As the first round of the IIHF Hockey World Championship winds down, these games start taking on a new level of importance: they can stick a fork in a team that’s definitely not advancing, create upsets or cement victories. Zdeno Chara and David Krejci, representing the Boston Bruins, are both part of teams that have yet to clinch a quarterfinal berth for certain, but things still look good.
Slovakia defeated Switzerland in a very tightly-won 1-0 victory, eliminating Switzerland from the chance of quarterfinals and bringing Slovakia closer to that next round. Tomas Tatar–who is with the Grand Rapid Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings–scored the lone goal and Jan Laco earned the shutout. Chara played about 21 minutes, which was second overall this time, and got a shot on goal too. Slovakia is in fourth place in Group H, tied with Finland at 12 points. They do need to be mindful of fifth-place France: if they manage a win against Belarus on the 14th and then beat Slovakia on the 15th, they’ll wiggle into fourth place.
The Czech Republic, though, was the team being shut out: Russia beat them 2-0. After an Alexander Perezhogin goal put Russia on the board with less than half a minute gone in the game, the Czechs did keep it scoreless throughout the entire second period, but then Evgeni Malkin (coming off a hat trick against Sweden) struck to add a goal and provide all they needed for the victory. Krejci took fewer faceoffs this time and won just 45 percent of them, plus he didn’t manage any shots on goal. With this defeat, though, Czech is in third in Group S, four points behind second-place Sweden.
Here’s an interesting pattern: four games were played today. Three of them ended in shutouts–America shut out Finland 5-0. But Norway and Germany broke this pattern by ending in a 12-4 Norwegian win. Yes, 12 to four.
Both teams will play their last preliminary round games on May 15: Slovakia faces France, Czech Republic takes on Germany. Then there is a day between games as teams based in Stockholm make the trip to Helsinki, host of all further games.