2016 IIHF World Championship: Playoff Preview

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There is little doubt that the World Championship has a clear division between the best teams and everyone else.

When it comes to the playoffs that division is often seen as a foregone conclusion regarding who will win and who will lose.

When looking on the surface of the playoffs it seems like a few teams have a chance and everyone else is just a placeholder.

This year there are a few teams that will be looking to end that thought process and show that once the playoffs begin anyone has a shot.

There will, of course, be the usual suspect that everyone will be expecting to make the final four and play for a medal.

These teams usually rise to the top of their groups and get the best match-ups but there is a change this year.

The Czech Republic found their way to the top of their group in a somewhat unexpected turn.

They were not considered a bad team but were certainly no expected to finish first with Russia and Sweden in their group.

They joined the Russians as a top two teams while Sweden finished third and Denmark took the final spot.

In the other group the Canadians and Finns finished on top like many suspected but in another twist, the Americans fell to fourth.

The Germans finished third in Group B after a great end to their round-robin tournament that included a win over the USA.

The tournament has already been unpredictable and the playoff match-ups have some very good potential.

For their first-place finish in Group A, the Czechs got the chance to play the USA which is far from the easiest match-up.

Many of the first versus fourth match-ups are easy to predict but this one is tougher than most.

The Americans have yet to play consistently while the Czechs have played far better than anyone thought.

When they meet the question will be if the USA can play up to their potential or if the Czechs fall back to what was expected.

Meanwhile for all of Germany’s success this year they get the home team in Russia who has only gotten better as the tournament has moved on.

The Germans have been better with Thomas Greiss in net but can he be enough to stop the Russians.

In Group B, the Finns came out on top with some great defence and good scoring and they should have an easy time in a typical first versus fourth matchup against Denmark but the Danes may surprise some.

Canada has a tough test in the Swedes but Sweden has not played up to their potential throughout the round-robin.hockey-sidebar

Canada didn’t look good against Finland but the rest of the tournament they have looked great so they will need to reach back to the start of the tournament to beat a good, even if they aren’t playing like it, Sweden team.

The playoffs this year are a little different than in years past as the standings are not what many suspected.

Yet the standings may not also tell the full story of the tournament with some teams playing better now than at the start.

The Russians are playing better than they started while the Germans finished their round-robin playing better.

The Canadians failed their test against their biggest competition while the Swedes and Americans need to find consistency.

Any of these teams could win and play for a medal while any could also falter at the worst time and end their tournament early.

The quarter-finals can sometimes be predictable but this year there is at least some intrigue. It seems likely that Finland, Canada, Russia and the Czech Republic will all move on based on their tournament.

Then again the USA and Germany, along with Denmark to a lesser extent, have impressed in some games and if they catch a team sleeping on them they could make that team pay.

It will be interesting to watch but when the dust settles only two teams will be playing for the gold.

Those two teams should really be Finland and Russia but their paths seem to be set to cross in the semi-finals as the two best teams will play for a spot in the gold medal game.

For the medals, it will be rematches as Russia will beat the Czechs for revenge from the first game between the two.

Canada won’t be so lucky as the Finns will take their rematch for the gold reducing the former champions to silver and completing the domination of Finland in international hockey.

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