It all boils down to this.
Canada defeated the Czech Republic on Friday in a game where the Canadians took an early lead and never looked back despite a Czech push in the second and third periods. Finland beat rivals Sweden in a tight game by one goal on aggregate, giving the Finns a chance at gold.
Let’s see how the gold medal game is set up:
It almost seems fitting that the tournaments two teams that have underwhelmed so far are competing for the bronze medal. Sweden have stared throughout the tournament with a lack of finishing from their forwards and a lack of defensive cover which has seen many of their best performances come from goalkeeper Jesper Wallstedt. Fabian Lysell, Isak Rosen, Simon Edvinsson and company have shown flashes of what makes them special prospects, but none of them have stood out. Sweden’s best skater has been defenseman Emil Andrae, who has been an offensive scoring machine in almost every game and even had a few mistakes in his own end.
Czech has been largely the same. They started the tournament with Red Wings prospect Jan Bednar in net shooting, then eventually moved on to Tomas Suchanek who played well throughout and helped them beat the Americans in the quarterfinals. Their skaters have been pretty worldly, with captain Jan Mysak being their most consistent rider. Jiri Kulich and David Jiricek have shown flashes, but other than that, the Czech team has looked a little lost in almost every game outside of their quarter-final match.
What we have are two talented teams that have yet to play to their potential. On paper, the Swedes have the best squad. They have a first-round world-class goaltender in Jesper Wallstedt and multiple first-round picks that spread the roster. They only have two undrafted players on their entire roster, and both are 20. On the other hand, the Czech squad has about half of its roster undrafted, despite having multiple first-rounders.
However, we have seen better performances from the Czech team. They played an impressive game against the Americans, beat them in the quarters with a complete team effort, and found ways to bounce back against Canada when they were played as well. Finally, the Czech seems to have found his rhythm, although he could not turn it into a gold medal. Sweden has been disinterested and unenthusiastic about being on the tournament schedule. They seem to come and go a little too often.
It sounds like a broken record, but for the Swedes to win this match and walk away with a medal despite their best efforts not to claim one, sometimes they have to go together. The Swedes have received excellent attention in Wallstedt’s net, they need to get performances from their high-end talent like Lysell, Edvinsson and Rosen to go along with it. If they can put up 60 minutes of good, not even great, hockey, they shouldn’t go home empty-handed.
The Czech Republic have built up as the tournaments have progressed and look poised to have one of their best performances against Sweden in a match where they know they are the underdogs. The Czech Republic seem to thrive when expectations are low and that’s what they’ve done since the qualifiers started. If they get a good goaltender from Suchaneck like they have, Mysak, Kulich and Jiricek continue to play well as they have recently. They can get a timely goal from depth scorers like Matyas Sapovaliv or Michal Gut, then the Czech Republic could very well head home with a bronze medal.
With the Americans upset in the quarters, the top two remaining teams have made it to the gold medal game. Canada and Finland have strangled teams at times and locked things down when they needed to. Both teams have seen big performances from players who were expected to play big roles and also received some surprises from depth players. Both participants in the gold medal game deserve to be here.
Canada has been the most dominant team so far. They have an absolutely loaded roster, highlighted by Mason McTavish and Connor Bedard. The duo has been the engine of the Canadian offensive attack throughout the tournament, but they have been far from the only big players to show up. Even when they were separated on Friday, they looked fantastic on their own.
Will Cuylle has moved up the lineup, playing a physical game and bringing a nice scoring touch, earning time alongside Canada’s dynamic duo. Logan Stankoven has been a firecracker, attacking the game at both ends of the ice and leaving his mark on games even when he hasn’t found the scoreboard. Olen Zellweger has been a stud on the blue line, fueling the team’s ability to create from the blue line and out of the defensive zone. From Kent Johnson and Brennan Othmann to Donovan Sebrango and Ridly Greig, the list of Canadian standouts is long.
As for the Finnish stuff, they’ve looked pretty good themselves. The Finns have had big performances from Joakim Kemell and Roby Jarventie to give them one of the most prized power plays. Roni Hirvonen and Aatu Raty have been a handful to deal with in five-on-five, using their combination of skill and power along with non-stop motors to trouble teams into mistakes they’ve taken advantage of.
The Finnish blue line has also been fantastic. Joni Jurmo may not have the scoring stats, but he’s been one of the most efficient defenders when it comes to breaking out of the defensive zone, using his feet to escape pressure and move up the ice or draw the checkers. front before passing a gel. Topi Niemela and Aleksi Heimosalmi were excellent in transition and in the offensive zone, making life easy for everyone as they kept pucks in the offensive zone and found teammates in excellent scoring positions. However, it is Kasper Puutio who leads the Finnish Blues in scoring. He has used his shot from the blue line as a weapon while also being an excellent facilitator from the top of the zone.
Both Dylan Garand on the Canadian grid and Leevi Merilainen on the ladder in Finland have done their jobs with few hiccups but no major setbacks. If both teams get the steady, steady goaltending expected, this area of the game should be a wash.
For the Finns to win this match, they must continue to combine the typical structure that Finnish national teams at all levels play in with the skill and talent that this junior team possesses thanks to their skillful players. Kemell, Jarventie, Raty and Hirvonen must continue to play mature, high-tempo games that force mistakes in the back. At the same time, their defenders must move the puck quickly and prevent the Canadians from doing the same. If the Finns want to win, they need to neutralize the speed of the Canadian by forcing them to play along the boards and in their own zone.
Canada must continue to dominate and adapt. They have all the skill and speed that have allowed them to succeed and the physicality that has allowed them to adapt. The loss of Ridly Greig will be a big one as he seems to have been a bit of a spark for the Canadiens in that regard. But they have shown adaptability. Cuylle and Othmann can bring some of the pest factor and physicality that Greig brought.
The Canadians need to play to their potential and jump on the Finns early. Force them to play run and shoot hockey. If they can do that, the gold medal should be theirs.
Last weekend, I wrote about Warren Mosler's argument that the Fed's rate hikes could be…
Last weekend, I he wrote on Warren Mosler's argument that the Fed's rate hikes could…
Last week, the chairman of the Fed, Jerome Powell said, "the disinflationary process has begun".…
Earlier this week, I joined Romaine Bostick and Scarlet Fu Bloomberg TV. The Congressional Budget…
Tomorrow morning, I'll be joining CNBC's Squawk Box to talk about a new effort tax…
Former Vice President Mike Pence talks about privatizing Social Security. The remarks came Thursday before…