Olympic Hockey Betting News and Notes Thursday, February 13

Olympic Hockey Betting News and Notes Thursday, February 13

Thursday's Olympic Hockey Cheat Sheet
By Covers.com

Here's a look at Thursday's Olympic men's hockey action.

Finland vs. Austria (+1,300)

The Finns (+1,300 to win gold) are no longer the elite threat they once were, thanks in large part to an aging cluster of stars. Teemu Selanne is the most notable of the greybeards, competing in his sixth and final Olympic tournament to cap a Hall of Fame career. Injuries to Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula leave the offense in the hands of a young corps that includes Minnesota forward Mikael Granlund and Florida center Aleksander Barkov, who join veterans Olli Jokinen, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu. The goaltending trio is the strongest of any team in the tournament, with Tuukka Rask leading the way.

Austria (+150,000) hasn't finished better than 12th at the Games since NHL players began participating - and doesn't appear to be in good shape of cracking the top-10 with a roster consisting largely of domestic club teams. The forward corps boasts the only three NHLers on the team - Islanders teammates Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner and Philadelphia Flyers rookie Michael Raffl. The remainder of the roster has plenty of experience playing together, but has yet to prove itself on the international stage and will be hard-pressed to keep up with a talented Finnish side.

NOTES

* Finland has medaled in four of the last five Olympic competitions.
* Vanek ranks fourth on the Islanders in points (40), while Grabner is seventh (20).
* Selanne has 20 goals and 17 assists in 31 career games in the Olympics.
* None of the Austrian netminders (Bernhard Starkbaum, Rene Swette, Fabian Weinhandl) was drafted by an NHL team.


Russia vs. Slovenia (+2,000)

The host Russians (+200) are considered a co-favorite, along with Canada, to take home the gold. Few teams will be able to match the firepower of a Russian forward collection that includes NHL goal-scoring leader Alex Ovechkin, former scoring champion Evgeni Malkin, former NHL superstar Ilya Kovalchuk and ex-Nashville Predators sniper Alexander Radulov. The defense is suspect - led by Montreal Canadiens teammates Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin - while the goaltending crew is anchored by Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Slovenians (+200,000) face the longest odds of any team in the competition - and it's almost unfair that they have to open the tournament against the powerhouse Russians. Slovenia's first-ever taste of Olympic hockey will be a moment to savor, but the chances of the country putting up any semblance of a fight are remote. The country does have one NHL player on the roster - and it's a rather good one in Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar. But he shouldn't expect to get much help from a team made up of players from leagues in 10 different countries.

NOTES

* Ovechkin has 40 goals, nine more than runner-up Phil Kessel.
* Kopitar leads the Kings with 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists).
* The Russian roster features 15 players from the NHL and 10 from the KHL.
* Slovenia qualified for its first Games appearance by winning an Olympic qualification tournament last February.


Slovakia vs. United States (-333)

Optimism abounds for the Slovaks (+4,000), who are on the periphery of medal contention but are bolstered by one of the strongest rosters in their history. Led by Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa, Slovakia boasts a talented - and potentially underrated - group of forwards who should excel on the larger ice surface. The defense is led by towering Boston Bruins hulk Zdeno Chara, an all-world talent who can change the complexion of a game by himself. Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj provide a solid 1-2 punch in goal.

The Americans aren't considered in the same class of contenders as Canada or Russia, but sleep on them at your peril. They possess one of the fastest and most versatile forward groups in the competition, led by 31-goal man Kessel, Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane, snipers Zach Parise and Max Pacioretty and bruisers David Backes and Dustin Brown. The Ryan Suter-led defense is deep, while the goaltending trio of Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller and Jimmy Howard should keep games close.

NOTES

* Slovakia finished fourth at the 2010 games in Vancouver, its best-ever result.
* The United States has just two podium finishes - both silver medals - since its 1980 Miracle on Ice gold.
* Halak is 11th in the NHL in goals-against average among qualifying netminders (2.26), but just 23rd in save percentage (.915).
* Kessel (65 points) and Kane (63) are fourth and fifth, respectively, in the NHL scoring race.


Canada vs. Norway (+2,000)

The Canadians (+175) come in ready to defend the title they won on Sidney Crosby's "golden goal" on home soil four years earlier. Crosby returns to lead the most dominant and explosive offense in the tournament; he'll have plenty of help from Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews, Islanders center John Tavares and Anaheim Ducks duo Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. A big, physical defense led by Duncan Keith and Jay Bouwmeester will make life miserable for opposing forwards, while Carey Price and Roberto Luongo form an impressive - if inconsistent - net tandem.

The odds of a podium finish are remote for the Norwegians (+20,000), but they're capable of putting a good scare into any team in the tournament. They boast a disciplined forward corps led by New York Rangers phenom Mats Zuccarello, and will almost certainly adopt a defensive system designed to limit opposition chances while looking for a chance to counterattack. The defense is guided by former NHLer Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, while the goaltending situation borders on dire - particularly if Norway struggles to contain opposing forwards.

NOTES

* Canada employs the top three NHL scorers in Crosby (78), Getzlaf (67) and Tavares (66).
* Zuccarello has 15 goals and 28 assists in 58 games with the Rangers.
* The Canadians are returning 11 players who led the club to gold in Vancouver.
* Norwegian forward Patrick Thoresen, another former NHLer, had 18 points in eight games at the World Championships in 2012.

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