The group stage is done in Denmark with a couple of surprises, although no shockers, and one big disappointment for the hosts. The last round of the group stage had big stakes, as Denmark played Latvia in a real do-or-die matchup. Latvia bested the Danes 1-0 and took the 4th spot in the group B. That was the only surprise, if it really was a surprise, in the final group stage standings.
Even if team Canada was left to third in their group after losses to Finland and USA, most of the top-8 seeded teams were exactly as expected – only the order varied some. Latvia took the place of Germany in Group B, but the other seven teams are as expected: Sweden, Russia, Finland, USA, Canada, Czech Republic and Switzerland.
Accuscore’s picks for the group stage were on target most of the time, although a couple of surprises wouldn’t have hurt. For example Latvia was a lot better than the odds indicated against USA and Canada, taking both to overtime but lost in the end and no cigar. But only the results matter and Accuscore’s IIHF 2018 side value picks are +165 so far, with 100 unit stake to each game.You can find Accuscore's Analysis & Prediction for the IIHF 2018 Winners here
Finland started the tournament with a blast, beating the smaller countries with big numbers from the gates. They then struggled against Denmark and Germany, losing to both, but made up for it by absolutely destroying Canada and USA, 5-1 and 6-2 respectively. It is the Finns at the moment having the momentum and they’ve risen the most when listing the World Champions candidates. Their opponents for the quarter-finals, Switzerland have been decent – as they always are – and with a couple of NHLers might give Finland a hard time. They didn’t win any of the bigger teams in the group stage though, but took Czech to shootout. Finland should have no problems though, if only they get the best out of their young stars. In Accuscore simulations Finland bests Switzerland with 82.1% probability.
If Finland is on the rise, Canada is in decline – at least to Canadian standards. They lost in a shootout to USA, got beaten badly by Finland and then struggled to overtime with Latvia. The quality is there though and we can expect a lot more from the star-studded roster when the going gets tough. And it gets tough as they’re facing Russia already in the quarter-finals. While the Russian team is not full of big name superstars like some other years, they’ve played a good tournament so far. Only losing to Sweden and Czech Republic (in overtime) in the group stage tells a story but yet the Russians are flying under the radar. Canada definitely needs to up their game against the Russians or it’s an early exit for the heavy favorite. In any case, one of the top-4 favorites is out in quarter-final stage. Canada is better in Accuscore simulations, but not as clearly as one might expect: Canada to semi-finals with 58.7% probability.
Team USA gave an early heads-up by beating Canada in the shootout and kept on going strong in the group. Latvia took them to overtime and in the group winner decider Finland steamrolled them over 6-2. Other than those glitches, USA was rather impressive and are likely to still do better. Their top lines have performed great but there’s more depth than we’ve seen so far. In the quarter-final they’re pitted against the Czech Republic, who had some problems in the group stage but managed to turn the close games in their favor. With Davids Pastrnak and Krejci, their offense got a lot better but still the team is not as good as we’ve used to see in the past. USA is quite clear favorite to beat the Czechs on their way to the semi-final. In Accuscore simulations, USA is favored with 66% probability to go to semi-finals.
The only game that is deemed absolutely certain by many, is the biggest favorite, reigning world champion Sweden against the surprise team Latvia. Sweden has been exactly as good as was expected and only dropped a point in an overtime win over Slovakia. Their defense is rock-solid and capable of scoring as well and the offense is loaded with NHL-caliber players. Their roster of 19 NHL players is comparable that to Canada’s and their experience in big rink and Europe gives an edge to the Swedes. Latvia made a magnificent run to the quarter-finals, taking USA and Canada to overtime and beating Denmark in the all-important final game of the group stage. But in all honesty their roster simply can’t match the Swedes, even with goalkeeper Elvis Merzlikins in god-mode and couple of youngsters stepping up. Accuscore simulations don’t give Latvia much chance, but still a bit more than the oddsmakers: in simulations Sweden wins with 81.7% probability.
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