Just when you were getting used to a more sane sleeping schedule, the Russian organizers do this to us.
Canada and the United States will faceoff in a rematch of their opening round game which saw Canada skate off with a 2-1 win in which neither team played up to its potential.
Since then, Canada played a complete game against the Russians while the United States picked up a couple of wins against the tournament’s also-rans. Confidence should be reasonably high for both teams and at the risk of sounding trite, the United States will have redemption on their minds.
A great deal of the completeness of Canada’s game can be attributed to the return of Boone Jenner to the line-up. I had been playing the part of the parrot during my pre-game threads; consistently and repeatedly lamenting the lack of chemistry in the bottom-6 forward group and hoping that once Jenner returned things would sort themselves out. Well, he did and they did. Jenner and Danault were a forechecking, puck possession force in the third period of the Russia game and were a big reason why, even despite what score effects typically do to shot totals, Canada was able to significantly outshoot the Russians in their 4-1 win.
Spott’s line shake-up also proved to be a positive for the team as Jonathan Drouin looked fantastic skating with RNH and Mark Scheifele. Add to this another strong game from Malcolm Subban and Canada looks to be rounding into form from top to bottom.
In their last matchup, Seth Jones had probably his worst game of the tournament and Rocco Grimaldi’s shot-happy Sergei Berezin / Jason Blake impression really stifled the American attack. The most dangerous offensive player in the game was probably defenseman Jacob Trouba who snuck free in the offensive zone a couple of times and scored the lone American goal.
Once again, John Gibson is the type of goalie who is eminently capable of stealing a game and the American speed and the ability of their defensemen to pinch on the play has the potential to create problems for Team Canada. Team USA is still waiting for their big line to have an impact against the tournament’s better teams and if they do this morning, then Canada will have to be near-perfect everywhere else if they hope to advance to the gold medal game.
From Canada’s perspective, they’ll need to limit penalties against the Americans — particularly those of the 5-minute variety. The only Canadian player who seems to be prone to minor penalties is Ryan Strome but one hopes that Coach Spott has impressed upon him the importance of discipline going forward in this tournament. Aside from that, more of the same from Subban and the top line and Canada will likely be punching their ticket to the gold medal game.
No easy games left. Go Canada Go!
1st Intermission Update
Well, that’s what happen when one team has a great defensive period and the other is a chaotic, disorganized mess in their own zone.
The US, to their credit, played exceptional transition defense in that period and their speed on the counter-attack was backing down the Canadian defense and leading to chances left, right, and center.
The first American goal was scored by Jake McCabe after the Americans got about a half-dozen shots in a single sequence and Subban didn’t look comfortable on any of them. The US got after every rebound and loose puck and it led to the first goal of the game.
The second American goal was also scored by McCabe, this time in transition. As you’d expect from a defenseman, McCabe was the high-man in the zone and found a gap in the coverage between the two wingers. Some good passing and an apparent screen on Subban and 2-0 is where we stand heading into the second period.
On a positive note, Biggs had a very solid period. He was good on the forecheck and had a couple of chances in the offensive zone.
2nd Intermission Update
More of the same from Canada in the 2nd period. Disorganized on defense, largely dis-interested on offense, and clearly frustrated by the calibre of defensive play they’ve been running into during this game. The few times Canada has managed a quality scoring chance, Gibson has made it look like a routine save.
The third American goal came in transition after a bad change. What looked like a 2-on-1 with Ryan Murphy as the ‘1’ was turned into effectively a breakaway as Murphy initially looked to take away the pass and then drastically over committed to the puck carrier John Gaudreau who didn’t even need to make a move to clear Murphy out of the way and score.
Jimmy Vesey then put the Americans up 4-0, once again burning the Canadian defense in transition. A nice quick move on the outside by Vesey to beat the defense and change the angle of the shot. Tough to blame Subban given the completeness of the Canadian collapse but he didn’t have his best game either and got the hook in favour of Binnington.
Binnington has looked good in relief as the goalie change did nothing to spark the Canadian Team. The United States has dominated this game in every way and it would take a comeback that would make yesterday’s Russia – Switzerland game look like a 90s New Jersey Devils game for this one to end in Canada’s favour.
I sincerely hope that one of the reporters has the guts to ask Spott the tough questions about Murphy’s inclusion after the game but I have my doubts.
Canada had their best period of the game but were still the second best team on the ice. Gibson was sensational and Canada wasn’t able to swing the momentum in their favour despite some decent play.
Canada scored the first goal of the period… kinda. After Ty Rattie fired a shot off of the crossbar, the referee blew the whistle, and the ensuing rebound found Rattie’s stick with Gibson too far out of position from the initial shot to have any hope at making a second save. Rattie put the puck in the net anyway and after review it counted for some reason. Typical IIHF hackjob, basically.
The game’s final goal came after a great blueline to blueline pass from JT Miller to John Gaudreau sprung the diminutive forward on a partial breakaway. Great shot by Gaudreau beat Binnington and the Americans cruised to a well deserved victory from there.
The good from that period included the reigns coming off Rielly a little bit. He looked far more like himself, joining or leading the rush offensively and using a toe-drag-shot-between-the-defenseman’s-legs move that he goes to with some regularity in the WHL. Binnington looked good in relief and probably deserves to start the bronze medal game.
Having played only one good game in the tournament with a lockout strengthened lineup, Spott will have to come up with some answers for why this team never really came together. The defense in particular seemed to be a problem after the team cut Frankie Corrado who had a great camp in favour of Ryan Murphy who, aside from possibly Dumba, was the worst defenseman in camp. MacKinnon never got enough icetime, nor did Rielly and the zone entries on the powerplay were some of the more disjointed I’ve ever seen on international ice.
Canada will play the loser of Sweden – Russia sometime Saturday morning.