There can really be no team considered a definite favorite to take home the gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympic Hockey tournament in Sochi, Russia.
After the first round a preliminary games, no team that is expected to contend for the gold medal could really be considered to have the dominant performance that they would have liked to have. Canada, Sweden, the US, Russia and Finland have all played well but not as well as would have been expected. Russia, for instance has to play a qualifying game just to get into the quarter-final based on there standing so far.
Sweden advanced through the first round with a perfect record, but their play was far from perfect and they’re also suffering from injuries. Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen are missing the entire Olympics and then they lost Captain Henrik Zetterberg to injury during the first game. They, like everyone else in the tournament who played them, had trouble with Switzerland and they finished 3 games with only a +5 goal differential
Canada needed overtime to defeat the Finns 2-1 and their play against in the opener against Norway was far from perfect. There are still many second-guessers out there about the player selection despite the fact they have not lost and have outscored the copmetition 11-2.
The Russians had problems beating Slovakia 1-0 in a shootout and lost the US in the same manner. In front of their home country fans, you can bet they hoped, or more-so expected, to advance straight to the quarter finals.
The US secured the number two seed after dropping a point to the Russians in a shootout game. They have probably looked as good as anyone else in the tournament while beating Slovakia and Slovenia quite handily.
Finland ran up against Canada and they came through it to secure the automatic quarter final berth, based on their overtime loss in the final game of the round robin. They showed that can play two ways – they can fill the net when they play against a weaker team, but they can still bear down defensively.With some of the top goaltending in the tournament they are a team that can’t be ignored.
The Swiss might just be the dark horse in the race. They’ve scored only two goals in the tournament in the 3 games so far but they have allowed only one and Jonas Hiller is been perfect so far stopping every size faced in his two games. If they can get the lead they will be tough for anyone to beat.
So heading into the part of the tournament where now every team is in a must win situation to continue moving on, there really can’t be any one team that is considered a favorite. In my mind there are probably 6 teams that have a legitimate shot. Every game from here on out is “win or go home” and in the end the team that can put together three (or four, for those in the qualifying round) team winning streak is going to take the gold medal home.