The Sochi Olympics Have Arrived

Last night in the NHL was the final day of regular season games and the two week break for the Olympics is here now. The NHL participants for the men’s hockey tournament will fly over to Sochi, Russia and represent their countries in the tournament that begins on Wednesday.

This year New York Islanders are well represented at the games  with captain John Tavares playing for team Canada, Michael Grabner and Thomas Vanek on team Austria, and Lubomir Visnovsky was named to team Slovakia but will not participate. The Islanders chose to not let Visnovsky go after recovering from a concussion that kept him out of play more than half of the season. There could still be hope for Kyle Okposo on team USA after Max Pacioretty was injured in the Montreal Canadians game yesterday but there was no injury update yet on him.

For the next two weeks, Islanders fans here in the United States will be rooting against Tavares, Vanek, and Grabner and instead cheering on players such as the Rangers Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, and the rest of Team U.S.A. In the 2010 Winter Olympics, the U.S. was one goal away from their first gold medal since the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. They weren’t projected to medal and exceeded expectations and look to build on that performance in the 2014 games with 13 members of the 2010 team that won the silver medal returning.

Team U.S.A. will be led this time by Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma who was a former assistant coach for the Islanders along with Jack Capuano under Steve Stirling. Bylsma’s staff consists of his Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards, and former Islanders, Hurricanes, and Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. This team is built with young solid defenseman and a strong goaltending core led by Ryan Miller. The captain is Zach Parise and he is capable of scoring big goals as fans remember in 2010 when he sent the gold medal game to overtime. Parise and the rest of team U.S.A. look to find answers this year to get another opportunity at the gold they missed out on in Vancouver. They will have some tough tests along the way and it could eventually come down to another match with team Canada who once again has a strong group competing for gold that includes John Tavares.

This week’s schedule for the U.S. is Thursday February 13th at 7:30 A.M. against Slovaka, Saturday February 15th at 7:30 A.M against Russia, and Sunday February 16th at 7:30 A.M. against Slovenia and all games during the Olympic tournament can be seen on the networks of NBC. For these three preliminary games, the games will be on the NBC Sports Network.

-John Santamaria

Follow me @JSantamariaNY and follow us @TCLIsles