On Sunday afternoon Canada earned a hard fought 2-1 overtime victory over Finland. Team Canada has another level to their game and will need to find it to capture back to back Gold Medals. As things shook out Canada, the number three seed and Finland the number four seed both earned byes and will get back on the ice Wednesday.
Canada will play the winner of Switzerland and Latvia who do battle on Tuesday. Switzerland would be the bigger test, but both clubs are very familiar with playing on the larger ice surface.
Before worrying about who they play, Team Canada's head coach Mike Babcock will be focused on finding more offense. Canada has allowed only two goals in three games but only the Jonathan Toews line has been productive. No doubt Canada has the talent and if they can put it all together will be difficult to defeat.
On the bigger ice surface playing solid defense is very important. Team Canada has a very good group of defensemen that are playing great in their own zone and also chipping in with some offense. Defenseman Drew Doughty has recorded four goals and is Canada's leading scorer with five points.
Team USA is also undefeated in tourney play and is seeded second. The top seed is Sweden with three regulation victories.
The top four teams in the preliminary round were Sweden, the US, Canada and Finland and they have all earned a bye in the qualification round and will proceed to the quarterfinal round.
Teams ranked 5-12 will square off in qualification round action which will begin on Tuesday. In the qualification and quarterfinal rounds losing teams are eliminated.
The US will face the winner of the Czech Republic and Slovakia which is like a battle of the Hatfields and the McCoys. That's the most interesting matchup on Tuesday's slate as Michal Rozsival will do battle with Blackhawk teammates Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa.
Team Russian has put themselves in a precarious position having to win a game to get to the quarterfinals. They will face Norway and should win but if not their Olympics will end with a thud. It has been made clear it is gold or bust for the Russian team. Russian countrymen view a hockey Gold medal as all important, more so than any other Olympic event.
Team USA is rolling along but like Canada may have to reach another gear. The US has been able to score against inferior teams but had trouble with Team Russia. That said, they have played solid defense and the goaltending has been very good. The US claims the best goal differential (11) after the opening round.
After his natural hat trick on Sunday, Phil Kessel has been on fire and leads all Olympic scorers with seven points. The US has a balanced attack and even though Patrick Kane hasn't been scoring goals they have three wins.
As the second seed, Team USA will likely have to go through Team Canada to play for the Gold Medal.
The chart to the top right below the photo of the hockey puck depicts brackets for each round was provided by James Mirtle of the Toronto Globe and Mail.
I will be back on Wednesday and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.
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