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Will There Be Gold in Sochi For Team Canada?

Will There Be Gold in Sochi For Team Canada?

The roster is set for Sochi and for some it’s a chance to help Canada defend their gold medal from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and for others it will be their first time suiting up for the maple leaf at the Olympic level. No matter what each individuals underlying agenda is, the one goal that the entire group has is bringing the gold back to Canada for a second straight time.

This years selection was no easier than previous years, and Steve Yzerman, along with the rest of the selection committee had some tough decisions to make. Arguably the toughest decision Mr. Yzerman had to make was to leave his own Tampa Bay Lightning player, 35 year old Martin St. Louis off the roster.

Not to take away anything from the team assembled for Sochi, as the selection committee picked out a terrific group to represent Canada in Russia coming this February, but there are still many questions surrounding this team. Here are some following questions that need to be addressed at one point or another for Team Canada.

1. Who starts in net for the red and white?

The obvious choice here is Roberto Luongo who led Canada to gold in 2010 after taking over for Martin Brodeur, but recent health concerns may not make this a lock anymore. Additionally Luongo has been having a sub-par record having 16 wins while having a .922 save percentage and a 2.23 goals against average. Carey Price, the likely candidate to take over the starting spot has 20 wins while having a .928 save percentage and a 2.23 goals against average. Canada also has Mike Smith to fall back on who has also been playing some stellar hockey as of late. Looking at the other countries and the goalies they possess, goaltending is most likely to be Canada’s achilles heel going into Sochi

2. Who will play with Sid the Kid?

Chris Kunitz is to many a sure bet to play with Crosby, as they both play together on the same line for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they play a terrific puck position game and are capable of playing in the smallest corners. With the bigger international ice surface in play now, the two Penguins will have even more space to work their magic. Now most analyst have Lightning Forward Steven Stamkos playing on the wing with Crosby, but he is still recovering from a serious leg injury which means he may not be able to suit up. Other names such as Jeff Carter, or Patrick sharp has been brought up as possible partners to play alongside Crosby on Canada’s top line.

3. What will the Defence pairings be?

Team Canada is absolutely loaded on D, with plenty of experience, youth, speed, and toughness making Canada’s defence one of its biggest strengths. The only problem now is the pairings. Coach Babcock made it very clear in his selection process that he wanted 4 left handed and 4 right handed defencemen, which is probably why right handed shooters such as Brent Seabrook and Dan Boyle were left out and left handed shooters such as Dan Hamhuis and Marc-Edouard Vlasic made the team. Coach Babcock has some options open to him. Shea Weber and Dan Hamhuis played together in Nashville, and have some familiarity playing together, while Weber can also be paired with Duncan Keith who will be looking for a new partner in Sochi as his partner from Chicago, Brent Seabrook was left off this years team.

4. How will Canada handle having the target on their back?

Going into Sochi, everyone will be gunning for Canada, and I mean everyone. The media will pick apart every single aspect of their game, the crowd will be loud and try to throw the Canadians off their game, and the players on the opposing teams will bring their A game knowing they are going against the defending champions and number one hockey team in the world. Canada does possess some youngsters on their team, and some players who have never represented their country at the Olympic level, so much of the pressure they will be facing will be like nothing they have ever seen before. For Canada to win gold again, they will need to keep their composure and remember at the end of the day that they have a target on their back, and must be prepared for anything thrown their way.

Looking ahead to Sochi, one thing that everyone can tell right away is that the team that Steve Yzerman has constructed  very dangerous team, and has just as good, if not a better chance than the rest of the teams competing at winning gold. Canada still has many weaknesses that could possibly become a huge problem once the puck drops in Sochi, but coach Babcock has some time to work with right now to try and mask those weaknesses as best as possible with some of the teams strengths. With 10 returning players from the 2010 team, and an infusion of more youth, Canada is poised for another strong showing at the international level.

Written by: Hamed Amiri

photo credit: NHL

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