The Czech Republic struggled with Norway because goaltender Steffen Soberg stood on his head and the Slovakia-Germany game was a goaltending battle into overtime. Day two at the World Junior Championship was all about goaltending and all about shutting down star forwards.
Day three will see all five Oilers' draft picks in action, beginning with Toni Rajala against Switzerland and wrapping with Martin Marincin against the United States. Two games are essentially for second place in pool play, Switzerland vs. Finland and Sweden vs. Russia. Add in Copper & Blue favorite Iiro Pakarinen in action and the day is just packed.
Finland played the U.S. evenly for the entire game on day one, grabbing a point with a loss in overtime. Manulius and Rissanen were used throughout the first game as a defensive pair, allowing sprite-like Sami Vatanen to play his customary offensive role. Copper & Blue friend IIro Pakarinen scored for Finland as the secondary triggerman on the Erik Haula - Teemu Pulkkinen line.
Switzerland jumped all over Germany, scoring three power play goals en route to a 4-0 lead before letting Germany back into it as they tried to kill the clock. Nino Niederreiter was everywhere in the first period, drawing penalties, using his size and scoring as well. He played as expected and added to his reputation with a goal, an assist, three shots on goal and an extremely physical game.
This game essentially decides second place in Group A and the loser opens the medal round against the loser of the Sweden - Canada game.
The Czechs launched a fusillade at the Norwegians, but were turned back time and time again. It took a late short-handed goal to put the Norwegians away. Offensive superstars Martin Frk and Petr Straka were held to a combined 1 shot, but the rest of the team picked up the slack.
The Canadians are who we thought they were. They're the deepest team in the tournament and showed it against Russia. The narrative says the Canadians were sleepwalking until a "wonderful" individual effort on the penalty kill by Casey Cizikas inspired his line, his teammates, his coaches, the fans, and an entire country - it was that great. The media loves storylines so I guess they can have this, but in reality, it was only a matter of time before the Canadians poured it on.
If the Czech Republic can stay out of the penalty box for the entire game, they have a chance in this one. They're going to need huge performances from their stars, but even then, if they give Canada's power play chances, they're going to get buried like the Russians.
Russian has ton of individual talent, but as has been the case recently, the team lacks discipline. They took five minors against the Canadians and the three power play goals by Canada tied the game, took the lead and gave the Canadians a two-goal lead. A lucky game from the Czechs and the Russians would be in the relegation round.
Sweden did what they should have to a severely undermanned Norwegian squad - beating them 7-1 with seven even strength goals. They put 46 shots on goal and allowed only 11. Their superstars were on as Gabriel Landeskog, Anton Lander and Tim Erixon all had magnificent games. This is a team playing some very high level hockey right now.
The Swedes scored seven even strength goals in game one - if Russia gives them five power plays, the game could very well resemble the Canada-Russia game.
Word from the arena is that the Slovaks had some luck on their side against Germany. Dominik Riecicky played like that Czech Dominik and but for a missed penalty shot by Tom Kuhnhackl, the Slovaks could be in the driver's seat for seeding in the medal round.
The U.S. didn't look like one of the best three teams in the tournament against Finland and allowed Suomi to dictate the game at times. If not for an excellent game by Jack Campbell, the U.S. would have lost on home country ice to open the WJC.
The Slovaks are going to need an enormous game from their NHL-drafted defenders to hang with the Americans. The Americans bring big forwards in waves and if the Slovaks can withstand the physical game, they can turn their smaller, skilled forwards loose.