After day one, I was impressed with the Americans and a little frustrated with the Canadians. Each team has now played its second game of the tournament—both against the same team—and roles have reversed. While Canada seemed to pull its game together, the Americans regularly looked out of sync and out of sorts.
Before these rivals face off outdoors today, let’s dive in to the hows and whys of their opposite results against Slovakia.
Canada versus Slovakia
One point I made about Canada after their first game was the need for offensive consistency. They found it. Slovakia isn’t as tough as Finland, but they aren’t a cakewalk to play against either, and Canada still managed to top 50 shots. It wasn’t a perfect game, but overall it felt like a more complete performance.
The Kyrou/Steel/Dube line was one of my favorites, continually driving offense. On the blue line, Mete and Makar stood out, regularly getting involved in the play. Both defensemen ended up with two points. There are some great skaters on this Canadian roster, and it showed. I honestly don’t have a lot more to say—I was just quite pleased with Canada’s improvements from game one. They played well up and down the lineup, and you couldn’t really ask for more from them.
Kale Clague sat out this game after blocking a shot, and during the game there were concerns about the health of both Dante Fabbro and Jake Bean. Not an ideal situation for Canada’s defense. Thus far, there are no reports that any of them are seriously injured, and Bean came back to the game and played regular minutes. We’ll see how the lineup shakes out against the US. Either way, Victor Mete is probably going to continue his trend of high ice time, and that’s something to keep an eye on.
USA versus Slovakia
A lot of line-shuffling happened for the US in this game, including Trent Frederic moving to the 13th forward spot and Josh Norris moving to center. I don’t know if it was that or something else entirely, but this US team did not look like the one we saw against Denmark. They looked discombobulated and just a tiny step out of sync with one another for the first half of the game.
It didn’t stay that way. The Americans seemed to pull it together after the Tkachuk goal, to an extent, and they outshot Slovakia 45-25 overall. Mittelstadt’s goal was incredible, and and the Tkachuk-Poehling-Anderson line gelled well. Tufte was probably their best player in the third period. And it felt like every time I looked up, Hughes was driving play.
However, where their lapses occurred—multiple defensive miscues and poor plays in goal—Slovakia took advantage. When you combine that with Slovakia doing an excellent job cutting down shooting lanes and forcing the US to the perimeter on power plays (and some at even strength), and disrupting the US’s transition game that was such a strength against Denmark—well, a loss isn’t surprising.
It was a bad loss. My breaking down how Slovakia won and pointing out what Team USA managed to do well isn’t mean to camouflage that. It’s a game that, coming in, they should’ve won. All that taken into account—being tested this early in the tournament isn’t a bad thing if they respond correctly.
Joe Woll started this game for the Americans, which was unexpected, and he didn’t do much to impress. I’m not a “blame the goalie” person, but I didn’t like any of the three he allowed Thursday night. The fact that USA/Canada is outdoors on Friday frustrates me a little—it’s going to be hard to properly judge Woll’s performance against Oettinger’s (I’m assuming Oettinger gets the start this afternoon, though I could be wrong) because the conditions are so different.
Also, the US had its own injury concerns. Logan Brown got hurt in the first period, and although he tried testing the injury during a stoppage in the second, he only played 34 seconds before leaving the game for good. It doesn’t currently look great for him playing against Canada today, but maybe a miracle will happen.