We enjoyed another profitable night on Tuesday, going 2-1 but also filed to go perfect on the final game of the evening.
The first winner was the best of the two as the United States stomped the Czech Republic by a 7-0 count. The Czechs deployed their defensive structure they used to shutout the Russians two nights prior early on, and a 0-0 score after one had our U.S. -3.5 pick in serious jeopardy. However, once Bobby Brink opened the scoring in the second, the flood gates opened. Not only did we hit our pick, but we did so at lovely +125 odds to get our night started on the right note.
Next we had Canada at an even wider 5.5 spread over Switzerland. This one looked quite nice from the get go as Canada opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game. That would be the only tally of the opening frame, but four more in the second and another five in the third had us sailing past the spread in a convincing 10-0 Canadian win.
Finally, we had Russia to thump Austria by at least eight goals. Despite Sebastian Wraneschitz getting the night off in goal as anticipated, Russia didn’t take it to Austria the same way the U.S. and Sweden did. Austria even notched their first goal of the tournament. While the 7-1 final was fairly convincing in the end, we needed two more Russian goals and we dropped that pick at -110.
Add it up and the 2-1 night netted us a 1.15-unit profit as we look forward to another three-game schedule today!
First it’s Slovakia vs. Finland in a crucial contest for the former as they look to boost their medal round chances!
Slovakia vs. Finland Betting Odds
- Slovakia (+800)
- Finland (-1800)
- Slovakia +3.5 (-155)
- Finland -3.5 (+120)
- Over 6 (-105)
- Under 6 (-125)
Slovakia vs. Finland World Junior Pick
With a 1-0-1-1 record entering this contest with Finland, Slovakia has the opportunity to ensure they remain ahead of Germany in Group A seeding. A win of any kind (regulation or overtime) would do just that, but they’ll certainly be in tough against an undefeated Finland group.
Their last game came against those Germans, and it was Germany pulling off the upset as a Slovakian hooking penalty in overtime proved costly as Germany capitalized on the 4-on-3 man advantage with less than a minute to go in the extra frame.
They played with the lead for much of that game as they would reply with a goal of their own every time Germany tied the game, but it will take a far greater effort this time around if they are to beat the heavily favored Finns.
Their top offensive player in L.A. Kings prospect Martin Chromiak, although it was Michal Mrazik who tallied a pair of special teams goals on Monday, one short-handed and one on the power play while Chromiak tallied the Slovak’s lone goal in a tight 3-1 loss to Canada one night earlier.
If the team is to truly pull off the major upset in this one, it will have to be goaltending that steals the show. Samuel Hlavaj started the game against Canada and put forth a nice effort, but it was Simon Latkoczy who got the nod against Germany. If I were to guess (it’s awfully difficult to find such news before puck drop) I would go with Hlavaj back in this one against another high-end nation as he was also the one who posted the tournament-opening shutout over the Swiss on Christmas Day.
👀 Look at this save by Samuel Hlavaj pic.twitter.com/8m7kfvZk4a
— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 24, 2020
On the back end, look for heavy minutes from defenseman Samuel Knazko as he is the only other NHL-drafted prospect on the Slovakian roster along with Chromiak.
All told, Hlavaj will need to be on his game if the Slovaks are to keep this one close as they did with Canada on Sunday.
After two days off, you can expect the Finns to have their legs in this one, although it hasn’t been the best version of this team relative to years past.
We’ve seen Finland bring top NHL draft-eligible prospects to this tournament in recent seasons such as Sebastian Ago, Patrik Laine and Kaapo Kakko, the latter two of whom went second overall in their respective drafts while Aho somehow, some way slipped all the way into the second round as one of the biggest steals in recent draft memory.
They’ve also enjoyed the services of player such as Rasmus Ristolainen and Kasperi Kapanen as overtime heroes in the past, but this Finnish roster doesn’t sport such talent.
The tournament end results have been fine as they carry a clean 2-0-0-0 record into this one, but they beat an undermanned German team by a close 5-3 count on Christmas Day before a 4-1 decision over the Swiss two nights later. Considering a team like Canada outscored those two clubs by a 26-2 count compared to Finland’s 9-4, it give you an idea the wider spread between the high-end Canadians and a Finland team that’s been prone to pulling off some major upsets while taking home three of the last seven gold medals.
Now, that’s not to say this team is devoid of talent. The top talent largely resides on the back end with NHL prospects such as Ville Heinola (Winnipeg Jets) as well as Topi Niemela and Mikko Kokkonen (Toronto Maple Leafs). That trio combined for three assists against Germany and another two against the Swiss.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) December 30, 2018
Up front, Florida Panthers prospect Anton Lundell has been the team’s top player to this point and 16-year-old Brad Lambert — a 2022 first-overall candidate — has gotten in on the action with a pair of helpers against the Swiss and is certainly a player to watch in this one.
Another Maple Leafs prospect — Roni Hirvonen — has been productive in this tournament as well while the Finns actually have nine NHL-drafted prospect among their forward group, but eight of the nine defensemen on their roster have been drafted by NHL clubs as well while Heinola even appeared in eight games with the Jets last season and tallied an impressive five points in the process. He also has 14 points in 19 games with Lukko Rauma of Finland’s Liiga this season.
Add in the time off and Finns should come out firing in this one.
Slovakia vs. Finland World Junior Pick
When I initially sat down to research this game I had a gut feeling that the Slovaks could pull off an upset.
However, the research doesn’t add up. While this Finland roster doesn’t have the some elite talent it’s had in the past, it’s a fairly deep group with an underrated blueline that is the strength of the roster.
With the likes of Heinola and Niemela controlling the game from the back end, it should allow clean breakouts and opportunities for a deep forward group on this Slovakian back end. Hlavaj could be up to the task for the underdogs, but I’m confident he’ll be busy and have his hands full with this Finnish team today.
With two days off, the Finns have had a chance to breathe and analyze their mediocre first two games of the tournament. There’s a big opportunity for them in this one as well. A regulation win ties them with Canada atop Group A and sets up a New Year’s Eve bout with the host nation for the top spot in the Group and a (theoretically) easier path to the gold medal moving forward.
I think they come out hard and suffocate this Slovakian team. Hlavaj will be good, but not good enough as the Finns cover the spread at a wonderful price in this one.