QUEBEC CITY – In one sense, the quarter-finals are the most nerve-racking tests you can face at an IIHF World Championship.
The elimination format is unforgiving. You can put together a perfect record - as the Czechs did in 2004 with six straight wins - and then have it all turn into a disaster with one bad game in the quarter-finals. (For the Czechs that year, it was a shootout loss to the USA.)
At least if you lose in the semi-finals, you still have a shot at a consolation prize in the bronze medal. And anyway, by the time you reach that game, you’ve hit your stride. You’re better prepared mentally for what it takes to ensure success in 60 (or more) minutes.
Now, going by history, who knows how to make it out of the final eight?
Since the current format was introduced in 2000, here’s how each nation that has participated in the quarter-finals has fared year by year (W=win, L=loss, DNQ=did not qualify):
Sweden = L, W, W, W, W, W, W, W (7 W, 1 L)
Canada = W, L, L, W, W, W, W, W (6 W, 2 L)
Czech Republic = W, W, L, W, L, W, W, L (5 W, 3 L)
Finland = W, W, W, L, L, L, W, W (5 W, 3 L)
Slovakia = W, L, W, W, W, L, L, L (4 W, 4 L)
Russia = DNQ, L, W, L, DNQ, W, L, W (3 W, 3 L, 2 DNQ)
USA = L, W, L, DNQ, W, L, L, L (2 W, 5 L, 1 DNQ)
Switzerland = L, DNQ, DNQ, L, L, L, DNQ, L (5 L, 3 DNQ)
Germany = DNQ, L, L, L, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ (3 L, 5 DNQ)
Latvia = L, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, L, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ (2 L, 6 DNQ)
Belarus = DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, L, DNQ (1 L, 7 DNQ)
Norway = DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, DNQ (8 DNQ)
And here are the medal results for 2000 to 2007 (G=gold, S=silver, B=bronze):
Sweden = 1 G, 2 S, 2 B (5 total)
Canada = 3 G, 1 S, 0 B (4 total)
Czech Republic = 3 G, 1 S, 0 B (4 total)
Finland = 0 G, 2 S, 2 B (4 total)
Slovakia = 1 G, 1 S, 1 B (3 total)
Russia = 0 G, 1 S, 2 B (3 total)
USA = 0 G, 0 S, 1 B (1 total)
Belarus = 0 G, 0 S, 0 B (0 total)
Germany = 0 G, 0 S, 0 B (0 total)
Latvia = 0 G, 0 S, 0 B (0 total)
Switzerland = 0 G, 0 S, 0 B (0 total)
So what stands out?
Sweden and Canada are easily the most consistent quarter-final winners, with current streaks of seven and five wins apiece.
Among “Big Seven” nations, the USA has the worst losing streak at three straight losses. Slovakia’s three-loss streak has come to an end this year in the wrong way, since it won’t even be in the quarter-finals.
All three times the Russians have made it through the quarter-finals, they’ve come away with a medal. It just hasn’t been the shade they wanted.
Russia is also the most inconsistent team when it comes to quarter-finals, because, unlike any of the other nations listed, it has never done the same thing two years in a row (win, lose, or not qualify).
Among non-“Big Seven” nations, Switzerland has racked up almost as many quarter-finals appearances (5) as all the other ones put together (6).