Tuesday is the last day of action at the IIHF World Champions and it's packed with games starting early in the morning Toronto time.
5:15am Toronto time
- Czech Republic vs Switzerland: 5-4 Czech Republic
- USA vs Slovakia: 3-2 Slovakia in Overtime
9:15am Toronto time
- Latvia vs Norway
- Belarus vs France
1:15pm Toronto time
- Russia vs Sweden
- Canada vs Finland
What is at stake
Relegation, quarterfinal seedings, even a spot in the quarters itself are all in flux. Teams are also playing for honour, personal and otherwise.
Kazakhstan is already relegated, and the other team to join them will be either Hungary, who have played all of their games, or Belarus who play France. If Belarus gets even one point—so an overtime loss will do—then they stay and Hungary goes. A regulation loss means it's Belarus that's gone, and the fan favourites Hungary hang on for another year.
The top four teams in each pool qualify for the quarterfinals, and most teams are set for the quarterfinals. Even if Slovakia beats the USA, they can't take the fourth spot in Pool B from the Americans. But in Pool A, Denmark, on one of their famous Cinderella runs, is in fourth place, and can keep that spot only if the Swiss don't beat the Czechs in regulation by a wide enough goal margin. Not a likely outcome, but a possible one.
If the ranking holds, Cinderella's date for the quarterfinals is the winner of the biggest game of the day.
The match ups for the quarterfinals are 1A-4B, 2A-3B, 1B-4A, 2B-3A.
The scene in Pool A is in flux, with no one secure until the games are played. All teams are in action, with second place Russia facing third place Sweden in a match that may determine who gets the worst spot in the pool: third place, not last but you still have to play one of Canada or Finland in the quarters.
In Pool B, only one thing is in question. The USA is in fourth, Germany is in third, and the two undefeated behemoths will fight for first and second.
The Canada-Finland game goes last. opposite the other big one, Russia-Sweden. When those matches are done, we'll have one undefeated team left, and the seedings will be complete. Cinderella will know his date for the ball, and he's going to be one of those kinds of guys—you know, overly sure of himself and maybe even a little smug about his win-loss record.
Over in Moscow, Russia and Sweden, depending on how the first place Czechs did earlier, will be sorting out who plays Auston Matthews and his plucky American team. The beefed up Russian team looks unbeatable on paper, but they don't always execute the plan to perfection. Nikita Zaitsev has been enjoying some good play recently as the quality of the Russian bottom six has improved with the new arrivals.
Sweden, outdoing everyone's expectations with their very weak squad, are absolutely capable of staging an upset.
The USA are in very tough, no matter who they face, and they will need everything they have to win it and get a chance at a medal. The picture isn't any brighter for Germany, who get the Pool B second place team. There's a good chance that's going to be Russia, and Thomas Greiss will have to have all his magic ready if that's the case.
The big game
Canada enters the final day undefeated with a goal differential of 34:4. Finland, also undefeated has a goal differential of 25:6.
The Finnish strength is team systems and offence, and their weakness is their lack of NHL-experienced goalies. They've been using the KHL goalie Mikko Koskinen in most games. Their defence is unremarkable, but plays very well, and of course Patrik Laine is ripping through all opposition with a little help from Aleksander Barkov and Jussi Jokinen.
The Canadian strength is that—well, frankly, that Sam Reinhart isn't good enough to get any playing time on this team. Every forward is a fantastic hockey player. Their goaltending is fine, Cam Talbot has been strong, and Calvin Pickard has allowed only one goal against in his two starts. Their defence is a little less than elite in places, and Morgan Rielly has been good, but not excellent on the top pair. But it hasn't shown up on the scoreboard as a weakness so far.
Finland has an excellent penalty kill record while Canada's power play is a little less than you'd expect, so that's one area where Finland holds an advantage. Going the other direction, Canada's penalty kill in number one, and they don't take many penalties. This game will likely come down to five-on-five, all out offence. Canada wins the depth battle up front, but there's stealthily good lines on the Finnish team—NHLers like Leo Komarov, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Teemu Pulkkinen are the equal of a lot of Canada's forwards, but Canada brought theirs in a bulk pack, and my guess is that depth will win the game.
Denmark will be embarrassed to find he's wearing the same colour suit for his date at the ball and that, yes, his prince is a little smug and sure of himself.
Update: With the Czech regulation win over Switzerland, Denmark is in the quarterfinals. The USA lost to Slovakia in overtime and hold their fourth place by two points.