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World Cup of Hockey

World Cup semifinal storylines to follow

Revenge for Team Russia, pressure on Team Canada highlights final four

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

TORONTO -- And it's down to four.

The semifinals of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 were set Thursday when Team Russia got in with a 3-0 win against Team Finland. Team Sweden clinched its spot Wednesday. Team Canada and Team Europe got in with wins Tuesday.

The puck won't drop on the semifinals until Saturday, which allows for ample time to set up what's to come and follow the underlying storylines of both games.

Here are three for each, featuring angles involving rivalries, revenge, pressure and more:

 

TEAM RUSSIA vs. TEAM CANADA

Saturday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, CBC, TVA, TVA Sports)

 

1. Sid vs. Geno

The hype machine will go into overdrive with storylines detailing the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry, but Crosby against his Pittsburgh Penguins' teammate Evgeni Malkin is as intriguing and could be something to watch because it might be a key head-to-head matchup.

If you're Team Russia coach Oleg Znarok, who hasn't been prone to matching lines yet in this tournament, why wouldn't you want to get Malkin on the ice against Crosby? Nobody on Team Russia knows Crosby and his tendencies better than Malkin. It makes sense.

Regardless if they play against each other, we're talking about two of the best players in the world, teammates in Pittsburgh, on opposite sides in Canada.

Forgive the following if you love the Ovi-Sid rivalry, but forget about it for a second and focus on Crosby vs. Malkin, because there's more bragging rights on the line in that one. They have to move back into the same dressing room soon.

Video: EUR@CAN: Crosby nets wraparound to open scoring

 

2. Revenge for Russia

Ovechkin brushed off the idea that he might still think about the 7-3 loss to Canada in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He won't be able to avoid thinking about it now, because that memory will be brought up multiple times from multiple media outlets.

If that's not enough, Ovechkin and several of his Team Russia teammates watched as Crosby and Canada won gold in what was supposed to be their Olympics in Sochi two years ago.

So not only did Russia get blown out on Canadian ice in 2010, they watched Canada dominate on Russian ice in 2014.

Revenge here in Toronto wouldn't right those wrongs for Russian hockey, but it would be oh so sweet.

Video: SWE@RUS: Ovechkin puts Russia on scoreboard in 3rd

 

3. Canada's pressure

Fact: Team Canada is the favorite to win the World Cup.

Fact: If Team Canada doesn't win the World Cup it will be seen as a failure.

Fear: Team Canada losing to Team Russia.

Canada never gets any leeway when it comes to these best-on-best tournaments, especially when they take place in Canada. The pressure on the Canadian Olympic team in Vancouver was immense because it was in Vancouver. The pressure is the same now, perhaps even more because a loss in the semifinals would include the national outrage of losing to Russia.

 

TEAM EUROPE vs. TEAM SWEDEN

Sunday (1 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports)

 

1. Last of the hybrids

With Team North America eliminated, Team Europe becomes the new darling of the tournament.

What happens now is anybody's guess, because nobody could have predicted after four periods against Team North America in the pretournament games that Team Europe would still be standing.

Team Europe was outscored 9-1 in through 80 minutes against Team North America. Coach Ralph Krueger's team looked lost, erratic, out of place. Krueger admitted the players and coaches all did some soul searching after they were outscored 5-1 in the first period of their second game against Team North America.

They found character. They went back out on the ice and discovered they could be a team. Now they're here, after wins against Team USA and Team Czech Republic in the preliminary round. Now the great unknown, the great experiment, born out of the desire of the NHL and NHLPA to get as many NHL players involved in the tournament as possible, has a chance to do the unthinkable.

Everybody loves an underdog, right?

Video: EUR@CAN: Hossa scores from sharp angle

 

2. Lundqvist's team and tournament

Team Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist arrived in Toronto last week an angry player after a subpar showing in two pretournament games. He started the World Cup on the sidelines, sick with flu-like symptoms that prevented him from playing against Team Russia on Sunday.

Now Lundqvist is back and, frankly, the biggest reason why Team Sweden is in the semifinal. He had a shutout with 36 saves in a 2-0 win against Team Finland on Tuesday. If not for his 45 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss against Team North America, Team Sweden wouldn't have clinched first place in Group B on Wednesday.

Lundqvist is the face of Swedish hockey. A win against Team Europe gives the goalie they call "The King" a chance to give Sweden another crowning achievement.

This is his team. He believes it's his time. He's playing like he wants it, badly.

Video: NAT@SWE: Lundqvist denies McDavid in OT

 

3. Swiss revenge

Team Europe is motivated to pull off the upset, to be the team that shocks its way into the World Cup championship round. But two players on the roster might be driven by a second motivation.

Defenseman Roman Josi and forward Nino Niederreiter were on Switzerland's national team that lost 5-1 to Sweden in the 2013 IIHF World Championship gold-medal game. Six players on Sweden's World Cup roster played in that game: forwards Loui Eriksson, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Gabriel Landeskog, and goalies Jhonas Enroth and Jacob Markstrom.

Josi, Niederreiter and their Swiss teammates were given a silver medal that day. It was Switzerland's first medal in a World Championship since 1953; its first silver since 1935.

It remains one of the greatest days in Swiss hockey even though it was a blowout loss, but Niederreiter said to get a little slice of revenge against Sweden would be nice for him and Josi.

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