The preliminary round is complete, with the final eight teams set. Now it’s “win or go home” time in this year’s IIHF World Championship. The elimination round will get started with possibly the premier matchup of the tournament, as Team Russia and Team USA, two pre-tournament favorites, collide Thursday morning (10:00 AM ET on the NHL Network) in Bratislava, Slovakia. But for Caps fans, it’s Team USA versus Ovi, Kuzy and Orlov, for a chance to advance to the medal round.
Team Russia enters Thursday morning’s contest having posted a perfect 7-0 record in the preliminary round. There was plenty of pre-tournament prognosticating that named Team USA the tournament favorite. However, the Russians have been a dominant eye-opener in the preliminary round, with a goal differential of 36-7, second only to Jakub Vrana and the Czech Republic (39-7). They could be considered the clear favorite going into the elimination round.
The Capitals players on the team have all been put on the second forward line and defensive pair, and its worked well for Team Russia. Surprisingly, Dmitry Orlov has more points in this World Championship (2g, 4a) than his previous three World Championship appearances combined, as Team Russia has utilized Orlov in a highly offensive manner.
Capitals captain and Team Russia Alternate Captain Alex Ovechkin also potted a pair of goals in the preliminary round (2g, 1a).
Maybe the oddest stat, Evgeny Kuznetsov was leading Team Russia in faceoff winning percentage at 57%, heading into yesterday’s game against Team Sweden. Kuznetsov also has two goals and four assists, including a four-point game against Italy in the preliminary round.
Team Russia’s Lineup is stacked. Because of early NHL playoff exits by the likes of Tampa and Pittsburgh, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov and Evgeni Malkin join Artyom Anisimov, Nikita Gusev, Yevgeni Dadonov and team captain Ilya Kovalchuk on on Team Russia’s highpowered forward lines.
The United States, which won the bronze medal at the 2018 Worlds, went a rather lackluster 4-1-0-2 in the preliminary round, with an opening game loss to tournament host Slovakia and a loss to Team Canada in the preliminary round.
Team USA will also present an impressive lienup in Thursday’s battle with the Russians. NHL stars Patrick Kane, Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau, Zack Werenski, Jack Eichel, Alex Debeincat, Kris Kreider and Noah Hanifin, are just a few of the names Team USA will start against Team Russia.
17-year-old phenom and projected first round draft pick Jack Hughes satout Team USA’s final game in the preliminary round, but is also expected to get the start against Team Russia.
The winner of USA-Russia will face the winner of Canada-Switzerland, also to be played at 10:00 AM ET on Thursday.
Finland and Sweden will battle it out in the third quarterfinal game, with the winner taking on the winner of the Czech Republic and Germany tilt.
Summary of Capitals in the Preliminary Round
Team Russia – Alex Ovechkin (7 GP, 2-1-3), Evgeny Kuznetsov (7 GP, 2-4-6), Dmitry Orlov (7 GP, 2-4-6)
Team Czech Republic – Jakub Vrana (7 GP, 4-1-5), Dmitrij Jaskin (7 GP, 2-2-4)
Team Denmark – Lars Eller (3 GP, 2-3-5)*
Team Slovakia – Martin Fehervary (7 GP, 0-1-1)
By Jon Sorensen
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