Yesterday's defeat of the USA made some of the semifinal teams clear. Europe clinched a spot, and the Czech Republic was eliminated. If Team NA wins in regulation today, it clinches a spot, although due to the emphasis on goal differential as the tie-breaker, if it loses by five or more goals to Sweden, it is ousted. On the other hand, if Team NA has even one point against Sweden, Finland is eliminated. The only way Finland can make the semifinal is if Sweden beats NA by five goals, and Finland beats Russia by three goals.
Whether Sweden wins or loses today, it will clinch a semifinal berth if it earns at least one point against NA, and also clinches first place in group B. The winner of Europe vs. Canada clinches first place in Group A.
In the words of Fulemin, "Sweden has 6 points, the goal differential is +3. Team NA has 3 points, the goal differential +2. Russia has 3 points as well, the goal differential is 0. Finland has 0 points, the goal differential is -5. The less Team NA loses by, the more Finland has to blow out Russia, up to a maximum of needing a 7-goal margin if Team NA only loses by 1. Or something."
North America vs. Sweden
Team North America is where to watch the actual skilled American players. Given that team USA was the first team well and truly eliminated, it remains America's bright hope for the tournament.
NA is down it's 1D -- Aaron Ekblad has returned to Florida for medical examinations following what was initially reported to be a concussion, and is now called a neck injury. It's Ekblad's third such injury in the past two years. His absence in the lineup puts the weight of the top defensive pairing squarely on the shoulders of our own Morgan Rielly, who says he's up for the job. "When you lose a guy like [Ekblad], we have to rise to challenge even more without him," he told NHL. "We've got to get together and talk about how we're going to do things and we have to be up for a good game tomorrow. We've got to do our jobs."
Team North America rested yesterday while Sweden played. Henrik Lundqvist looked crappy in the last exhibition game, sat out the first game of the tournament, and came roaring back when he shut out Team Finland yesterday, so news of his decline was obviously premature, and two goals from Anton Stralman and Louis Eriksson were more than enough to put Finland in a precarious place.
The question for today is: Will North America's dynamic offense be able to best the most solid defense in the tournament?
3:00 PM ET, Air Canada Centre, Toronto
TVA Sports, Sportsnet, ESPN, WatchESPN
Potential Team NA Lines:
Scheifele - McDavid - Matthews
Drouin - Nugent-Hopkins - MacKinnon
Gaudreau - Eichel - Larkin
Trochek - Couturier - Saad
Potential Team Sweden Lines:
D Sedin-H Sedin-Eriksson
Europe vs. Canada
Coming off of yesterday's high, can Team Canada beat a team that decided to trick everyone into thinking they were bad? Team Europe, playing a solid, structured game, was the first team in the tournament to reach four points, and one of the first to clinch a spot in the semifinals. Underrated by everyone, including Vegas odds-makers, Team Europe's coach Ralph Krueger told the Daily Mail, "There's just complete buy-in on this group. I've never experienced anything quite like this as a coach in 25 years of head coaching, where a group just bought in so quickly and sacrificed for each other."
Team Canada's skill is evident, especially on a team where players like John Tavares and Steven Stamkos are not remotely the 1C. But can they defeat a team that simply decided to work hard and pull together, in what is perhaps the purest expression of the unifying nature of hockey outside of the actual NHL? Can they defeat this team after pulling off an emotionally charged victory over a team that was "built" to defeat them? I'm going to go with "sure."
Also, Corey Crawford gets the start tonight.
8:00 PM ET, Air Canada Centre, Toronto
TVA Sports, Sportsnet, ESPN, WatchESPN
Potential Team Europe Lines
Gaborik - Kopitar - Zuccarello
Boedker - Nielsen - Hossa
Vanek - Draisaitl - Rieder
Tatar - Hansen - Niederreiter
Josi - Streit
Chara - Sekera
Ehrhoff - Seidenberg
Potential Team Canada Lines
Marchand - Crosby - Bergeron
Couture - Toews - Perry
Tavares - Getzlaf - Stamkos
Thornton - O'Reilly - Duchene
Vlasic - Weber
Bouwmeester - Doughty
Pietrangelo - Burns