Now the Preliminary Rounds are over at the IIHF World Championships 2012 and so we move onto the Quarter Finals with the pre-tournament favourites all progressing. The only place that seemed to be up for grabs was in the Stockholm group with Norway clinching fourth ahead of Latvia and the team tPB predicted would sneak through, Germany.
With the finishing places we have to adjust our pre-tournament predictions for some of the nations but lets look at the individual games in the quarter finals and see who the contenders are and who are the (drum roll please) pretenders.
Canada v Slovakia
Before the Championship we predicted Canada would exit in the QF’s. We also suggested the Slovakians would too. Something therefore has to give and we would suggest the Slovakians will do what they did to the USA.
We just have too many reservations about the Canadians and they will have to show much more tenacity than they have in some of the so-called easy games against the ‘smaller nations’. When pressed and hurried they have sometimes given the perception they don’t like it. The fact they play on the smaller sized rinks of North America means that is somewhat of a surprise.
What has also been surprising is the way that some of those nations have opened up the Canadians with, at times, relative ease.
They struggled past the Swiss 3-2 relying on two third period goals to do so and if the likes of Belarus and France had shown less profligacy in fornt of goal the scores in those two games could have reflected the close nature of the games.
Slovakia, after losing to their Quarter Final opponents 2-3 in the opening game of their campaign were narrowly defeated by the defending champions and hosts Finland 0-1 in their second. After those two odd goal losses they did not look back.
Their third game saw a relatively straightforward vistory over the USA 4-2 before making hard work of Kazakhstan (4-2), Switzerland (1-0) and France (5-4), they also dispatched of Belarus 5-1.
If it comes to a clutch scenario in this game the Slovakians, we think, will become the favourites, whether that is to happen however all depends on the Canadians ability to break down their opponents.
We think the momentum is with Slovakia though and they will stay in Helsinki for a few more days at least.
Russia v Norway
Pretty straightforward this one. Russia are going through.
What is worth noting is the progress that Norway have made under the tutelage of Petter Salsten and Roy Johansen.
We though they would bow out at the group stage but have managed to reach the Quarter Finals and subsequently the Sochi Games in 2014 after defeating Italy, Latvia, Germany and Denmark.
They faced the Russians in their second game and put up a strong performance whilst slipping to a 2-4 reverse. If the same result was to occur in tomorrows game they would be (secretly) delighted.
USA v Finland
This promises to be one hell of a game. The USA, whilst inconsistent and at time down right frustrating (yes the Kazakhstan game is being alluded to) have at times been equally as impressive.
The game in the Preliminary Round saw the United States blow away the hosts 5-0 with goals from five different scorers showing the depth of scoring they have.
The Finns have had one major problem in the championship so far and that is goal scoring.
Apart from the aforementioned game they have been solid defensively but somehow have not been able to build upon that foundation going forward. We have been going off form so far in the tournamnet when making predictions but we think this may well be different. The partisan home crowd could just give the hosts the edge and if their forward line clicks – admittedly a big if – they will take out the USA.
Sweden v Czech Republic
The Three Crowns have been strong so far without ever really moving into a higher gear.
They came second in the group to the Russians after being humped 3-7 in their showdown. They have had no problems scoring and have also had two shut outs from Viktor Fasth when defeating Italy & Latvia by four goals.
The Czechs also have two shutouts and have been more stingy overall when it comes to defence.
They were defeated by Sweden in the group stages 1-4 and it would not be too much of a surprise if a similiar result occured in the Quarters. Sweden to win by two or more.