Olympic Hockey Preview and Odds: USA vs Russia and More

USAHockeyThe 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi are in full swing and the “Olympic Madness” is upon us. There are always a few marquee events at the games that garner the public’s attention – figure skating, the ski jump, snowboarding and the like. My personal favorite has always been Olympic Hockey, dating back to the famous “Miracle on Ice” of 1980, which not only raised my interest in hockey at a young age but perfectly encapsulated the tension between the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War era. At each Winter Olympics since I’ve tracked the progress of both the U.S. and Russian teams, and as my awareness of the dominant territories of hockey grew, I learned to follow the Canadian team too. So far each of these three teams are on a familiar path of dominance, plowing through their competition on the ice. The U.S. team battered and bruised Slovakia en route to a 7-1 victory in their first preliminary round match. Russia scored similar success with a 5-2 opening round win over Slovenia, putting the two teams on a collision path this Saturday at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi. Both teams are flanked by perennial NHL all stars like Paul Stastny (Colorado Avalanche – Team US) and Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals – Team Russia). As it stands right now there is no moneyline for the game but¬†the U.S. team is the underdog, evidenced by their +1.5 line at -230. With some significant juice to pay on a spread set at just 1.5 goals, the oddsmakers are obviously expecting a close game.¬†Russia’s -1.5 line sits at +190 if you like them to win by more than a goal. The two teams combined for 12 goals scored in their opening games, which makes the total — set at 5.5 — a bit surprising, but each of these teams are far better defensively than Slovakia and Slovenia. With that in mind, oddsmakers favour the game going over that total, with a current line of -145. The relative closeness on either side of the line suggests neither has emerged as a huge favorite in these Games, but there is an obvious lean towards Russia at least at this point. Saturday’s other match-up from Group A is Slovenia vs. Slovakia, a chance for each team to rebound after their tough losses to the Olympic favorites. Slovakia is a much clearer favorite here, as even their -2.5 line sits at +100. Slovenia is -120 to keep the game within that 2.5 goal spread. The total for this game is also set at 5.5, but with two much more offensively challenged teams than Russia and the US, it could be a struggle to reach that. As such, betting either side of the total is nearly a pick em, with the over at -120 and under at +100. Speaking of the Canadians, keep an eye on them going forward. The 3-1 opening round game against Norway may look more competitive on paper than it was in practice, as Canada took a 2-0 lead and immediately responded to the lone Norway goal with another of their own. They followed with a crushing 6-0 defeated of Austria, emerging as a favorite in Group B with only Finland yet to play. They are currently a -650 favorite to emerge the frontrunner from this pack, which is a steep price to pay against a Finnish team stacked with NHL talent and some of the best goaltending in the tournament. Sweden is a relatively low favorite to win Group C at only -200, while Russia is also a low -200, which is as much due to being in the same block as the U.S. as anything else. If you can still find the group futures, Sweden has the easiest path to the top of their group, as they only have to beat Latvia — the weakest team in their section — to take home Group C. As always this preview is for entertainment purposes only and if you wager, please bet only what you can afford. Enjoy the Olympic Games!

Written by Stevie J

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