Hockey betting preview 1 IIHF World championship 2012 Group A
This hockey betting article covers Group A of the IIHF World championships of 2012. Group A consist of Finland, Canada, USA, Switzerland, Slovakia, Belarus, France and Kazakhstan. The matches are all being played in wonderful Helsinki where a hockey loving home crowd will be sure to make the most of it, every single game. In this article we will review the on paper weaker half of the group. Let’s get to it:
The Kazaks have been producing several fine NHL players throughout the years, and has from time to time done fine things in competitive games. In recent years the team has not really found its level and the Russian head coach Andrei Khomutov is facing a tough task with this team. Just to rub more salt in the open wound; Kazakhstan was recently promoted together with Italy from the Championship pool. That is not a sign of high quality these days. Speaking of the devil; they recently beat Italy 2-0 in a friendly. They are not very far off the level of say France, and perhaps they even can give Slovakia and Belarus a tough time if everything goes their way, but more often than not they will fail.
This side does not feature any NHL players, but the Kazak entry in KHL Barys Astana as well as some other KHL players will see to that the level is of decent standard. Keeper, Vitali Yeremeyev will be one of their key men. The Barys Astana player holds a high level, and he will need to be in fire if the Kazaks are to avoid relegation. On the other side of the coin; having this many players that are already gelled might be their advantage. If they play to their maximum potential they can avoid relegation. Qualification to the Olympics in 2014 however looks impossible. In general; if you like betting on hockey, bet against Kazakhstan when they are testing their toes at this depth.
Normally when we talk of hockey we really don’t think of France. Things, may be about to change. The French side has built up a forward line up that may cause trouble to many teams in this group. Stephane Da Costa (Ottawa Senators) played AHL this season but did fine. Damien Fleury and Pierre-Édouard Bellemare had great seasons in the Swedish Elitserien. They also have a couple of players from the Czech top league, and Yohann Auvitu can tell them all about Helsinki. He played regularly for JYP this season. The big man in the goal is still here too. Cristobal Huet will undoubtedly still be the man that will make or break the push for Olympic glory (the 12 best teams in the world). Should France not have the mentioned players in their lineup they will suffer greatly, and could face big problems. For hockey betting glory; be sure to check it out. Our view is that the team is getting to the same standard as the Latvian, Norwegian, Danish, Belarussian and Slovak level. Over 100 games they are perhaps slightly behind, but they are increasing their level and capacity. Look out, they might create an upset or two!
On paper the Belarusians are no walkover, and their training games up to this championship indicate they got serious intentions. That said; they haven’t been able to produce top results as of late. Due to this they have slipped down on the world ranking pecking order. In 2014 they will host the world championships, so they will want to stay sharp here to avoid further slip-ups. Relegation and to Championship level would not be taken lightly back home. Such slip-ups can easily happen if the team isn’t up to its very best and if focus is missing. We do however believe that Head coach Kari Heikkilä will have his team ready and that there will be no issues whatsoever in that department. Heikkilä was a solid player for Ilves back in the day and has had success as a coach. He took Kärpät to greatness in the SM-Liiga and he has also had excellent results with KHL side Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
Their best player, forward Mikhail Gravovski who plays for the Toronto Maple leafs will join in. This is VERY IMPORTANT. If he is out, they lose out a lot in offense. Be sure to check the lineup before you bet on this team. If he is not in it, they will struggle so much more to win it. With his scoring and assist capabilities they will surely be able to open up a defense or two. He is really that good! Without him things look less bright. We should also mention Konstantin Koltsov and Alexei Kalyuzhny. They are capable and experienced offensive players in the KHL, and they have had pretty good seasons too. Koltsov plays for Salavat Yulayev, while Kalyuzhny plays for the very solid KHL team Avangard.
Vitali Koval is a solid goalie who plays for Torpedo in the KHL. It is also worth mentioning that the squad also feature quite a few of the Dinamo Minsk rooster, as this is the only entry Belarus has in the KHL. In other words, the team will have many players who knows each other inside out as well as a couple of seasoned forwards to support their ace Gravovski.
The team looks a tad weaker in defense. The backbone is made up of Minsk players with a couple of home league players and a couple of KHL players as well. That said; the quality is fairly high, so we are perhaps asking too much of a side that isn't expected to shine.
This nation loves hockey, but after having been considered a decent team for years things are less bright this time around. They haven’t been able to keep up with other nations producing fresh young talent, and as a consequence their rooster has aged dramatically. They can still qualify directly to the Olympics in 2014 (if they are ranked among the 9 best teams in the world). They are currently ranked 10th, just behind Norway.
The team does have some NHL influence. Zdeno Chara, of the Boston Bruins is most likely their biggest name player this tournament. He will definitely shore things up well defensively together with another solid NHL pro Andrej Sekera of the Buffalo Sabres. Up front Tomas Tatar who plays AHL hockey but belongs to the Detroit Red Wings will be a glimpse of Slovakian Hockey future. He is a very talented young man that will go far in this game. They also got Tomas Kopecky of the Florida Panthers coming with them.
The team also has some former NHL players in their offense that we are sure will give their very best: Miroslav Satan, of Slovan Bratislava, Branko Radivojevic of Atlant, Marcel Hossa of Dynamo Riga, and Milan Bartovic of Bili Tygri Liberec are no names to take lightly when the lights are on and the crowd is going wild. They still got some good hockey in them.
Other than that the squad consists mainly of players from the KHL, the Czech Extraliga and the Slovakian league. Worth mentioning are the Extraliga top goalie Peter Hamerlik and TPS Turku (SM Liiga) player Juraj Mikus.
If they for some reason should lose Chara and Sekera they will be very thin defensively against the best teams. Those players are of very high standards. Offensively they are far from top notch and will need a lot of luck and effort from the old boys mentioned to have any chance to go further to the playoffs. Given they only managed 10th at home last time around we don’t want to predict too great things for this team. If Belarus and France can have good tournaments they may even give the Slovaks a tough time.
The next hockey betting article we put out will cover the on paper four lesser teams of Group B. After that we focus on the cream of the crop.