Even after asking Finland very nicely to come up with a victory over the Russians, which then flipped to pleading with Russia to lay down, neither side obeyed me, and we were subsequently robbed of the game everyone wanted to see: Canada vs. Team North America – yes, I have already checked, and there is no way we can get North America back in this tournament.
But hey, I guess Canada vs. Russia isn’t so bad.
That semifinal was one that most were expecting. The other one, however, includes a team that was basically written off before the tournament had even started: Team Europe.
The team made up of players from eight different countries quickly grabbed everyone’s attention when they beat the United States 3-0 in the opening game of the tournament. They finished the group stage with a 2-1 record, earning the right to take on Sweden in the other semifinal.
Now that the field has been cut in half, here are the odds for the remaining teams to claim the World Cup of Hockey – and apparently the right to say they own the sport.
World Cup of Hockey Odds
Canada leads the tournament in goals scored and goals against (in a good way). Their closest game was a 4-2 victory over the United States, and they have looked simply dominant thus far.
Canada is doing this in spite of missing a couple key blue-liners, as well as some of its more talented forwards. But when you’re raised with a hockey stick in one hand, and maple syrup in the other, I guess this is what we should expect.
Carey Price (.968 save-percentage) has used the world stage to not only prove that he has fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him off the ice most of last season, but also regain the title of best goaltender in the world.
Jonathan Toews is up to his usual antics in international play, leading the tournament in goals (3) and points (4, tied with four others), while Sidney Crosby is putting in a great performance for his country (4 points and a tournament-high +5 rating). Matt Duchene has apparently decided he belongs amongst the league’s top scorers; the relative youngster is also tied for the tournament lead with four points.
The small concern regarding Canada entering the tournament was whether the team would be able to match its dominant defensive performance from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, especially with Duncan Keith missing. But guys like Drew Doughty and Shea Weber have Canada feelin’ just fine.
Canada is easily the best team in this tournament, and should remain atop the hockey podium for at least another two years.
Nathan MacKinnon’s nasty dangles notwithstanding, Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist has effectively put to use some advice courtesy of Taylor Swift and shaken off a rough ending to the 2015-2016 season. King Henrik has stopped 81 of 85 shots in the tournament (.953 save-percentage, and has Sweden poised for a rematch with Canada in the championship game.
However, there has to be some concern over the mere seven goals Sweden scored in the group stage. The Sedin twins are 35 years old now, and only combined for three points in three games. The offense has come from Nicklas Backstrom and Erik Karlsson, with three points each.
Unlike Canada, Sweden has not been able to effectively fill the holes left by key absentees like Henrik Zetterberg and Alex Steen.
The Russians can thank their four-goal outburst in the second period against North America for advancing out of the group stage. Russia finished with four points, tied with North America, but their 4-3 victory over the kids allowed them to move on.
Sergei Bobrovsky has caught fire between the pipes and has been able to patch up most of the holes on the Russian blueline. Bobrovsky has faced an average of 32 shots per game thus far, and should be preparing to see a similar total against Canada in the semifinals.
If Russia is to upset Canada, not only will Bobrovsky have to put in a heroic performance, but their top-six forwards will have to control possession. This starts with giving Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin the ice-time they deserve instead of evenly rolling four lines.
Russia has the top-end talent to keep up with anyone, but not the depth. If head coach Oleg Znarok relies on his fourth line against Canada, it could be over quick.
Team Europe: 12/1
Of the four teams remaining, Team Europe has surrendered the most goals and has the worst goal differential. Their starting goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, has faced 111 shots in three games. Basically, they made it in because the United States blew it.
Mats Zuccarello and Leon Draisaitl have been stars for this team, while Christian Ehrhoff is proving that he can still play.
However, if this motley crew of players wants to experience its first taste of success on the international stage, it will have to be Zdeno Chara and Anze Kopitar leading the way.
Realistically speaking, Team Europe lacks the depth up front and on the back-end. But a hot goalie is always capable of stealing a do-or-die game.
Photo credit: http://www.VancityAllie.com [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.