Happy 2019, everyone!
New Year’s Eve always delivers some great hockey at the World Junior Championship, and this year was no exception. As group play wound down to a close, we saw goals and penalties, slump-busters, and the stomach flu decimate lineups. Whether you were watching hockey or other sports, or celebrating the new year, I hope you had a great last day of 2018.
Unfortunately, four teams did not.
Game One: Czech Republic 4, Denmark 0
SOG: CZE - 31, DEN - 14
PP: CZE - 2/5, DEN - 0/7
Players of the Game: CZE - Martin Kaut (COL), DEN - Jonas Rondbjerg (VEG)
Poor Denmark. Not only are they headed for relegation, but they finished the preliminary round with zero goals. They had their fair share of chances in the third period to get on the board, but it just seemed as though everything was missing by inches.
The Czech Republic opened the scoring on a great play by Krystof Hrabik to Jakub Lauko (Boston):
Martin Necas (Carolina) scored his first of the tournament on the powerplay four minutes later:
It was great to see Filip Zadina (Detroit) finally get on the scoresheet, since he’d looked snakebitten in the three games leading up to last night.
Martin Kaut (Colorado) added a powerplay tally in the second, thanks to a tic-tac-toe passing play from Necas and Jachym Kondelik:
Yes, Denmark was not good early in this game, but the Czechs Three-Headed Monster finally started to look like themselves again in this one. If they can get going in the medal round, the Czech Republic will have as good of a chance as the other favourites.
There was a bit of a scary moment near the end of the game. Forty seconds into the third period, Czech defenseman Michael Gaspar was following a rushing Danish forward before crashing awkwardly into the goal post so hard that the goal was knocked off its pegs. Gaspar’s left side hit the post and he immediately collapsed down to the ice:
Scary scene during the DEN-CZE game as Czech defenceman Michael Gaspar collides hard with the post. He immediately fell to the ice, and had to be stretchered off. pic.twitter.com/7T1yCkfaC5— the rangres, fan of (@DraftLook) December 31, 2018
Lukas Dostal (Anaheim) was by his side immediately as the trainers got on the ice to attend to Gaspar. My dad and I were discussing what could have happened (he’s a licensed physician), and it looked at very least that he broke a couple of ribs. Gaspar was stretchered off the ice, but saluted the crowd before he went:
Gaspar gave a thumbs-up as he was taken off the ice. pic.twitter.com/q1J5ef7fYt— the rangres, fan of (@DraftLook) December 31, 2018
Filip Kral (Toronto) sealed the deal for the Czechs with a shorthanded empty-netter late in the third. Denmark had pulled their goalie on the powerplay with three minutes left, still searching for their goal first of the tournament. Unfortunately, they’ll head to relegation as the only team who got shut-out this year.
The Czechs, like all teams advancing to the quarter-finals, will get New Year’s Day off before taking on the USA on Wednesday. They looked solid all game, aside from one statistic. They took seven penalties today, and it’s honestly a miracle Denmark couldn’t pot one on the powerplay. The only thing that may get them stop taking dumb penalties, at this point, is an early tournament exit while allowing as many powerplay goals as penalties. Either way, they’re heading into elimination games, and they cannot just keep handing teams goals.
Game Two: Sweden 4, Kazahkstan 1
SOG: SWE - 57, KAZ - 10
PP: SWE - 0/1, KAZ - 1/5
Players of the Game: SWE - Rasmus Sandin (TOR), KAZ - Denis Karatayev
Can you believe that Kazahkstan scored five goals at this tournament? That is incredible. It’s unfortunate that they’re heading to relegation, but they have so much to be proud of.
Before this game, it was announced that five Swedish players would not play in this one because of the stomach flu:
There were also a couple of assistant coaches who missed the game. There’s something nasty going on in Victoria — hopefully no one else gets sick.
That meant that Sweden dressed 10 forwards and 5 defensemen. Against any other team, that might have been a challenge. As they played Kazahkstan, the Swedes probably felt they could give their ill players the night off. But it wasn’t a perfect strategy:
It feels like Brannstrom Boqvist and Sandin are out there every 2nd shift. https://t.co/OSj6FzBQ8e— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) January 1, 2019
Jacob Olofsson (MTL) is now playing defense.— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) January 1, 2019
Hopefully all of their sick players recover in time for the quarter-finals. Onto the game!
Emil Bemstrom (Columbus) scored seven minutes into the first period to get Sweden on the board. Rasmus Sandin (Toronto) made it 2-0 just five minutes later after walking in from the point and wiring a shot past Denis Karatayev. Nils Lundkvist (Rangers) added to what was a third goal first period for Sweden. The shots were 24-1 after the first.
Kazahkstan got a powerplay goal from Batyrlan Muratov to make it 3-1, and Isac Lundestrom (Anaheim) scored Sweden’s fourth goal to extend the country’s preliminary round win streak to 48 games and 12 straight years undefeated.
What is it with teams with huge leads taking unnecessary penalties? Sweden took five straight penalties, and likely only allowed one powerplay goal because they were playing Kazahkstan. Karateyev made 53 saves for Kazahkstan, and their bright spot has definitely been their goaltending. They’ll head to relegation to play Denmark, but if their goaltending can continue to play like they have, and Denmark continue struggling to score, we may be seeing Kazahkstan back at the World Juniors next year.
Plus, Karatayev (and the rest of his team) will have a second home in Canada forever:
Kazakhstan goalie Denis Karatayev said he never heard ‘Sweet Caroline’ b/f this tournament but that he’s going to download it to his iPhone soon pic.twitter.com/hSMk9xRueB— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) January 1, 2019
Victoria says goodbye to their heroes with one last Sweet Caroline as the relegation round will be played in Vancouver. pic.twitter.com/UdV6dEqJF7— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) January 1, 2019
Sweden will meet with Switzerland in the quarter-finals. The pesky, resilient Swiss gave Canada and Russia a run for their money and Sweden should not underestimate them. We’re still searching for the first upset of the World Juniors, and this match-up has all the makings for one.
Game Three: Russia 2, Canada 1
SOG: RUS - 25, CAN - 31
PP: RUS - 1/2, CAN - 0/3
Players of the Game: RUS - Pavel Shen (BOS), CAN - Michael DiPietro (VAN)
You might look at this and be shocked, but the truth is Canada did not play well at all and probably deserved this loss. They were undisciplined, let Russia bait them off their game, and forgot how to play hockey for 30 seconds.
Now, 30 seconds isn’t a huge deal, except that Russia’s game-winner was scored during those 30 seconds that Canada fell asleep. (Didn’t I say in the tournament preview that Canada had a tendency to do that? Huh, shocking.) They actually started this game well! Cody Glass (Vegas) made it 1-0 two minutes and 20 seconds into this one:
That was as good as it got for them.
Morgan Frost (Philadelphia) took a checking from behind penalty, which not only put Russia on the powerplay but forced him out of the game for 10 minutes. Artyom Galimov scored to tie the game at 1, off a great cross-ice pass from Vitaly Kravtsov (Rangers):
No scoring happened in the second, but Klim Kostin (St. Louis) did take a Kravtsov shot to the face:
And may I present to you Pavel Shen’s (Boston) game-winning goal, a great 200-foot individual play that saw him dance through all five Canadians on the ice and undress goalie Michael DiPietro (Vancouver) for good measure:
Honestly, Canada really needed that. Hopefully it’s a wake-up call — they cannot play like that and expect to win. At least they admitted it after the game:
I mean, you kind of played like you were for 30 seconds while Shen scored, but I digress https://t.co/93quyhbsbI— ♀️Lauren Kelly ♀️ (@laurkelly24) January 1, 2019
I’d had enough of this game by the second period:
Canada needs to stop taking dumb penalties and running at everything that breathes. Settle down and start focusing on offense instead of physically running opponents over.— ♀️Lauren Kelly ♀️ (@laurkelly24) January 1, 2019
This game may have only had five powerplays, but the two teams combined for 28 penalty minutes and I’d say 90% of them were avoidable. Maxime Comtois (Anaheim) has to stop diving (or flopping dramatically to the ice). Kostin seemed to agree:
Kim Kostin on Comtois during intermission interview on Russian TV: ''In his previous life he worked at circus. Didn't you know that? Perhaps he watched the World Cup of soccer, Neymar is probably his best friend.'' #WJC2019— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) January 1, 2019
Russia won Group A and will face Slovakia (and a much easier path to gold) in the quarters. This should be a no-brainer, but anything can happen in this tournament. Now that the Russian offense has awoken, they look formidable, and capable of running through anyone who stands in their way. Canada has a couple of days to lick their wounds and come back for the quarter-final against Finland. They lost to the Finns in pre-tournament play, so their game plan should be simple: look at everything you did in the game against Russia and do the exact opposite.
But because it’s a new year and you should never begin the new year on a sour note, I’ll leave you with this:
After losing his best friend in the @HumboldtBroncos tragedy, @IanMitch15 is playing for more than just a gold medal at the #WorldJuniors.— #WorldJuniors (@HC_WJC) January 1, 2019
: https://t.co/aQ9RCH8n2i #REPRESENT pic.twitter.com/kEo3Zo9kyV
Game Four: United States 4, Finland 1
SOG: USA - 39, FIN - 28
PP: USA - 1/5, FIN - 0/3
Players of the Game: USA - Tyler Madden (VAN), FIN - Kaapo Kakko (2019)
First, Jack Hughes (2019) missed his third straight game with an injury:
WJC: Jack Hughes has been ruled OUT vs Finland tonight. He will miss his third straight game w/ an undisclosed injury.— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) January 1, 2019
Also, K’Andre Miller (Rangers) sat out with an illness (probably the same one all the Swedes were out with).
Missing players aside, this was a pretty perfect game for the United States. They got on the board early, continued to press and push the Finns back, and most importantly, looked a lot better than they did against Sweden.
Jason Robertson (Dallas) got the United States on the board with eight seconds left in the first period. Samuli Vanionpaa dropped the puck back in the neutral zone to, well, no one:
Finland gifts USA with a drop pass to no one and Jason Robertson (Stars) opens the scoring pic.twitter.com/7xsEHjk7ND— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 1, 2019
Tyler Madden (Vancouver) gave USA a two-goal lead after ripping a one-timer through Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo):
Finland’s probably gonna want a save here pic.twitter.com/aGyHr0WCyf— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 1, 2019
Ryan Poehling (Montreal) went five-hole on Luukkonen (who did not have a good night) to make it 3-0:
Ryan Poehling (Canadiens) makes it 3-0 USA over Finland pic.twitter.com/f2X2w2eXjs— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 1, 2019
Madden added his second goal of the game on the powerplay in the third to put USA up 4-0 after a scramble in front.
Jesse Ylonen (Montreal) got Finland on the board, but the United States shut the door the rest of the way.
It wasn’t all doom-and-gloom for Finland tonight. They may have struggled with getting sustained time in the offensive zone, but their draft-eligible players made some good plays:
Ville Heinola with a controlled entry. Doesn’t do much with it once he enters the zone, but a good rush. pic.twitter.com/qymDvCLO9j— the rangres, fan of (@DraftLook) January 1, 2019
Good play from Ville Heinola, shows talent on both ends of the transitional spectrum. Good neutral zone defence, good gap, defends the blueline and nearly separates the attacker from the puck (bit of an unlucky bounce), then makes a good pass to a forward for a controlled exit. pic.twitter.com/ezPjmTcEN3— the rangres, fan of (@DraftLook) January 1, 2019
Anttoni Honka does what he does best— escape pressure. pic.twitter.com/yUah8nJyOg— the rangres, fan of (@DraftLook) January 1, 2019
Great stuff from Anttoni Honka. Takes his time, doesn’t force anything, and eventually gets the controlled exit. Shows off his ability to escape pressure. Not his fault the forwards turned the puck over. pic.twitter.com/IWLw1kFuTr— the rangres, fan of (@DraftLook) January 1, 2019
Just like the rest of today’s games, USA and Finland got into some penalty trouble. Both teams combined for 36 penalty minutes (Finland had two 10 minute misconducts) and will have to clean up their games for the quarter-finals.
With their loss, Finland will battle Canada on Wednesday. They have what it takes to defeat the Canadians (who looked human against Russia), and they’ve done it before. Meanwhile, USA gets a more favourable matchup against the Czech Republic. They’ll likely get Jack Hughes back, which should be a huge, well-timed boost, seeing as the Czechs Big Three scorers seemingly awoke against Denmark.
Wednesday at the World Juniors
Relegation Round (best-of-3):
- Game 1: Denmark vs. Kazahkstan (2pm EST/11am PST)
Players to Watch: DEN - Malte Setkov (DET), KAZ - Batyrlan Muratov
- QF 1: Sweden vs. Switzerland (4pm EST/1pm PST)
Players to Watch: SWE - Rasmus Sandin (TOR), SUI - Philipp Kurashev (CHI)
- QF 2: Canada vs. Finland (6:30pm EST/3:30pm PST)
Players to Watch: CAN - Jaret Anderson-Dolan (LAK), FIN - Eeli Tolvanen (NSH)
- QF 3: United States vs. Czech Republic (8pm EST/5pm PST)
Players to Watch: USA - Jack Hughes (2019), CZE - Filip Zadina (DET)
- QF 4: Russia vs. Slovakia (10:30pm EST/7:30pm PST)
Players to Watch: RUS - Klim Kostin (STL), SVK - Adam Ruzicka (CGY)