Sharks in Sochi: Pavelski, Marleau, Vlasic, Niemi all advance to semis

All four Sharks at the 2014 Winter Olympics advanced to the semifinal round with victories in the quarters today.

On paper, the quarterfinal matchup between the U.S. and Czech Republic looked to be the relatively competitive, tightly-contested affair while Canada would have a breeze handling Latvia, who they surprisingly drew over the Swiss.

Instead, Team USA routed the Czechs 5-2 with a hand from Ondrej Pavelec employing his patented goaltending style of not being good at hockey whereas Team Canada ran into a Latvian netminder doing his best Ben Scrivens impression and forcing the Canadians to eke out a 2-1 win despite outshooting their opponent 57-15. The end result is that Joe Pavelski, who notched an assist on one of the Americans' five tallies, will face Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic in Friday's semifinals, with Team USA having a golden opportunity to avenge their 2010 loss.

The real surprise from today's action involved the other Shark in Sochi's club as Team Finland, albeit without Antti Niemi in net, prevailed over host nation Russia by a 3-1 score. They'll face Sweden in the semifinals, setting up a pair of matchups that function as 2006 and 2010 gold medal game rematches.

Pavelski was held without a shot on goal but remained dangerous between James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel on what might be the best forward line left at this tournament with the Russians' Ovechkin/Malkin/Semin trio eliminated and Canada's coaching staff, for whatever reason, refraining from putting their best players on either side of Sidney Crosby. Speaking of the Canadians, Marleau had his second five-shot game of the tournament including one of the team's better chances to beat the sensational Kristers Gudlevskis in the second period that was subject to video review before officials deemed it didn't cross the goal line. He and Vlasic were both part of a five-man unit Babcock deployed to protect Canada's 2-1 lead with Gudlevskis pulled for an extra Latvian attacker.

As excellent as Marleau has played in this tournament, he still doesn't have a goal. For Team USA's sake, hopefully that lasts through the semis.