IIHF World Championship Semifinal Preview

There are four teams remaining in the 2015 IIHF World Championship. The games take place today, with Canada facing Czech Republic at 9:30 a.m. ET in the first semifinal and Russia facing the United States in the nightcap at 1:00 p.m. ET. The games cannot be seen on television live, but they can be seen on the NBC Sports Live Extra mobile app for your smartphone or computer. If you’re willing to stay in the bubble for RUS-USA, you can watch the game on NBCSN at 11:00 p.m. ET.

Here’s a preview of what to expect from the four finalists.

Preliminary Round Record: 7-0-0-0
How they qualified: 1st, Group A
Quarterfinal Result: Beat Belarus 9-0
Player to watch for: Jason Spezza (8 GP, 5-8–13)

Overview: Team Canada is the offensive juggernaut of the tournament, scoring 58 goals and surrendering 14 in eight games so far. They did beat the Czech’s 6-4 on May 4, one of their closer games of the tournament. In that game, they were tied late in the second period before Canada went ahead at the second intermission and piled on in the third with two power play goals and an empty netter.Canada’s firepower can come from any of their top forwards, including Spezza, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Matt Duchene. We haven’t even mentioned Sidney Crosby, who was on a line with Hall and Eberle in the Belarus game. Mike Smith played in goal against Belarus, and it’s expected Todd McLellan is going with him in goal again.

Czech Republic
Preliminary Round Record: 4-1-1-1
How they qualified: 3rd, Group A
Quarterfinal Result: Beat Finland 5-3
Player to watch for: Jaromir Jagr (8 GP, 6-3–9)

Overview: The host team will have the crowd behind their back against the heavily favored Canadians. For the Czech’s they have to have their best goaltending performance in the tournament to have a chance of winning. Their leading scorer in the tournament is Jakub Voracek with 10 points, Canada has six players (including a defenseman) with at least that many points. They have the worse goaltending statistics of any team remaining. If there’s anyone who can put a team (and an arena) on their back, it’s Jagr.

Prediction: Canada 5-2

United States
Preliminary Round Record: 5-1-0-1
How they qualified: 1st, Group B
Quarterfinal Result: Beat Switzerland 3-1
Player to watch for: Connor Hellebuyck (8 GP, 1.32 GAA, .944 Sv %)

Overview: If you don’t have a fantasy hockey team or you aren’t a New York Islanders fan, then you may not have heard of Brock Nelson. Nelson is no stranger to the international game, having represented the national team at the 2011 World Juniors and last year’s World Championships. He’s the third leading scorer in the tournament, scoring six goals in eight games. Just like Canada beating Czech Republic on May 4, the Americans beat the Russians on that same day by a 4-2 scoreline. The Americans will need to tighten up their defense to advance to the final, due to the Russians getting a big addition on offense.

Preliminary Round Record: 4-1-1-1
How they qualified: 3rd Group B
Quarterfinal Result: Beat Sweden 5-3
Player to watch for: Alexander Ovechkin (0 GP, 0-0–0)

Overview: Russia couldn’t get Pavel Datsyuk to come over and play, but they are able to get Ovechkin. He left for Europe the day after the Caps were eliminated in the playoffs at the hands of Tampa Bay. Outside of Ovechkin, Yevgeni Dadonov is their offensive threat, having scored four goals and seven assists in the tournament. If there’s anything I can predict, it’s that not much offense will come from their defense, as their leading defensive scorer is Maxim Chudinov with a goal and three assists.

Prediction: United States 4-3

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