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Germans can short-circuit opponent's plans

Monday, 02.15.2010 / 5:00 AM / All-Access Vancouver

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

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Germans can short-circuit opponent's plans
Germany isn't a medal contender in Vancouver, but past performances point to the ability to make life miserable for foes.
Team Germany does not have a ton of success on the international hockey stage.

Its best finish in any World Championship since 1990 was fifth-place in 1993. The Germans also pushed Canada to overtime in the quarterfinals of the 2003 World Championships before losing.

While Germany hasn't won much, it is capable of putting a scare into teams on the Olympic stage. In 2002, the Germans pushed Canada to the limit in the quarterfinals before finishing in eighth. In the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, Germany beat the Czech Republic handily to make an appearance in that tournament's quarterfinals.  

Can the German make life uncomfortable for any of the elite teams at the Olympics this time around? It's hard to say, but Uwe Krupp, the former Stanley Cup-winning defenseman with the Colorado Avalanche, is now the coach and he is infusing the team with new blood and an attitude that it can compete with any other.

Goalies

Goaltending hasn't been a German strong suit since Olaf Kolzig retired. But now, there is hope again as two young, NHL-caliber goalies are part of the German trio.

Thomas Greisse already has made it to the NHL, serving as the backup to Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose. Greisse also was on the 2006 Olympic team as a 20-year-old, appearing in one game and making 35 saves, on 40 shots, in a preliminary-round game against Germany.

Dmitri Patzold, 27, was in the NHL, playing three games with the Sharks during the 2007-08 season before he returned to Europe to play for a number of German teams. Patzold, now playing for ERC Ingolstadt, has represented the Germans in the past three World Championships.

Third goalie Dennis Endras also is young, at just 25. He established himself as a full-time player in the DEL, Germany's top league, last year and played for Germany at the 2009 World Championships.

Defensemen

Germany's strength, as usual, rests on the blue line. This might be the deepest and most talented defense the Germans have iced in recent international play as the influence of Krupp already is being felt.

The German defense corps features three legitimate NHLers and two transplanted Canadians with limited NHL experience.

Florida's Dennis Seidenberg might be the best of the bunch, as he will be appearing in his third Olympics. He has been a fixture on the national team since 2001. He has 22 points with Florida this season and has 356 NHL games. He is a classic two-way defender, comfortable in his own end and proficient on the point in the attacking zone.

Vancouver's Christian Ehrhoff also is making his third Olympic appearance, despite being just 27. Ehrhoff is Germany's most dangerous offensive defensemen. He has a career-high 11 goals this season and is on pace to break his best points total of 42, set last season with the San Jose Sharks.

Nashville's Alexander Sulzer is the final NHL defenseman. Just 25, he is making his second Olympic showing. He has been called up to the Predators this year and has 20 NHL games under his belt.

Jason Holland and Chris Schmidt are the transplanted Canadians mentioned earlier. Holland has 81 games of NHL experience, but none since a 52-game run with Los Angeles in 2003-04. Schmidt, meanwhile, played 10 games with the Kings in 2002-03.

Forwards

Depth up front will be a huge problem for the Germans in this tournament.

Krupp has just three NHL-caliber forwards from which to choose, led by Boston's Marco Sturm.

Sturm, a proficient two-way NHL forward with 25-goal capabilities, likely will be Germany's most dangerous forward, especially because there are few players -- even at the Olympic level, who are capable of keeping up with him. Simply, Sturm is among the fastest skaters in the world today.

Nashville's Marcel Goc could very well be the man setting up Sturm. A first-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2001, Goc has more than 350 NHL games. This season, he already has a career-best 10 goals and is on pace to shatter his best point total, which was 22 in his rookie year with the Sharks.

Buffalo's Jochen Hecht is the other NHLer at Krupp's disposal. Hecht will certainly be motivated. He missed the 2006 Games when he was injured in his last NHL game before the Olympic break. This time around, he gets to make amends and hopes to bring so much-needed scoring to the German side. He has averaged 17 goals a season since joining the NHL full-time in 1999. Hecht played in the 2002 Olympics.

The rest of Germany's forwards hail from the DEL. Thomas Greilinger and Marcel Muller are the standouts of that collection. Greilinger, 29, is the leading scorer in the Del, putting up 31goals and 61 points in 46 games with ERC Ingolstadt. Muller, meanwhile, is ninth on the scoring table, managing 47 points in 45 games.

Star Gazing

Marco Sturm is the most dangerous player on the German team and he will have to have an impact in every game if the Germans hope to stay competitive. Sturm is having a great year, playing top-six minutes with the Bruins, but he will have to take his game up another considerable notch in two days time if his team is to make any noise at all.

Striking it rich

Can the Germans medal? Not likely. Can they catch a team dozing in the qualification round or the quarterfinals? You bet! The blue print has been laid before. See Belarus vs. Sweden in 2002 or Switzerland vs. Canada in 2006. What is the unifying theme in those upsets? An air-tight defense and stellar goaltending. The Germans can play defense. Now, they just have to have a goalie -- most likely Greisse -- to stand on his head in an elimination game.