Article written by Ryan Hale - Community Contributor
Two Intriguing Match-Ups Loom in Semi's
Now that all of the group rounds are finished and seedings have been set by their play so far, the teams set their sights on who they may be facing going forward. Who they will have to get past in order to earn that coveted gold medal. The host nation Russia has the longest and toughest journey. Can they pull it off? Below I will do a quick break down of the bracket and who I expect to move on.
The teams that I believe will move on from these match ups are as follows: Russia, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Austria. The easy picks are Russia and Switzerland. There is no way that Russia is going to lose in the first round of the elimination bracket on their home soil. Sure, they have shown to be vulnerable losing in a shootout to the USA and going scoreless and to a shootout against Slovakia. I think these are just hiccups however, they will bounce back.
Switzerland in the group stages hasn't really played horribly and their two goaltenders have really played well. Both Berra and Hiller could be inserted into the game and instill confidence in their skaters and should have no problems moving on past Latvia. Although, Latvia is a team that will never say die.
I believe Slovakia will take down the Czech Republic in their match-up. The Slovaks have definitely not played extremely well so far this tournament, but they also had a rough draw with both the United States and Russia in their group. They did do an excellent job of holding Russia scoreless through 65 minutes of play and getting to a shootout yesterday. They are a hockey proud nation and on the right trajectory leading into this game, so they will eek out the win.
The toughest match-up tot pick is this last one. Seeded 8th and 9th respectively, both Slovenia and Austria have had decent group play when they really were not expected to. Slovenia took down Slovakia and Austria defeated a Norway team that finished dead last in all of the groups. As much as I think it would be great for Slovenia to keep playing well and take down this Austria club, I just don't think they will be able to keep up their high rate of play that they showed against Slovakia.
This would set up Quarterfinal games of: Sweden vs. Austria, Finland vs. Russia, Canada vs. Switzerland, and United States vs. Slovakia.
In the first game of Sweden vs. Austria I expect the Swedish squad to just keep rolling. They have had it all going in the group stages. Solid goaltending and solid scoring. The only game in which they really struggled was a 1-0 shutout win of Switzerland. In that game Reto Berra played extremely well in order to keep the Swiss in the game. As long as they can continue to play their game and Lunqvist doesn't have a bad night than Sweden should have no problem moving on.
Finland vs. Russia is going to be the most intriguing and tough match-ups to call in the quarterfinals. Finland has played extremely well in the group stage. Their only loss coming at the hands of Canada. Their goaltending hasn't been the best with a save % of .891 however their offense has been one of the most potent of all the teams to this stage so far. Whereas the Russian squad hasn't really played up to their full potential yet, especially offensively after being held to no goals against Slovakia. I'm going to give the slight edge to Finland because of the extra rest time and the fact that they so far have just been playing better than their Russian counterparts. I won't be surprised if Russia wins however.
Even though the Swiss were able to take Sweden into the third period 0-0 and only give up the one goal to lose 0-1 I don't think they stand much of a chance against Canada. The Canadian firepower is just too much to overcome and I think the Swiss goaltending can only play so well for so long. Switzerland will probably put up another tough fight against a top tier team and should be proud of what they have done, but in the end Canada on days of rest will just prove too strong.
In a rematch of a group stage game Slovakia will look for revenge on the United States team. Just like the Canada vs. Switzerland game though I think that the United States offense who has a man who is currently on fire, Phil Kessel, will just be too much for Slovakia to handle. However, my game preview from the earlier game will still hold true if Slovakia wants to win.
If these results hold true this will set up some really fun and intriguing match-ups for the Semi finals. Finland vs. Sweden and Canada vs. USA in two battles of countries that touch each other on a map.
In the first semi-final game I believe Sweden will have the edge. Their team play so far has just been outstanding and they have earned the #1 seed in the elimination rounds for a reason. If the Finnish goalie can step up and play better than their .891 SV% that they have had so far throughout the group stages so far then they do stand a chance. They have shown that they have the offesinsive capabilities to roll with any team that they come up against, but defense, not offense wins championships and that includes medals in the Olympics too. Sweden, even without their original captain Zetterberg, will move on to the gold medal round and guarantee a medal for their country. Sweden wins 5-2
In a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game it's just too close to call really. If either team has an outstanding night or and off night that could be all it takes to seal their fate one way or the other. Both teams will need to play their best and expect the most out of themselves to move forward into the gold medal game. Both goaltenders in Price and Quick have been solid backbones for their clubs and both have shown the offensive capabilities you expect from the All-Star teams these are. If nothing other than I'm hoping for revenge of our loss in Vancouver I think the USA will eek out a victory by a final score of 3-2.
Medal Round Games
Canada vs. Finland for the Bronze and USA vs. Sweden for the gold.
In the Bronze medal game I don't think Finland is going to be able to contain Canada. Coming off a loss the the United States, Canada will be looking for vengeance and they will get it in the form of dominating Finland and taking home the bronze. Again, if Finland's goaltenders can step it up from what they have been able to do in the group stages they do stand a chance of keeping Canda from that medal. However, I just don't see it happening. Canada wins 5-2.
In the gold medal game I think it's really going to come down to who has the better day on the ice. Is Sweden going to be able to control the high powered offense of the United States? Is the United States going to be able to counter the solid team play that Sweden will for sure show? It may very well come down to the goalies and both of the goalies who would be starting this match up are worthy of winning Stanley Cups. Lundqvist as I have said in the past is currently one of the premier goalies in the game and Quick isn't that far behind having just won himself a Cup not long ago. In the spirit of this game being too close to call, I'm not even going to make a prediction.
No matter what happens, we're due to see some of the best hockey we will see in four years potentially. Whenever you get what is essentially All Star teams together to play for their country, you know the quality of hockey is going to be top notch. I hope you enjoy watching these games as much as I will.
Note, game time and more info can be found at our schedule!