AC Olympic Preview: Group C Preview and Predictions

USATSI

Who will make it out on top out of this motley Group C of Olympic underdogs and dark horses?

Contending Teams: Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland & Latvia

Round 1:

Czech Republic vs. Sweden (Wednesday, Feb. 12, 9:00am PST): This will be a nice opening game to see how contentious Sweden will be for the gold. Sweden remains the large favorite to upset the 2010 Gold Medal Olympians for the coveted hardware this year--but this comes with a caveat...Health. How will the season injuries have affected the Swedish team? Despite the loss of Henrik Sedin, Sweden still has the guns in the front to get past the somewhat weak blue line of the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic have their very own fire power with the likes of Jaromir Jagr, David Krejci, Tomas Plekanec, and Marin Hanzal. But they will be facing a golden blue line led by young 'uns Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Erik Karlsson, among others, and even a tougher netminder in Henrik Lundqvist. Sweden may not have the size but they have the speed to take this opening game. Winner: Sweden 4-2

Latvia vs. Switzerland (Wednesday, Feb. 12, 9:00am PST): Despite the lack of goal-scorers on Team Switzerland, they will have their opening game against Latvia to ease them into the Olympic competition. Latvia will be outskated by the quick Swiss players who will use the international ice to their favor. Latvia will try to compete but will grow frustrated by Switzerland's defensive play. It will be our first chance to see how Anaheim Duck Jonas Hiller looks in this opening round. Winner: Switzerland 3-0

Round 2:

Czech Republic vs. Latvia (Friday, Feb. 14, 12:00am PST): In a way, I can see the Czech team bullying the Latvian team in this second rounder. Team Czech may be made up of more aged forwards such as Petr Nedved, Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr, but the experienced veterans will have their way and show off their firepower. But expect to see the weaker Czech defense and average goaltending give way to some dangerous opportunities for Team Latvia. Winner: Czech Republic 6-3

Sweden vs. Switzerland (Friday, Feb. 14, 4:30am PST): This will either be a very exciting game, or a very boring game, depending on how you view low scoring games. Considering these are two of the most extremely strong defensive-minded teams going head-to-head, it should be interesting to which how each team will garner the offensive opportunities. When either team does break into the offensive zone, look for some stellar goaltending by two of NHL's hot goaltenders--Henrik Lundqvist vs. Jonas Hiller. In the end, it will all come down to a shootout where Sweden will come out with the slight edge. Winner: Sweden 2-1 SO

Round 3:

Switzerland vs. Czech Republic (Saturday, Feb. 15, 9:00am PST): Coming in to the tournament, the Czech team was said to be the slight favorite due to the decent goal scorers up front. The aged roster of the Czechs will be no match for Team Switzerland's speed and puck possessing talents. The Swiss will expose Czech's biggest weakness along the blue line. In addition, Jonas Hiller will be able to stand up to the task. Winner: Switzerland 4-1

Sweden vs. Latvia (Saturday, Feb. 15, 9:00am PST): From the initial puck drop, the experienced NHL-stacked Swedish roster will dismantle Team Latvia. Sweden will use this game to come out of the preliminaries with a more offensive mindset. Sweden's forwards will be buzzing all over the Latvian net and Latvia's predominantly KHL defense will have an immensely difficult time clearing the puck out of the offensive zone. Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will not really be tested with the Swedish blue line serving as an impenetrable wall of defensive play. Winner: Sweden 5-0

Final Standings Predictions:

1. Sweden: 8 pts

2. Switzerland: 7 pts

3. Czech Republic: 3 pts

4. Latvia: 0 pts

Stay glued to Anaheim Calling for full coverage throughout the Olympic tournament.

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