It's a big game, though. Finland and the Czechs will both go on to the next round, where they'll play Canada, Slovakia and Belarus. My prediction is that Finland will lose to Canada but beat both Slovakia and Belarus, and therefore the Czech game will determine whether Finland is second or third in block E. I don't think Finland has what it takes to get past Roloson, and the Finnish defence is going to look pathetic against Canada.
E2 will play F3, and E3 F2 in the quarter-finals. It's looking like that will be either the US or Sweden, and looking at their play in the initial rounds I actually believe Team Finland will beat whichever one it faces. Therefore it's looking like my initial prediction that Finland will be out in the quarter-finals won't hold up, and I believe they'll make the semifinals.
In the semi-finals, however, Finland will likely play either Canada or Russia, neither of which they can beat. I'm predicting a Canada-Russia final and Finland facing the Czechs for the bronze medal, unless Sweden or the US step up their game big time. As usual, the bronze will go to whichever team actually wants it. That's probably Finland, but I don't know. Anyway, looks like another medal for Finland, but I seriously doubt Team Finland can actually challenge either Canada or Russia for a berth in the final.
It's been a great tournament for the smaller countries. Hungary nearly got into overtime with Slovakia, and in fact would have if not for the refs, Belarus did beat them, and Germany put up a heck of a fight against Switzerland. Denmark played a great offensive game against Finland, and if they can fix up their team defense and goaltending, they'll actually be a force to be reckoned with. Of the "medium" countries, Switzerland put up a creditable fight against Russia.
Russian defenseman Denis Grebeshkov chivalrously said some nice things about France to iihf.com:
"France has a pretty good team, but they're still not quite at the top level. For us, the game was good preparation for the next game. France is going to be a good team in a few years," Denis Grebeshkov said.
He's right, too; France has played exceptionally well both this year and last year. They very nearly made it into overtime with Switzerland after a heck of a game, and yesterday scored the biggest upset of the tournament so far by sending Germany to the relegation round. Vive la France!
Overall the level of hockey in Europe has clearly gone up. Once again, there are going to be some really tough games in the relegation round. I actually expect Hungary to do well and retain their spot in the world championships, but there's going to be a hell of a fight for the second spot. Germany are odds-on favorites, but they managed to lose a relegation round not too many years ago where they were even bigger favorites.
It's a real shame that Norway and Austria are the most likely candidates for relegation, but there's a real logjam of countries trying to fit into the world champs now. And that, along with the Champions' Hockey League, means that we're living in excellent times for European hockey.
I'd also like to make a couple of longer-term predictions. Slovakia is in the middle of its second nearly farcically bad tournament in a row. I can't help but think they're on their way out as a top 8 country. When Germany gets their act together, it's not impossible that Slovakia will lose their spot in the top 8 to the Germans.
Switzerland looks like they're on their way up, but I firmly believe the time has come for Krueger to go. A Swiss team won the Champions' League and they're doing very well in their home tournament. They could do even better, but not as long as Krüger has them playing a neutral zone trap. The Swiss game is far too passive. You can't win a hockey game by defending, as the Minnesota Wild continue to prove in the NHL, and the Swiss are going to need to up their game if they want to start challenging for the top spots in international hockey. They have it in them to do it, but Ralph Krueger does not. In my opinion, they need a coach with a more well-rounded game.
Overall, I think this is a great tournament. The big games are just starting up!