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2022 IIHF WORLD HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER-FINAL PREVIEW

MAY 25, 2022  (19H30)      COOPER GODIN
The quarter-finals at the 2022 IIHF World Hockey Championship are set to get underway on Thursday in Tampere and Helsinki (Finland).

In case you missed it, the matchups for the quarter-finals are: (A1) Switzerland vs (B4) United States; (B1) Finland vs (A4) Slovakia; (A2) Germany vs (B3) Czechia; and (B2) Sweden vs (A3) Canada.

Let's dive into the four matchups and preview quarter-final Thursday at the World Hockey Championship!

(A2) Germany vs (B3) Czechia - 9:20 a.m. ET.

Germany comes into Thursday's game with Czechia in good form, despite losing their final preliminary round match with Switzerland in a shootout. Star forward Tim Stutzle was injured during their third game of the tournament against France and won't return. That void has been hard to fill, but they've done it by committee. Matthias Plachta, Lukas Reichel and Marc Michaelis have all done a solid job with offensive production as well as Moritz Seider.

For the Czechs, getting David Pastrnak has been massive. Since he came over at the conclusion of Boston's first round series, Czechia has gone 3-0-0-1 after starting the tournament 1-0-1-1 including a shootout loss to Austria. Czechia's line of David Pastrnak, his former Bruins teammate David Krejci and team captain Roman Cervenka have been incredible, leading the way offensively, while Arizona Coyotes netminder Karel Vejmelka has been great. In their second-last preliminary round game against the United States, he made 24 saves to earn the shutout in a 1-0 win.

My prediction: Germany wins 3-2 in overtime.

(B2) Sweden vs (A3) Canada - 9:20 a.m. ET.

It'll be a rematch of the quarter-finals at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing (China) as Canada and Sweden will battle in the first game of the day in Tampere. Eric O'Dell and Matt Tomkins were on Canada's roster for that game in Beijing as they fell to Sweden 2-0 on goals by Lucas Wallmark (who's on the World Championship roster too) and Anton Lander.

Sweden has been really strong so far, finishing the preliminary round with only one loss, to the Americans in overtime and putting up a record of 5-1-1-0 in seven games. In their final preliminary round game, Linus Ullmark made 21 saves to get the shutout in a 1-0 win. Sweden's strength has been their d-core, led by Rasmus Dahlin, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Adam Larsson. The Swedes have only allowed ten goals in seven games, good for second least among the sixteen participating teams. Scoring won't be an issue either heading into Thursday's game with the addition of Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, who joined up with the team in time for the final two preliminary round games.

Canada is tied with Switzerland for most goals scored in the tournament thus far with 34 and forward Pierre-Luc Dubois leads the World Championship in goals with six. But it's been a rough go on defence and in net for them especially in the fifth and sixth games of the tournament. After starting the tournament 4-0-0-0, they allowed nine goals in back-to-back losses to Switzerland and Denmark, which hampered their chances of finishing first or second in the group. It's still unclear who will be in the crease tomorrow. Logan Thompson missed the final two games with an unspecified injury, which led to Chris Driedger to start.

My prediction: Canada wins 4-2.

(A1) Switzerland vs (B4) United States - 1:20 p.m. ET.

Switzerland has been the best team in the tournament, winning all seven of their preliminary round games with forwards Denis Malgin and Nico Hischier leading the way up front with twelve and nine points respectively. In net, the Swiss have two great options with Reto Berra and Leonardo Genoni, who both played three games each in the preliminary round. Berra has started the last two games, so it's likely they turn to him for Thursday's game.

As for the United States, scoring has been a bit of an issue, only averaging 2.57 goals a game in the tournament so far. But the scoring has been fairly balanced throughout the lineup, with Kieffer Bellows and Adam Gaudette leading the charge. In goal, the Americans added Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman after Alex Nedeljkovic went home due to injury. Swayman been exactly what they needed, going 3-0-0-1 in his four starts.

My prediction: Switzerland wins 4-1.

(B1) Finland vs (A4) Slovakia - 1:20 p.m. ET.

The last quarter-final of the day may be the most entertaining, a rematch of the 2022 Winter Olympic semi-finals. Finland's brick wall of a goaltender in Jussi Olkinuora against a pair of top prospects for the 2022 draft, Juraj Slafkovsky, Simon Nemec and Slovakia.

As mentioned above, Jussi Olkinuora has been incredible and what he is doing is nothing short of miraculous. The Finns had a record of 6-0-1-0 through their seven preliminary games and Olkinuora went 5-0-0-0 with a 0.20 GAA, a .990 save percentage and four shutouts. Speaking of shutouts, Olkinuora has three in a row heading into the quarter-finals with a 6-0 win over Great Britain, 3-0 win over Austria and a 3-0 win over Czechia. Of Finland's five goals against in the tournament, Olkinuora has only allowed one.

The Finns also put up 25 goals in those seven games, with Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia scoring three of them and adding two assists along the way.

As for Slovakia, they needed a regulation win over Denmark on the final day of the preliminary round to get into the playoff round, and they did so with a 7-1 drubbing. After starting the tournament 1-0-0-3, the Slovaks won three straight, scoring fourteen goals in those games. Top draft prospect Juraj Slafkovsky has arguably been Slovakia's best player, as he was at the 2022 Winter Olympics. In seven games, Slafkovsky has nine points (three goals, six assists).

My prediction: Finland wins 2-0.

Stay tuned to Markerzone.com for coverage of the 2022 IIHF World Hockey Championship.
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