After eight goals against Germany, it appears the U.S. didn’t save enough for Russia as it fell to the tournament hosts 2-1 in its second game at the World Junior Championship. The regulation loss puts the U.S. into a bit of a hole heading into a highly-anticipated match-up against Canada, though the U.S. medal hopes are alive even after this defeat.
For Team USA it was a game of missed opportunities and occasionally being its own worst enemy, but it wasn’t an all-out bad game. Inconsistency haunted the U.S. throughout the contest, unable to establish and sustain enough puck possession to outlast Russia. Two breakdowns led to Russian goals, while Andrey Makarov’s 41 saves and an improved Russian defense allowed just one for Team USA.
It was an inspired defensive effort from the Russians, with a lot of blocked shots and sticks in passing lanes, but the U.S. certainly helped them out a bit by trying to force passes and making things a little more complicated than they needed to be.
Unlike 2012, however, the U.S. were never really out of this game like last year’s team seemed to be particularly in losses to Finland and the Czech Republic. There just wasn’t enough against a quality opponent and it cost them three points.
Team USA now sits third in Group B with games against Canada and Slovakia remaining in the prelim round.
Coming up after the jump a look at Team USA’s stats, general thoughts on the game and some player notes, both good and bad.
Team USA Scoring Summary, Stats
Goal: Jacob Trouba (Russian Goals: Yarullin (PP), Tkachev)
Assist: Alex Galchenyuk
Saves/GA: John Gibson – 28/2
Other stats of note:
— Team USA committed no penalties after being called for four in the first period, killing three of those four off.
— The U.S. out-shot Russia, 42-30
— Vince Trocheck won 13 of 19 faceoffs for a 68 percent success rate, tops among USA’s regular centers.
— Four players (Jacob Trouba, Ryan Hartman, Sean Kuraly and Shayne Gostisbehere) led Team USA with four shots apiece.
— Team USA went 1-for-4 on the power play.
Full stats for the game can be found here (PDF).
Team USA stats through two games here (PDF).
— Here are the highlights (in Russian).
— The three keys in the preview for Team USA’s success never really materialized. The U.S. made too many costly mistakes with the puck that kept them from establishing much possession. There wasn’t much physical play on either side, which may just be the way this tournament ends up going (except against Canada). The U.S. never established or dictated the pace of the game with enough consistency for it to factor into the result. That’s a big reason things went south.
— The U.S. needs to give their goaltender a tap on the pads. John Gibson has been sensational through the five periods he’s played. More on him in a bit.
— The play of Andrey Makarov in net for Russia is not to be understated. A lot of folks thought Andrei Vasilevski was the go-to guy, but Makarov made a great case for himself against the U.S. He made several huge stops in key situations and it probably frustrated the heck out of the American forwards (see video below). That was a blast of a game to watch from a goaltending perspective.
— Russia’s commitment to blocking shots was pretty evident today. They clogged shooting lanes well and never gave the U.S. too many open looks. That was a big difference. It disrupted the flow in the offensive zone for Team USA and they weren’t getting a lot of second chances after the blocks. Even Jacob Trouba’s goal was a millimeter away from being blocked.
— Team USA’s commitment to stretching the ice may have been their downfall. The cross-ice passes almost never worked and led to a lot of giveaways or deflections. The passing as a whole today was off the mark. It stalled Team USA’s speedy transition game and slowed everything down. Russia did less to establish the pace of the game than it did to disrupt it.
— The second period, particularly the last 10-12 minutes of that period, was USA’s best. That’s when we saw part of their game plan materialize. The transition was sound, they weren’t forcing as much offensively and the offense was getting some sustained pressure. The worst thing that happened to Team USA was that the period ended, and with it, the momentum they generated throughout. Still, that’s a bright spot to build off of.
— I try not to second-guess coaching decisions on this blog. I know all too well that they have more information down there than I do from here when it comes to injuries and how guys are feeling and what they’re comfortable with. It’s all based on assumptions of things we simply don’t know for sure. I still took note of player usage in the third period and got a little confused as to some of the line juggling towards the end of the game. That said, none of the forward lines were generating chances with any level of consistency. My twitter mentions were flooded with cries about Alex Galchenyuk’s third-period ice time and I came away perplexed by it as well.
— For the second straight game a lot of the inconsistency up front rested with the line of J.T. Miller, Rocco Grimaldi and John Gaudreau. There’s too much skill in that group to play as they have so far. There were probably about four total shifts where they looked like they’re supposed to. The rest just showed a lack of chemistry and some disjointedness. It looked like each guy was taking a half second too long to make decisions with the puck and that uncertainty usually led to a giveaway.
— After such a standout effort against Germany, the line of Sean Kuraly centering Riley Barber and Alex Galchenyuk was silent for much of the game. They had far fewer chances and never got to asserting themselves as they did against Germany. There were flashes of that high-end skill, but it was a bit of a let down coming off of the dominance in Game 1.
— Defensively the U.S. played soundly for much of the game, but there were about five noticeable breakdowns over the course of the game that could have proven costly if not for Gibson. The second Russian goal was a disaster, however. Valeri Nichushkin went coast to coast skating through weak stick checks and got around Seth Jones far too easily. None of the four U.S. players around the net were able to clear the rebound that Tkachev chipped home. The rush also started after the U.S. got caught deep after a giveaway.
Jacob Trouba — Named Team USA’s Player of the Game, he deserved it. I thought for a lot of the game he was Team USA’s best defenseman at both ends of the ice. His one-timer on the power play was a huge goal and his second of the tournament. Trouba has developed a really sound all-around game which is why he was a top-10 NHL Draft pick. His play today should earn him even more ice than he’s been getting.
John Gibson — Some of the saves Gibson had to make early in the second period kept the game closer that it ended up. Team USA was on its heels, but the confident goaltending of Gibson was a huge factor throughout the game. Having confidence in him like they do makes life a lot easier for the coaches and defense. The first goal came off a really wacky bounce and the second he got hung out to dry by his D. Gibson did everything he possibly could have to give his team a chance to win.
Alex Galchenyuk — The Milwaukee-born, Russian-raised Galchenyuk was Team USA’s most threatening player for much of the game. He had some great chances in tight and utilized his skill well. It seemed as though he got less ice in the third period with the game on the line, but when he was out there was less effective than he had been in the previous five periods. He had the lone assist on Trouba’s goal and it was a perfectly-placed feed for the one-timer. He now leads Team USA with four points and has been their most consistent forward so far.
J.T. Miller — Today was a very frustrating game for Miller. It looks as though he may be trying to do a little too much. He made some very questionable decisions with the puck and had a hard time finding his linemates. Expectations for Miller as the lone returning forward and only player with pro experience are sky high. Falling short of them would be easy, and that’s what’s happening so far.
John Gaudreau — The amount of skill Gaudreau has is evident on occasion, but there isn’t much getting generated out of the diminutive dangler. He hasn’t generated enough offense for a guy with his ability and that’s been a problem for Team USA. His line with Miller and Grimaldi has been far too ineffective for being considered a scoring unit. In fairness to Gaudreau, he was thisclose to a goal if not for this dazzling stop by Makarov.
Rocco Grimaldi — It was a very up-and-down game for Grimaldi. He showed great hustle throughout, but like Miller, was making some really questionable decisions with the puck. His shot selection was a bit off too. The backchecking has been solid, which is encouraging, but the U.S. could use more out of Grimaldi offensively with his speed and skill.
Jake McCabe — I thought Team USA’s captain had an overall good game defensively. He was probably one of Team USA’s more physical players and was winning battles along the boards. He made some great plays on Nail Yakupov and limited chances. McCabe had a few bad reads here and there, but he covered himself well with a good stick and relentless pursuit. That was a very encouraging game for the captain.
Vince Trocheck — The smallest of Team USA’s centers had some really great flashes today and his line looked most effective when Jim Vesey was on the left wing. Trocheck has skills and they really haven’t shone a ton yet in this tournament, but he did have one scoring chance that he just couldn’t finish. If he has space, he can make you pay. His job at the dot so far in this tournament has been pretty big too.
Seth Jones — We still haven’t seen the big man’s best game yet, but save for the breakdown on the second goal, I thought he was fine. Jones logged a ton of minutes and made some good plays. He wasn’t forcing the passes nearly as much today and it paid off. He showed instances of why he’s so valuable with how he could calm things down in his own zone when necessary. That goal against was one of those plays you don’t see Jones get beaten on too often. It just came at the worst possible time.
Ryan Hartman — Playing in that grinder role, Hartman did very well in the first two periods, though it looked like his ice time dwindled in the third. He drew the penalty that led to Trouba’s goal and played physically throughout the game. His versatility makes that line more dangerous and that’s a good guy to have down the depth chart.
Patrick Sieloff — Added to the final roster today, Sieloff didn’t play much, but I thought he was effective in the few shifts he had. It’s tough to come in cold like that, but it was a good effort from the physical defenseman. USA may need his grit more against Canada.
Group B Standings After Today
1. Canada (2-0-0-0) — 6 PTS
2. Russia (1-1-0-0) — 5 PTS
3. USA (1-0-0-1) — 3 PTS
4. Slovakia (0-0-1-1) — 1 PTS
5. Germany (0-0-0-2) — 0 PTS
Team USA will meet rival Canada at 4:30 a.m. ET Sunday. The game will air live on NHL Network in the U.S. and TSN in Canada, with NHL.com streaming the game live in the United States as well.
Coming Saturday on USofH, a full preview of Team USA’s crucial game against Canada.