Hawks head to the Olympics; USA/Canada player preview
After ending the first part of their season on a road trip where they went 2-1-3, the Blackhawks, along with the rest of the NHL, will have a 2 week break as the Winter Olympic games commence in Sochi, Russia. Four of the 10 Hawks competing in the games will play for the two North American teams, as Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith will return for their second Olympic games after winning gold with Team Canada in Vancouver, while Patrick Sharp will make his Olympic debut for the Canadians. Meanwhile, Patrick Kane will be the only Hawk to represent the stars and stripes of Team USA in his second Olympic tournament after taking home a silver medal in 2010.
Team Canada: After winning gold in Vancouver, the expectations are high for the defending Olympic champions, and they certainly look to be the favorites with an absolutely stacked roster, with a number of talented forwards and defensemen, not to mention returning netminder Roberto Luongo.
Keith and Toews have already won a gold medal in 2010, and they will return with nine other members of the team that won it all on home ice.
On defense, Keith was paired today with Shea Weber, though it’s possible he could be skating with Drew Doughty, his partner in the 2010 tournament. Despite going goalless in Vancouver (6 A), Keith is now back to his Norris-trophy winning form, and will likely be relied on as a top-pair presence on Canada’s blue line. He currently sits fourth in the NHL with 45 assists in 59 games, and is the only defenseman in the top five.
For the Chicago forwards, look for Toews to center Sharp and Rick Nash as the tournament gets going, though that may change as the Olympics move on.
Toews was named top forward in Vancouver in 2010 with 1G, 7A, and was also named alternate captain for the 2014 games in Sochi. Sharp is currently 9th in the NHL in points and tied for 6th in goal scoring with Sidney Crosby, and he’ll look make an impact in his first Olympic tournament.
Team USA: Kane will be the only Hawk to represent Team USA, but the forward is looking for redemption after the Americans fell short in OT in Vancouver. While the USA team might not be as skilled as Canada or quite as deep on defense, their depth on goaltending is impressive, with Jimmy Howard, 2012 playoff MVP Jonathan Quick, and 2010 silver medalist Ryan Miller in net. Going into 2010, the team was an underdog that was not expected to medal, but after being just one goal away from gold in Vancouver, the stakes and expectations are much higher for this USA team.
Scoring the game-tying goal in the gold medal game, Kane finished the 2010 tournament with 3 G, 2 A, and the creative offensive force is likely to play on the top line for Team USA, skating today with Dustin Brown and Ryan Kesler. Kane currently sits fifth in the NHL with 63 points in 59 games, currently on pace to tie his career high of 88 points in a season.
Check back here for more Blackhawk’s Olympic coverage as the games go on.