The 2014 Winter Olympics get under way in less than a month and one of the biggest debates surrounds the host's men's hockey team. With the Olympics taking place in Sochi, Russia, many wonder if Russia's men's hockey team has what it takes to win it all. Canada protected their home ice in 2010 by winning the gold in Vancouver, but can Russia duplicate Canada's performance?
Russia has failed to reach the podium for men's hockey over the last two Olympics. In 2002, they placed third and in 1998 they placed second. Only two players (Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk) remain from the team's 2002 roster. With all the talented teams out there, Russia is going to have their hands full and must play at an extremely high level if they want to make it far in the tournament.
Here is a look at Russia's 25-man roster for this year's Olympics:
*NHL players are italicized
Sergei Bobrovsky, Alexander Eremenko, Semyon Varlamov
Anton Belov, Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov, Evgeni Medvedev, Nikita Nikitin, Ilya Nikulin, Fedor Tyutin, Vyacheslav Voynov
Artem Anisimov, Pavel Datsyuk, Denis Kokarev, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nikolai Kulemin, Evgeni Malkin, Valery Nichushkin, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Popov, Alexander Radulov, Sergei Soin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexei Tereschenko, Viktor Tikhonov
Out of the 25 players headed to Sochi, 15 are currently playing in the NHL. By looking at the list of players, there is definitely some strong talent with the likes of Datsyuk, Malkin and Ovechkin leading the way. Markov and Voynov provide support on the blue line and Bobrovsky won the Vezina last year as the NHL`s best goalie. Players like Kovalchuk and Radulov are playing well Internationally right now and will strengthen the team`s offensive attack.
It`s easy to get caught up with the big names and lose focus on what truly matters – depth. Russia is not very deep at forward or on the blue line. They have talented players at each position, but they can't be on the ice for the entire game. Their goaltending is a question mark as well and will be facing a big challenge against high-powered offenses like Canada and the United States.
Despite being the host of this year's Olympics and having countless fans in attendance cheering them on, we don't see Russia making it that far in the tournament. Canada, United States, and Sweden are far too powerful for Russia, while Finland and Slovakia will present a strong challenge and could finish ahead of them as well.
Although anything can happen at the Olympics and the home crowd could carry them a long way, we don't see Russia finishing with a medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
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