Canadian hockey fans are becoming accustomed to disappointment from the kids. Cause for concern is rearing its head a little early this year.
In 2012, it was a heart-breaking comeback that fell short in a 6-5 semifinal loss to Russia, not before failing to show up for the first two periods and falling behind 6-1 on native soil in Calgary. In 2013, it was another uninspired semifinal and a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the US.
Saturday, the Canadians followed a 7-2 man-handling of Germany with a 5-4 shootout loss to the Czech Republic, a game in which they never led and saw some disappointing performances from some of the tournaments bigger names.
Dominik Simon won the shoot-out for the Czechs in the third round with a one-handed "Peter Forsberg" move around goalie Jake Paterson to complete the upset only a day after the Czechs managed just 24 shots in a lifeless performance against the Americans.
Jonathan Drouin was outstanding throughout, potting a goal and an assist in regulation and opening the shootout with a nifty back-hander over the glove of Czech goaltender Marek Langhammer. Sam Reinhart looked like a first overall pick with a goal and an assist, his second straight multi-point game.
Aaron Ekblad, projected to be one of the first defenseman taken in next June's draft, had difficulties in his own end that cost the Canadians early. Ekblad's turnover along the half-wall in his own end eventually landed on the stick of David Kampf, whose shot ricocheted again off Ekblad and behind Paterson to put the Canadians behind just 6:11 into the contest. After Reinhart tied the game, it was Ekblad again misplaying the puck in his own corner leading to a scramble in front and the Czechs' second goal on a drive from Michal Plutnar.
Ekblad atoned for his sins with a short-handed goal to tie the game at 3-3.
Phenom Connor McDavid, already projected to be the top pick in the 2015 draft, looked overmatched for portions of the game and was benched in the third period,a period where the teams scored five goals combined. McDavid did not return to the game until the third round of the shoot-out when his in-close deke was poked away by Langhammer. Simon ended the game on the next attempt.
The Canadians will regroup for Monday's game against Slovakia.
Route with Doubts: Imperfect Americans Stay Perfect
The US scored three goals in the third period to finish off Slovakia 6-3 and move to 2-0 in the tournament. The US had six different goal scorers with every line contributing, and have 11 goals from ten different players in the tournament.
15-year-old phenom Jack Eichel looked strong for the second straight game and netted his first goal of the tournament on the powerplay to open the scoring. The Americans scored on their first three powerplays, adding goals from Dan O'Regan and Ryan Hartman to take a 3-0 lead to the midway point of the second.
Penalty trouble reared it's head in the second period, when the Slovaks scored on consecutive powerplays 1:53 apart to pull to within one.
Both goals were the product of lapses in energy for the US, but also were due to poor rebound control by American goaltender Jon Gillies. Gillies kicked out a Peter Cehlarik shot from the top of the left circle right into the slot where Milan Kolena slammed it home. Then, Gillies failed to cover a loose puck slid on goal by David Griger that Martin Reway cashed in after eluding Ian McCoshen. Reway's second goal, a spin-o-rama backhand from the bottom of the right circle during garbage time, was also soft.
Gillies made several strong stops, including a short-handed breakaway save on Marko Dano to maintain the one-goal lead in the third period. But for most of the nights, Gillies' best saves were cover-ups for his own mistakes.
The US added goals by Matt Grzelyck, Stefan Matteau, and Riley Barber in the third period to cement the win in a game that was too close for comfort for much of the third. And at 62% after two games, the US penalty kill leaves a lot to be desired. For the US, it was not the kind of performance that will hold up against Russia, or Sweden, or Canada… oh wait…
Wennberg a Winner for Swedes
Esa Lindell gave Finland the lead just 41 seconds into the contest, but that was the last lead Finland would hold. Because three and a half minutes later, the Swedish powerplay did this.
Alex Wennberg would add a second goal in the third for insurance and Jacob de la Rose's second period slapper would hold up as the winner as Sweden took down the Finns 4-2 and stayed perfect in the tournament. Sweden plays another winnable game against Norway tomorrow before their headliner against Russia on New Year's Eve for first place in Group B.
Speaking of Russia…
Shoot Puck, Score Goal
In it's second contest against an under whelming opponent,the Russians didn't take their foot off the gas pedal, routing the Swiss 7-1. The Russians had seven different goal scorers after falling behind with five minutes remaining in the first. Russia would finish the first period with two goals of their own and never look back, adding three more in the second and two in the third.
Alexander Barabanov and Damir Zhafyarov each recorded a goal and an assist, as the Russians netted four powerplay goals to lift their percentage to 54.5% through the tournament's first two games. Andrei Vasilevski, the highest profile goaltender in the tournament and Tampa Bay's first-round pick in 2012, went the distance and stopped 25 of 26 shots.
The Russians have a goal differential of +17 through two games.