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Can Canada tame Tolvanen?: An Olympic men’s hockey quarterfinals primer


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Essential info about the men’s hockey quarterfinal matchups in Pyeongchang

Finland vs. Canada
Wednesday, 7:10 a.m. ET

In Team Canada’s first true test in Pyeongchang, head coach Willie Desjardins and his staff will have their hands full against the dangerous Finns.

Canada must find a way to stymie Finland’s top forward line, including 18-year-old winger Eeli Tolvanen, the Nashville Predators first-round draft pick who has set the men’s tournament on fire. A threat at 5-on-5 and on the power play, he has three goals and six assists in four games.

If Tolvanen is the early MVP candidate, defenceman Sami Lepisto is the unsung hero of this Finnish squad. The former Phoenix Coyote leads all blue-liners in points (five in four games) while averaging a team-high 22 minutes of ice time.

Canada, which faced relatively weak competition in the group stage — winning against Switzerland and South Korea and losing to the Czech Republic in a shootout — doesn’t have a game breaker of Tolvanen’s ilk but has smartly chosen to distribute its shooting talent throughout the lineup.

Sixteen players on Canada’s roster have recorded a point through three games, with Derek Roy and Rene Bourque — probably the two most recognizable names to casual hockey fans — leading the way, pitching in five assists and three goals, respectively.

Two quality KHL goalies, Mikko Koskinen (.920 save percentage in four games for Finland) and Ben Scrivens (.920 in two games for Canada), will go head-to-head between the pipes.

The victor meets the winner of Sweden-Germany in the semifinals.

Czech Republic vs. United States
Tuesday, 10:10 p.m. ET

The United States might be the biggest wild card of this tournament.

It opened with a stunning loss to Slovenia, barely beat Slovakia in Game 2, and were pumped by the Olympic Athletes of Russia to complete the round robin. Then the Americans looked fine in a 5-1 playoff qualifier over Slovakia.

By no means are they a powerhouse and by no means do they have an enviable lineup, but in a single-elimination environment, they might have just enough to squeak through by the Czechs.

College stars Ryan Donato and Troy Terry have found quick chemistry with ex-NHLer Mark Arcobello, accounting for five of nine U.S. goals.

All the Americans need is another big game from that trio and a medal is within striking distance.

The victor meets the winner of Russia-Norway in the semifinals.

Olympic Athletes of Russia vs. Norway
Wednesday @ 2:40 a.m. ET

This matchup has blowout written all over it.

OAR has the most goals in the tournament, bagging 14 in only three games, and the best goal differential, at plus-9. It is the youngest team in the tournament, yet boasts impact veterans like Ilya Kovalchuk, who leads the Russians with four goals and an assist.

Norway, meanwhile, beat Slovenia to make the quarters after collecting just one standings point the round robin. Realistically, it should be pleased to make it this far.

Sweden vs. Germany
Wednesday @ 7:10 a.m. ET

Normally an easy out, Germany put forth a confidence-boosting result against the Swedes in the round robin, winning on the shot counter, 28-26, but losing on the scoreboard, 1-0.

Sweden, led offensively thus far by former NHLers Linus Omark and Anton Lander, can redeem itself with a strong effort in the quarters. An upset seems highly unlikely.

Something to watch: Rasmus Dahlin’s ice time, or lack thereof. The presumptive No. 1 pick in the upcoming NHL draft has been scratched twice in three games and skated for only 4:36 in Sweden’s other contest.