So you’re an NHL fan and perhaps you’re not quite sure how the Winter Olympics men’s ice hockey tournament actually works. It’s nothing like the Stanley Cup playoffs, so you could be forgiven for not knowing how many points are awarded for a win—three instead of two—or how the medal round games are determined.
Or maybe you’re new to this whole international hockey thing and just want to understand what’s at stake during each and every contest. Well look no further for an explanation. It’s pretty simple.
Once the tourney gets rolling on February 12, here’s how things will shake down.
There are three groups of four teams. You can think about the groups as divisions if that makes it easier. Those groups (or divisions) are as follows:
Group A: Russia, Slovakia, United States, Slovenia
Group B: Finland, Canada, Norway, Austria
Group C: Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Latvia
You’ll frequently hear commentators referring these sets of teams during analysis. “the United States downed Slovakia in their first game against a Group A opponent, but can they beat Russia?” and so on. This is what they’re referring to on the tube or online.
Each team will play three preliminary games—one against each other squad in their group. For a victory in regulation, a team gets three points. Two points go to a winner that is decided in overtime or the shootout, and a single point goes to the loser of an OT game or shootout.
These points determine the standings moving forward, just like in the NHL. The more points you have, the higher you’re ranked. Once this round-robin tourney is over, it’s on to the next round. Four teams will get what boils down to first-round byes. The top team from each group is given a bye, and the second-place team with the most points is given a bye as well.
That leaves eight teams to face off against each other in a single-elimination round. One loss and you’re going home empty-handed. The four winners of these games will go on to square off with the teams that were given byes. This amounts to the quarterfinal, and again, a single loss sends a team packing.
And again, teams are seeded by accumulated points.
From the beginning of the quarterfinal, teams must win three consecutive games to win the Gold Medal—their quarterfinal matchup, their semifinal matchup, and then the Final. Got it? Good. Now go out there and enjoy some Olympic hockey!
Stay tuned to FanSided.com for all the Winter Olympic coverage you could possibly desire.