A little bracketology action for the IIHF World Championships. Below is the quarterfinal round bracket with the teams and their 2012 IIHF seeding in parentheses. The seeding for this tournament is to the left of the team in the bracket, with H or S indicating whether they were in the Helsinki or Stockholm Group for the preliminary rounds.
IIHF World Championship Bracket
In my written summaries section for the quarterfinals, each team’s preliminary round record will be shown in the following format: wins-overtime wins-overtime loss-losses and point differential.
Russia (5-0-0-2 +15) vs. USA (5-0-0-2 +8)
Previous match: Russia 5 – USA 3
Russia got the best of the US team in the preliminary round. The US kept it tied through two periods, but Russia scored two goals in two minutes in the third period to get the win – including one from the tournament’s leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk. What seems like great news for the Russian side, and bad news for the Americans, was the announcement of Alex Ovechkin grabbing the last spot on the Russian roster. With all of that firepower, how could the Russians lose in the rematch?
John Gibson in the net for the U.S. let in one goal in two games in net. Will he get the start over Ben Bishop who let in four goals against the Slovak team today? I would certainly hope so.
Moreover, while Kovalchuk and Ovechkin are prolific scorers, they have not won much in high pressure situations. Why else is Ovechkin here (hint: the Capitals got stomped again in Game 7)? Bryzgalov also looks susceptible to be scored on with a 93.4% save percentage. The 1.33 goals against average points to good defense, which will go away the more Ovechkin is on the ice.
I will take the USA side on the rematch, especially if Gibson gets the nod. If not, I give the edge to Russia. For the bracket…I’ll commit to the good ol’ US of A.
Switzerland (6-1-0-0 +19) vs. Czech Republic (3-1-0-3 +7)
Previous match: Switzerland 5 – Czech Republic 2
Two sides of the coin for these teams: the upstart Swiss side goes undefeated in the tournament and the Czech side wins only four games to steal the final playoff spot. A loss against Norway and the Czech side is watching from the sidelines instead of playing the Swiss team.
While I hesitate to pick Switzerland as they are a bit of a Cinderella (ranked #9 by IIHF in 2012 – lowest ranked team in the playoffs), they have the momentum. The four teams the Czech Republic beat in the preliminary round are the four teams not in the quarterfinals; their three losses came against the higher seeded teams. The Czech’s should come in on a tear after a definitive 7 – 0 win over Norway, but Switzerland is playing confident. Pick: Swiss in a close one to continue the undefeated streak into the semis.
Finland (4-2-0-1 +9 ) vs. Slovakia (3-0-1-3 +1)
Previous match: Finland 2 – Slovakia 0
Slovakia has been a bit of a mystery this tournament. It appeared they would miss the playoff round, but upset the US team on the final day of play. However, they also lost to France and the now-relegated-Austrian team.
The Finnish side got stronger during the tournament, with the exception of the overtime squeaker on the last day over Latvia, who had nothing left but pride to play for. They sort of snuck into the top seed for the Helsinki group after the US fell flat against Slovakia on their last day. Finland, for what it’s worth, will have home-ice advantage in the first round. With more than just the home crowd on their side (this means you Kontiola, Aaltonen and Raanta) they clearly have the better team. Slovakia will be riding high after sneaking into the playoffs, but adrenaline will not be enough. Maybe not another shutout, but likely a clear victory for the Helsinki fans.
Canada (5-1-1-0 +15) vs. Sweden (5-0-0-2 +6)
Previous match: Canada 3 – Sweden 0
Canada can score in bunches, and when the win, they win big. They also have the tournament’s best goalkeeper in Mike Smith, though Dubnyk is getting most of the minutes. Sweden likes to keep things close, which led to five wins for them with Enroth leading the way. Sweden will need at least three goals, probably four to have a chance against Canada. They were only able to get to four twice: a meaningless final matchup against Denmark and against fellow Scandinavian side Norway. Along with Stamkos and Giroux, the Swedish team will have more they can handle. If Sweden can score quick, they have a chance, but Canada is too strong.
Finland vs. Canada
This could be a great game between two evenly matched teams. I am guessing it will be a low scoring, defensive affair. For my entertainment, hopefully a shootout as well. Finland is the better team and will move on to the goal medal round.
Switzerland vs. USA
The Swiss have played exceptional, but even Cinderella’s carriage turns back into a pumpkin. The USA has a strong side and the clock will strike midnight on this fairy tale. It has been a great tourney for the Swiss, but the best they will do is bringing home a bronze. A huge step this year for Switzerland and well-deserved.
Gold Medal Match
Finland vs. USA
In a quarterfinal rematch from 2012, these two teams make big steps toward the gold medal. Last year, Finland wins this in Helsinki. This year, they will have to celebrate in Stockholm. The Finnish team ends a consistent run by the US who receives a well-deserved silver medal.
Bronze Medal Match
Switzerland vs. Canada
Switzerland goes from sixth in their group in 2012 to the top seed and into the bronze medal round. Canada goes from a quarterfinal defeat against last year’s silver medalist to play the previously undefeated Swiss. This could be a fun game to watch with lots of open play and scoring. Give the Swiss credit for their run this year, but they will finish fourth. Canada takes the bronze, again not making the gold medal around after losing to a gold medal team. Again, big steps for both teams from last year and good steps for 2014 Sochi.
*If Russia wins the quarterfinal match against the USA, put them in the silver medal slot.
All quarterfinal matches begin on 16 May. Next post will look at the odds of each of the teams winning the tourney.