Heading into the final days in Sochi, the men's 2014 Olympic hockey tournament is heating up with the quarterfinals set to begin with all four games scheduled for Wednesday.
Eight teams remain in contention for the gold, which you can see in this gorgeous bracket, courtesy of FanSided:
The only real surprise from the qualifying round was Latvia's win over Switzerland. All the other top eight seeds are represented in the quarterfinals.
It's win-or-go-home time for these remaining squads from here on out, and every game will be ferociously contested.
Here's a look at the television schedule for all four games on Wednesday, courtesy of NBCOlympics.com:
|Game||TV Station||Time (ET)|
|Sweden vs. Slovenia||NBC Sports Network||3 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.|
|Finland vs. Russia||NBC Sports Network||7:30 a.m. - 10 a.m.|
|Canada vs. Latvia||MSNBC||12 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.|
|USA vs. Czech Republic||USA Network||12 p.m. - 3 p.m.|
Sweden was the only team to finish qualifiers with a clean sweep, and it should have little trouble taking down Slovenia to start the busy day.
Nick Goss of NESN elaborates:
The Swedes will easily advance to the semifinals because they have too much offensive firepower for a Slovenia team that’s scored just six goals in three games, and their blue line has the speed required to shut down skilled Austrian forwards Michael Grabner (who has an Olympics-leading five goals) and Thomas Vanek.
Conversely, Finland could give Russia a run for its money in the second game of the day.
The Russians weren't particularly sharp during qualifiers, and Finland was an overtime loss to Canada away from claiming one of the top couple of seeds heading into the playoffs.
However, the host nation will have the energy of the home crowd behind it, and the team's offense is capable of putting up goals in bunches.
"Everybody knows we have such a good, talented team on offense. We just try to keep our energy and keep our emotion. It's working, and (on Wednesday) we're going to have emotions and strength for the quarterfinals," Ovechkin told The Associated Press (via ESPN) after Tuesday's win over Norway.
No. 3 seed Canada may have gotten a lucky break when Latvia (No.11) beat the difficult Swiss team in the final qualifier.
The Canadian team is absolutely loaded with such stars as Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrice Bergeron up front and superstar defender Drew Doughty—among others.
The only current NHL player on Latvia's team is Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres, but the team is guided by star coach Ted Nolan.
It will be truly shocking if Canada fails to advance to the semifinals over Latvia, as Adam Proteau of The Hockey News amusingly illustrates on Twitter:
I don't think Canada will lose to Latvia. But if it happens, I wonder how long until our stores run out of bottled water & power generators.— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) February 18, 2014
While Canada is fighting a scrappy Latvian squad, the Americans will take on the Czech Republic.
Team USA is favored by many analysts to win gold, so it would be a stunner if the Czechs took down the mighty Americans.
Jonathan Quick has been strong thus far for the U.S. team, while, over on the other side, Ondrej Pavelec is expected to go for the second game in a row, which could spell doom for the Czech Republic, as pointed out by James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail:
Relevant for tomorrow's game. RT @tcghockey: Pavelec's career NHL record in back-to-backs: 4-17-0, 4.22 GAA, .866 save % on 575 SA. Yikes.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) February 18, 2014
With a track record like that, you can bet the Americans will not be shy about letting pucks fly at Pavelec on Wednesday.
Team USA shouldn't have any trouble dispatching this round's opponent, setting up a likely semifinals matchup against Canada, which would be one of the most highly anticipated events of the 2014 Winter Games.
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