Despite putting 42 shots on net, Team USA fell to Russia, 2-1, in its second game of the World Junior Championship. Vladimir Tkachyov scored what proved to be the game-winner 4:10 into the third when he banged home a rebound right in front. Valeri Nichushkin set up the goal with a great rush down the right wing to get by Seth Jones and get the puck to the net. Andrei Makarov made 41 saves for the Russians, while John Gibson turned aside 28 shots for the Americans.
The U.S. had a strong first couple shifts, but it was Russia that opened the scoring when Albert Yarullin unloaded a one-timer that ricocheted off a couple bodies and past Gibson for a power-play goal. The U.S. tied it with 6:42 remaining in the second when Jacob Trouba scored a power-play goal of his own, ripping a one-timer through traffic from center point for his second goal in as many games.
What I saw
-Makarov stopped 41 shots and was the biggest reason Russia won this game. He stood on his head a number of times, including once in the game’s opening minutes when he robbed Johnny Gaudreau with an incredible pad save. Russia’s decision to start Makarov over Andrei Vasilevski, who played very well against Slovakia in Russia’s first game, caught some people by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. Both were outstanding in last year’s tournament, and it appears both have picked up right where they left off. Russia isn’t the strongest defensive team, so they’re going to need to get great goaltending if they hope to win gold. So far they’ve gotten it.
-The Americans shot themselves in the foot by taking four penalties in the first. They looked like the better team 5-on-5, but the parade to the penalty box stunted their momentum and prevented them from getting into any sort of rhythm. The refs were calling the game very tightly, but that is usually the case in international hockey, so the U.S. shouldn’t have been surprised. After surrendering a goal on their first penalty kill, the Americans were great on the next three and managed to keep it a one-goal game going into the intermission.
-Russia controlled play early in the second, but Gibson made some big saves and his teammates eventually picked up the pace and started to take over as the period went on. They adjusted to the officiating and stayed out of the box, and they drew two penalties on Russia. Trouba scored on one of those power plays to send the game into the third tied at 1-1. The U.S. ended up outshooting Russia 17-11 in the middle frame.
What I thought
-The Johnny Gaudreau – J.T. Miller – Rocco Grimaldi line got off to a fast start after a quiet first game and nearly scored on a tic-tac-toe passing play that ended with Gaudreau getting robbed. But then they went quiet again over the final two periods. Gaudreau has made a couple nifty plays in tight spaces, but hasn’t looked comfortable at all for the most part. Grimaldi has made some great backchecking plays, but hasn’t been able to do much in the offensive zone. Miller has been the most consistent of the three, but even he’s disappeared at times. The U.S. won’t go too far without contributions from these three, so it might be time for the coaching staff to think about making some changes. One possibility would be moving up Vince Trocheck or Mario Lucia, two other talented forwards who have yet to get going.
-The Alex Galchenyuk – Sean Kuraly – Riley Barber line also had a quiet game, just one day after they dominated against Germany. Galchenyuk was the best player on the ice against Germany, but managed just one shot on goal against Russia. While Kuraly and Barber are certainly good players, this line goes as Galchenyuk goes, so an off game for him is going to mean an off game for the whole line more often than not. That said, Galchenyuk is a world-class player, and I wouldn’t be too concerned about his play, or this line, moving forward.
-There wasn’t a single U.S. defenseman who played a bad game. Trouba was named the team’s player of the game, and deservingly so since he looked great in both ends. Jones got beat badly on the winning goal, but played a really solid game outside of that. Shayne Gostisbehere and Mike Reilly were heavily involved on offense once again, and the Jake McCabe – Connor Murphy pairing continued to look like a shutdown duo. Patrick Sieloff saw limited ice time, but didn’t make any glaring mistakes when he was out there.
What else you should know
-The U.S. finally filled its last roster spot before the game, selecting Patrick Sieloff over Boston University freshman Matt Grzelcyk. Because it took so long to make the decision, Grzelcyk won’t be able to make it to Colorado for BU’s game against Denver on Saturday. BU coach Jack Parker voiced his displeasure with the situation on Thursday, before Grzelcyk was even cut. “I think they’ve done him and us a disservice,” he told The Daily Free Press. “They should have made that decision before they left Helsinki.”
-Team USA’s next game is Sunday against Canada at 4:30 a.m. ET. Canada leads Group B with a 2-0 record after picking up a 6-3 win over Slovakia on Friday.