2018 Olympic Men's Hockey: Miracle On Ice 2.0?
Don’t Expect Miracle On Ice In 2018
Germany & OAR Thrive Under NHL Ban
A lack of NHL players in the 2018 Olympic men’s hockey tournament mostly benefits the countries with less national talent. Germany’s admirable and unexpected run to the gold medal game at Pyeongchang represents a triumph of teamwork and hustle. Defeating the Swiss involved a long, disciplined grind, while massive upset wins over Sweden and then Canada showed an ability to play a full 60 minutes, surprising heavyweights with swift strikes before enduring furious comeback attempts and nail-biting finishes.
Germany deserves their best Olympic hockey result in history, regardless of NHL involvement. It’s easy to see that upsets against a Swedish and Canadian team would be next to impossible if those countries featured pros from the biggest league on earth. OAR benefits just as much as lesser ranked hockey teams due to the lack of NHL participation. The Russians created their Olympic team from the two best KHL clubs, including players capable of playing on many top lines for teams in North America.
As such, Germany faces their toughest challenge, up against an elite and experienced Red Machine which buzzed through the tournament. Since OAR is made mostly of a pair of KHL teams, their squad didn’t need much time to gel. Against Sweden and Canada, Germany had a better chance of winning because of the lack of NHL players. Against the Russians, the lack of NHLers doesn’t make much of a difference, which places Deutschland at a severe disadvantage.
Germans Thrilled With Silver
The Canadians held a 27-1-1 advantage over the Germans before the upset, outscoring them by a 58-15 margin. This victory resonated throughout the country, the type of triumph which will be remembered for a long time. A guaranteed silver medal in Olympic hockey is already the best outcome for the German men’s national team. The squad earned bronze in 1932 and 1976, with the latter considered a watershed moment in Deutsche hockey.
This achievement was pulled off with a roster comprised of Christian Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc and players far outside the radar of the mainstream hockey media. Germany’s a prosperous nation with a large, sports-loving population, but the number of athletes who choose a career in hockey is miniscule compared to the popularity of soccer.
Big international wins tend to capture the imagination of sports fans, especially younger audiences who may be inspired by this spectacular underdog run. Sweden’s a fine example of a hockey country which grew into an international powerhouse because of the influence of greats like Borje Salming, Mats Sundin and Niklas Lidstrom. Soccer will forever be the number one sport in Germany, but an Olympic silver lining might divert athletes towards hockey, lifting the number of elite players within their national system.
Don’t Expect Russians To Repeat Mistakes Of The Past
Russian national teams have done extremely well in World Championships over the decades, but Olympic success has been more elusive for the nation over the past couple of decades. The last time the team won gold was in 1992, in Albertville. Between 1956-1988, the Soviet Union won gold seven times. The inclusion of NHL players hasn’t been kind to the nation, resulting in disappointing Olympics more often than expected.
OAR technically won’t count towards a gold for Russia in the history books, but the team and the nation won’t split hairs if they win. Their squad is comprised of disciplined pros who won’t repeat the mistakes of the past. The Miracle On Ice was made possible with overconfidence, an issue unlikely to repeat.
Previous versions of Russian teams had a reputation of unraveling when faced with Olympic pressure. During the 2018 Olympic gold medal game, OAR will be unlikely to experience pressure from the German squad, which will have great difficulty piercing Russia’s tournament-best defense. Still, anything can happen in a single game final, including a gold medal for Germany, which would be Miracle On Ice 2.0 for these plucky underdogs.
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