This is where things start getting interesting.
The American team will present an interesting set of challenges for Team Canada. Their checking lines are more physical than anything that Team Canada can throw out there, their skill lines are faster, and their goaltender has looked more capable of stealing a game in this tournament. Canada is still the better all-around team but the Americans throw out enough different wrinkles that this should be a game that goes down to the wire and could certainly go either way.
For Canada’s part, they seem to have woken up in the second half of the game against Slovakia. Their top-6 forward group has been exceptional and their defense, aside from Ryan Murphy, looked much better. Rielly’s strong play in that game led to an increase in icetime and I would think that he hasn’t done anything to warrant a decrease heading into this morning’s matchup.
As is often the case when Canada plays the USA under IIHF officiating, my guess is that the team who wins this game will be the team who comes out ahead in the special teams battle. Both of these teams play a physical style that can lead to undeserved 5-minute charging penalties called well after the play — but I digress — so taking advantage of our powerplays and playing well on the penaltykill is crucial.
The Americans love to activate their defensemen when transitioning to offense and Seth Jones is an absolute load when he gets to full speed. The play of Canada’s top defense pair and how they’re able to identify and quarterback the transition defense game is another big key for Canada.
Note: Tyler Biggs has been playing on the third line for Team USA, wearing No. 22.
Once again, I’ll throw up my updates during each intermission. Looking forward to a barn-burner!