For the second straight game, the U.S. came up just a bit short, this time falling to Canada 2-1 in its third preliminary round game at the World Junior Championship. A bad first period, late penalties and Malcolm Subban’s play in goal for Canada ultimately sunk Team USA. With the loss, the U.S. fell to 1-0-0-2 in group play and are in a must-win situation against Slovakia Monday to get to the medal round.
The U.S., in an eerily similarity to 2012, has really struggled to score goals. The squad is getting very little from its top six right now, and much less at 5-on-5, and that’s a huge problem heading into a must-win game.
What makes that more frustrating for Team USA is that it is in every game it plays to the very end. The few mistakes and inability to execute against the likes of Russia and Canada typically would prove more costly. If you would have told me the U.S. would hold both of those teams to two goals each before the games, I would have had a hard time believing you.
The fact is, the U.S. is very good, but two mistakes early in the first period was all it took for the U.S. to lose Sunday’s game. That goes back to the small margin for error teams have in the World Juniors. The team’s that manage that margin are the ones that have success. The U.S. isn’t able to manage that well enough right now.
Coming up after the jump, a look at the stats, general notes and a look at which Team USA players stood out in both good and bad ways.
Scoring Summary, Stats
Goal: Jacob Trouba (CAN Goals: Nugent-Hopkins, Strome)
Assists: Alex Galchenyuk, Mike Reilly
Saves/GA: John Gibson – 30/2
Other stats of note:
— Jacob Trouba led the U.S. with six shots on goal, Seth Jones had five.
— Team USA’s PK held Canada’s tournament-best power play (40% success rate coming into the game) scoreless in seven opportunities.
— The U.S. power play went 1-for-5.
— Cole Bardreau owned the faceoff dot today, winning 11 of his 15 draws. Typical faceoff opponent Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went 1-for-11 at the dot.
— Team USA out shot Canada 37-32
Full Game stats here.
Team USA stats through three games here.
Full game highlights…
— The two miscues in the first period that led to Canada goals were pretty tough. J.T. Miller lost a faceoff and the lost track of Nugent-Hopkins who had too much time to deliver a perfect shot to make it 1-0. On Canada’s second goal, Seth Jones failed to pick up Ryan Strome who had a clean whack at a puck from point-blank range. That was it. The lack of ability to score goals down the stretch made those mistakes fatal.
— The effort once again was there for the U.S., but execution was only OK. Team USA definitely simplified its game a little bit from playing Russia, but it didn’t translate to anymore offense, just fewer mistakes. A lot of the inability to score can be pointed to Malcolm Subban who made 36 saves, including several big ones.
— Team USA’s top six has not been good enough for the squad to be successful in the tournament. Though Alex Galchenyuk and Johnny Gaudreau have shown flashes of the skill that you’d expect from them, the inconsistency among the two scoring lines has been absolutely killer in these last two games. They looked better at times against Canada, but without the top six generating chances, the U.S. doesn’t have enough scoring depth to make up for it.
— The penalties at the end of the period were killer. While some of the calls were a bit questionable, Ryan Hartman’s elbow was the most egregious of the penalties committed. He got a two-minute minor and 10-minute misconduct that was well deserved. Jake McCabe also got a two and 10, but his seemed less obvious. That penalty came shortly after the U.S. seized momentum with Jacob Trouba’s goal and took the life out of the U.S. attack.
— Hartman may end up hearing from the IIHF for his elbow that clipped Ryan Murphy’s chin. I think the officials got it right on the ice with the two and 10, but there’s certainly a chance the IIHF thinks its worth more sanctions. Here’s a look at the hit.
— The lack of a net-front presence throughout the first and second period also cost Team USA. Malcolm Subban had a lot of clean looks at pucks and Canada forced a lot of shots out to the perimeter. Without getting any bodies in tight on the Canadian goal, Team USA failed to convert on the rebounds left by Subban and kept the shots they were getting at low-percentage. Canada owned the net front and that’s a big reason they were able to hold on for the win. Not getting enough bodies to the net plagued last year’s seventh-place team and that lack of a net-front presence is showing in the results this year.
— The defense got shored up in a big way when Housley made some wholesale changes to the pairings. Seth Jones got more time with Jake McCabe to give the U.S. a more prolific shut-down pair. Mike Reilly got bumped down with Connor Murphy, while Pat Sieloff saw his ice time increase throughout the game. Those changes allowed the U.S. to mostly shut Canada down at even strength.
— Team USA’s PK was special today and it needed to be due to some lack of discipline. John Gibson made a lot of key saves, but the U.S. forwards and D did a great job when down a man. Canada has so much firepower that holding them to nothing on the power play is pretty big.
— The goaltending in this game was simply sensational. Both John Gibson and Malcolm Subban were terrific all game. Both were named their teams’ player of the game and really that’s the only way it could be. The goaltending in the tournament overall has been quite good.
— The U.S. now faces a must-win game against Slovakia to get to the medal round. A win there and the U.S. gets a day off and a clean slate into the quarterfinals. Slovakia is no slouch, however, after forcing overtime against Russia and taking a 3-1 lead on Canada before ultimately blowing it, Slovakia is a threat. Winner goes to the medal round, so the stakes couldn’t get higher for this big Group B contest. It’s important to remember, once this tournament goes to the playoff round, the slate gets wiped clean and it’s a new tournament. The U.S. has to focus on doing whatever it takes to get there.
John Gibson — What more can you say about the big goaltender? He’s done everything humanly possible to give his team a chance to win games and has gotten barely any scoring support. Gibson has a 1.52 goals-against average and .951 save percentage through three games. For most other teams, those would be winning numbers. The big guy deserves better than he’s getting right now. Gibson made several huge stops throughout the game that kept it closer than it should have been at times. Without Gibson, this U.S. team would be in big, big trouble.
Jacob Trouba — Trouba has been Team USA’s best skater over three games. He has a goal in each game and has been so strong at both ends of the ice. There could be a really good case for him being the best defenseman in the whole tournament with how he’s played. His WJC experience and confidence are both shining through in his play. Trouba has had the most consistent output overall for the U.S.
Alex Galchenyuk — Consistently Team USA’s most threatening forward, Galchenyuk when in and out during today’s game. He had some key opportunities on the power play, but just couldn’t generate much against Subban. A lot of folks talked about his ice time again today and I certainly understand it. Like everyone else, Galchenyuk has had some inconsistencies, but Team USA is more dangerous when he’s on the ice without question. He leads the team with five points.
Jake McCabe — Until the penalty, I thought McCabe was Team USA’s second-best defenseman. After he was whistled for a questionable check to the head, the U.S. had to play without him for the remainder of the game as he served a 10-minute misconduct. When he got moved to a pairing with Seth Jones, that duo was near impossible for Canada to beat. He’s had an overall good tournament.
Tyler Biggs — Aside from his goalie interference penalty in the third period, that was one of many calls that hurt the U.S., Biggs was really good in the game. He was winning battles along the boards and using his size well. There wasn’t a lot of offense to be generated, but Biggs was good on the forecheck and the PK. He’s playing his role mostly well.
J.T. Miller — I think that might have been Miller’s best game in the tournament, but it wasn’t going to take a lot. The one faceoff Nugent-Hopkins won all day came at Miller’s expense and led to a goal. That said, Miller got better as the game went on and started generating some chances. There hasn’t been a lot to write home about when it comes to Miller’s second turn at the WJC. That has to change, and soon.
Johnny Gaudreau — This guy can’t seem to buy a goal. He was robbed on a breakaway by Subban after Makarov shocked him with his leg pad in the Russia game. Gaudreau is getting chances, but not really generating much outside of a two or three good looks a game. There needs to be a bit more from the Hobey Baker candidate if the U.S. is going to have any chance of success in this tournament. I can’t help but think he just needs to get that one goal to open things up for himself a bit.
Sean Kuraly — Kuraly looked more threatening today. He played with a little more confidence with the puck and was generating a few chances here and there. Kuraly’s size and speed were put to good use today, but guys like him are going to have to do more to get that net-front presence going. I thought Kuraly improved from the Russia game.
Cole Bardreau — Overall, Bardreau had a terrific game for the U.S. He was dominant on draws, helped create a few scoring chances and just had a gritty game that made him effective. He has the ability to set the tone for the U.S. with his speed and physicality despite being a bit undersized. That’s a special talent for this team. He worked really well with Blake Pietila and continues to show why he’s on this team. Bardreau has been a bright spot for me much of the tournament.
Seth Jones — The first period was one of the more shocking performances I’ve seen out of Jones in the three years I’ve been following him. Uncharacteristic mistakes and blown assignments in the D zone made matters worse. Jones was on the ice for both Canadian goals against. However, when the first period ended, he was back to normal. Getting paired with Jake McCabe really turned the tide as Jones focused more on the defensive game and it paid off. His power-play chances in the third period nearly gave the game back to the U.S., but Subban was too good to let that happen.
Patrick Sieloff — Getting more ice as expected against Canada, I thought Sieloff played well. He is very good in his own end and doesn’t force too much. He’s played a simple game defensively and it’s working. Sieloff is a good guy to have off the bench in games where there needs to be focus on defense. He looked good in a few PK shifts as well.
Ryan Hartman — For a lot of the tournament, Hartman has been one of the more exciting forwards for Team USA with his physical play. He has had a history of taking it too far sometimes and that’s what happened against Canada. The hit on Murphy and the ensuing penalty was probably the most damaging of the period for the U.S. in that it was completely unnecessary. Hartman brings an important element to the game, but that was one check that should have been left unfinished.
Mike Reilly — There were flashes today where you could see the immense skills of Reilly and what he brings offensively. He has such skill and speed, but it hasn’t had a lot of room to breathe in this tournament. When he was moved off the pairing with Jones, the U.S. was better defensively. Reilly’s ice dwindled as the game went on, but he still brings an important offensive element to this team. With the forwards inability to generate chances with consistency, Reilly’s skill set becomes more important. He might have a chance to open it up a bit against Slovakia.
Group B Standings After Today
1. Canada (3-0-0-0) — 9 PTS
2. Russia (2-1-0-0) — 8 PTS
3. USA (1-0-0-2) — 3 PTS
4. Slovakia (0-1-1-1) — 3 PTS
5. Germany (0-0-1-3) — 1 PTS
Come back later this evening for a complete preview of Team USA’s must-win game against Slovakia.