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World Cup of Hockey: Team Canada Preview

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The gold medal boys are here and ready to win again...

Team Canada OffThePostComic

International hockey tournaments tend to bring out the best in Team Canada. I'm still young (ish), but I saw the Czechs win the Olympic title in 1998 first-hand (I was on holiday in Prague during the final), and I've seen how Canada has developed its international hockey program since then. Whether it's Ivan Hlinka tournament wins, World Championship wins, or glorious Olympic gold - this nation is the best in the hockey world, and it's time to prove that all over again.

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Who exactly are Team Canada?

Simply put, they are the reigning Olympic champions, the reigning World Champions and, technically, the reigning World Cup of Hockey champions thanks to the 2004 victory. However this team has moved on since that last tournament was held 12 years ago; the only hold-overs from that Canadian roster are Joe Thornton, now a venerable statesman of the game at 37 years young, and Jay "Iron Man" Bouwmeester.

The management of this team is extraordinary. Coached by Mike Babcock, and supported by Joel Quenneville, Barry Trotz, Claude Julien and Bill Peters, this team has everything it needs to win. And the expectation is of nothing less.

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Which Canucks should I look out for?

Bad news, kids. Unlike the 2014 Sochi Olympics, when we had Dan Hamhuis and Roberto Luongo to cheer on, this Team Canada edition features no Vancouver Canucks. There aren't even any former Canucks. It's okay, we'll cheer on Team Sweden.

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Projected lines:

Marchand - Crosby - Bergeron
Tavares - Getzlaf - Stamkos
Duchene - Toews - Giroux
O'Reilly - Thornton - Perry
Couture

Vlasic - Weber
Muzzin - Doughty
Pietrangelo - Burns
Bouwmeester

Price - Holtby - Crawford

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What can we look forward to with this team?

- Gold. Close games. Tight moments. Nervous tension. You name it, Team Canada usually provides it. Entertainment all round, whether enjoyable at the time or not.

- Sidney Crosby is protected by the two safest wingers in the group, so he'll get the tough draws and keep things open for the rest of the roster. The second line is already making hay in the warm-ups - having Tavares and Stamkos on the same line is the stuff of legend. And to be honest, it's just great to see those guys in Team Canada colors.

- Despite having a seriously good D, it's not even the best in the tournament (that accolade goes to Team Sweden). But any team with Weber-Doughty-Burns down one side is not going to struggle for positive Corsi.

- What a goalie tandem. Price hasn't played competitive hockey for nearly a year but if he fails, Braden Holtby steps up. Only Team USA, with Quick-Bishop-Schneider, rivals this goaltending trio.

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How will they do?

Very well. With the deepest and most experienced roster on show, and with guys like Stamkos and Tavares desperate for international success after previous disappointments, this will be a driven and unstoppable Canadian team. I feel sorry for those teams standing in their way.

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Prediction:

A 2-1 finals win against Team North America, with Stamkos and Tavares shining. Anything less than a finals appearance is a huge failure.