IIHF World Championships Quarterfinal Preview: Canada vs. Slovakia Headlines Four Game Lineup

Dylan Cozens #22 of Canada celebrates his goal with teammates during the preliminary round match between Canada and Czechia at Prague Arena on May 21, 2024 in Prague, Czech Republic.

The 2024 IIHF World Hockey Championship is in full steam, and the round robins are now behind us. On Thursday morning and afternoon, the top eight teams will begin the knockout stages, including Team Canada, who are hoping to bring home their second consecutive gold medal. Let’s look at their game against Slovakia and the rest of Thursday’s schedule.

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CAN -550
SLO +400

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10:20 a.m. Quarterfinal Matchup: Canada vs. Slovakia Predictions

Canada kicks off the knockout stage against Slovakia, who carry the second-weakest record of the remaining teams. For our red-and-white, this has been a fairly easy-going tournament so far, as they won all seven round-robin games and have the fourth-best goal difference of the tournament going into the knockout rounds.

It hasn’t been a complete cakewalk, though, as the team had a few scares. The most noteworthy one was in their third game against Austria, where they saw a 6-1 lead evaporate in the third period, almost leading to one of the worst collapses in the tournament’s history, against a team much weaker than them. It was a particularly rough final period of regulation for Jordan Binnington, who conceded five goals on nine shots. John Tavares snuffed the total comeback out in the first overtime shift, but it was still concerning. In their last round-robin game against Czechia on Tuesday, Canada gave up a two-goal lead in the final three minutes of play, again needing overtime to push across the finish line.

Nevertheless, they’ve kept finding ways to win, with players like Buffalo Sabres forward Dylan Cozens (8G 2A in 7 GP) and Toronto forward John Tavares (1G 7A in 6 GP) leading the way. Connor Bedard started off the tournament red-hot but has struggled with no points in his last four games.

On the Slovakian side, the team has put up a respectable 4-2-1 record. Some would point out the concern of their regulation wins only coming against Kazahkstan, Poland, and France, but they did also beat the United States in overtime. Their three losses came against Germany, Latvia (shootout) and Sweden. Libor Hudacek, a 33-year-old who has never played in North America, leads the team with nine points in seven games.

The odds are decidedly in Canada’s favour here, with the puck line extending to -2.5 goals on most books, and a higher total goals line of 6.5 being set compared to 5.5 for the other three games.

IIHF Other Quarterfinal Matchups

Away TeamHome TeamStart Time
Switzerland-310+250Germany10:20 a.m. ET
Sweden-360+280Finland2:20 p.m. ET
United States-125+105Czechia2:20 p.m. ET

Three other tournament games are in action on Thursday, all of which are projected to be closer affairs than Canada vs. Slovakia. Both Switzerland and Germany have had impressive tournaments thus far, with the former standing out as the goal differential leaders in Group A. Roman Josi (Nashville), Kevin Fiala (Los Angeles), and Nico Hischier (New Jersey) have all been spectacular thus far, each putting up 10-11 points in the round robin. With their strong performances and deeper roster of NHL talent, they remain the favourites in that game.

Sweden and Finland have a historic rivalry, and the odds can often be thrown out the window when the two meet due to the nature of the game, but you can’t blame the books for leaning pretty heavily toward the Swedes. They’ve been the most impressive team in the tournament, winning all seven round-robin games in regulation and allowing just nine goals. Flip Gustavsson and Samuel Ersson have been spectacular in goal, and Erik Karlsson looks like his best self on their blue line, leading the whole team in goals and points while he’s at it.

Given their NHL depth, the United States should be more decided favourites in their matchup against Czechia, but the previously mentioned loss to Slovakia removed some confidence, as did Sweden’s clear 5-2 win over them on opening day. Czechia’s pressuring of Canada also instills some confidence that they can hang with a top team. I’d still lean towards the Americans here at the end of the day, though.

2024 IIHF World Championship Futures Update

United States+550Slovakia+5000

To this point, it’s of little shock that the two undefeated teams are now the clear top dogs on the leaderboard. These can change with a hurry with an upset, though!