The host nation Russia starts its mens hockey tournament against a significantly inferior Slovenia at 7:30 A.M. tomorrow. While the first three game do not matter much since it eliminates no teams, it is important for Russia to get its feet wet. The NHLers on Russia were just playing with their club teams four days ago, now they are playing with their brethren trying to bring home the gold for the second straight games.
Realistically the Slovenians will have to play out of their minds to have a shot at winning tomorrow. With only one NHL player on their team, Anze Kopitar, they will have their struggles. Although Anze is a star, it is hard to do it all on your own. The Slovenian team also lacks NHL level goaltending which will hurt them going forward.
Player to Watch on Slovenia: Anze Kopitar, he has to carry this team all tournament for a shot to come close to metaling.
Russia on the other hand just has to play an all around solid game for an easy win. However, the host nation shouldn’t sleep on this team. This early game is a good time to build some line chemistry. It is also a good time for the NHL players to get used to the bigger ice sheet, especially goalies who seem to be off their angles (will be talked about in tomorrows 5 things we learned).
Player to Watch on Russia: Evgeni Malkin, with so many players to choose from I decided to take the center of the top Russian line. We all know Semin and Ovechkin like to score, and by adding Malkin to that pair makes three pure scorers on one top line. Malkin will have to accept a setup man role on the line, something he has done well this NHL season currently sitting 6th in assists, higher than any other Russian.