The two World Cup of Hockey games today will determine just how interesting the four “game threes” of the group stage will be. Unless the United States upsets Canada, we’re heading for a bit of a snoozer in the final round of Group A, but Group B offers the tantalizing possibility of a four-way tie.
Here’s the situation: Russia’s win over North America gives both teams two points through two games. Sweden and Finland have played one game each and the Swedes have two points thanks to their win over Russia. When the Swedes and Finns battle today there will be more than a regional rivalry on the line.
If Finland tops Sweden all four teams will have two points through two games with Finland-Russia and Sweden-North America deciding who goes on to the next round. In this situation, the winners of the two games would go on to the knockout round — there’s no chance of a funky tiebreaker deciding anything.
That’s pretty exciting. Winner-take-all competitions, particularly in hockey, don’t do a great job of telling us who the better team is, but it can be a hell of a lot of fun. That’s what this tournament is all about, right? Pitting the best of the best against one another in winner-take-all games in back to back rounds sounds like an absolutely blast, so I’m rooting for the Finns today.
As for Group A, if the United States manages to top the Canadians it will give the Americans and Canadians two points through two games. Team Europe has four points and has just about clinched a spot in the knockout round while the Czech Republic has one point in its only game because it lost to Europe in overtime.
So assuming that’s the scenario, here’s what Group A would look like:
1. Europe 2G, 4PTS
2. Canada 2G, 2PTS
2. USA 2G, 2PTS
4. Czech Republic 2G, 1PTS
The United States plays the Czech Republic in its final group game while Canada plays Team Europe. The United States has to beat the Czechs to move on, plain and simple. If Canada beats Team Europe, creating a three-way tie for first place the tiebreaker will be goal differential. If Team Europe upsets Canada, the United States is through.
So today’s action carries a lot of weight, albeit more likely for Group B than Group A. That’s a good thing as the NHL tries to build excitement for its new tournament.