No. 3 Russia vs No. 6 Canada
The Hockey world gets their dream matchup a bit earlier than expected as Canada meets Russia in the quarterfinals tonight in what is an unexpected matchup between the two powerhouses.
However, the hype is at a gold medal game level, one team will be going home as the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry now goes global in what is the most anticipated game since the 2002 Gold medal game between the United States and Canada.
All eyes are clearly going to be on Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. On the big stage this is the type of game that Crosby leads his team to victory but is 2010 Alexander Ovechkin’s year?
The Russian’s possess more star power upfront with a lineup that boasts three of the top five players in the game in Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Canadians though are a much deeper team upfront and on their backend and can match Russia’s firepower.
Being the higher seed, Russia will be the home team and have the last change. Russia has the advantage in getting the matchups they want but they have a group of forwards who are not responsible in their defensive zone.
Based on how he coaches at the NHL level, Canada head coach Mike Babcock will look to match up Sidney Crosby’s unit against the Ovechkin/Malkin unit but it remains to be seen if he will be able to get that matchup regularly.
Russia will likely try to get Pavel Datsyuk matched up against Crosby but Datsyuk is centering Ilya Kovalchuk and Maxime Afinogenov, two players who struggle in the D-zone.
Russia’s best bet maybe to go head-to-head with with the Malkin/Ovechkin unit against Crosby’s unit.
Russia’s speed upfront is a concern for Canada defensively and who Mike Babcock matches up against Ovechkin’s unit will be an interesting dynamic to watch.
The goaltending matchup of Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabokov will be an intriguing battle. Both goaltenders are elite goaltenders but neither goalie has performed well in pressure situations (ie NHL playoffs).
However, I like Luongo and Canada to step up and knock off the Russian’s in front of a sold out crowd tonight.
Canada has an opportunity to overmatch the Russian’s in the offensive zone against a group of defenseman who don’t like to play physical and it appears Sidney Crosby is starting to find some continuity with his linemates for the first time in the tournament.
All of the pressure is on Canada, the host country, but physically the Canadians have the ability to overwhelm the Russians.
Prediction: Canada 5 – Russia 3
No. 1 USA vs No. 8 Switzerland
Expectations have suddenly rose for the Americans after earning the No. 1 seed and knocking off the heavily favored Canadians.
How they handle success remains to be seen.
This afternoon they get a rematch against Switzerland who the Americans beat 3-1 in their opening game. Switzerland can’t match up against the Americans talent wise but play a strong defensive game and look to create offensive chances off of turnovers.
Expect a tight game early on with Jonas Hiller keeping the game close but look for the Americans to pull away late.
Prediction: USA 4 – Switzerland 1
No. 4 Finland vs No. 5 Czech Republic
Czech Republic has a more talented lineup but have struggled the past two games, needing overtime to beat Latvia last night in their play-in game.
The injury to Jaromir Jagr is also a concern for Czech’s who have a number of players underperforming.
Prediction: Finland 3 – Czech Republic 2
No. 2 Sweden vs No. 7 Slovakia
Slovakia has been a tough out and have a number of game breakers in their lineup lincluding Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik.
However, Sweden appears primed for another gold medal run and the Slovaks don’t have the depth to match up against the deeper Swede’s.
Prediction: Sweden 4 – Slovakia 2
*Sound off in the comments forum on who prevails in the quarterfinals*