For the second straight game, Team USA struggled to finish around the net and wound up with a 2-1 loss, this time to archrival Canada. Canada took a 1-0 lead 7:13 into the game when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found some open space off a faceoff and beat John Gibson from the high slot. The Canadians added to the lead seven minutes later when Brett Ritchie wrapped around the net before finding Ryan Strome alone in front.
The U.S. cut the lead in half with 8:58 left in the game when Alex Galchenyuk fed Jacob Trouba for Trouba’s third goal of the tournament. The Americans stymied their own comeback by taking four penalties in the next five minutes, but they killed all of them and managed to earn a power play of their own with 1:37 to go. They generated several good looks, but couldn’t net the equalizer.
What I saw
-Some terrific goaltending. Gibson stopped 30 of 32 shots for the U.S., while Malcolm Subban turned aside 36 of 37 shots for Canada. A lot of the U.S. shots came from the outside, but Subban was in position when the Americans did get to the net. Gibson faced a lot more grade-A chances and had to make several saves on odd-man rushes, including one that came just seconds before the U.S. went down and scored its only goal. Both goalies were at their best late in the game, as Gibson helped kill two 5-on-3s while Subban had to make several saves on the Americans’ final power play.
-The Americans went 1-for-6 on the power play and really struggled to generate chances until they finally showed some desperation at the end of the game. Trouba’s goal did come on the power play, but even on that one the U.S. had struggled to get set up. In fact, Trouba’s goal came only after Canada got an odd-man rush that ended with a great save by Gibson. The second and third power plays were the most devastating. Griffin Reinhart took a four-minute double minor for high sticking midway through the second period, but the U.S. only generated one or two high quality chances. They did get eight shots over the four minutes, but most of them were from the outside without much traffic in front.
-Trouba scored his third goal of the tournament and played another all-around great game. Outside of maybe Gibson, he has been Team USA’s best player, which isn’t a huge surprise considering he was one of their best players last year as well. The goals prove how much he can contribute offensively, but he’s even better defensively. He almost never makes a mistake, and he hits hard without crossing the line. Michigan fans should enjoy him while they can, because he probably won’t be there long. It’s looking more and more like he might’ve actually been a steal for Winnipeg at the ninth pick.
What I thought
-Taking four penalties within five minutes of cutting the lead to 2-1 was just mind-numbing. There is no better way to kill a comeback than by taking penalties, and that’s exactly what the U.S. did. Just 1:04 after Trouba’s goal, Jake McCabe was called for checking to the head and neck area. Then Tyler Biggs took an interference penalty that gave Canada a 5-on-3 for 36 seconds. The Americans killed both of those penalties, but then on the very next shift Ryan Hartman and Trouba both took penalties to give Canada another 5-on-3, this time for a full two minutes. The fact that the U.S. got out of all that without Canada scoring was nothing short of a minor miracle, but it also cut a full six minutes out of the already-limited amount of time they had to try to tie the game.
-The Americans put up a bunch of shots for the second straight game (42 against Russia, 37 against Canada), but they’re still struggling to make those shots count. A lot of them are coming from the outside without bodies in front to set screens and get rebounds. Team USA has shown at times that it can hold a territorial advantage against top teams, but they need guys to be more aggressive and more willing to take some bumps and bruises around the net. Moreso than any opponent, that’s the biggest obstacle I see for the U.S. in its quest to medal.
-Some of Team USA’s top players are still struggling. Seth Jones is probably the most notable, as he made the mistake that led to the winning goal for the second straight game. Against Russia, it was letting his guy beat him 1-on-1 down the wing. Against Canada, it was failing to pick up Strome right in front of the net. Jones did play better after he was moved onto a pairing with McCabe, though, as McCabe provided a little bit more of a security blanket than Mike Reilly. Johnny Gaudreau and J.T. Miller had another quiet game as well, and Miller was the one who lost track of Nugent-Hopkins on Canada’s first goal. Coach Phil Housley alternated between Riley Barber and Rocco Grimaldi at right wing on that line, but nothing clicked. It might be time to split up Gaudreau and Miller themselves and see if they can get going on different lines, because they haven’t been able to do a whole lot playing together. The U.S. still hasn’t gotten anything from its bottom four forwards either, as Mario Lucia, Vince Trocheck, Tyler Biggs and Jimmy Vesey have zero combined points.
What else you should know
-The U.S. must beat Slovakia on Monday (5 a.m. ET) to advance. Slovakia has given both Russia and Canada trouble, so this is a game that looks a little tougher now than it did before the tournament started. The U.S. can’t finish any higher than third. The Group B winner will be decided when Russia and Canada face off at 9 a.m. ET on Monday.
-Canada was without forwards Boone Jenner and J.C. Lipon, both of whom were serving suspensions. Jenner was suspended three games for a late charge against Sweden in an exhibition game. Lipon was suspended one game for a hit to the head against Slovakia.