In the end, it was predictable. All four top-seeded teams won in the quarterfinals Wednesday and advanced to the semifinals Friday. No. 1 Sweden defeated Slovenia; No. 2 United States beat Czech Republic; No. 3 Canada defeated Latvia; and No. 4 Finland ousted Russia. Sweden will face Finland in one border war and the U.S. will play Canada in another, a rematch of the gold-medal game from Vancouver in 2010. Ready to get your hate on? Oh, it’s going to be like that.
So, who plays in the gold-medal game on Sunday morning?
Well, the U.S. has been perhaps the most impressive team of the tournament, from its gritty play to its efficient scoring. The Americans have won mostly in routs, save for an eight-round shootout victory over Russia. Their role players have been superb, especially Ryan Kesler and David Backes. Phil Kessel has been a scorer with a deft touch. Goaltender Jonathan Quick of the Kings has been unbeatable for the Americans. Canada has the better team on paper, with more depth and a pedigree that’s impossible to match. The Kings’ Drew Doughty and the Ducks’ Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have been the Canadians’ most consistent players. Others like Sidney Crosby have been all but invisible, which is what almost cost Canada during their 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Latvia.
I’ve picked Canada all along and I won’t change now.
As for the other game, Sweden has sailed through the tournament without appearing to drop a bead of sweat. That’s about to change with rival Finland awaiting the Swedes on Friday. Goaltender Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins has been superb and the Ducks’ 43-year-old Teemu Selanne continued to cement his legendary Olympic status with a goal and an assist in the Finns’ quarterfinal win over Russia. The Finns look like they’re on a mission.
I’ve got to go with Finland.