. While not as strong or experienced a team as they have fielded in international competitions in the past, team Finland may yet be able to surprise us. Right now they are expected to end the tournament round 6th or 7th but with potentially great goal tending and good defense they may be able to improve on that prediction.
Team Russia is a very strong competitor in this tournament. Russia's obvious strength is it's offensive line. The main offensive line will have Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitols, and Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues. For anyone who has watched Hockey in the last couple of years all three of these names are well known for their ability to get the puck in the net even under the most stressful of situations. In Goal they have the talents of Seymon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche and Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both have been known to be sold goal tenders even pulling of some extraordinary saves on occasion. The concern here is if Bobrovsky has mentally recovered from the terrible season he had last year. That being said Russia's biggest concern is its defense, if the defensive lines can not perform well and support the goal tender things will not go well for team Russia. Currently Russia is predicted to end the tournament in 3rd or 4th place.
Team North America is made up of players from the U.S.A. and Canada who are under 23 years of age. Not only are they the youngest team on the ice, they are arguably the fastest as well. While not a favorite to win, this may be one of my favorite teams to watch. In the 3 exhibition games they played team North America scored 13 goals and allowed only 6. Their first offensive line consists of of Johnney Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, and Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabers. All three of these young men are very fast skaters and quite dangerous in front of the net. Add to that fact that team North America boasts the goal tending skills of Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who led his team to win the Stanley Cup last season as only the 6th rookie goalie to play in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1976. Team North America's weakness is their smaller and less experienced defense. Though they doe have Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers, both of whom got plenty of media coverage and played exceptionally well last season. This team may not have the experience that their competition does but they will certainly be exciting to watch. Team North America is expected to take 5th or 6th in the tournament at this point. They however, may surprise us all as they played far better than expectation in thier exhibition games.