The World Cup of Hockey’s version of the final four goes down this weekend with Canada set to take on Russia on Saturday evening, and Sweden playing Team Europe on Sunday afternoon. Canada is now a -250 favorite to win the tournament after originally opening at -110 back in July. Sweden has the next-best odds at +400.
The Canada-Russia game is full of storylines revolving mainly around Sidney Crosby’s rivalry with — and domination of — Alex Ovechkin, as well as the head-to-head clash with his Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin. These teams last faced off in a best-on-best format in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Winter Olympics when Canada crushed Russia 7-3. Canada has won gold in the last two Olympics, while Russia failed to make the podium in both tournaments. Canada has lit up the scoreboard with a World Cup-leading 14 goals while allowing just three. Russia has kept it a lot closer, scoring eight goals and allowing five.
Sweden vs Europe looks like a bit tighter matchup, but Sweden appears to be the more cohesive unit. Sweden’s best have been good in international play over the last decade, capturing an Olympic silver in 2014 and a gold in 2006. Each team has scored seven goals in their three tournament games so far. Team Europe was the biggest long shot when odds for the World Cup were first released at +3300.
Here’s the tournament odds heading into the weekend and keep an eye out for more detailed game previews this weekend:
Odds as of September 23 at Bovada
There has been very little line movement since I last wrote about the World Cup of Hockey futures, but with preliminary games starting today, I thought it might be beneficial to update you on some more reasons why this is Canada’s tournament to lose.
Mike Babcock just named Carey Price Canada’s No. 1 goalie and their line to win is now -105 at Bovada. The last time Price was fully healthy for a best-against-best international competition was for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics where he led the Canadians to a gold medal with his .971 save percentage and 0.59 goals-against average.
Price’s health could still be in question despite his statement saying his knee is 100%. Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien has said that Price’s games will be limited this year but that could simply mean he’s not going to play 66 games like he did in his 2014-15 MVP campaign.
While all teams in the competition have some impressive line combinations, all four of Canada’s lines are stacked with upper-echelon NHL stars. Potential line combos right now are Couture-O'Reilly-Toews, Marchand-Crosby-Bergeron, Stamkos-Getzlaf-Tavares, Duchene-Thornton-Giroux. Good lord.
The Russians have the next-best odds at +500 but their lack of recent success in best-on-best tournaments such as the Olympics is astounding as they haven’t medaled since they earned bronze in 2002. The Russian hockey program has received a lot of criticism for not adapting their style of play to fit their competition and for the lack of creativity illustrated by their coaching staff.
The only significant line moves we’ve seen since July is Finland going from +1400 to +1100 and Team North America moving from +2000 to +1200. I’m going to make a point of watching every Team North America game as they promise to be some of the most exciting. The youngsters are going to fly around the ice and produce some top-shelf highlights so if you feel like going for a wild ride, toss a little money on the under-23s.
|North America U23||+1200|
Odds as of September 8 at Bovada
Rosters have been finalized for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and Canada has been pegged as the early favorite. However you may feel about the NHL-sanctioned tournament, there are definitely some interesting storylines, including the North American team, who opened with the same odds to win as the Jagr-less Czechs.
Canada opened at -110 at online sportsbook Bovada and with a roster that features four former first overall picks, three Hart Trophy winners, a Vezina winner and a group of dynamic defensemen who have two combined Norris Trophies, it’s easy to see why. In all fairness to other teams, it’s pretty tough to compete with a country that represents just under half of the talent in the NHL.
Team North America (TNA) is packed with budding superstars like Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews and Matt Murray. If nothing else, TNA will be an interesting watch and at +2000 they could be a fun bet.
The Americans (+600) got dinged by books for making some questionable roster choices – the worst of which, leaving Phil Kessel out of a group of forwards that includes names like Justin Abdelkader, Brandon Dubinsky and James van Riemsdyk. Did Dean Lombardi and Brian Burke think there was a salary cap?
Finland has been producing some of the best players in the world over the last few years and will offer incredible value as dark horses at +1400. The 2016 IIHF World Championship, where Finland finished runner-up to Canada, played host to the Finns' coming-of-age party and saw projected second overall pick Patrik Laine finish fourth in scoring with seven goals and five assists.
Russia (+400) and Sweden (+500), who each rostered some of the best players in the world, should be able to give the Canadians a run for their money and could be considered value bets.
The Russians slapped the USA 7-2 in the bronze medal game of the World Championship this year and have historically given Canada some trouble in international competition.
|North America U23||+2000|
|The Czech Republic||+2000|
Odds as of July 5 at Bovada