The quarter finals of the IIHF World Championships were played today in Russia.
Czech Republic vs USA: 2-1 USA in a shootout
The USA needed a miracle to beat the top-ranked Czechs; they got it in Keith Kinkaid.
The Czechs opened the scoring on a penalty shot after Patrick Maroon hooked Tomas Zohorna after he took off on a shorthanded breakaway. Zohorna put it past Kinkaid, who got the start over Mike Condon, the loser in the previous game against Slovakia.
Auston Matthews tied it up at the beginning of the second period by doing exactly what he does: dictating the play.
Frank Vatrano to Auston Matthews for the goal pic.twitter.com/4cpCdpQvRH— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) 19 May 2016
He'll get all the press, and he was clearly the best skater for the USA. He also nearly got the go ahead goal on a power play shot that hit the crossbar, and at the end of two the score was still tied at 1-1 thanks to Kinkaid.
Kinkaid was the difference, stopping 20 of 21 shots through 40 minutes, occasionally making brilliant moves to do it. His poke check to disrupt another break away after Dylan Larkin fanned on a shot and handed the puck over was stunning.
Kinkaid continued his brilliance, and the USA forwards started pushing the pace in the third, fuelled by three straight power plays. Standouts were Dylan Larkin and Vince Hinostroza, who's been good for the whole tournament, and of course, Matthews, who demonstrated over and over that he owned the ice and decided who played on it.
The Czechs had a couple of flurries of offence, but for once the USA outshot them 10-8. No one could solve either goalie, and Dominik Furch for the Czechs was excellent as well.
Overtime was next to try to decide this one.
The USA had a couple of seriously good overtime chances, and kept the Czechs to three shots on goal, but no one could get it over the goal line.
This is a total Corsi count on this game, so 84 to 62 or a Corsi For percentage of 57.5% for the Czechs.
It's never fitting when an intense goalie duel ends in a shootout. It is not a true measure of the goalies' ability, but it is what happens. Each goalie faced three shots and only one went in.
Matthews picks up a two-goal game with the shootout winner to send Team USA to the semis. https://t.co/QtTjW1LJYx— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) 19 May 2016
Auston Matthews, the only man to solve the hot goalie who couldn't quite carry the Czechs to victory.
Russia vs Germany: 4-1 Russia
Germany surprised everyone when Patrick Reimer took advantage of a turnover and an inattentive Dmitry Orlov to pop one past Sergei Bobrovsky in the first five minutes of the game.
Despite some good play by Germany, most of the action fell under Russian control, and they pressed the play for 13 shots on goal to 6.
Nikita Zaitsev, nominally on the third pairing, was playing a lot of minutes, most of them in the offensive zone, where he comfortably handles the puck and is relied on to get it deep to get the offence going.
He got time with both Pavel Datsyuk's and Alex Ovechkin's lines as well as the third line.
In the second period, the third line of NHL want to be players Yevgeni Dadonov and Vadim Shipachyov combined for three even strength goals, making it 3-1 and making you think of the Pittsburgh Penguins, where once you survive the first two star-studded lines... Surprise! You get Phil Kessel. Only for Russia, it's get by Datsyuk and Ovechkin and you get these two. Oh, and Artemi Panarin.
Ovechkin proved he's got it, with his first goal to make it 4-1 and put any Germans permanently to sleep.
Shots at the end of the game were: 37 to 20 Russia, and Zaitsev had the second highest ice time for the team.
Finland vs Denmark: 5-1 Finland
Denmark is not to be taken too lightly. They are a good team, with a lot of talent, just not enough depth. They opened strong, carried the play some of the time, but they were not up to the Finnish level of speed, physicality or technique.
The Finnish power play looked like a practice session with four red motionless dummies to shoot around.
Finland opened the scoring using their wits and their strength when Leo Komarov (him again!) poked the puck away from a board battle and Mikael Granlund scored on the ensuing play.
At the start of the second period, Jarno Koskiranta's line moved the puck up the ice with perfect precision and made it 2-0.
Lars Eller got one for Denmark and then that Patrik Laine fellow decided he needed another clip for the highlight reel.
Patrik Laine's release is ridiculous. Here's his 7th goal of the World Championships. pic.twitter.com/Zh5KnphBlO— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) 19 May 2016
Finland led 3-1 after two periods. They added an empty net goal and another late game goal to make the final score 5-1.
Canada vs Sweden: 6-0 Canada
Canada got off to a slow start with Brendan Gallagher taking an early penalty. The Swedes took one of their own, but the score stayed tied as Canada gradually dominated the play, ultimately doubling the Swedes in shots on goal 12-6 in the first.
Mark Scheifele scored in the final two minutes of the first period to make it 1-0.
In the second period, André Burakovsky was penalized for a check to the head on Cody Ceci, and Matt Dumba scored on the power play.
Canada opened the throttle and Sweden were done. Three goals scored on seven shots on goal, only one on the power play, and it was 4-0 Canada.
Vancouver's Jacob Markström in net for Sweden did not look strong.
In the third period, with the shots favouring Sweden as Canada took their foot off the gas, Pär Mårts pulled Markström with 14 minutes to go. It sounds funny to read it. It was funny to watch. And then Sweden couldn't control the puck, and it was extremely funny as they got pinned in their own end. But Tre Kronor is an old team, a noble team, and they were playing with less than their best men, and it wasn't funny anymore. That is not how a team like that should play.
Mårts put the goalie back in, and Mark Stone scored to make it 5-0 after one of his patented thieving moves to take the puck off a helpless victim. Derick Brassard made it 6-0.
Shots were 34-24 Canada at the end of the game. And Mårts made his last game as the coach of Tre Kronor memorable for all the wrong reasons.
With the win over Germany, Russia moves on to face Finland in one semifinal, while Canada will play the USA.
It is the way of the World Championships that sometimes losing a key game like Canada did against the Finns, sets you up for the easier path.
The USA made it by the skin of Keith Kinkaid's teeth, and while he was amazing against a tepid Czech offence that seemed to begin and end with Tomas Plekanec, he should not be up to the full Canadian onslaught.
Russia's road through the Finns to the gold medal game is not going to be an easy one. The Finns have Mikko Koskinen, the top goalie in the KHL playoffs facing a lot of his SKA St. Petersburg teammates. Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin might be a new experience, but that Dadanov and Shipachyov line are the guys he sees everyday in practice. Oh, and then there's Laine and his Florida Panther friends who enjoy themselves at the other end of the ice.
Both semifinals will be played on Saturday.