Hockey: Different Rings
Good Times: The best line of the 2005 World Championships (Thornton, Nash, Gagne) will stay together.
Bad Times: Jovanovski and Niedermayer aren't coming.
Wins If: They get the chemistry going before the sudden-death games.
Loses If: See above.
Storyline: Odds on favorite, with Brodeur back on his game.
Good Times: Hasek and Vokun. Vokun won at the Worlds in 2005, Hasek Gold in 1998. Flip a coin.
Bad Times: Elias and Havlat aren't coming.
Wins If: Have you seen that goaltending?
Loses If: The forwards get driven to distraction - hit 'em, and keep hitting 'em.
Storyline: Which goalie starts; and if it's Vokun, does Hasek pout?
Good Times: Lots of confidence with eight medals in 12 years, including silver in 2004.
Bad Times: No Kiprusoff, no Lehtonen, no Tuomo Ruutu or Kapanen. Ouch.
Wins If: There's a shootout: Jokinen is 8-for-8 in the NHL so far.
Loses If: Niittymaki is a good goalie, but they may need more scoring than with Kiprusoff.
Storyline: There's been controversy over the firing of the last coach and the hiring of the new; that may carry onto the ice.
Good Times: After playing for Washington, Kolzig is well used to facing 45-50 shots per game.
Bad Times: They have seven NHLers, and the two best scorers (Sturm and Hecht) are injured.
Wins If: They play Italy? Sorry, I mean if Kolzig steals one.
Loses If: A clutch-and-grab team, their penalty killers could be exhausted by the second game.
Storyline: Uwe Krupp is the coach now; he may be tempted to suit up.
Good Times: They're hosting, which means they get to play.
Bad Times: They get Canada first. They're only playing nine naturalized Canadians.
Wins If: If the Pope were Italian, maybe. Former NHL goalie Muzzatti can steal one.
Loses If: Well...
Storyline: Actually, these guys aren't that bad. They won the Division 1 championships and qualified for this year's World Cup in Latvia.
Good Times: Goalie Yeremeyev led the Russian Superleague in shutouts last year, when that league was loaded with NHLers.
Bad Times: Antropov is their offensive leader, and he's got 6 goals in 36 NHL games so far.
Wins If: They keep a solid, defensive strategy and stay out of the penalty box.
Loses If: Their opponent scores two or more goals.
Storyline: They scored three goals total in the three-game Olympic qualifying tounrament.
Good Times: Ozolinsh is cleared to play after finishing a voluntary substance-abuse program.
Bad Times: Arturs Irbe is 38 now, and that's a lot of hockey in a short time for their best goalie.
Wins If: They can ride the energy their fans bring. Seriously - 3,000 came to the Worlds last year; these guys are totally nuts for their team.
Loses If: "Archie" starts to wear down. Backup Masalkis isn't up to the job.
Storyline: The fans. Torino is a lot closer than Canada was...
Good Times: Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk, Malkin, Yashin... Goals are not going to be a problem with this team.
Bad Times: The defence is vulnerable, and will get overmatched against the better teams.
Wins If: The forwards get their shots.
Loses If: They hit a hot goalie.
Storyline: Utter enigma. Russia has always had problems with cohesiveness and leadership since Tikhinov was fired. Pavel Bure is the new GM, but it's a coach and captain that's needed.
Good Times: They don't have to play in a qualifying round this time.
Bad Times: Nagy, Phoenix's leading scorer with 56 points in 51 games, is injured.
Wins If: Goaltending holds up. Even without Nagy, this team can score.
Loses If: Chara tries to do everything and loses his focus. He keeps it together, then the defence is strong and he plays 30 minutes a game.
Storyline: The goals will come (Bondra, Satan, Demitra, Svatos, Visnovsky, two Hossas...), but their goaltending is shaky. Marcel's and Marian's dad, Frantisek Hossa, is coach.
Good Times: Lundqvist, a goalie they trust!
Bad Times: So long as he wins the first game!
Wins If: Forsberg can stay healthy.
Loses If: Lundqvist has a bad game, or even a shaky start - it's one area where they're mentally fragile, and they may well start to panic.
Storyline: From perpetual favorites to choke artists over the past eight years. They want more.
Good Times: Aebischer and Gerber - can they play two goalies and one defenceman?
Bad Times: Frequently in the penalty box.
Wins If: See "Good Times".
Loses If: They have to kill eight penalties a game against the best in the world.
Storyline: The borderline team, I always get the feeling they're almost in the top group, but they never quite make it. The Swiss league has improve dramatically over the past decade.
Good Times: The U.S. produces fine damn defencemen, and this Olympics proves it.
Bad Times: Transition time at forward... Good, but not great.
Wins If: They don't dick around with who's in goal; pick one and go.
Loses If: They try a goalie rotation between Esche, Grahame and DiPietro. It's a short tourney, and there no time to acclimatize every game.
Storyline: The vetrans can pull this one off, and man they want to. Lots of players having their last series, Olympics or World Cup. Only question is if the goalies can keep them alive.
Winners: Canada, Czech Republic, United States
Dark Horse: Slovakia
Better Than Expected: Slovakia
Worse Than Expected: Russia
Yes, I know I've got Slovakia in there twice, but I think they'll get to the medal round, and most are choosing sixth or seventh for them. If they get to the final four, they can finish anywhere.
Let the games... er... continue!