2014 Winter Olympics Hockey Betting Preview

Make no mistake about it: men’s hockey is a massive draw at the Olympics and it is getting more competitive each time out. Here is a look at the top five to watch out for in Sochi when the tournament starts.

Canada comes in favored at +200 as the defending gold medalists after winning their second gold in three Games in Vancouver. There, they had the crowd to feed off, but there was also a lot of pressure, given the importance that Canadians put on hockey. Sidney Crosby was named captain and is touted as the best player in the world but he’s definitely not on his own here. This team is stacked from front to back but one main concern comes in goal. The days of Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur are long gone and Canada could be somewhat weak with Carey Price and Roberto Luongo as the options.

The hosts from Russia are tipped at +225 and they have all the pressure as they haven’t won a gold since the USSR fell. They haven’t even picked up a medal in either of the last two Olympic Games. There are some injury concerns as Pavel Datsyuk was named the captain for the team but he hasn’t played in the NHL since New Year’s Day. Will he be ready? The onus is on Alex Ovechkin to continue to snipe like he has in the NHL where he leads the league in goals. As per usual, Russia is loaded with offense but has some questions to answer on the blue line and in net.

Sweden may be the most dangerous threat to Canada’s reign at 4/1, and captain Henrik Zetterberg has been great in Datsyuk’s absence in Detroit, but he has also been banged up. The Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, will probably be allowed to play their game unlike with their NHL team, Vancouver, while Erik Karlsson leads the defense and Henrik Lundqvist is still a very good-to-excellent goalie in the NHL. Sweden has won two gold medals in their history, most recently in 2006, and they shouldn’t be overlooked in Sochi.

The United States come in at +600 but they might feel a little disrespected. They took Canada to overtime in 2010 but are slotted behind three other teams in Sochia (according to the odds). They are loaded in goal with former Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick as well as former Vezina winner and 2010 Goaltender/MVP of the Olympics, Ryan Miller. However, only one of them can play at a time. There is tons of offense up front with Patrick Kane leading the way while Phil Kessel is joined by Toronto teammate James van Riemsdyk, Ryan Kesler and captain Zach Parise.

However, their defense will be scrutinized and the Ryan Suter-led group has to play well.

The Czech Republic is rated at +1000 at TheGreek and while those odds are longer than some of the others, they have a veteran foundation that will compete for gold. With captain Tomas Plekanec and his alternates, Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias, who are both playing well in New Jersey this season, the Czech Republic do have some credibility. They also have Petr Nedved, who is one year older than Jagr and playing in his home country.

They’ll have to overcome issues at the back end to be serious threat, though. Their best defenseman is probably Ladislav Smid (sorry, Tomas Kaberle) and they’ll have to rely upon the inconsistent Ondrej Pavelec in goal, who has been up and down for Winnipeg. If the Czechs are going to make it to the podium for the first time since 2006, the defense will have to overachieve in Sochi.

2014 Winter Olympic Hockey Betting Odds:

Canada +200

Russia +225

Sweden +500

USA +600

Czech Republic +1000

Finland +1000

Switzerland +2500

Slovakia +3000

Others on request