by Corey Pronman
Thoughts from Canada-USA (5-1 USA):
This was a complete game for the States, with seemingly every player contributing and most playing at a high level. The USA’s keys have come outside their forwards with Jacob Trouba (WPG) playing very well the whole tournament with Seth Jones (2013) and Jake McCabe (BUF) playing key roles as well. McCabe is a gritty defensive defender who has shown at Wisconsin he can move the puck and has offensive ability although I’d consider his skating average.
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) has really picked it up lately and scored a gorgeous goal today undressing Ryan Murphy (CAR) in the process. Gaudreau is in the discussion for a tournament all-star. The checking line for the USA did well, whose names I’ve mentioned frequently, the Grimaldi (FLA), Trocheck (FLA) and Biggs (TOR) line did well again and JT Miller (NYR) and Jimmy Vesey (NSH) contributed too on the USA’s top line.
The Canadian blue line was a bit of a train wreck, and asides from Scott Harrington (PIT) and Xavier Oueller (DET) the other defensemen have been average or worse. Overall though this game is the shining example of the variance a small tournament can bring, as it was just a week ago that Canada beat the United States 2-1, but showed a decent amount of control in that game. It doesn’t make logical sense Canada got dramatically worse or the USA got dramatically better in that period of time, it was just one game. If the same teams play 100 times, Canada likely wins 60 times or more, but this was one of the 40.
It’s also why I disagree with piling on a player like goaltender Malcolm Subban (BOS) who despite all the criticism and all the goals against today is currently 5 th in the World Juniors in SV% with a .908. One, it’s not fair to point a finger at just a goalie, just like it isn’t fair to just point fingers at the skaters. The skaters’ job is to prevent scoring chances and the goalie’s job is to within reason and case by case, stop a certain amount of scoring chances in a competitive game. Subban has made some quality stops during the course of this tournament, and today he had goals against he probably couldn’t have stopped and some that could have plausibly been stopped. The goaltender needs to make tough stops, but it’s also why you can’t judge a goalie on one or five games, because that’s nowhere close to enough time. Heck, 100 games wouldn’t even be enough. The randomness of a short tournament needs to be evaluated in that proper context. Malcolm Subban is a very quality goaltender and I wouldn’t have blinked at him starting a hypothetical final match if Canada would have somehow win.
Canada won five straight gold medal from 2005-09, and has not since. That smells to me like regression to the mean, as it’s unrealistic to make a run like that and expect to keep winning in a short tournament. Things like one bad goaltending performance, an off night from your players, or a great night from your opponent can ruin yours quickly. Hey that sounds familiar. Canadian hockey is fine to whoever may worry; they’re a perennial heavy contender, the best amateur program currently in the world who just had an off night. That’s hockey.
I have no new thoughts to add from the Sweden-Russia match that I have not already said in this blog.
If I had a ballot right now for the tournament all-stars it would be Gaudreau, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM), Mikhail Grigorenko (BUF), Jacob Trouba, Seth Jones and John Gibson (ANA). There are other forwards in the discussion too like Filip Forsberg (WSH), Elias Lindholm (2013), Nikita Kucherov (TBL), Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) and a few others. There’s no for sure call other than Hopkins.