The Takeaway: Gaudreau’s Hat Trick Leads U.S. Into Semis

Posted by: Scott McLaughlin

Johnny Gaudreau registered a hat trick and Riley Barber scored twice as Team USA cruised to a 7-0 win over the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals of the World Junior Championship. The U.S. led just 1-0 after one, but five second-period goals put the game out of reach. J.T. Miller notched a goal and two assists, while Jacob Trouba and Seth Jones each tallied four assists. John Gibson made 31 saves in the shutout. The U.S. will meet Canada at 4 a.m. ET on Thursday in the semifinals.

What I saw
-After not registering a single point in Team USA’s first three games, Gaudreau now has five goals and an assist in the last two games. All three of his goals on Wednesday came from him just getting open around the net. The first two came on broken plays — the first a deflected Trouba pass, the second a blocked Jake McCabe shot — that ended with the puck bouncing right to him on the doorstep. The third came on a great feed by Miller, as the center waited for a passing lane to open up before finding Gaudreau in front. Gaudreau has gotten hot at the right time, and the U.S. would love for him to keep it going on Thursday.

-Trouba and Jones combined for eight assists and just played great all-around games. For Trouba, who has been outstanding all tournament, this was just more of the same. He blocked three shots on a single penalty kill in the first and also drew a penalty in the period. Two of his assists came from his great shot. One led to a rebound for Ryan Hartman to bury and one deflected in off Miller. For Jones, it was a second straight good game after struggling against Russia and Canada. Like Gaudreau, Jones appears to be finding his stride at the right time. His most notable assist was a nifty through-the-legs pass that set up Trouba for the one-timer that Miller deflected in. Jones also took a cheap hit from Lukas Sedlak, but he didn’t miss a shift and appeared to be just fine.

-The Americans’ special teams were excellent for a second straight game. After scoring four power-play goals against Slovakia, they potted five on the man advantage on Wednesday. All three of Gaudreau’s goals came on the power play, as did Miller’s. The fifth was Barber’s first goal, which came on a beautiful setup by Alex Galchenyuk. The Gaudreau-Miller-Vince Trocheck unit, which was just put together last game, has been particularly effective, as they’ve been on the ice for six of those last nine power-play goals. The Americans were also a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill, as they continue to have the best PK in the tournament. Perhaps even more impressive than just killing the penalties was the fact that the U.S. managed to draw four penalties while shorthanded.

What I thought
-Miller’s day will be overshadowed by Gaudreau’s hat trick and the four-point efforts from Trouba and Jones, but he deserves recognition as well. He played his best game of the tournament and now has five points in the last two games. He showed great patience and vision on Gaudreau’s third goal, then set a perfect screen on his own goal. He has set a bunch of great screens on the power play in this tournament, as he does a great job of planting himself right on top of the crease and not budging. Shayne Gostisbehere scored a power-play goal against Germany that the goalie never saw thanks to a Miller screen.

-Gibson wasn’t tested as much as the Czechs’ 31 shots might indicate, but he stood tall when he needed to. He faced his toughest challenges in the middle of the second period and made a pair of great saves minutes apart. The first was a sliding save to rob Tomas Hyka’s one-time bid. The second was a flashy glove save to snag a Tomas Hertl wrister. Gibson has been a rock for Team USA all tournament and currently ranks third with a .950 save percentage, trailing only Russia’s tandem of Andrei Vasilevski and Andrei Makarov.

-The Grind Line of Blake Pietila, Cole Bardreau and Ryan Hartman continued to do its thing. They helped shut down the Czechs’ top line of Hyka, Hertl and Dmitrij Jaskin, and they were a big part of Team USA’s perfect penalty kill. The trio made an impact in the offensive zone, too. Hartman scored the Americans’ third goal, with Bardreau picking up an assist as he moved the puck to Trouba at the point. Bardreau was robbed of a goal in the first when Hertl slid through the crease to stop a shot that was on its way in. Later in the period, Pietila drew a penalty on a breakaway attempt. In the second, Hartman made an incredible spin-o-rama pass to find Pietila in front, but Pietila couldn’t beat Matej Machovsky.

What else you should know
-The U.S. was without Shayne Gostisbehere, who was suspended one game for a spear against Slovakia on Monday. He will be back for Thursday’s game against Canada.

-With the win, Team USA is guaranteed to play for a medal. If they beat Canada, they’ll play in Saturday’s gold medal game. If they lose, they’ll play in the bronze medal game.

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