You can't imagine how much fun we're having (CP)
“I think we’re the best team.” – Seth Jones, Dec. 20, 2012
Of course the guy that everyone points to after the U.S. beat Sweden 3-1 to win its second gold medal in the last four years at the IIHF World Junior Championship (two more than Canada, for those scoring at home) is John Gibson. Hard to argue that he should have been anything less than tournament MVP.
He allowed just nine goals on 202 shots in seven games, good for a save percentage of .955 and a GAA 1.36. As he sparkled against the Canadians, he similarly shined against the defending gold medal-winning Swedes, making 26 saves on 27 shots. Not too many of those shots really troubled him as much as those in the semifinal did, and perhaps that’s to be expected, but nonetheless, he was the rock upon which Phil Housley built his gold medal-winning team.
What will get mentioned less often than Gibson, who really cannot be mentioned enough, is how well the U.S. defense played not only in this clinching gold medal game, but throughout the tournament. They gave up three goals just once, in a game in which they still beat Slovakia by six and barely broke a sweat. But those defenders earned their freight against Canada and, especially, Sweden. Jacob Trouba, in particular, struck me as being especially effective, not so much because he was diving to block shots like Mark Scheifele does at the slightest contact, but because he displayed an overwhelming amount of defensive awareness. The number of rushes he broke up with a quick stick and a little shove can’t be counted on fingers and toes alone, and that was more or less indicative of just how good the whole blue line was for the vast majority of the tournament.
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It should have never gotten to this point (IIHF)
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but wasn’t Russia, with its wealth of super-talented forwards and its excellent goaltenders and competent defenders and the whole advantage that’s supposed to come from hosting this tournament, meant to be the team to beat? So why, then, does it struggle so mightily against, oh I don’t know, every team it has played in this entire tournament save for the lowly Germans, who look primed for yet another relegation? The problem reared its ugly head again today for the Russians when they needed a shootout, an actual shootout, to beat Switzerland 4-3, and really required a fair bit of luck to even get that far.
Just how bad was the Russians’ performance today? Well, the Swiss outshot them 44-36, which you gotta figure is, like, not good. That includes getting outshot 13-8 and 16-9 in the second and third periods, respectively. In fact, the Russians only got things going with an 8-4 shooting advantage in OT because of hooking penalty on Christian Marti that gave them a 4-on-3 for two minutes.
And it’s not like things didn’t start well enough for Russia, as they got a goal and two power plays in the first 10 minutes of the game. But on that second one, Cristoph Bertschy scored a shorthanded goal, because why wouldn’t he? The teams traded goals again in the second period as well, and through 40 minutes, it was 2-2, and I doubt too many people would have said that would be the case headed into this one. I might attribute some of it to Eliot Antonietti’s backchecking, because he singlehandedly broke up a pair of full-on Russian breakaways as clean as you like. The third time, though, he took a hooking penalty. Read the rest of this entry »
Jordan Eberle isn't keeping it fair
I was watching a video yesterday of Jordan Eberle scoring three goals for the Oklahoma City Barons in 2:43 (you can watch it here if you want to feel bad and ashamed for the Texas Stars), including the first two coming just NINE seconds apart, and I thought to myself that maybe all that scoring has to grate on the other team. No one likes to lose, obviously, but man, you gotta think the average AHLer is getting pretty damn sick of watching 22-year-old guys who were nearly a point a game in the NHL last year blow past them at 50 miles an hour and make their goalies look ridiculous.
So any progress in CBA negotiations, which seem likely to end in the not-so-distant future, has to give these guys hope. Fun as it may be to watch Justin Schultz put up 45 points in 31 games from the blue line to the average fan, it seems very unlikely his opponents feel the same way. And it’s not just an issue for whatever poor team plays Oklahoma City, which is currently sporting the third-best winning percentage in the AHL’s Western Conference because like any other Oilers team it’s dutifully giving up too many goals, the entire league is being ripped up by guys who should be playing in the NHL. Not that this should come as any sort of surprise, I guess, but when you look at it from a purely points-per-game perspective, the AHL’s best players are all NHLers on holiday. Of the 18 guys in the league who are running at a point a game or better with a decent amount of games under their belts (as of this writing), I figure just about all of them, save for Keith Aucoin, would have been at least considered for full-time gigs in the NHL were they not locked out. Read the rest of this entry »
Canada's high-powered offense picked apart the weak Americans for two whole goals.
As with the game against the Russians, the US was arguably the better team on the ice with the obvious caveat that it didn’t score the most goals.
Coming into the tournament anyone with a functioning brain — i.e. not a sandbagging member of the Canadian media eager to sell what should in theory be another credible run at the gold medal as some sort of underdog story that is in any way interesting — would have told you Canada is the clear favorite in this and theoretically any other World Junior Championship. All that stuff about how they’ve never lost a game during an NHL lockout and how they have a handful of NHL-ready players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Dougie Hamilton, Jonathan Huberdeau, and maybe Mark Scheifele if you’re being generous, are pretty good arguments for this being the case.
But with that having been said, this US team, which has largely underwhelmed in its last two games, dictated the terms in this one. Apart from an uninspiring first period, during which Canada mustered its meager two goals, there’s a very credible argument to be made that the Americans were the best team on the ice and, results aside, perhaps in the tournament. This, like the Russia game before it, was a tilt they should have won.
Both Canada goals came on miscues by American players, and in quick bursts, rather than the kind of sustained pressure that you might expect from The Most Talented Team In The Tournament. Nugent-Hopkins’ strike to make it 1-0 came on a rare Canadian faceoff win (the US won 40 of 70, 57.1 percent) and JT Miller, who has been invisible for most of his three games despite his top-line role, lost the Oilers phenom in coverage. Not sure how you let that happen, but the finish was predictably lethal. Read the rest of this entry »
The good news for Canada is that it won another game thanks to its overwhelming offense. The bad news is it will likely lose another player because of a dirty, indefensible hit and can’t stop bad teams from pouring goals past Malcolm Subban.
Oh yeah, another win, this time 6-3, is one of those things that likely has Canadian fans reminding themselves, “You don’t ask how, you ask how many,” while they rock back and forth on their bathroom floors, but they might also do well to remind themselves of the fact that, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
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