Olympic Playoff Qualification Preview

Anjul VirkContributor IFebruary 23, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 22:  Goalie Florence Schelling #41 of Switzerland looks towards the corner for the puck during the ice hockey women's classification 5th/6th game between Switzerland and the Russian Federation on day 11 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at UBC Thunderbird Arena on February 22, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Well, today is the big day where we will see four teams eliminated, as the playoff qualification round kicks into high gear at Noon Pacific time.

Let's take a quick look at each matchup, and my prediction who will win:

Belarus vs. Switzerland

This is the first game of the day, and features the #8 and #9 teams squaring off against each other. The winner will move on to play the top-seeded Americans. Both squads won a game during round-robin play, and even put up good fights against the top teams in their division.

Belarus lost easily to Finland, but put a scare into the Swedes before falling to them as well. It won its first game against Germany, with NHLer Sergei Kostistyn leading the way with 4 points.

Switzerland on the other hand, was solid in all three round-robin games. It played a strong game against the United States, but really made its mark against the host country, as Canada needed a shootout to win. Finally, the Swiss took care of Norway to finish 1-2 in round-robin play.

Outcome:There is one player that will make a difference and that is Jonas Hiller. He has been spectacular during these Olympics, and will not let a weaker Belarus squad win, especially after playing so well against both the US and Canada.
Prediction: Switzerland wins 4-2

Canada vs. Germany

Germany is one of three teams that failed to win a game in round-robin play, even with a handful of NHLers. Don't look for that to change against Team Canada today, as there is now way that the Germans will be able to keep up against a fired-up Canadian squad. That doesn't mean that Germany can't put up a fight and at least try to make the game competitive, but chances of that happening are very slim.

The most buzz in the last day has centered around the Canadians losing to the Americans on Sunday, and now having to play an extra game against the Germans today. Looking past all of the chatter, this is a game that Canada will not blow. After easily beating Norway, the Swiss put a scare into the star-studded group, and then came the letdown against the United States. Regardless of all that, this is a team that is considered to be the most talented from top to bottom, and it will show tonight. Eric Staal will move up to the top line with Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla, while Rick Nash will now play with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

If you own Martin Brodeur in your Olympic fantasy pool, well, then you are done. Roberto Luongo will now be the man between the pipes, and this is his chance to prove wrong those who doubt him and his ability to win a big game. Luongo will get a lift from the hometown Vancouver fans, and will be on top of his game.

Outcome: This is a wake-up call for the Canadians, and there is no way that the team will come out sloppy as it did against Team USA. Canada will want to make a statement and let Alexander Ovechkin and the gang know that they are next.
Prediction: Canada wins 6-1

Czech Republic vs. Latvia

This is the only matchup where two teams that have already played each other are again squaring off. The Czechs had won 5-2, and will most likely win by a similar score in this game, although Latvia should still play them tough, especially after coming off of an emotionless 6-0 loss to the Slovaks.

Outcome:Czechs have a matchup looming with Finland if they win, but they won't overlook a Latvian squad that only has Karlis Skrastins as an established NHLer.
Prediction: Czechs win 4-1

Norway vs. Slovakia

The poor Norwegians had suffered losses at the hands of all the teams in their division, and all that gives them is a matchup against the darkhorse Slovaks.

Slovakia has had some great talent up front for a long time now, but goaltending was always the issue, and that has now been addressed by Jaroslav Halak. If there is one player in this tournament that has seen his value change in fantasy leagues dramatically, it is the netminder for the Habs. He was sensational against the Russians, and was solid in the win over Latvia.

Outcome:With Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Ziggy Palffy leading the way, Slovakia will cruise to a win, and get ready for a matchup with the Swedes.
Prediction: Slovakia wins 5-1