This year's tournament sees the debut of an entirely new format, as instead of the previous four groups of four teams with the top three in each advancing to a second group stage, the new format sees two large groups of eight teams each, one based entirely in Helsinki and the other in Stockholm.
Another change is that once the Preliminary Round is completed, the top four teams in each group will advance to the Semifinals, to be played within your group, guaranteeing rematches of Preliminary Round matchups.
Not until the Semifinals will teams finally cross over to play squads from the opposite group once all the surviving teams have congregated in Helsinki at the Hartwall Arena for the remainder of the championship.
Personally, we are not fans of this change, as the Relegation Round was always of a certain interest to us, with the battle for survival having the spotlight all it's own for a day, usually in between the Semifinals and Medal Round games. As it stands now, the games which will be critical to the lower seeded teams survival will now be deeply embedded in the Preliminary Round on some random date, held opposite other higher profile matches featuring championship contenders. This chance will take away any drama the Relegation Round once generated, as the vital games which determined who is sent down will now not be apparent until the Preliminary Round is concluded and the previous results are examined after the fact.
The two groups this year are named Group H for Helsinki, and Group S for Stockholm. Group H features the hosts Finland (ranked #2 in the IIHF World Ranking), Canada (#4), the United States (#6), Switzerland (#7), Slovakia (#10), Belarus (#11), France (#14) and Kazakhstan (#16), while Group S has Russia (#1), Sweden (#3), the Czech Republic (#5), Germany (#8), Norway (#9), Latvia (#12), Denmark (#13) and Italy (#17).
Once the Preliminary Round concludes on May 15th, the Quarterfinals will happen two days later on May 17th, followed by the a travel/rest day and the Semifinals on May 19th and the Bronze and Gold Medal games the following day, Sunday, May 20th.
13 games of the World Championship can be seen in the United States on the NBC Sports Network , as they will show all seven Team USA preliminary games, all four Quarterfinals, a Semifinal and the Gold Medal game.
Key players for the United States include defenseman Jack Johnson, Cam Fowler, Alex Goligoski and Justin Faulk, forwards Bobby Ryan, Kyle Okposo, Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty as well as goaltender Jimmy Howard.