Team Canada will need to win one more game before they can put themselves in a position to defend their title as World Champion. Standing in their way is an injury-plagued Team Switzerland that Canada bested by a score of 4-1 in the group stage. We all know who the favorite is in this one but there’s a reason we play the games — anything can happen in 60 minutes (or more) of hockey.
The puck drops at noon ET and can be seen on NHL Network and TSN3 in North America.
How they got here
Canada’s only loss of the tournament came in the group stage when they allowed a two-goal lead over Team USA to slip through their gloves. That 5-2 loss at the end of group play has hung over this team like a small cloud of doubt. Team Canada may not look quite as unstoppable as they did in Beijing, but this team is still very much a powerhouse. Canada is coming off a 3-0 win over Sweden in which they put 57 SOG. They also outclassed Finland in a 4-1 win in the group stage and have already defeated Switzerland once in this tournament.
For Canada, the big discussion thus far could be an imbalance in quantity vs quality in scoring chances. Why does Canada have 20 fewer goals than the US at this stage of the tournament — is it matchups, puck luck, goaltending, or a blend of all of those factors (and others)? A look at Canada’s shot map thus far reveals that they are taking plenty of shots from dangerous areas but there are also a significant number of shots coming from the points. Maybe Canada has been too dependent on those shots from distance thus far or maybe there’s something else going on here.
Team Switzerland punched its ticket to this game with a 2-1 win in a shootout over Team Japan in the quarterfinal. It was an emotional victory that demonstrated the character of this club when faced with adversity, which the Swiss have had plenty of in this tournament.
The Swiss have just one regulation win to their name in Denmark, but that is largely a result of drawing into Group A and measuring themselves against the elite. They are 0-for-19 on the power play and are 76.92% on the PK. Those numbers just won’t be good enough against Canada. We have certainly not seen Team Switzerland at its best in this tournament but with a win today they will secure a medal finish.
Player to watch
Sarah Nurse | Canada
The quarterfinals are over and we’re still waiting for Sarah Nurse to really take over a game in Denmark the way that she did in her unforgettable record-setting performance in Beijing. This is not something any of us were expecting. Nurse has a goal, an assist, and 12 iSOG in 5 GP for Canada while averaging 16:59 TOI/GP. She’s also taken 8 PIM and has very much been involved in some physical play — both receiving and delivering punishment.
This could be the game where Nurse makes her mark on the box score, which is something Canada would love to see heading into what we anticipate will be another gold medal showdown between USA and Canada. Per Alyssa Longmuir’s IIHFFY shiny site, Nurse has a 1.34 GS/60. Anticipate a more impactful performance from her against Switzerland with precious medals on the horizon for Canada. She’s one of the best players and shooters in the world. That means she’s always a player to put the spotlight on.
Andrea Brändli | Switzerland
Boston University’s (formerly Ohio State’s) Brändli has a .907 Sv% through 241:02 minutes of action in Denmark. Thus far, she’s lived up to expectations and has done a lot to keep Team Switzerland in games as the starter. In the group stage, Brändli stopped 42 of the 46 shots Team Canada put on net in her team’s 4-1 loss. That was a solid performance that should fill both her and the skaters in front of her with confidence.
We all know Brändli and has to be brilliant for the Swiss to pull off the upset over Canada. She is one of the top goalies in the world but this is a tall order, even for her, considering Switzerland’s short bench and struggles to score all tournament. Even if she has the game of her life, she can’t win this alone. With that said, sign me up for her having the game of her life and causing some panic for Team Canada.
The major storyline here is obvious: the Swiss are playing with a short bench and are missing several key players. The deck is absolutely stacked against them tomorrow and it is going to take a series of events that can only be described as supernatural for us to see an upset. Both Alina Müller and Lara Stalder have tested positive for COVID and Noemi Ryhner and Laura Zimmermann are out of the tournament with injuries. So, where will the goals come from?
The Swiss do not have any skaters with more than two points in the tournament and have 5 goals in 5 games. They will need to find a way to win without star power and their scoring depth against the best team in the world. Switzerland will need to embrace a mentality of “bend but don’t break” in this semifinal. Unfortunately, there are already some cracks and holes in the lineup.