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2014 Sochi Olympics Men's Hockey Elimination Round Preview

Ben Ebert |
February 17, 2014 | 12:25 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Russian flags wave in Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi (Atos / Flickr)
Russian flags wave in Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi (Atos / Flickr)
The first round of Men’s Olympic Hockey showed us the divide between the “contenders” and the “pretenders.” What it also revealed was just how competitively matched the top six countries are. The United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Switzerland all displayed fine performances on the ice within their respective groups, each having at least one tight-knit match.

Canada and Finland both showed dominating displays over Norway and Austria; but the best was saved for last. Canada and Finland faced off in a low-scoring matchup that led to an overtime period in which Canada’s leading scorer, defenseman Drew Doughty, was able to net his fourth Olympic goal as the gamewinner. 

The matchup between Team USA and Russia proved to be an instant classic, as it took eight shootout rounds to finally come to an end. T.J. Oshie was the hero for the Americans, scoring four shootout goals, the last one sealing the win over the Olympic hosts. 

ALSO SEE: U.S. Hockey Win Out Over Russia By A Tick

But now that the preliminary rounds are through, we can finally get to some elimination Olympic hockey. The standings have Sweden as the number one seed with nine points, followed by the USA, Canada and Finland. Team USA and Canada did tie in the prelims with eight points, however the USA received the second seed due to the goal differential tiebreaker. These top four teams each have a bye before the quarterfinal rounds on Wednesday. 

It will be interesting to see how each team responds. Sweden, despite being in the number one slot, will look for better play all around. The Swedes were unhappy after their latest performance, allowing three goals to a much weaker Latvian team. They will also have to continue to compensate for the injured Henrik Zetterberg, who left Game 1 with a back injury and will not return in Sochi, as the competition will be much heavier going forward.

The USA and Canada have had their shares of top performers. For the USA, Phil Kessel, Oshie and James Van Riemsdyk have been solid. As for Canada, with offense lacking from certain star forwards, Doughty, Patrick Marleau, Jeff Carter and Shea Weber have provided the much-needed offensive production. Both teams must maintain solid play from these players while looking for improved performances from those that have come up shy in these first three games.

Finland just made it as the fourth seed when it forced Canada to that overtime period, preventing Russia from making the cut into the top four slots. In their upcoming qualification game, Russia should have no problems handling the winless Norwegians, whose greatest accomplishment so far in Sochi was scoring their first goal against Canada since 1984. A Russian victory would bring a matchup against the Finns. Since Team Russia has much to prove in front of its home crowd, this appears to be the likeliest game to present an “upset” of one of the top four seeds.

The qualification games begin February 18th, with quarterfinal matchups following on February 19th.

Click here for the official schedule.

ALSO SEE: 2014 Sochi Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Preview: A Quick Peek At Each Team

Reach Staff Writer Ben Ebert here.



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