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WHC: Quest for gold begins

Flyers begin medal round with quarterfinal matchups set

by PhiladelphiaFlyers.com @nhlflyers

Preliminary round play ended on Tuesday at the 2019 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia with Canada blanking the USA, 3-0, and Russia routing two-time defending gold medalist Sweden by a 7-4 count. Earlier in the day, the Czech Republic squeaked past Switzerland, 5-4. 

Now, after an off-day on Wednesday, the tournament progresses to the single-elimination medal round with the top four teams in each preliminary round pool playing each other in a (1 vs. 4) (2 vs. 3) (3 vs. 2) (4 vs. 1) format. 

Here's a look at the four games, and the participating Flyers players:

Canada (1st Place, Group A) 

vs. 

Switzerland (4th Place, Group B)

Alain Vigneault's team got off to a slow start in the tournament but settled in as the preliminary round progressed to finish 6-1-0 for 18 of 21 possible points and a 36-11 goal margin. 

Sean Couturier has seen all-situation duty for the Canadians, playing on the top penalty-killing unit and power play as well as centering the Canadians' third line and frequently playing against other teams' top lines. Offensively, he posted three points (1g-2a) in the preliminary round. 

A late-addition to Team Canada, defenseman Philippe Myers dressed in each of the last four games of the preliminaries as the team's sixth defenseman. Myers earned his first point (an assist) in the penultimate game of the first round. 

Carter Hart made three preliminary round starts, going 3-0-0 with a 0.70 GAA, .964 save percentage (54 saves on 56 shots), one shutout and one combined shutout. He will back up Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray in the medal round. 

The Canadians' opponent, Switzerland, is a very technically sound team that relies on strong team defense (14 goals against in 7 games) and opportunistic offense to be a dark horse medal contender if they can pull an upset in the quarterfinals. On any given day, the Swiss can beat any team in the tourney so, while Canada is the favorite to advance, it would not be a huge upset if they did not. 

 

Russia (1st Place, Group B) 

vs. 

USA (4th place, Group A)

 

Russia is the only undefeated team in the tournament, winning all seven of its preliminary round games in regulation for 21 points. The Russians outscored their opponents by a combined 36-7 margin. 

Team USA won five of seven in the first round -- four in regulation and one in OT -- while playing somewhat inconsistently from period to period. Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk posted five points (2g-3a) in the first round, while seeing first power-play unit net-front duties and playing mostly in the middle six group of forwards at five-on-five. 

 

Finland (2nd place, Group A) 

vs. 

Sweden (3rd place, Group B)

 

The Finns claimed points in five of seven games (5-1-1) for 16 points after defeating Canada in the tournament opener. 

Sweden never really untracked in the preliminaries, as the two-time defending champions uncharacteristically were off their two-way game and got ordinary goaltending but overcame by scoring a tourney-high 41 goals while allowing 21 en route to a 5-2-0 record. 

Oskar Lindblom opened the tourney with a four-game point streak (3g-1a) but saw his ice time severely reduced as more experienced NHL players, such as Gabriel Landeskog, became available to Tre Kronor. Against Russia, Lindblom saw only a single four-second shift in the first period, none in the second, and a little over three minutes in the third period. 

Flyers defenseman Robert Hägg dressed in all seven games but only saw the ice in four, not playing at all in the final three games.

 

Czech Republic (2nd place, Group B) 

vs. 

Germany (3rd place, Group A)

 

The Czechs handled everyone but Russia in the opening round, going 6-1-0 with a 39-14 goal differential. 

Flyers right winger and Czech team captain Jakub Voracek was a huge part of their success, tying for the tournament lead in the first round with 15 points (3g-12a). 

Defenseman Radko Gudas logged heavy ice time for his team, including penalty killing duties, and chipped in four points (1g-3a), a +8 rating and 6 PIM. 

The German team lacks star power beyond Edmonton Oilers standout Leon Draisaitl but is a well-schooled and hard-working squad that went 5-2-0 in the first round and held opponents to 18 goals over seven games. 

Action kicks off on the NHL Network on Thursday with CAN-RUS at 10:15 am in Kosice, Slovakia, while the USA-RUS is also at the same time in Bratislava. The afternoon slate sees FIN-SWE & CZE-GER at 2:15 p.m.

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