We're just two days away from the start of men's ice hockey at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and with NHL players once again participating, it's sure to be not just an entertaining tournament but an intense one that features the best players in the world skating for national pride.
Few things can match the excitement of the Winter Olympics, and if you doubt that just ask any American who watched the Miracle on Ice in 1980 or any Canadian how they felt four years ago in Vancouver. I'll give my preview of who I think will win each group and who will take home the gold Tuesday, but there are several interesting topics that I'll be keeping an eye on throughout the tournament:
CANADA CHANGES ITS THINKING
Joe Thornton was leading the NHL in assists earlier this season and is No. 2 in the League right now. He's not playing in Sochi. James Neal is a big, physical power forward and he didn't make Canada's team. Claude Giroux didn't either. This is a sign that Hockey Canada has really changed how it makes the team. Canada has changed its thinking looking at the big ice surface and there's no doubt about it. Brent Seabrook, who was on the team four years ago, didn't make the team and he's one of the best defensemen in the NHL. This lineup definitely moves away from the more physical, grinding style Canada employed four years ago in Vancouver. If Canada was playing in Canada again you'd have those power forwards and those big, physical defensemen in the lineup. But with the international ice you don't see that now. Canada has learned in the past from its struggles on a big ice surface and that's why this team is built the way it is.