Slovakia: the right mix of Olympic veterans and Olympic rookies?

While the question with other teams is “Do we have the right mix of talent” The question with the Slovakian team “Is do we have enough talent?” The talent bank of the Slovaks is nowhere near the caliber of most of the other teams especially if someone gets injured. With that being said, if they can stay healthy and the goaltenders get hot, they might have a chance to medal. With this mix of Olympic veterans and Olympic rookies, things could get interesting.

Since the talent level on the Slovakian team isn’t as deep as some other teams the goalies will need to fill in most of that gap. Jaraslov Halak should be the starter as he was the starter for the last Olympics. He has played 29 games for the St. Louis Blues with a GAA of 2.31 and a save percentage of .911. Peter Budaj should be the number two goalie over Jan Laco because of his NHL experience. He has been a solid number 2 goalie for the Montreal Canadians. He has played 11 games with a GAA of 2.14 and a save percentage of .920. Jan Luco has World Championship experience which could prove valuable if he is needed. He currently plays for Donbass HC and has a 1.72 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 7 games.

On defense, Zdeno Chara is going to be their saving grace. He has 9 goals and 9 assists in 43 games with a +4. Almost everyone knows what a beast he is defensively for the Boston Bruins. He is one of the most experienced Olympians on the team with this being his 3rd.   Lubomir Visnosky, who also is going to be I his 3rd Olympics is a valuable asset with 3 points in 8 games for a +3. He is a big question mark because he is recovering from a concussion and may not be ready in time. This is also the third Olympics for Andrej Mezsaros. He recently has been dealing shoulder problems, but now that he is healthy he could take some of the pressure off of Chara. He has a goal and 7 assists in 24 games with a +3. Although he has only played one NHL game, because this will be his 2nd trip to the Olympics, Ivan Baranka completes the veteran core on defense. He has a goal and 14 assists in 41 games with a +1 for Omsk Avangard. Andrej Skera is the only Olympic rookie on defense to have significant NHL experience. He is +2 with 7 goals and 17 assists in 43 games for the Carolina Hurricanes. Martin Marincin has played 9 games for the Edmonton Oilers. He has 3 goals and 4 assists for a +5. Dominic Granak currently plays for Dynamo Moscow and has 5 goals and 6 assists in 31 games for a +11. Michal Seren is a big question mark. He is currently injured. He has 14 points in 33 games for Slovan Bratislava, but he is at -5. Look for the coach of the Slovakian team to match Olympic rookies with Olympic veterans on defense to keep things balanced.

Thankfully, the offense has plenty of Olympic experience.  The most seasoned Olympian is Michal Handzus. This season with Chicago he has 4 goals and 6 assists in 29 games. Then you have Handzus’s teammate Marian Hossa. Hossa scored 9 goals in Vancouver and has won two Stanley Cups. He currently has 15 goals and 20 assists in 41 games. Marian’s younger brother Marcel is also on the team. He is a two time Olympian and has 61 points in 237 NHL games. He currently plays for Dinamo Riga and has 20 goals and 17 assists. Tomas Kopecky has also won a Stanley Cup with Chicago, although he now plays for the Florida Panthers and this will be his second Olympics. He has 4 goals and 5 assists in 38 games. When Marian Gaborik is not injured he is great. He has 12 points in 18 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he has played less than half the games in a single season for each of the last 3 seasons. He is currently injured and remains questionable for the Olympics. This will be his third time in the Olympics. The rest of the forwards are 1st time Olympians.  Milian Bartovic played 6 seasons in NHL/AHL before going back to Europe where he has remained since 2006. Tomas Surovy has played 126 games in Pittsburgh, but is currently playing for Minsk Dynamo. He has 6 goals and 11 assists in 39 games. Tomas Tatar has played 36 games this season for the Detroit Red Wings. In that time he has 9 goals and 8 assists.  Richard Panik has 2 goals and 9 assists in 36 for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Michal Miklik currently has 11 goals and 18 assists in 42 games for Bratislava Slovan.  Tomas Jurco had 2 goals and an assist in 7 games for Detroit, but had 12 goals and 18 assists in 31 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins. Tomas Zaborsky currently plays in the KHL and has 5 goals and 4 assists in 24 games. Tomas Marcinko had 11 goals and 20 assists in 38 games for Kosice HC before being traded to MODO Hockey Ornskoldsvik. Peter Olvecky played 32 games in the NHL and had 2 goals and 5 assists.  

For the first time Olympians, the excitement matches nothing else they have ever experienced. This excitement could fuel a “nothing to lose” attitude.  The pressure to perform is not there compared to the pressure that the Canadians, Russians and Americans face. This could lead to outstanding plays by the Olympic rookies, but it can also lead to carelessness. This is where the veterans come in. The veterans know how to handle the excitement of Olympics and can temper the excitement of the rookies. This combination could prove to be a winning one. Of course this team is missing someone special in Pavol Demitra who was killed in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash. His spirit could provide extra drive for the Slovaks to win.  

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