OILERS AT THE WORLDS

A breakdown of Week 2 at the Olympics

Tuesday, 23.02.2010 / 2:20 AM / Oilers at the Worlds
By John Kreiser  - NHL.com
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A breakdown of Week 2 at the Olympics
Rivalry Sunday not only decided the three group winners in pool play, it set a picture of who plays next as the Olympic men's hockey tournament enters the elimination stage.

Russia won Group C after beating the Czech Republic 4-2 to begin the day, although its reward of a bye into the quarterfinals is tempered by the probability it will have to play Canada on Wednesday.

Sweden set itself up well by shutting out Finland, 3-0, to close the night. It didn't score enough goals to unseat the United States as the top seed moving forward, but it did earn itself a bye and a date with the Norway-Slovakia winner on Wednesday.

Team USA figures to have the easiest quarterfinal-round game, where it will face either Switzerland or Belarus, and can't play Canada or Russia until the gold medal game.

Meanwhile, Canada is faced with having to play a game Tuesday against Germany just for the right to come back the following day against the Russians. It's not exactly the scenario the host nation pictured coming into the Olympics.

With group play out of the way, the tournament begins the win-or-go-home phase on Tuesday with four qualifying-round games, pairing the teams that finished fifth through 12th in group play. Tuesday’s four winners then go right back to work on Wednesday when they’re paired against the three group winners and the second-place team with the best record -- all of whom received a bye into the final eight.

In addition to the group winners, the United States (A), Sweden (B) and Russia (C), Finland got the other bye as the best second-place team, edging the Czech Republic on goal differential.

As we enter Week Two, here's a look at the week ahead:
 
Tuesday
 
By far the biggest surprise is that Canada will be taking the ice at Canada Hockey Place for a game against Germany. The Canadians were expected to win Group A, but after rolling over Norway 8-0 in their first game, they needed a shootout to beat Sweden 3-2 and lost 5-3 to the United States on Sunday.
 
As the sixth-place finisher, Canada meets 11th-place Germany, which didn’t win a game during group play and was shut out by Sweden and Finland before losing 5-3 to Belarus.
 
The Germans were next-to-last in the standings, finishing ahead of only Latvia (thanks to goal differential). The Latvians face the Czech Republic, which beat them 5-2 on Thursday.
 
Canada and Slovakia both finished 1-1-1-0 for 5 points, but the Canadians had a better goal differential. That dropped the Slovaks to seventh place and a meeting with Norway. The Norwegians lost to the U.S. and Canada, but earned 1 point in group play by taking Switzerland to overtime on Saturday before losing 5-4.
 
The only qualifying-round meeting between teams that both posted wins in group play is the 8-9 game between the Swiss and Belarus. Switzerland lost 3-1 to the United States, then fell in a 3-2 shootout to Canada before topping Norway in OT. Belarus has been getting better throughout the tournament -- after losing 5-1 to Finland, the Belarusians made life uncomfortable for Sweden before losing 4-2, then blew a 3-1 lead before beating Germany 5-3 in their best performance since upsetting Sweden in 2002.
 
Wednesday
 
Not only did the United States beat Canada in an Olympic game for the first time since 1960, the Americans finished first in the overall standings with a 3-0-0-0 record and a plus-9 goal differential. Given the way that group play finished, finishing first figures to be a tremendous advantage -- the Americans get to play what figures to be the weakest team coming out of the qualifying round, either Belarus or Switzerland.
 
Sweden, the only other team to win all three of its group games in regulation, was the best defensive team in the opening phase of the tournament, allowing only two goals -- none by starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. After beating Finland 3-0 on Sunday to win Group C, the Swedes will face the Slovakia-Norway winner -- meaning that, if Slovakia wins, Lundqvist will be facing New York Rangers teammate Marian Gaborik.
 
A Canadian victory over Germany would set up what many people thought would be the championship game: Canada-Russia. As intense as a Canadian-Russian gold medal game might have been, the pressure on both sides figures to ratchet up a few notches more when a defeat means that the loser will go home without even getting the chance to compete for a medal.
 
Finland, the best of the second-place teams, will have two days off before facing the winner of the game between the Czech Republic and Latvia. The Finns missed a chance to win their group when they lost to 3-0 to Sweden on Sunday night, but still had a better goal differential to edge the Czechs for the bye.
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