Predicting the Olympic medal round

Nicklas Backstrom will be a key factor for the Swedes earning another medal. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Finally, the bracket is done and the playoff round is here. The matchups are set up for the "Big Four" of Russia, Sweden, Canada and the United States to make the semifinals, but they first will have to get by a group of underdogs -- one of which is Latvia, a team that dispatched Switzerland in the play-in games.

Is there another upset in the works? Who are the key players in each matchup? And the biggest question: Who will win gold?


No. 8 Slovenia vs. No. 1 Sweden

Key matchup: Nicklas Backstrom vs. Anze Kopitar

With Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disk) unavailable for the remainder of the Games, the Washington Capitals' Backstrom has stepped into the role as undisputed first-line center for the Tre Kronor. While the Swedish team has had a relatively uneventful time as it swept through the round-robin portion of the tournament, Backstrom has been less productive than expected, with a mere two power-play assists.

With Slovenia playing a quick, counter-attacking game, Sweden will want to focus its attack among its talented forward crew so that the blue line will be more prepared to stop the inevitable rushes. Not that we should expect Erik Karlsson to suddenly morph into a stay-at-home defenseman, but Sweden should try to layer its attack so that more offense comes from the slot than the point. With a strong game from Backstrom, that's an achievable goal.

On the other side, Kopitar has seemingly recovered from his bout with stomach flu, and opened the scoring in the qualification-round defeat of Austria. Rok Ticar, his frequent linemate, led both squads with seven shots. For Slovenia to have a chance at continuing its miracle run, Kopitar will need to have another transcendent, offense-driven game. -- Wagman

Prediction: Sweden