The Americans kick off their tournament looking to avenge an overtime loss in the gold medal game to Canada in 2010 as they host the Cinderella team from Vancouver from Slovakia.
The Slovaks were one shot away from upending the Canadians in the 2010 semi-finals but after the host nation rallied for gold it often gets overlooked just how close they were to getting upset by Slovakia just a couple days prior. The Slovaks ultimately fell apart in the bronze medal game as the Finns stomped on them but a fourth place finish is very respectable and they`ll be looking to jump back in the mix again this year. Slovakia will be anchored in goal by Jaroslav Halak who has played his way to being the team`s starter while Petr Budaj will serve as a backup and while the blue line is a bit thin beyond Zdeno Chara and Andrej Meszaros they do have some youngsters in the form of Martin Marincin and Andrej Sekera who will look to make their presence felt in Sochi. Up front, the Slovaks are a little deeper with the likes of Tomas Kopecky, Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco, and Tomas Tatar but the injury to Marian Gaborik is painful for the Slovaks who will suffer mightily without his game breaking abilities.
The Americans head into the tournament as a co-favourite and for good reason as they are stacked top to bottom and along with Canada and all but one from Sweden are the only countries comprised entirely of NHL players. The Americans will be strong in goal led by Ryan Miller and Jonathan Quick and while it is uncertain who will get the call you have to think they would give Miller a shot at redemption after playing so well for them in Vancouver. Ryan SUter anchors the blue line alongside Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Martin and up front they have four very solid lines that can score and bang with the best of them. The only concern for the Americans heading in is whether they have enough depth down the middle and the cross reference always occurs with the Canadians which hands down favours the red and white. Nonetheless the USA will be very tough to beat and it is unfathomable that they`re only a slight favourite here getting a two goal edge. Sure the Slovaks have some NHL talent but they are echelons behind the Americans and I think this game is a walk.