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Olympic Hockey Preview 2006: Germany
By BRIAN PIKE, MOP Squad Sports Hockey Editor
Feb 18, 2006 - 3:30:00 AM
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2006 Men’s Olympic Hockey Preview: Germany
2002 Result: Lost in quarter-finals, eighth place
Since then: no major international medals.
Players are listed in probable combinations with their NHL team’s city, German elite league city or European club team with country in parentheses.
1. Eduard Lewandowski (Cologne) – Marcel Goc (San Jose) – Tino Boos (Cologne)
2. Sven Felski (Berlin)– Stefan Ustorf (Berlin) – Florian Busch (Berlin)
3. Daniel Kreutzer (Dusseldorf) – Klaus Kathan (Dusseldorf)* – Lasse Kopitz (Cologne)
4. Alexander Barta (Hamburg) – Tomas Martinec (Nurnberg) - Petr Fical (Nurnberg)
1. Christian Ehrhoff (San Jose) – Christoph Schubert (Ottawa)
2. Andreas Renz (Cologne) – Dennis Seidenberg (Phoenix)
3. Alexander Sulzer (Dusseldorf) – Sascha Goc (Mannheim)
4. Robert Leask (Berlin) – Stefan Schauer (Nurnberg)
1. Olaf Kolzig (Washington)
2. Robert Muller (Krefeld)
3. Thomas Greiss (Cologne)
*injury replacement for Jochen Hecht
**injury replacement for Marco Sturm
Key Performer: Olaf Kolzig. To say that Kolzig’s performance means everything to this German team would be an understatement. While he has toiled behind a team without a great deal of talent in Washington this season, he arguably steps into a situation with the German national team that’s even worse. Though it would be tough to choose who would win in a playoff between the Capitals and the German national team (it would depend largely on who got to play Kolzig), when Germany faces off against the Czech Republic and Canada during its first two games it will be facing squads even more talented than Kolzig has played in Washington this season. Realistically, Germany would be happy to come away from this tournament with round-robin victories over Italy and Switzerland, but even in those games Kolzig will have to be sharp if Germany is to win.
How They’ll Win:
1. Much like his team in Washington, Kolzig will have nights playing for this German team when no matter what he does, his squad just doesn’t have the talent to win. However, Kolzig is the kind of goaltender that can keep his team close in games that they have no business being in. At 35, Kolzig is still a goaltender that can give a dominant performance on any given night. This is quite possibly his final Olympics, and while he hasn’t had a great deal of success with this German team, he’s a fiery enough competitor that he’ll want to leave a mark on this tournament. His competitiveness is contagious too, which means that this team will be working hard to give him the chance to leave that mark here. He gives the Germans the potential to upset a more talented team single-handedly.
2. The German team at this Olympics will be very familiar with one another. Fourteen of these players were on the team at the 2005 World Championships, fifteen saw action at the World Cup of Hockey in 2004, and eight were on the Olympic team in Salt Lake City in 2002. Some roster turnover has taken place, some younger players have played their way onto the team, but there’s a great deal of familiarity. Veterans like Leask, Boos, and Ustorf, who will be playing in his fourth Olympic tournament, will be relied on fairly heavily for leadership, but this should be a fairly tight German team who’s younger core gains experience with each tournament.
3. While Uwe Krupp was not initially expected to be the head coach at this tournament, he inherits this team as one of the best Germany players to play in the NHL and as such commands respect. Krupp was supposed to be an assistant to former national team coach Greg Poss, but Poss resigned rather abruptly after taking heavy criticism following the team’s disappointing performance at the 2005 World Championships. While Krupp will follow much of the groundwork laid by Poss during his tenure and is somewhat lacking in coaching experience, his 15-year NHL career and status as the only German player to have his name on the Stanley Cup should mean he’ll have little trouble getting this team to follow his lead.
How They’ll Lose:
1. Losing both Jochen Hecht and Marco Sturm to injury right on the eve of the Olympics hurts. Hecht and Sturm are easily the most talented German forwards currently in the NHL, veterans of two Olympics apiece and between them have nearly a thousand NHL games and over five hundred points to their credit. Sturm in particular was having a solid season offensively, with 14 goals in just 24 games after his trade from San Jose to Boston in the Joe Thornton deal. At this point the only German forward who gets regular playing time against NHL level goaltending is young Marcel Goc, who has just 7 goals in 55 games with San Jose. Hecht and Sturm almost certainly would’ve been 1-2 in scoring on this team; losing either one would be troubling, but losing both is a very serious problem.
2. While Germany’s forward corps is bolstered by the experience of Ustorf and Boos, this team has no such revered veterans on defence, aside from Leask. And while Leask, a naturalized Canadian who was drafted by Washington but never played in the NHL, provides some toughness and size on the back end, at 34 his best playing days may be behind him. Andreas Renz checks in behind him as the team’s oldest, at 28, and most experienced defender, with twelve seasons in the German Elite League to his credit. Ehrhoff, Seidenberg and Schubert all currently play in the NHL, but between them they have just 217 NHL games to their credit. That trio, as well as Renz, all saw time at the last Olympic games, but this is a defence corps with a dubious amount of experience, at best. As a whole the defence has an average age of just 25 years, and while they’re a fairly mobile group with decent size, that lack of experience could hurt them in Turin.
3. Even with Hecht and Sturm in the lineup, this is a team that simply doesn’t have the firepower to compete with the best hockey nations in the world. At the 2004 World Cup, the Germans had just five goals in four games played; at the 2002 Olympics, after preliminary round wins over Slovakia, Austria and Latvia, Germany had just five goals in four games again against the Czech Republic, Canada, Sweden and the US. That lack of scoring prowess usually forces the Germans into playing a tight checking, five men deep in their own zone style that many consider rather dull. We’ll see whether that’s the style Krupp chooses for his team here, but either way it’s unlikely that the Germans will score much.
The Bottom Line: Rather than expecting to beat Canada, the Czech Republic or Finland, Germany will focus heavily on preliminary round games against Italy and Switzerland with the goal of making the quarterfinals. That’s distinctly possible, and in a one-game playoff round upsets are possible, but they’re a longshot to make a serious impact here. Eighth place is their goal, tenth place is the prediction.
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