STOCKHOLM – It was back in 1992 that the IIHF abandoned a round-robin format for the World Championship and went to a playoff format to increase the drama of the final few days of the event. Previously, the round robin saw early games being more exciting than later games, when the standings had more or less shaped up to a predictable conclusion.
But since 1992, the playoff elimination has produced much drama, particularly on quarter-finals day when the top eight teams play four games of “win or go home” hockey (excepting 1997-99 when a best-of-three semis and finals saw the elimination of the quarter-finals).
In the 18 years of quarter-finals play, no team has been as successful as Sweden. Tre Kronor has won an incredible 15 of 18 quarter-finals matches in that time, well ahead of Canada and Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic (both with 12-6 records). Finland is fourth best with an 11-7 record while Russia, having not qualified on two occasions for the final eight, is fifth at 10-6.
At the other end of the success story are teams that have advanced as far as the quarters, only to stumble. Like Russia, the Americans have two misses but have been as far on 16 occasions. Yet, they sport a weak 5-11 record. Slovakia, which started in the top pool in 1996, has a 5-4 record in 14 seasons.
Picking up the rear are several countries that have had only a tiny bit of success: Germany and Switzerland are 1-7 while seven other countries are winless in a total of 15 appearances.
Two facts stand out. First, the top nations win with incredible regularity, but given that fact, it’s amazing that 16 countries have played at least once in the round of eight. However, after getting this far, the semis has proved a level reserved almost exclusively for the top seven nations, with but two exceptions (Germany in 2010 and Switzerland in 1998).
Among the quarter-finalists, Sweden has the longest winning streak. Before losing the to the Czech Republic last year, 4-3, in the quarters, the Swedes had won eleven quarter-finals games in a row, 2001-2011.
Canada won seven in a row, from 2003-2009, while Russia has the longest active streak, having won the last six in a row.
At the other end, Switzerland has lost its last seven quarter-finals appearances while Germany lost the first six until winning in 2010 on home ice.
Quarter-finals records since 1992
SWE 18 15-3
CAN 18 12-6
TCH/CZE 18 12-6
FIN 18 11-7
RUS 16 10-6
USA 16 5-11
SVK 9 5-4
GER 8 1-7
SUI 8 1-7
ITA 4 0-4
LAT 3 0-3
NOR 3 0-3
BLR 2 0-2
AUT 1 0-1
DEN 1 0-1
FRA 1 0-1