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2020 World Juniors Recap Day 2: USA survives Germany to win first game

How about them Germans?

ANDREA CARDIN / HHOF-IIHF IMAGES

There were two games played on Day 2 of the 2020 World Juniors. Slovakia defeated Kazakhstan in a close match, while USA managed to overcome a shaky start against Germany to win their first game of the tournament.

Injury Update

Jakub Lauko — Out

We have an injury update for the two players were injured in games on Boxing Day. The Czech Republic’s Jakub Lauko (BOS) suffered an MCL injury and will not be able to continue playing at this tournament.

The Czechs will be able to add another player to replace Lauko for the rest of the tournament, and it was announced later in the day that Karel Plasek (VAN), a returnee from the 2019 team, had been registered as Lauko’s replacement.

Rasmus Kupari — Day-to-Day (?)

Meanwhile, Finland’s Rasmus Kupari (LA) left the game against Sweden early after colliding awkwardly with Philip Broberg (EDM). He wasn’t present at Finland’s morning skate, and then we got this update:

Later on, more details emerged about Kupari’s status, and it doesn’t look good for him or Finland:

Finland will have to play the remainder of the tournament with only 11 forwards (because they registered eight defensemen), which is a huge blow. Really hope that no one else goes down with an injury up front.

Now, onto the games!

Game One: Slovakia 3, Kazakhstan 1

SOG: SVK — 24, KAZ — 23
PP: SVK — 1/7, KAZ — 1/5
Players of the Game: SVK — Samuel Hlavaj, KAZ — Maxim Musorov

How many times did we hear the penalty box song in this game? 12 times.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, the Czech arena will play this ridiculously amusing folk song between when a penalty is called and the puck drops on an ensuing powerplay. It’s hilarious, and personally, I’m a fan of it. It makes things interesting, I think.

The Game

Although no goals were scored in the first period, Slovakia and Kazakhstan each took three penalties. Way too much of the first was spent either on the powerplay or killing penalties. Though the better team on paper, Slovakia looked sloppy and afforded the Kazakhs multiple scoring chances (including shorthanded breakaways).

Maxim Cajkovic was the lone Tampa Bay Lightning prospect in action yesterday. He was one of the better Slovaks in the first, including managing a couple of scoring chances on Kazakhstan goalie Vladislav Nurek. He played on Slovakia’s second line with Oliver Okuliar and Martin Vitalos, playing 17:07 and registering an assist on Okuliar’s power play goal:

Just like against the Swiss, Kazakhstan refused to let Slovakia walk all over them. This was the teams’ first meeting since Slovakia steamrolled Kazakhstan 11-2 last year (WJC 2019) in group play.

Samuel Hlavaj Saves the Day

Although this game wasn’t a marquee matchup, it held significant weight for the standings in Group A. The winner of this game would likely earn a quarter-final berth. The loser will probably have to play in the relegation round. Slovakia emerged victorious, but Kazakhstan made things extremely difficult for them, especially in the first half of the game.

In fact, the game was knotted 1-1 midway through the second. Slovakia didn’t actually score the go-ahead goal until three minutes left in the entire game. Kazakhstan continued to press for their own go-ahead goal, which required Slovak goalie Samuel Hlavaj to make several brilliant saves to keep his team in the game. Here was one of them:

Hlavaj was one of the only Slovak players to deliver a perfect pass early on in the game, too:

Hlavaj was hands-down Slovakia’s best player in this game (and awarded Player of the Game honours), but Okuliar and Cajkovic showcased very dangerous chemistry together. But this was arguably Slovakia’s easiest matchup of the tournament, and it will become more difficult for them to create offense as they face better teams. Finland is their next opponent.

As for Kazakhstan, they put up a valiant effort. Just like in their first game against Switzerland, though, they ran out of steam in this game and allowed Slovakia to crawl back into the pace of play. Unless they can upset one of Sweden or Finland, they look bound for the relegation round. Their next opponent will be the Finns on Sunday.

Game Two: USA 6, Germany 3

SOG: USA — 29, GER — 20
PP: USA — 1/6. GER — 2/4
Players of the Game: USA — Trevor Zegras (ANA), GER — JJ Peterka (2020)

First of all, holy crap, Germany is so fun to watch. I said in the tournament preview that Germany had as good of a shot as any team in the Group of Death to win games if their star players came through. And boy, did they ever show up in this one.

The Game

JJ Peterka (2020) opened the scoring for Germany with Oliver Wahlstrom (NYI) in the box. Germany displayed perfect passing on the man-advantage, and Peterka ripped the puck into the net from the goal line.

USA looked incredibly discombobulated and mediocre in the first period. Germany was just so much faster to pucks, more engaged in battles along the boards, and quicker to intercept their passes. American goalie Dustin Wolf needed to be sharp for them, including stopping Dominik Bokk (CAR) on a 3-on-1.

However, the Americans are loaded with more talent, and they got goals from their blueline. Jordan Harris (MTL) and Zac Jones (NYR) scored two unanswered to give USA their first lead of the game.

Undeterred, Germany kept coming, overwhelming the Americans shift after shift. With USA once again killing another penalty, Peterka banged in a rebound off of the end boards past Wolf to tie the game up.

Justin Schutz fed Bokk for the go-ahead goal, and it looked like the Americans were crumbling under the pressure of the German forecheck and cycle.

USA’s Shane Pinto tied the game, 3-3, late in the second:

And riding the momentum of that goal, Trevor Zegras fed Curtis Hall on the doorstep of German goalie Tobias Ancicka. Hall buried the puck past Ancicka to restore USA’s one-goal lead.

USA played a lot better in the third period, finally looking a little more like the dangerous offensive team they are on paper. Goals from Brink and Wahlstrom in the third period to put the game out of reach and emerge with three critical points in the group standings.

My frustrations with Team USA

Although they were heading to the third with a lead, the Americans were still struggling with coverage in their own end and in the neutral zone. They made far too many unforced errors, and Germany proved that they could capitalize on US mistakes.

USA’s lines, which were pretty awful in the first game against Canada, were almost identical in this game. And it was very clear that the combinations weren’t working. Trevor Zegras, who had four primary assists in two periods, played 4:44 in the same span. When the puck dropped on the third, he was moved up to the third line, but with depth players Jack Drury and Parker Ford.

“Goal God” Cole Caufield spent the third period playing with shutdown players Hall and Jacob Pivonka. He’s been nearly invisible in both of USA’s games so far, and deployment is 100% the reason why. It wasn’t until the last two minutes of the game where we finally saw him playing on a line at even-strength with quality linemates in Turcotte and Bobby Brink (PHI).

Zegras shone for the otherwise lacklustre Americans. He put up his four primary assists in just ten minutes of ice time. It’s almost as if he shouldn’t be playing on the fourth line. Pinto was again excellent for USA, finishing with three points.

I had the Americans pegged to win gold, but there is absolutely no way that happens if they don’t get Caufield, Turcotte, and Arthur Kaliyev (LA) producing at even-strength. The lines in the game against Canada were baffling at best. The fact that they didn’t really change at all against Germany (to start the game) was mind-boggling.

And even when Scott Sandelin decided to juggle his lines, I’m not sure why he thought it was a good idea to keep Turcotte, Zegras, and Caufield separated and playing with less talented players. Zegras and Caufield were linemates with the USNTDP for several years, Turcotte and Caufield play on the same line in college.

I offered up this suggestion:

A lot of people disagreed with where Pinto was, because of how good he’s been. And they’re right — Pinto has played far too well to be dropped lower in the lineup. But USA has to find a way to get that top six going at even-strength. If that means giving them more minutes, I still think it’s worth a try.

USA will have tomorrow off before playing Russia on Sunday. They need to use the day off to figure out how they’re going to fix their defensive play, their penalty kill, and their offensive production at even-strength. But the lines have to change, and in a way that makes logical sense (like, not playing Caufield and Zegras with role players). Whether they actually do remains to be seen.

Germany, If I Were You

Germany should hold their heads high after their performance in this one. Tim Stutzle (2020) and Moritz Seider (DET) were brilliant for them yesterday. Lukas Reichel (2020) had some good looks too. Peterka obviously scored twice. Germany’s young stars came through for them — and the other Group B teams need to watch out.

Their next game is against the Czech Republic tomorrow. If Germany wants to avoid playing in relegation, they have to beat the Czechs (who upset the Russians on Boxing Day). It’s a tall task, but I believe this team can do it.

Tomorrow’s Games

(All times ET, games with Bolts prospects bolded)

9:00am — Finland vs. Slovakia
9:00am — Czech Republic vs. Germany
1:00pm — Switzerland vs. Sweden
1:00pm — Russia vs. Canada

This recap was compiled with information sourced from IIHF game sheets, Twitter, and TSN.