Victories by Canada and Finland in Sunday's early games at the World Junior Championship have clarified the qualification picture just a bit.
Canada held off the United States in a much-anticipated Group B showdown, using the heroics of goalie Malcolm Subban to claim a 2-1 win Sunday. In Group A, Finland erased two two-goal deficits against Switzerland to claim a 5-4 victory in a shootout. Markus Granlund had two goals in regulation and the winning shot in the shootout, which went five rounds deep.
Canada's victory gives the Canadians a temporary hold on the top spot in Group B and assures them of a place in the medal round, which begins Jan. 2. Canada is the only team left in the tournament with a perfect record, 3-0-0-0 for nine points.
On Monday, the Canadians play the host Russians, who have eight points from three games. Russia needed overtime to beat Slovakia. The winner of the Russia-Canada game (9 a.m. ET, NHLN-US) will earn the top seed from Group B and a bye into the semifinals. The loser will have to play in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The loss Sunday to Canada was especially painful for the Americans, who have just three points after one-goal losses to both Canada and Russia. The United States plays Slovakia on Monday (5 a.m. ET, NHL.com, NHLN-US) in what will likely be a do-or-die game for the Americans.
Slovakia has just one point (the shootout loss to the Russians), but plays a Germany team without a win later Sunday. If the Slovakians win that game in regulation, they will have four points and the Americans will have to win the game against Slovakia to make the quarterfinals as the third-place team in Group B.
If the United states fails in that mission, it will be forced to play in the relegation round.
Things are a bit more muddled in Group A.
Defending champion Sweden, which was idle Sunday, tops the group with eight points and is all but assured a place in the medal round. The Swedes finish round-robin play Monday will a game against the rival Finns, who have five points after their shootout victory against Switzerland on Sunday.
The Swiss, who have dropped shootout losses to both Finland and Sweden also have five points, but sit in third place behind Finland because of the head-to-head loss. The Swiss finish their preliminary schedule with a game against the Czech Republic that will likely be for one of the spots in the medal round.
The Czechs, who play later Sunday against a winless Latvia team that has allowed 14 more goals than it has scored, will also sit at five points with a win Sunday. If that scenario plays out, both the Swiss and Czechs will sit on five points for the Monday showdown.