| Sun 20/05/2018 - 06:22 EDT

IIHF World Hockey Championship Gold Medal Game Preview and Predictions

IIHF World Hockey Championship Gold Medal Game Preview and Predictions

Canada-USA Renew Rivalry, Sweden Defends Gold

For the first time in four years, Canada will not be playing for gold as they fell short against Switzerland in the semifinals. Canada fell behind early and couldn't complete the comeback losing 3-2 despite outshooting the Swiss 46-16. 

Canada's archnemesis, Team USA didn't fare so well either being blown out by Sweden 6-0 setting up the classic rivalry in the third-place game. The Americans have the firepower led by Patrick Kane, who leads all scorers with 19 points, but lack the defence and were exposed by Sweden.

Sweden, the defending champions look poised to win back-to-back gold medals for the first time in 26 years. Switzerland, the 7th-ranked underdogs will look to keep the Cinderella story going and win gold for the first time.

Bronze Medal Game: USA vs Canada

Canada: -124
USA: +185

This rematch of the tournament opener gives Canada a chance to avenge their shootout loss. It was a back-and-forth scoring affair and the difference was in net. Keith Kinkaid outplayed his Canadian counterpart, Darcy Kuemper. Both teams boast potent offences but lacklustre defences and inconsistent goaltending. This should be another high-scoring game.

Kuemper (or Curtis McElhinney) will be Canada's x-factor. The Coyotes goaltender has had a rough tournament posting a 2.31 goals against average with a 0.867 save percentage. McElhinney has fared better with 1.30 GAA and 0.931 SV%. If Canada makes the switch to the backup, it only solidifies their odds of winning.

It's the same case for Team USA. Kinkaid has been subpar with 2.46 GAA and 0.891 SV%. He'll need to again outplay Kuemper though the team has Kane and Cam Atkinson scoring in bunches. The pair have combined for 15 goals and 30 points with almost half of these coming on the power play. Look for them to exploit Canada on the man advantage.

Prediction: Atkinson was the hero in their previous meeting. The Blue Jacket scored a goal and scored two in the shootout including the game-winner to lift the Americans over Canada. But Canada still has more depth. Kuemper should play well enough to keep them in the game. Canada edges USA to win bronze. 

Canada (-124)

Gold Medal Game: Sweden vs Switzerland

Sweden: -242 
Switzerland: +401

If the first game was any indication, this should be another decisive victory for Sweden. Tre Kronor went up 3-0 on Switzerland and controlled the game despite the Swiss cutting the lead to one at one point. This was goaltender Anders Nilsson's best game but he's otherwise the favourite to win the best goaltender award for the tournament with averages of 1.20 GAA and 0.939 SV% including a shutout of Team USA.

Sweden doesn't have a prolific superstar like Canada's Connor McDavid or the US's Kane but they have a well-balanced core who have great chemistry. Rickard Rakell and Mike Zibanejad both have ten points while five other players have at least three goals. Most impressively, Sweden has played solid team defence allowing the fewest goals in the tournament (11).

Switzerland made it this far for a reason: goaltender Leonardo Genoni. The 30-year-old has decent averages of 2.61 GAA and 0.905 SV% but stopped 74 of 78 shots during the elimination round leading the team to this stage. Genoni will again have to stand on his head against the Swedes while Nino Niederreiter and the skaters find ways to generate offence.

Prediction: this is Sweden's game to lose. They have been near-flawless so far and soundly defeated Switzerland even when Nilsson was having an off-night. The Swedes just have a deeper team and can score and defend better. Never underestimate the power of a red-hot goalie, however. If Genoni keeps up his play, this could be a closer game than expected. Still, Sweden is almost a lock to win.

Sweden (-242)

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs playing at the same time, crazed Canadian hockey fans are ecstatic. The IIHF Worlds air on TSN as the NHL takes place on Sportsnet and CBC. Many Canadians head to online sportsbooks to bet on all kinds of hockey games. These books have no shortage of games to bet not limited to hockey but other sports including basketball, soccer, and Canadian football.

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