Men’s Play-offs Semifinals Game 28

Canada’s path to the gold-medal game at the Olympic men’s hockey tournament looks easy – but the Canadians would be wise not to discount their semifinal opponent. The defending champions are overwhelming favourites for Friday’s encounter with a Germany side that sent shockwaves through the competition with a 4-3 overtime win over Sweden. Canada earned its way into the final four with a tightly-contested 1-0 triumph over Finland.

The Canadians pulled out the win over Finland, but it came with a cost as starting netminder Ben Scrivens was forced from the crease in the second period due to injury. Poulin stopped all 15 shots he faced the rest of the way, and will likely get the call against the Germans if Scrivens is unable to go. Canada should be in good hands regardless of who is between the pipes, having allowed just three regulation goals through its first four games of the tournament.

Canada’s offensive production, on the other hand, might be a minor cause for concern. After scoring just four goals in a win over host South Korea – a total many experts believed would be much higher – the Canadians finished with a 30-21 shots advantage Wednesday but could only put one puck past Finnish netminder Mikko Koskinen. Another subpar offensive showing Friday, and Canada could find itself playing for bronze instead of gold.

Being the underdog has suited Germany just fine; after pulling out a 2-1 win over Switzerland in the qualifying round, the Germans broke out to a 3-1 lead over Sweden, watched that lead disappear in regulation, then completed the upset on Patrick Reimer’s overtime goal. Beating Sweden for the first time in international competition was impressive enough – but now the Germans will need to upend a Canadian side that is 27-1-1 against them all-time.

Germany hasn’t produced much offence to date, scoring just 10 goals through five games; Patrick Hager is the only German player with multiple goals entering the semifinal. In goal, Danny Aus Den Birken will likely be tasked with stopping the Canadian attack. The 33-year-old, who stars for Munich EHC of the Deutsche Eishockey League, has posted a 2.43 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage in four starts in Pyeongchang.

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