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2018 IIHF World Championships: quarterfinal preview

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The dates and teams are set for Thursday’s quarterfinal action.

Canada v Germany - 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

Tuesday was the final day of the preliminary round at this year’s World Championships. The day had some heartbreak and some big successes. But now that’s over, there are eight teams left and they will play single-elimination games until only one is left to take the gold medal.

Denmark lost a heartbreaker to Latvia 1-0 on Tuesday, so their run is over. Frederik Andersen was stellar, but his team couldn’t score on Elvis Merzlikins, who was also excellent. Latvia earned the fourth spot in Group B. The reward for winning that game is a date with the top team in Group A, which after the final match in that group is Sweden. They decisively beat the Russians 3-1 to take first place.

Finland dominated the USA in their final game, 6-2. Kasperi Kapanen had one goal playing on the third line, and Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen continue to be the best players at this tournament.

In fact, they’ve torn up the points chart with so much vigour, they’ve completely destroyed the usual Worlds side event of finding a European-league player to overrate based on points in a few games. The top non-NHLer in the points list is Pavel Datsyuk, and the only other name in the top ten, and he just arrived there, is Ladislav Nagy.

Any regular watcher of international hockey or the Olympics this year might find that name familiar. He’s a smaller, offensive winger who has always scored a lot of goals. He was one shy of a point per game this season on his club team, and he played in the Olympics, and all the other tournaments the Slovakian team took part in. Last year he had 61 points in 50 games.

Nagy is also 38 years old.

Nagy already had his stint in the NHL. He was drafted by the Blues in 1997, and he played a year in the QMJHL, where he had (wow) 126 points in 63 games. A quick peek at that roster shows Alex Tanguay on the team, and all becomes clear.

Nagy played some games with the Blues, and he had some points, but he didn’t wow anyone. He got traded to Phoenix and was better, and then as happens, he gradually got worse as he got older, and he went back home to just never stop playing. He played 435 NHL games, and if he hadn’t been stranded in Phoenix, he might have got to fly on some good team’s top line. He’s had a second KHL career, and now he’s on his third in the Slovak league.

I’d call him a cautionary tale about assigning too much meaning to points by the one good player on a bad team’s top line, but the next time that man is 25 instead of Nagy’s age, we’ll all do it again and decide he’s an overlooked diamond in the rough.

Nagy’s Slovaks, just like the Danes, missed the quarterfinals by one point, so he is finished for this year as well. I won’t at all be surprised if he’s back next season. The Swiss took the fourth spot in Group A, and they will face Finland in the quarterfinals.

Finland is flying as an offence-first team backed by the third goalie from the Florida Panthers. Harri Sateri has been hot, and they need him to continue that way. In the final game of the preliminary round, Kapanen dropped down from the top unit to the third line, replaced by Eeli Tolvanen. The switch worked for both lines. Kapanen, with two European-league players made up a gritty line that plays bigger than they are. They’re also fast. I feel like this role suits Kapanen better than trying to be the top line winger. Frankly, Tolvanen is a better shot, and Mikko Rantanen is a better net-front, forechecking, goal-scoring force. But Kapanen has skills in other areas of the ice. Skills he learned on Kyle Dubas’s Marlies.

Nikita Zaitsev is playing a different role from his usual one on the Leafs. He’s one of two right-shots on the Russian team, so he’s out there on the power play a lot. he plays with the second unit now that the other righty, Nikita Gusev, is healthy enough to be on the team. He missed a few games due to injury. Nikita, by the way, is not a name, it’s Russian slang for righty.

Zaitsev finished the preliminary round with five assists in seven games which leads all Russian defenders in points. The much talked about KHL star, Bogdan Kiselevich had one assist. He likely got heavily scouted, and NHL teams are said to be interested.

Russia dominated every game they were in except when they met their kryptonite, the Czechs. That is until the final game. On the line in that game on Tuesday was first or second place, and the first-place team plays Latvia, the second plays Canada. By losing to Sweden, Russia drew the other big red machine in the quarterfinals.

On the broadcast, Ray Ferraro said that Curtis McElhinney, who is still dressing as backup to Darcy Kuemper, has a lower body injury, so we should expect Kuemper to start.

Quarterfinal Schedule

All games are Thursday, May 17, and all times are Eastern Daylight Time.

Russia vs Canada, 10:15 a.m. in Copenhagen. Russia is the home team, and Canada had to travel to play this match. Canada wanted to travel to Copenhagen anyway, because the plan is to to be in the semifinals.

The game is live on TSN 1 and rebroadcast at 7:30 p.m.

USA vs Czechia, 10:15 a.m. in Herning. The USA is the home team, and if there’s to be an upset in the quarters it should be from this game or the other morning contest.

This game is live on TSN 4.

Sweden vs Latvia, 2:15 p.m. in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is a train ride away from Sweden, so expect a loud Swedish crowd, and even if Merzlikins is excellent, an easy Swedish win.

This game is live on TSN 1.

Finland vs Switzerland, 2:15 p.m. in Herning. There are a lot of Finns at this event, so they will be the home team in more ways than just last change. Switzerland are not an easy out, but Finland should be able to score at will and take this game. If Switzerland takes penalties, they will be destroyed by the Finnish power play.

This game is live on TSN 3. (Go, Kappy, go!)

The semifinals are on Saturday, May 19 and the final is on Sunday.