Five Boston Bruins Players Will Compete At 2014 Winter Olympics In Sochi

Zdeno CharaThe men’s hockey competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi gets underway Wednesday with as many as seven nations having a legitimate shot to win a medal.

The Boston Bruins have sent five players to this year’s tournament, and each of them will play a key role in their nation’s chances of reaching the medal stand.

Let’s take a look at the Bruins competing in Sochi and what role they will play for their respective nations.

Patrice Bergeron, Center, Team Canada

Bergeron’s role for Canada will be quite similar to the one he fills for the Bruins. He will serve as a shutdown forward assigned to defend the opponent’s top scorers and take important faceoffs, specifically in the defensive zone. The 28-year-old center has the second-best faceoff percentage (59.7) among NHL forwards who’ve taken 300-plus draws. As the second-best puck-possession forward in the league, Bergeron likely will be on the ice late in games. His history of scoring clutch goals and wealth of experience in international tournaments (he’s a member of the triple-gold club) makes him a valuable member of the Canadian team.

Canada’s Preliminary Round Schedule

Day Opponent Time (ET) TV
Thursday Norway Noon USA Network
Friday Austria Noon USA Network
Sunday Finland Noon USA Network

——–
Zdeno Chara, Defenseman, Slovakia
Chara will captain Slovakia and serve as the team’s No. 1 defenseman, lead the penalty kill and likely run the point on the top power-play unit. The 36-year-old veteran is expected to play more than 20 minutes per game against opponents’ top forwards.

Chara also needs to make an impact offensively. Slovakia lacks elite talent at forward and will be without its best goal scorer, Marian Gaborik, because of an injury. The Bruins captain has tallied an impressive 26 points in 54 games this season, so he’s certainly capable of providing offense from the blue line in Sochi.

Slovakia’s goaltending is not as strong as that of other medal contenders, which puts a lot of pressure on Chara to play at an elite level throughout the tournament. He’s the only member of the Slovakian blue line who would play a top-four role on an NHL team.

Slovakia’s Preliminary Round Schedule

Day Opponent Time (ET) Live TV
Thursday USA 7:30 a.m. NBCSN
Saturday Slovenia 3 a.m. NBCSN
Sunday Russia 7:30 a.m. USA Network

——–
Loui Eriksson, Right Wing, Sweden
Bruins fans might not want Eriksson to play in Sochi after he missed 20 games with two concussions this season. However, playing in a high-pressure tournament such as the Olympics could help the 28-year-old winger find his game and come back to the NHL playing confident hockey as Boston prepares for the playoffs.

With Sweden, Eriksson likely will play on the second line, which is where he practiced Monday with Daniel Sedin and Nicklas Backstrom. The Bruins forward also should see time on the penalty kill based on his excellent defensive skills and high hockey IQ.

Sweden’s Preliminary Round Schedule

Day Opponent Time (ET) Live TV
Wednesday Czech Republic Noon USA Network
Friday Switzerland 7:30 a.m. NBCSN
Saturday Latvia Noon USA Network

——–
David Krejci, Center, Czech Republic
Krejci will play a first-line center role with the Czech Republic, just like he does for Boston (he leads the Bruins with 50 points). His wingers are expected to be Jakub Voracek and Milan Michalek.

As someone who slows the game down and shows tremendous patience with the puck in the attacking zone, Krejci will greatly benefit from the larger ice because he’ll have more room to create scoring chances. Krejci’s defensive skills, including a consistent back-check, physical play and penalty-killing ability, help make him the most valuable forward on the Czech roster.

Czech Republic’s Preliminary Round Schedule

Day  Opponent Time (ET) Live TV
Wednesday Sweden Noon USA
Friday Latvia 3 a.m. MSNBC
Saturday Switzerland Noon NBCSN

——–
Tuukka Rask, Goaltender, Finland
Rask is expected to start in net for Finland as it attempts to win a third straight Olympic medal. This will be the Bruins goaltender’s Olympic debut, but he’s entering the tournament as arguably the top player at his position. Rask ranks first in the NHL in shutouts (five), third in save percentage (.928) and has an impressive 2.11 goals against average.

Finland has no elite defensemen and a lack of Olympic experience on its blue line, which will put a lot of pressure on Rask to be nearly perfect each game. If he doesn’t have an excellent tournament, Finland won’t make it past the quarterfinals. With that said, Rask is talented enough and has the big-game experience needed to carry a team on a deep run by himself, similar to what Ryan Miller did for Team USA four years ago.

Finland’s Preliminary Round Schedule

Day Opponent Time (ET) Live TV
Thursday Austria 3 a.m. NBCSN
Friday Norway Noon MSNBC
Sunday Canada Noon USA Network

Photo via Twitter/@BpelletierP

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