As exciting as Rivalry Sunday is, it's just a warmup for the second week of the Olympic hockey competition.
The prizes at stake are significant, though – the three Group winners and the second-place team with the best record receive a bye through to the quarterfinals. That means they'll get two days off before skating 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 Sweden-Finland, the final game in group play, here's a look at the scenarios: Group A
The United States finished a sweep of group play with a stunning 5-3 victory over Canada on Sunday night to take first place in the group with a 3-0-0-0 record and earn a much-needed bye through to the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The Americans can finish no worse than second in the 12-team overall standings; they figure to finish first unless Finland beats Sweden in regulation (the Swedes would have to win in a blowout to pass the U.S. on goal differential).
The loss left Canada with a 1-1-1-0 record and 5 points, earning the Canadians a qualifying-round game against Germany on Tuesday.Group B
The Czech Republic was in the driver's seat entering its game with Russia, but the Russians won the group with a 4-2 victory. Winning in regulation was the only scenario that would have given the Russians first place after Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss to Slovakia.
The Czechs finished second with a 2-0-1-0 record and 6 points, one point behind Russia. They are still alive in the race for the fourth bye, given to the best second-place team, but will need some help.
The Slovaks finished third with 5 points and finished seventh overall. Group C
Sweden and Finland, who met for the gold in 2006, will battle in the late game 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.
If the game goes past regulation, both teams are assured of getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The overtime/shootout loser would have 7 points, one more than the Czechs. 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.
With one game left in group play, the Czech Republic is tops with a 2-0-1-0 record and 6 points. Both Sweden and Finland have 2-0-0-0 marks, also good for 6 points, but the Finns have a plus-9 goal differential to plsu-4 for the Swedes. The Czechs have a plus-3 margin and could nab the last quarterfinal bye if the Swedes lose by more than a goal. The Finns can lose and still get a bye as long as they don't get blown out.What's next?
The qualifying round will be played Tuesday. Either the Sweden/Finland loser or the Czech Republic will finish fifth and play last-place Latvia. No. 6 Canada will play Germany. No. 7 Slovakia will take on Norway, while Switerland and Belarus will meet in the other game.
The biggest outcome from Sunday? The Canada-Russia showdown that many thought would take place in the gold-medal game is likely to happen in the quarterfinals, assuming the Canadians beat winless Germany on Tuesday.
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist