At the start of the year not many would have predicted the line up that we have in the IIHF World Championships 2012 semi-finals. Many expected Finland, even more presumed Russia but Slovakia and Finland are to be saluted for their appearance against each other in this years final four.
The fact that Slovakia had to overcome pre-tournament favourites Canada whilst the Czechs bested Sweden makes the feats of each nation even more impressive.
Both teams campaigns, as touched upon in our previews of the group stage, were to be based upon their defences. Czech Republic Head Coach Alois Hadamczik and his countryman, Vladimír Vůjtek who will be on the Slovakian bench tomorrow evening, have not only earmarked a plan, they have executed it.
The Czechs have conceded three goals on the penalty kill – as have the Slovakians – at a percentage of 83.33, although Slovakia have bettered them with 85% in that statistic they have come up short in comparison to their opponents save percentage & short handed goals.
With these statistics in mind it would seem that the Czech Republic with their five gold medals since 1996 and their ‘Big Six’ status are overwhelming favourites. As we said before the Canada v Slovakia game however, the momentum in this Championship seems to be with the former Soviet state.
…the Russians will go one step closer to the prediction we made in out pre tournament prediction of them leaving Helsinki with fancy gold necklaces…
Looking at the other semi, the defeat the Czechs inflicted on Tre Kronor was not much of a surprise. Yes the Swedes are a talented team but they are also one of the more enigmatic collection of players that make the trip to the Championships every year. The Slovakians on the other hand could well be replacing them in the top four of the World Rankings on a much more permanent basis. Particularly if they defeat the Czech Republic as we expect them to do so tomorrow.
The other semi-final sees the Russians face the hosts Finland at the Hartwall Arena. Calling a winner in this game is bordering on foolish.
The Russians started the Championship very strongly before settling into a routine of picking their opponents off at seemingly, their leisure. The defending champions on the other hand have seemed laboured in games (1-0 v Belarus), woeful against others (0-5 v USA) whilst antithetically humping other teams (France 5-2). Which Finnish team will turn up to the game against Russia is anybodies guess.
Yevgeni Malkin has so far notched seven goals & eight assists resulting in a +/- of plus thirteen whilst the Finnish ‘points man’ is Detroit’s Valtteri Filppula with a return of four goals, six assists at ‘only’ plus two in his eight games.
The Championship will be held in reverse priority next year with Stockholm being the main host of the event. The Finns would love to not only become the first team since the Czech Republic to defend their title on home soil since the Soviet Union in 1979 but also cross the border to Sweden at some point in the tournament as the reigning champions.
The problem with that plan is that they still do not seem to be able to dominate a game like their opponents can and more importantly have over the last two weeks. As such we feel that the Russians will go one step closer to the prediction we made in our pre tournament prediction of them leaving Helsinki with fancy gold necklaces.