Team Canada earns bye to Olympic hockey quarterfinals

Shea Weber, Team Canada.

Shea Weber, Team Canada. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Chalk it up to another close game between Team Canada and Finland. With 1st place overall on the line, all either side needed to do was defeat the other in regulation. It turned out that such an accomplishment was not meant to be this Sunday in Sochi.

Team Canada carried the play against the Finns, but were largely held to the outside of the ice, unable to capitalize on second chances needed to beat a goaltender of Tuukka Rask’s calibre.

Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty is shining for his country in Sochi. Canada’s Great 8 has scored at least one goal in all three preliminary round games, including two against the Finns; one of which was the overtime game winner that secured third place for Canada.

The real tournament begins on Tuesday, when eight nations will compete for four spots in the quarterfinals where the Swedes, Americans, Canadians and Finns await.

By beating Finland Canada ensured it will not need to play against the host nation Russians in Sochi, unless both teams reach the gold medal game. Today’s losing side, the Finns, prepare for the winner of Russia vs Norway. I wonder who that’ll be.

Team Canada will play the winner of Tuesday’s Switzerland-Latvia game. The Swiss are expected to beat the Latvians, however, it should be noted that these two nations already met in the preliminary round and it was close. Switzerland scored with 8 seconds remaining in the third period to conquer Sandis Ozolinsh’s Latvians.

Switzerland has a track record of giving Canada fits during international play. At the 2006 Games in Turin the Swiss shocked Team Canada with a 2-0 blanking. Different Canadians, back then. However, in 2010, a similar Canadian squad needed a shootout to defeat the Swiss in the preliminary round. It could be close again if they meet in the quarters. And if Canada is not careful, it could get stunned. Unlikely, but definitely not impossible.

The road to gold goes through America, ultimately. The second seeded neighbouring Americans are positioned on the same side of the bracket as Canada. Meaning, if both countries win the games they’re expected to win in the quarterfinals, they will meet in the semis.

Here is the tournament bracket, courtesy of The Globe’s James Mirtle: