The first stretch of the men's ice hockey competition at the Winter Olympics is over. The group stages have been completed, and now we head into the knockout round. Here are where things stand, and where they are headed.
As I expected, Sweden won the top seed. The top four seeds all get first round byes, and the difference between one and four is not large as such, but Sweden was the only team to win all three of their games in regulation. I picked the Swedes to win it all, but now they've lost Henriks Sedin and Zetterberg, so I am a bit concerned. The US ended up with the two seed, which is a nice surprise. They've looked really good so far, and got that win over the Russians in a shootout that got them here. Canada and Finland finished the group stage round with a matchup to determine the three and four seeds, and the Canadians won in overtime.
So those are the four teams that got byes. The other eight teams square off to make it to the quarterfinals where the big four wait. The Russians finished in fifth, so they get to face the team that finished last, Norway. Russia should absolutely win this one with ease. Switzerland, who picked up two shutout wins, finished sixth, and they play Latvia, who also hasn't done much of anything. The Swiss are worth watching. They are intriguing to me.
In the battle of the two most disappointing teams, the seventh place Czechs face the tenth place Slovakia. The Slovakian team has struggled this time around, while the Czechs are old and have Petr Nedved on their team. Finally, eight plays nine, and that's Slovenia versus Austria. That's a bit of a surprise. I figured Slovenia would finish last, and they beat Slovakia.
To extrapolate, Slovenia or Austria plays Sweden. Sweden gets, potentially, the easiest matchup, but they are the one seed so that makes sense. The US will play Czech Republic or Slovakia, which are both potentially tough matchups. Canada will play Switzerland or Latvia... by which I mean Switzerland. Finland will end up playing Russia, and that's a real good game when it happens.
Before the Winter Olympics, I picked Sweden for Gold, Russia for Silver, and Canada for Bronze. That is no longer possible, because Sweden will play Russia in the semifinals if anywhere. There's now a real good chance the US and Canada face off for a shot at Gold. It has been an alright tournament thus far. Hopefully it picks up even more in the next round. After all, now it is an elimination tournament. That's exciting.