The next stop I make for my Sochi 2014 team previews is Slovakia. In the 2010 Olympics, Slovakia nearly upset Canada in the semis, as they accomplished a fourth place finish, their best of all time. With a nice mix of seasoned veterans and rising young stars, Slovakia will again find themselves as the underdog, with the ability to upset teams in big games. Here is a look at the projected team Slovakia lineup.
As you can see, Slovakia has a number of proven players at the NHL level such as Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik, so there should be no shortage of offense for Slovakia. Some older players also crack the lineup, as experience plays a crucial role in Olympic hockey. Slovakia also has a solid group of young players such as Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco, who have promising careers ahead of them. The big question for Slovakia will be depth. Can their bottom 6 forwards pull their weight and provide enough offense?
It’s no shock that Zdeno Chara will be Slovakia’s number one Dman. When Chara was paired with Sekera in the 2010 Olympics, they formed instant chemistry and along with Jaroslav Halak, led Slovakia to the bronze medal game. Milan Jurcina and Tomas Starosta will add physicalty to the blue line, while Andrej Meszaros and Lubomir Visnovsky add experience and will make for a very solid 2nd or 3rd pair. Overall, Slovakia has one of the most impressive defensive groups in the whole Olympics.
It’s quite simple; for team Slovakia to succeed, they will need Jaroslav Halak to be fully healthy and on top of his game. Over the past couple of seasons, Halak has been hampered by injuries; however, there is no questioning how good Halak can be. We’ve seen him come through in the clutch before, and for any type of chance for Slovakia to succeed, he will have to do it again.
There is no shortage of talent on the Slovakian team come time for Sochi 2014. The big question will be if Slovakia has enough depth when it comes to their forwards. If vets like Miro Satan and Ziggy Palffy can play at a level they have throughout their careers, there is reason to believe that Slovakia will shock some teams. They will have to upset the Russians or Americans, to advance, as they are in a challenging group.