2016 World Juniors: Playoff Preview

team-canada-celebratesIt is that time of year again as the new year is hear and a new World Junior Champion is set to be crowned.

The round robin tournament ended with a somewhat predictable group of teams left to fight for the division.

The two teams that most thought to be outmatched proved to be as Belarus and Switzerland are fighting for their top tier spot.

The Swiss showed some promise but couldn’t get by the talent gap in the group while the Belarusians were overmatched in almost every game.

Although both teams made life difficult for better teams neither could get a win this time around.

The Swiss will likely find their first two of the tournament as they will stay in the top tier while Belarus goes back to Division I and Latvia will take their place next year.

As for the top teams coming into the tournament all of them are still alive but some are sitting in an unexpected spot with the end of the round robin.

Most notably the Canadians finished third in their group for the first time since 2001 after struggling through the toughest group in the tournament.

At the head of their group is the Swedes who are used to being at the top now with a total of 35 round robin wins in their last 35 round robin games.

Where they continue to get challenged is in the playoffs as they continue to disappoint despite their great round robin.

Right behind them is the USA who proved many wrong in showing a real offensive power led by Auston Matthews.

The Canadians have not been the powerhouse they used to be as they haven’t played terrible but haven’t started well trailing in every game this year.

Finding their way to the playoffs in the fourth spot in Group A was the Danes who were able to upset the Swiss for the second year in a row but couldn’t keep up with any of the other teams.

In Group B the Russians have proven to be a team to beat this year with good defensive hockey and the ability to score but have struggled against teams they should easily beat.

Right behind them are the home team as Finland has put together a young but very potent offensive attack that pushed them to a tight fight for second that they won.

The team they beat for that spot was the Czechs who started with a statement against the Russians and are riding the goaltending performance of Vitek Vorecek to third place.

Slovakia has once again been the thorn in the side of so many teams but failed to finish this year, although they still have a puncher’s chance.

There are more than one team with that shot as anything can happen in single-elimination games.

The Slovaks and Danes are the least likely to move on as they haven’t proven that finishing ability but both have given fits to other teams and may throw in a surprise.hockey-sidebar

The Canadians could figure things out and all of a sudden put together games that match their talent but if the round robin is any proof they don’t seem to have it this year.

The Czechs are certainly ready to take a step with amazing goaltending and proof that they can compete with anyone this year.

The Americans gave the Swedes their toughest test of the tournament and seem to be able to beat any team if they put everything together.

The Finns have the crowd and a great offence to help them and they could beat the top teams with the way they have been playing.

Overall the round robin saw the Swedes and Russians move above everyone in the tournament as they were in trouble on a few times but came through to win every game.

They have seen some great goaltending performances but both will go about things in a different way.

The Russians are a more defensive team than in the past and are fine with sitting back with the lead.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have scoring though as they proved that they can put up points if they need to.

The Swedes have a very potent attack and have been great at putting up plenty of points all tournament long with little scares in the round robin.

Russia and Sweden look like they won’t let anyone else win as they both believe that they are the gold medalists.

The Russians might just come out on top in that battle though as they do have a very stingy defence that has rarely cracked under pressure making them the favourites to take home the title and continuing their medal streak with a gold.

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