2018 Winter Olympics Men’s Ice Hockey Betting Tips & Predictions
The 2018 Winter Olympics Men’s Ice Hockey tournament will be held in Gagneung, South Korea between February 14th and February 25th, 2018 at Gangneung Hockey Centre (10,000 capacity) and Kwandong Hockey Centre (6,000 capacity).
This will be the first time in 20 years that the NHL does not allow its players to participate in the tournament. And although this means no major hockey superstars, the tournament could well be very interesting just because of that.
The last country to win gold in the Ice Hockey with no help from NHL players was Sweden at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway.
Who will win it this time? Read on for our 2018 Winter Olympics Men’s Ice Hockey betting tips and predictions.
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A total of 12 teams will compete for Olympic gold in Pyeongchang.
Eight countries qualified automatically due to their ranking by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), three nations fought for their place at the Pyeongchang Olympics through qualification tournaments and South Korea qualified as hosts.
Teams are divided into three groups – A, B & C.
After the group stages, all teams will automatically advance to the playoffs with the first-placed team of each group and the best second-placed team advancing straight to the quarter-finals.
The remaining teams will be head to the playoffs sorted by their respective position in the group stage.
Daily Faceoff Times
Game 1 – 03:10am GMT (12:10pm local time)
Game 2 – 07:40am GMT (16:40pm local time)
Game 3 – 12:10am GMT (21:10pm local time)
Gold medal game – 04:10am GMT (13:10PM local time)
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OAR (Russia)Gold Medal Winner
27 IIHF World Championship titles, seven Olympic Gold medals. Russian hockey history is simply impressive.
Nicknamed the ‘Red Machine’ during the Soviet era, the Russian ice hockey team is still among the most fearsome teams to compete with. But there is a catch. Even if Russia win the gold medal, there will be no Russian flag and no Russian national anthem. The Russian ice hockey team is another sports category influenced by the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee. So, no Russian ice hockey team, only “Olympic Athletes from Russia” at Pyeongchang.
The NHL ban will be a huge problem for USA and Canada but a big advantage for Russia. While the tournament includes teams from Finland, China and Latvia among others, the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) is still more or less a “Russian thing” and Putin’s boys will definitely use it in their favor.
All players on the Russian’s roster are playing in the KHL, and more so, only in three of it’s teams. SKA St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow dominate at “domestic” competition right now, and just two players are from Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
Because of strict Olympic anti-doping criteria, Russian coach Oleg Znarok had to eliminate another five players from his list, so there will probably be no place for another doping affair during the tournament, but who knows what will happen afterwards.
St. Petersburg’s 223 goals in 54 matches are very impressive (second-placed Moscow scored only 169 goals in the same amount of games played), but the KHL is overall a more low-scoring league than its European counterparts. This could be the only real problem for the Russian team as they are not used to playing against offensively-minded opponents, and that could lead to high-scoring, but very tight games.
The best weapons of the Red Machine will, of course, be their personnel. We could write almost a whole article about every one of them, but let’s name former Detroit Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk and former New Jersey Devil Ilya Kovalchuk as maybe two of the most notable players. Znarok can also use players that know each other well as they used to play with each other, something other coaches at this tournament could only dream about. Their goaltender squad is not exactly full of household names, but their seasons in the KHL (mainly for SKA St. Petersburg’s Ilya Sorokin) are very impressive.
The best Russian weapon, though, will probably be their psychological advantage. Because of the impossibility to play for their national flag, the Red Machine will be angrier than ever and we expect them to be full of will to prove to the world they are the real number one despite the Olympic Committee ruling.
FinlandGold Medal Winner
Finland may not be as successful as it’s neighbour Sweden, but the Finnish national ice hockey team has always been a strong contender and an undisputed member of the “Big Six” (among Canada, Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden, USA).
Finland won only two IIHF World Championships (1995 and 2011), and their best Olympic result was Silver from Calgary 1988 and Torino 2006. Most recent medals were Bronze in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014. Because of recent Olympic successes, Finland’s ambition for Pyeongchang’s tournament is obvious.
Finland may not be the best in historical records, but they are one of the best suppliers of players in the NHL. Their youth programs are simply one of the best in the world and surprisingly for a small population (5.5 million) Finland routinely has it’s flag besides the names of highest-drafted NHL players – a record six Finnish players were picked in first round of the 2017 NHL Draft.
Although Nashville Predators’ pick Eeli Tolvanen (currently playing for Jokerit Helsinki) could turn himself into a goal-scoring beast, the overall attacking power of ‘The Lions’ is not that impressive. A good example is another future NHL player (Dallas Stars’ pick) Miko Heiskannen. He will be probably be the Finns’ best player, but as he plays on defense, we cannot expect a lot of goals. Even so, Finnish hockey has been known for many years for it’s superb goaltending. All three of the Finnish goaltenders are simply excellent at their job, but Karri Ramo (former Calgary Flame) is probably the most well-known.
Overall, the Finnish roster includes four Sochi Bronze medalists, four 2011 World Champions, 16 players from the KHL including five from Jokerit Helsinki, six players from Finnish SM-liiga, two players from Switzerland’s National League A and one from Sweden’s highest competition.
Finland’s hockey squad for Pyeongchang Olympics is very solid. We don’t expect high-scoring affairs, but routine, defense-based games. They are sometimes almost boring to watch, but their gameplan is tested and their results speak for themselves.
Czech RepublicGold Medal Winner
The Pyeongchang Olympics will be very special for the Czechs as it will mark 50 years since their first gold medal (Ski Jumper Jiri Raska in Grenoble 1968), but more importantly 20 years since their first and only ice hockey gold, when the Czech Republic surprisingly won in Nagano’s 1998 “Tournament of the Century” (being the first Olympic tournament to allow NHL players). Up to this day, the Nagano 1998 Ice Hockey tournament is the most-viewed televised event in Czech history.
The “Golden era of Czech hockey” also starts in Nagano – the Czechs won three straight World Championship titles in a row afterwards (1999, 2000, 2001). Unfortunately for them, generation renewal was handled very poorly, and even to this day, Czech hockey is far from consistent at international tournaments. Josef Jandac is constantly criticised because of his coaching style and strategies so fans and experts alike are looking forward to his successor – probably current assistant coach Jaroslav Spacek (former Montreal Canadien, who was also in Nagano 1998 roster).
The Czech Republic didn’t start the Olympic season well, winning only one match at the Karjala Cup (against Switzerland) and losing two others vs Sweden and Russia. The overall performance was poor, with many strategic issues. Surprisingly, they quickly overcame the failure with a better performance at the Channel One Cup, where they won all three matches for the first time since 2013, beating Canada, Finland and Sweden though Russia eventually won the cup because of a better score coefficient. Between the cups, the Czechs improved almost all aspects of their game, mainly their powerplay efficiency which could be hugely beneficial in Pyeongchang.
The Czech Olympic roster will include former NHL players (Sekac, Erat, Cervenka, Jordan, Nakladal) but we still don’t expect too much offense. Jandac’s squad will be more defense-oriented, following other teams trends for the Pyeongchang Olympic tournament. Because of that, the key figures will be the goaltenders. Czechs are known for their great goaltenders (NHL Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek, among others), and Pavel Francouz is looking sharp this season. At 94.5% save percentage and 1.83 goals against per game this year for KHL’s Tractor Chelyabinsk, he is the undisputed number one and one of the prospects for tournament MVP.
Czech Republic are definitely one of the underdogs for the men’s ice hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics. While they are always strong contenders, there are many issues but big player personalities and fan support (Czechs call themselves the “hockey nation”) could be a huge factor, making the Czech Republic a dark horse for this year’s Olympic Tournament.
CanadaGroup A Winner
Canada will compete against Czech Republic, Switzerland, and South Korea in Group A.
Canada’s men’s hockey team is the undisputed heavyweight in terms of hockey quality. While their best players will be of course competing in the NHL, the remaining lower leagues are packed with talented players. At least that was the trend for IIHF Wolrd Championships. Not anymore. Only three players from the AHL are on Canada’s roster, 14 players are from the KHL, four from Switzerland’s highest league and the rest are currently members of teams from Sweden or Germany.
Canadian hockey players are always offensive minded, so we should expect a lot of goals. The roster for the Pyeongchang Olympics could have troubles in the defensive part of games and this could be also a case for their goalies. Number one Ben Scrivens is not by any means a bad goaltender, but he is far from being world’s best.
The Czech Republic is our dark-horse pick, but we expect them to start the tournament at a slow pace. The exact opposite of what we are expecting from Canada. Canada should easily win Group A, but we are in doubt of their advance to the Olympic finals.
South Korea as the host country is definitely the weakest of all participating countries and they will be very lucky if one of their matches will not end by a huge goals margin. Switzerland could be a surprise of the tournament, we expecting a tight match between them and the Czech Republic, but definitely not a good result against Canada.
OAR (Russia)Group B Winner
OAR will compete against USA, Slovakia, and Slovenia in Group B.
This group is probably the easiest one from a Russian perspective. In fact, we expect them to score at least 15 goals in their three group matches.
The USA have been in serious trouble with their personnel for IIHF World Championships for quite some time now. The Olympic roster is actually quite impressive in terms of offense (mix of speed and promising youth), but the quality of their defense and goaltending is questionable. Slovakia suffers from the absence of good young hockey prospects, while Slovenia will try hard to avoid being dead last in the standings.
SwedenGroup C Winner
Sweden will compete against Finland, Germany, and Norway in Group C.
All matches in this “Scandi” Group could be interesting. Germany and Norway are the best teams outside of the Big Six, while Finland and Sweden are traditional rivals. The Swedes are Silver medalists from Sochi so there is no doubt about their hockey strengths, but the eyes of the hockey world will only be focused on one player: Rasmus Dahlin – the consensus number one pick in the upcoming NHL draft and the consensus number one by a wide margin. In contrast to teams like Canada or Russia, Sweden could have a big problem on offense, while having a roster with probably the best defense at the Pyeongchang tournament.
Germany only have one player who really stands out – NHL veteran Christian Ehrhoff, while Norway have two big names in their squad – Patrick Thoresen and young talent Ludvig Hoff, and that’s about it. We expect Finland to reach the highest places in the tournament, but as in the case of Czech Republic, we think they will up their game during the latter stages of the tournament.