A few days ago I said that Canada was by far the most talented team in the tournament and they showed it on Wednesday night by defeating Russia 7-3. Everyone talked about Russia's high powered offense but they weren't nearly as talented as Canada, and it showed. Russia's top seven (Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk, Semin, Markov and Gonchar) are all as good as Canada's top players but the rest of the Russian team isn't even comparable. There's no one that compares to Canada in terms of talent but, as everyone knows, there's one way to upset a better team in hockey: goaltending.
Jaroslav Halak has been very solid this season in the NHL and has continued his stellar play against the world's best with a 0.923 save percentage in five games so far. Despite being young and relatively unknown, Halak has shown that he has the ability to win a game all by himself. Jonas Hiller almost did it early in the tournament, Ryan Miller had more offensive support but was still his team's best player against Canada and now, Jaroslav Halak will get his chance. The difference between the last two games of the round robin tournament and tonight's game for Canada is that they've had much more time to build chemistry and will make it much tougher on the Slovak defense and its 24-year old goalkeeper.
Canada can't underestimate Slovakia's ability to score some quick goals with the speedy Marian Gaborik as well as scoring leaders Marian Hossa and Pavol Demitra. Canada's defense has been caught off guard a few times in this tournament and despite their lack of depth, Slovakia has a few players that have the speed to get a couple of breakaways and score quickly. I'm ashamed of myself for using such a cliché and saying that Canada will need to be disciplined but it's especially true in this game. Slovakia has three or four excellent players who can be contained at even strength but if they get some time on the power play, one or two quick goals could put some pressure on the Canadian players.
Despite saying all that, I expect Canada to win this game relatively easily but you can be sure that Halak won't let in four goals in the first period like Nabokov did. In my opinion, Canada will more than double Slovakia's shots and come away with a 3 or 4 goals victory.