There were many questions surrounding Malcolm Subban coming into the World Junior tournament. He wasn’t particularly sharp in the pre-tournament games, and some observers were thinking that the Boston Bruins prospect lost his confidence. Subban put everyone’s fears to rest, delivering a sparkling 36 save performance, which propelled Canada to a 2-1 victory over bitter rivals the United States. The win moves Canada into first place in Group B with 9 points. Canada can wrap up a semifinal berth with a win over Russia on Monday.
Canada got off to a bright start as captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fired home a sizzling wrist shot at the 7:13 mark of the opening frame. Ryan Strome would follow 5 minutes later, finishing off a Brett Ritchie dash from behind the net.
The second period was scoreless, as the Canadians sat back into a defensive shell. The Americans got their forecheck game going and put pressure on the Canadian goal. But Subban stood tall, making key saves throughout the period.
The third period was a penalty filled affair as both teams seem to lose their composure at times. Canada’s power play went into exile as the Maple Leaf failed to score on two 5-on-3 opportunities. The Americans got their chance on the power play, and capitalized as Winnipeg Jets prospect Jacob Trouba finished off an American counter attack, after Canada failed to score on a 3-on-1 chance. The rest of the period was penalties and goaltending. Subban and American counterpart John Gibson were brilliant in their respective nets, keeping the game close. The Americans had one final chance in the dying seconds, but a brilliant defensive play by Scott Harrington saved a goal, and preserved the win for Canada.
While a win over the Americans is always satisfying, coach Steve Spott will have some work to do. Canada sat back far too much after the second goal. They can’t rely on Subban to save them from trouble every time. With the Russians waiting, Canada must be more aggressive with their forecheck, and take the game to the Russians. The power play struggled to get shots through from the point. Canada will need to be sharper with the man advantage, and be more creative to get the shots to the net. There were times where Canada’s discipline betrayed them as well. Granted the same could be said about the Americans, but Canada will need to keep their cool against Russia. Finally, Canada will need more secondary scoring. The line of Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mark Scheifele provided the first goal, and seemed to generate the most chances. While Ryan Strome did chip in with the game winning goal, Canada needs offensive production from the third and fourth liners to balance out the scoring.
The loss puts USA in third place in Group B, and they will need to defeat Slovakia on Monday to qualify for the quarterfinals. John Gibson was terrific, making 30 saves for the USA. His work when the Americans were down two men, kept the Stars and Stripes in the game. He cannot be faulted for the loss.
Canada will play Russia on Monday at 9:00am EST 8:00am CST. The winner of that game will gain an automatic berth into the semifinals.
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