Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014 IIHF World Championships Update

All teams have now completed five of their seven games of the 2014 IIHF World Championships and the battle for the top four spots in each group is as intense as its ever been.

2014 IIHF Worlds Logo photo 2014IIHFWorldsLogo.jpg

In Group A, Sweden leads with 4 wins and 1 overtime win for 14 points. Canada has rebounded from their opening day overtime loss to France with four consecutive wins for 13 points and both are secure for moving on to the Playoff Round.

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Sweden has had much to celebrate

From that point on, it's a scrum, with France currently holding down third place with 7 points from a regulation win, two overtime wins and a pair of losses, with their 2-1 loss to Italy being particularly regretful.

The Czech Republic has had a very inconsistent tournament, with 7 points as well, with theirs coming from one win, one overtime win, two points producing overtime losses and a regulation loss, which I believe gives them a bingo on their standings card as the only team with a number in every column in the standings grid. Still, the only real blot on their record is yesterday's shootout loss to Denmark.

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Jaromir Jagr leads the Czech attack

Feisty Norway opened strong with wins over Italy and Denmark for the full six points, but then losses to Sweden and Slovakia were followed with a costly shootout loss to France, a game where the full three points was within their grasp, to add just one to their total over the next three games to also stand at 7 points.

Denmark trails behind with 5 points with a regulation win and their shootout win against the Czech Republic. Three regulation losses complete their record.

As we have written about before, Slovakia is a force to be reckoned with at Olympic time with their full compliment of players, but come World Championship time, many of their best are occupied with the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs, leaving them short of manpower some years more than others, and this appears to be one of those down years for the Slovaks, as they have one win, one overtime loss and three regulation losses for just 4 points in seventh place, trailing Denmark, Norway and France.

Slovakia photo Slovakia.jpg
The results may not be there so far, but the Slovaks
have some of the most striking jerseys in the tournament

Last in Group A is Italy with three points from their unexpected win over France, who apparently had a celebration hangover following their defeat of Canada. Italy looks to be headed for relegation down to Division I Group A for 2015.

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The pressure has been on the goaltending for offensively challenged Italy

Over in Group B, Russia has steamrolled their way to a perfect 5-0 record for the maximum 15 points.

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Viktor Tikhonov of Russia currently leads all scorers

The Russians are followed by the host nation of Belarus. Ranked 15th in the IIHF World Rankings, they have been energized by playing at home and have now posted wins over Kazakhstan, Switzerland and Germany for 9 useful points for second place in their quest to finish in the top four playoff positions.

Belarus photo Balarus.jpg
Belarus has embraced the tournament and their team has
given their fans plenty of reason to be excited so far

Also at 9 points are Latvia, who are also benefitting from playing close to home, as their rabid fans have flocked across the border in support of their team which has an identical 3-2 record as Belarus with wins over Finland, Kazakhstan and the United States so far.

Kristers Gudlevskis photo KristersGudlevskis.jpg
Kristers Gudlevskis has had a busy year, having played in
the ECHL, AHL, NHL, Olympics and World Championships!

Next up are Finland and the United States with equal records of 2 regulation wins, one overtime win and a pair of losses, with Finland trending up after two opening losses. Finland currently holds the final playoff spot thanks to their +4 goal differential with the US at +1.

Germany is sixth with 5 points thanks to a win and an overtime win ahead of Switzerland, who frankly have had a really disappointing tournament to date with one win to show from five games, including losses to Russia, the USA, Belarus and Finland.

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Germany recorded a win over Kazakhstan

Overmatched Kazakhstan is last with 2 points from a pair of overtime losses, having taken a point away from Germany and the United States. Look for the Kazakhs to be relegated along with the Italians.

UPDATE: Two additional games have now been played, with Switzerland taking care of business against Kazakhstan, earning the full three points with a 6-2 win to pass German for sixth place and now sit at 7 points, but still behind both Finland and the US who each have a game in hand.

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Switzerland scores against Kazakhstan

The other game saw Slovakia defeat Italy 4-1. The win for Slovakia raises them up to 7 points, level with France, the Czech Republic and Norway, but now with one game less to play.

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Today's schedule begins with an important game for both the United States and Finland, as neither team can afford a loss at this stage. A regulation win for either side would nearly assure them of a vital top four placing and a pointless loss in regulation could seal their fate. Finland finishes with Kazakhstan while the US still has Germany left to play. Both teams will be looking to add the maximum 6 points from their final two games, as a fourth place finish in Group A will be rewarded with a playoff spot, yet punished with a date with an on-form Russia in the Quarterfinals.

The other early game in Group A has Canada facing off against Sweden with the winner likely taking the top spot in the Group. Sweden currently leads by a point 14-13. Sweden's final game it vs. Italy, while Canada closes out with Norway.

The evening games have Russia taking on Germany, which should pose no problems for the Russians in Group B, while Group A has a vital game between Norway and the Czech Republic. With both teams sitting at 7 points and teetering on a transfer position to the playoffs, this will be a game not to be missed, as the Czechs are not a sure thing following their shootout loss to a weaker Denmark squad.

For those who would like to view any of these games today, Monday and Tuesday as the Preliminary Round wraps up, check out Hahasport.com while bearing in mind all Canada and US games are on TSN in Canada and all US games are on NBC Sports in the United States.

Both networks will carry all playoff games once the Preliminary Round is over, but for the next three days an online feed is the only way to watch the non-US games in as the playoff positions are sorted out in what is sure to be dramatic fashion.

2014 IIHF Worlds Mascot photo Volat.jpg

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