As exciting as Rivalry Sunday will be, it's just a warmup for the second week of the Olympic hockey competition.
The prizes at stake on Sunday are significant, though – the three Group winners and the second-place team with the best record will receive a bye through to the quarterfinals. That means they'll get two days off before playing on Wednesday against a team that will be playing its second game in as many days.
Remember that the points system in the Olympics is different than in the NHL: Teams receive three points for a regulation win and two for winning in overtime or a shootout. As in the NHL, a shootout of OT loss is worth a point; a regulation loss is worth no points.
As we enter Rivalry Sunday, here's a look at the potential scenarios: Group A
The United States enters its game against Canada in first place in the Group with a pair of regulation wins, good for 6 points. Canada has won both of its games, but the Canadians got only two points from its shootout win over Switzerland, giving it 5 through two games.
The winner of this game will win the group. Even if Canada has to go into overtime or a shootout, a win would give the Canadians and the U.S. 7 points – but Canada would win on goal differential (plus-9 to plus-7 before Sunday).
Even with a regulation loss, the Americans would still have a chance to nab the fourth bye. A regulation loss would force Canada to play a qualifying-round game; an OT or shootout loss would give the Canadians 6 points and a slim chance at a bye.
The Czech Republic is in the driver's seat entering its game with Russia. The Czechs need only a point to win the group – meaning that if they win or lose in OT or a shootout, they're in.
Russia, a pre-tournament favorite, has to win in regulation to win the group – even an OT or shootout win won't be enough after Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss to Slovakia left the Russians with just 4 points entering Sunday. Any kind of a loss will drop the Russians back to third in the group.
The Slovaks can't finish first. But with a 2-1-0 record and 6 points in group play, including a 6-0 victory over Latvia on Saturday, they could finish second if the Russians lose. Group C
Sweden and Finland, who met for the gold in 2006, will battle here to see who wins the group. Both teams enter the game with 2-0-0-0 records and 6 points, so this is a winner-take-all match.
As with the USA-Canada game, the loser still has an excellent chance to get the bye awarded to the best second-place team. The fourth bye
It's not as good as winning your group, but finishing with the best record among the second-place teams does carry one of the same benefits – a bye into the quarterfinals, although your opponent is likely to be the team you edged out for the fourth spot.
Only four teams made it through the first two games of group play with back-to-back regulation wins for 6 points – the United States, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland, though either the Swedes or Finns will win Group C.
If goal differential comes into play, Finland enters the day tops at plus-9 (10-1), the United States is next at plus-7 (9-2), followed by the Czechs at plus-5 (8-3) and Sweden at plus-4 (6-2).
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist