2014 Winter Olympics Ice Hockey Preview: Team USA

It's all on you again, Ryan. - Sean Rudyk

[Insert poorly Google-translated English sentence here.]

Roster

Per SB Nation. The huge grids in our other preview posts make my eyes hurt, so I'll make some BOLD predictions about how the US lineup will look like. Your guess may be better than mine, but it ain't as BOLD.

FORWARDS

James van Riemsdyk
Paul Stastny Phil Kessel
Zach Parise
Joe Pavelski Patrick Kane
Max Pacioretty
Ryan Kesler T.J. Oshie
Dustin Brown
David Backes Ryan Callahan
Derek Stepan
Blake Wheeler

DEFENSE

Brooks Orpik
Paul Martin
Ryan Suter
Cam Fowler
Ryan McDonagh
John Carlson
Kevin Shattenkirk
Justin Faulk

GOALTENDING

Ryan Miller
Jonathan Quick
Jimmy Howard

Stop me if you've heard this before:

"The US has a pretty skilled forward corps. Their strongest assets are in net. But boy oh boy, have your seen those pylons on defense? It's hard to see how this roster can beat out the other powerhouses."

It's been four years since some tournament happened in Vancouver and apparently the people handing out gold medals decided not to give them to the US on a technicality like "You got scored on in overtime." Whatever. The point is, a lot can happen in four years, but for the USA, it seems like not much really has.

Biggest Strength

I'm really tempted to put the USA forwards in this spot because look at some of those names: Kane, Kessel, Parise, Pavelski. This team definitely needs another scorer, like oh I don't know Bobby Ryan, but it still has the personnel to find the back of the net.

There's no denying it though: Top to bottom, the American net will be minded very well with any of Miller, Quick, or Howard in the crease. You have the incumbent starter who was one goal against away from leading the 2010 team to a surprising gold medal finish; you have a bona fide Stanley Cup winner, who plays on one of the best defensive teams in the league but is also a large part of the reason that fact has been true for the past few seasons; and you have Jimmy Howard who backstopped the Detroit Red Wings' run to Game 7 against the eventual champions. American goaltending has such an embarrassment of riches, guys like Cory Schneider and Ben Bishop are staying home.

Biggest Weakness

There's also no denying USA's biggest weakness on the blueline. As much as the US has the personnel to score some goals up front, it's going to be more difficult without offensive threats from the back end like Keith Yandle or Dustin Byfuglien. This blue line is already an improvement over 2010 by keeping out the likes of Jack Johnson, but compared to the quality of Canada's and Sweden's defense, not to mention the high-powered forward corps of those two and the Russians and the Finns which these defense pairs will actually be defending against, can the USA defense not get hemmed in their own zone for extended periods of time? How much can or is the goaltending going to have to bail this team out?

Coaching

Dan Bylsma. The only thing I really have to say is that he most likely will have more insightful things to say than Randy Carlyle's "try harder!" speeches we saw on 24/7. I really hope so because good coaching and knowing how to take advantage of subtleties on the international ice surface can go a long way to improving the US medal hopes.

Prediction

I think the US has a great shot to make it out of the Group stages. It's not quite the cakewalk that the Canadians and the Finns have, but Slovenia is almost a sure win, Slovakia is a very winnable game, and Russia should be a competitive game. All it takes is getting out of the group stages because in single elimination, you all are well aware anything can happen. This US team has the personnel to defend or improve on their silver medal from Vancouver, and it also has the pitfall capability of not making it past the quarterfinals. We'll find out in a few weeks.

What's that? I'm contractually obligated to put my neck on the line even if it means people laughing at me for how wrong I am? Screw it then.

*puts on American flag cape*

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! GOLD MEDAL, BABY!

(But seriously. Let's go with bronze. The US will score enough up to a point where the depth on the powerhouses will overwhelm the American third and fourth lines.)

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