The Sochi Olympics are only a few days away and that means the NHL will be taking their two-week Olympic break. Here are some of the NHL stars that will be looking to have an impact on their country’s Olympic run at Sochi.
Teemu Selanne – Team Finland
While the Anaheim Ducks forward may be struggling this season with only seven goals and 13 assists in 46 games played, he is 43 years old and playing with drastically reduced ice time. Once the lights of Sochi are on him, expect Selanne to transform into the Finnish Flash.
The 25-year NHL veteran has seen some of his greatest moments in international play. Sochi 2014 will mark Selanne’s sixth Olympic campaign, which is tied for an IIHF record with fellow Finland native, Raimo Helminen. Selanne became the all-time leader in points scored at the Olympics in Vancouver 2010, with 37. This will more than likely be Selanne’s final NHL season and run at the Olympics, look for him to go out with a bang.
Henrik Lundqvist – Team Sweden
Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t had a Vezina Trophy candidate type of year for the New York Rangers, posting a record of 20-18-3 and a G.AA of 2.46. But much like Selanne, King Henrik thrives on international play. Going back to Vancouver 2010, Lundqvist allowed no goals for a span that stretched out over two full games and a total of 172 minutes. That shutout streak set a new Olympic record.
Lundqvist will be the starting goaltender for Team Sweden in Sochi, but he will have to perform at his very best to keep the job. Team Sweden has two experienced, and capable back up goalies in Jonas Gustavsson and Jhonas Enroth. Both Gustavsson and Enroth have played well for their NHL clubs when needed, backing up Jimmy Howard and Ryan Miller respectively. Look for Lundqvist to play with a chip on his shoulder in Sochi and lead powerhouse Team Sweden deep into the tournament.
Patrick Kane – Team U.S.A.
Patrick Kane has one of the most diverse skill sets in the entire NHL. He has quick hands, speed and unbelievable puck control. Coming off a spectacular season that included a Stanley Cup victory with the Chicago Blackhawks as well as the Conn Smythe award, Kane is in the midst of another terrific season in the NHL.
The Blackhawks currently sit atop the Central Division in the NHL, while Kane is fourth in the league in scoring with 63 points in 58 games played. Kane’s skill and speed will only heightened by the larger sized international ice, the NHL star forward will be one of the main scoring punches for Team U.S.A in Sochi. Kane was a part of the 2010 U.S. team that finished second to Team Canada in Vancouver. He will be looking to avenge that loss in Sochi this year and add an Olympic gold medal to what is already an illustrious hockey career.
Sidney Crosby – Team Canada
Sid the Kid sure has grown up fast. Having already captured a Stanley Cup, League MVP award and oh yeah, scored the golden goal in Vancouver, Crosby will be looked to as one of the main leaders on this years Canadian squad. The 26-year-old center will serve as Canada’s captain in Sochi.
Crosby and his Penguins have been tearing up the NHL this year as they sit atop the Eastern Conference, while Crosby leads the league in scoring with 75 points in 56 games played. Since the end of November, Crosby has been held pointless in only five games and will be looking to carry his momentum right into Sochi. While Jarome Iginla, the man who gave Crosby the golden assist in Vancouver is not on Team Canada this year, look for Crosby to take his game to another level and prove why he is regarded as the best hockey player on the planet.
Alexander Ovechkin – Team Russia
This year in Sochi the Washington Capitals, Alexander Ovechkin will feel the pressure that players like Sidney Crosby felt in Vancouver 2010. If there is anyone who can deliver a gold medal on home ice for Russia this year, it is Alexander Ovechkin. Rivaled against Sidney Crosby for much his career, Ovechkin is undoubtedly one of the purest goal scorers in the NHL today.
The “great eight” is a three-time NHL MVP and is currently leading the league in goals scored with 39, nine goals ahead of the second place Team U.S.A forward, Phil Kessel. Ovechkin has been very outspoken in how important playing for his country is to him. When it was unclear whether or not the NHL would allow players to take part in the Olympics this year, Ovechkin said he would go to Sochi regardless of what the NHL had to say. Ovechkin will have to back up his words and play at an MVP level, if Russia is bring home the gold medal on home ice.
Olympic Hockey in Sochi 2014 will feature players against coaches, teammates against teammates and of course NHL superstars doing battle against one another on international ice.
By Eric Kummel