MURICA!

Americans to Battle for the Gold

USA World Junior Championships

Revenge was sweet this morning for Team USA, who laid a 5-1 beating on Team Canada to advance to the World Junior Championship final on Saturday morning. The loss was Canada’s worst since their world junior program began in 1982.

After falling to Canada just four days ago in the prelims, the American offense has exploded for 21 goals in three games, led by Boston College star Johnny Gaudreau, who followed up a quarterfinal hat trick with two more goals in this morning’s win.

It was clear early that an extra day off for Team Canada was no favor, as they were noticeably flat and terribly sloppy in the opening period, especially in their own end. And as flat as Canada was, USA was that sharp. Defenseman and USA Captain Jake McCabe (BUF prospect), not normally known for his scoring, netted two goals in the first to put USA up 2-0 after one.

canada_us_wjhcIt was the same story in the second as just three minutes in Gaudreau went top shelf after a nifty toe-drag move in the slot for his first goal, and Harvard’s Jim Vesey ended Canadian goalie and Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban‘s morning early after he found space streaking through the right circle and buried a wrist shot far side.

Despite an early shorthanded goal by Canadian forward Ty Rattie early in the third to get the score to 4-1, solid play by US goalie John Gibson (ANA prospect) kept the Americans confidently ahead, and Gaudreau’s second goal with five minutes to go sealed the deal. You can check out the highlights below:

 

 

The US will now face Sweden on Saturday morning for the gold medal, while Canada will face Russia, who fell to the Swedes 3-2 in the other semifinal, for the bronze medal. The tournament final game has a much more reasonable 8am start time, so set the alarm and start the day off right.

In terms of Bruins prospects, this game was obviously pretty ugly. Obviously Subban would be the first one to jump on after allowing 4 goals on 16 shots before being pulled midway through the second, but the stats don’t really tell the story. Subban was screened on the first two goals of the game, especially on the first as there were no fewer than five players battling in front of him. On the third goal he faced a fly-by screen and let’s face it,  few goalies would have stopped Gaudreau’s wrister. Vesey’s goal would probably be the one he would have wanted back, as he was deep in his net and with his team down 3-0 that would be one that you’d need your goalie to stop to give the team a chance. All in all the defense in front of Subban was terrible, as the US continued to dangle through the Canadians even after Subban was pulled.

This includes Dougie Hamilton, who had an unimpressive game as well. He mustered just two shots on net and finished a -2 for the game. He wasn’t as awful as some of his defensive counterparts, but Canada needed its stars to show up and Dougie was pretty quiet. He did have some good power play looks in the third, but he couldn’t beat Gibson. This was all after he reportedly spoke to his team before the game to caution them against the extra day layoff from his experiences last year. His leadership is obviously a good sign, but it’s just as important to back it up with his play, and he didn’t do much to turn the tides for his team.

Canadian forward Anthony Camara was a non-factor, though he did continue to play hard and physical throughout the game which was good to see. Russian prospect Alex Khokhlachev was quiet in his team’s loss to the Swedes as well.

Loose Pucks

Here’s an abridged version of ‘Loose Pucks’ for today, as there were a few updates from the last night’s lockout negotiations.

  • We mentioned earlier that the new CBA will probably include one-time ‘Amnesty Buyouts’ for teams to get out of bad contracts. The report now is that each team will get two of these. Fellow Bruins blog Days of Y’Orr has a good take on who might be on the chopping block for the black and gold.
  • The NHLPA decided against moving forward with a disclaimer of interest as its deadline passed last night, though now it seems the players will vote for a second window, this one 48 hours, to disclaim again. Obviously the decision not to disclaim last night should be a relatively good sign, especially knowing that Donald Fehr had full power to make that decision himself.
  • Who really knows what the state of negotiations are at this point. Talks reportedly grew contentious last night over HRR reporting, which led to the second disclaimer vote mentioned above. This is what my Twitter feed is looking like these days:

NHL Lockout Twitter

markey_mark_wtf

Loose Pucks – January 2nd

Boston Bruins Loose Pucks

Happy new year! Here’s the latest edition of “Loose Pucks,” with some tidbits from the week so far. Let’s hope there is some, dare we say, “NHL” hockey to report on soon.

Seguin Scoring Goals

As we mentioned the other day, Tyler Seguin recently wrapped up his impressive stint with EHC Biel in the Swiss league, finishing with 25 goals and 40 points. Today the video below was making the rounds on the interweb, so now you can see all 25 goals in all their infinite glory.

 

 

Boston Bruins Tyler Seguin

Bad ass.

A few things about this. One, a good few of those goals came with Seguin standing in front of the net, untouched. While it’s encouraging that he’s going there for opportunities, the chances that he gets that kind of time and space in front of an NHL net are slim. We can always hope he took those lessons learned from Mark Recchi to heart though.

Second, when he does get time and space, this kid is money. The flashes we first saw in the Tampa series in 2011 are seemingly becoming more commonplace, and again while it won’t be as easy to pull some of these off in the NHL, it looks like Seguin’s growth is going to be fun to watch. If the Bruins can ever get their ridiculously awful power play figured out, he could put up some giant numbers.

Lastly, I can’t get over how hilarious the whole Swiss league top-scorer flames get-up is. It’s obviously a complete gimmick geared toward casual fans, but if I’m the NHL I’d at least give this some thought. I think the jerseys are off limits in the name of preserving the tradition of some of the teams logos, but I don’t think I’d be against the NHL doing a cool scaled back helmet design (maybe in team colors) that would make some of the games best players easier to pick out. Normally I’m not for things like this (see: shoot-out), but hockey admittedly is a fast game and something like this could make some sense in the name of drawing in more fans. That, plus it’s hilarious.

 

WJC Update

Quarterfinal matchups were underway this morning to determine who will move on to face Canada and Sweden in the  tournament semifinals. In the first game, our own Team USA downed the Czechs convincingly by a score of 7-0. Boston College standout Johnny Gaudreau had a hat trick and earned Player of the Game honors, while defensemen Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg property) and next year’s potential #1 draft pick Seth Jones had four assists each. The US will have a chance for revenge as they face off against Dougie Hamilton and Team Canada tomorrow morning at 4am. Get your DVR’s ready, unless waking up that early is your idea of fun.

 

Bruins Prospect Alex KhokhlachevIn game two, the host Russians squeaked by a much improved Swiss squad, earning a 4-3 victory by way of the shootout. Bruins prospect Alex Khokhlachev, who’s had an up-and-down tournament so far centering Russia’s top line which includes recent top draft pick Nail Yakupov, opened the scoring for Russians six minutes into the game on the power  play. Khokhlachev has two goals and two assists in five tournament games, which is fourth best for Russia behind Nikita Kucherov (7 pts – TBL prospect), Yakupov (5 pts – EDM prospect), and Mikhail Grigorenko (5 pts – BUF prospect). Russia will take on Sweden in the other semifinal game tomorrow.

 

Lockout Update

The big news on the lockout front is that both sides appear to be inching closer to a deal as they’ve met on consecutive days in New York to trade proposals. Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference has joined the PA posse over the past two days, along with the usual suspects. In case you’re wondering how it’s gone:

 

 

Both sides are expected to get back together tonight to discuss the NHLPA’s latest offer.  Word from the Twittersphere is that pensions have been a remaining point of contention, so it will be interesting to see what tonight’s meeting brings. The other big sticking point seems to be the league proposed salary cap of $60 million for the ’13-’14 season, which would be a drastic drop that would impact many teams. Puck-Daddy has some of the details here, including the fact that 16 of the NHL’s 30 teams would be over that limit with their current rosters.

Another point not to forget is that the union’s option to file for disclaimer of interest is very close to expiring through it’s self imposed deadline of midnight tonight. If the window were to pass, another push to file would have to be voted on again, though hopefully letting this deadline pass would mean that both sides are truly close on an agreement. Again, we should know more later tonight.

 

Playoff Expansion

The other big rumor floating around over the past 24 hours has been the idea of possibly expanding the playoff brackets to allow four more teams to qualify, for a total of 20 teams:

 

 

I can’t begin to explain what an awful idea I think this is (and it appears our fellow Bruins blog Days of Y’Orr would agree). While this probably has to do with the eventual league realignment (and you know, the league making more money) likely back to the four conference approach, having two thirds of teams in the league qualify for the playoffs is a joke. Even the current sixteen team format makes for a long playoff run (last two playoffs have gone April to mid-June), and adding teams would just stretch it further.

While I agree that there is nothing quite like playoff hockey in terms of intensity and excitement, adding more teams would further diminish the importance of the regular season as well as the buzz that current playoff races generate. The past few years each conference has had three or four teams within striking distance close to the end, but if we’re now talking about two or three spots eligible instead of one, I think a lot of that excitement is out the window, or at best somewhat muted. Overwhelmingly average teams shouldn’t be rewarded for being overwhelmingly average. Please, please, please do not let this happen.

Subban, Hamilton Help Canada Earn Bye at WJC

Bruins Prospect Dougie Hamilton

(Photo: HHOF-IIHF Images – Andre Ringuette)

Just hours after their elder countrymen captured the Spengler Cup, the younger Team Canada was back on the ice in Russia at the World Junior Championship this morning taking on the tournament hosts. With a quarterfinal bye on the line, the Canadians remained undefeated in the preliminary round as they knocked off Team Russia by a score of 4-1.

 

Once again it was Bruins first round pick from last year’s draft Malcolm Subban between the pipes for Canada, just a day after he shut down Team USA. He didn’t have to be nearly as sharp as he was against the US however, as his teammates kept much of the play in the Russian end with strong defense and heavy offensive zone time. He did finish with 21 saves on 22 shots, the lone Russian goal coming off a Nikita Kucherov wrister from the slot that beat him top shelf. He did have a highlight reel save in the second period to keep Canada ahead by two, going cross crease to stuff another Kucherov opportunity. Here’s the video:

 

 

Subban also had a penalty shot save to keep the score 4-1, however the game was well in hand at that point with just 19 seconds left.

 

Perhaps just as good to see for Bruins fans was Dougie Hamilton breaking his scoring drought with Canada’s first goal. Hamilton looked uncomfortable and had trouble finding the net from the point against the US, despite being on the ice for two two-man advantages. It was a different story this morning though, as shortly after Russian Valeri Nichushkin earned himself a five minute major and game misconduct for his hit from behind on Canadian Tyler Wotherspoon, Hamilton blasted a one timer off a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins feed just under the crossbar to beat Russian goalie Andrei Makarov. Here’s the video of the goal:

 

 

It was one of six shots on net for Hamilton, who finished a +1, and looked far more comfortable in his own end and moving the puck.

 

Other Bruins prospects featured in the game were Canadian winger Anthony Camara and Russian centerman Alex Khokhlachev, both who were relatively quiet. Khokhlachev  again played along side 2012 Edmonton first rounder Nail Yakupov, but was held scoreless despite managing three shots on yet. Camara was relegated to fourth line duty and managed a shot on goal, but was held off the scoresheet as well.

 

For Canada, Nugent-Hopkins added to his tournament leading point total with three assists, bringing the count to eleven, four ahead of the US’ Alex Galchenyuk. Winnipeg Jets prospect Mark Scheifele added a nifty backhand goal for Canada as well. You can catch full game highlights courtesy of TSN by clicking HERE.

 

Canada will be off until Thursday, awaiting an opponent from the quarterfinal games. Team USA earned one of those quarterfinal berths with a convincing 9-3 victory over Slovakia, and they will take on the Czechs on Wednesday with hopes of moving on. The Russians will take on the Swiss in the other match-up.

Canada Downs USA 2-1 at WJC, Subban Shines

Bruins Prospect Malcolm Subban

Photo by Mark Blinch (Reuters)

In what was one of the more anticipated games of the 2013 World Junior Championship so far, the USA and Canada took to the ice early this morning in a preliminary round game, with Canada eventually holding on for the 2-1 victory. Once again, Bruins prospects had their finger prints on the win for Canada, while it was a tough loss for the American squad, who now must beat Slovakia tomorrow in order to claim the last available spot for the playoff round.

It was Team USA that came out with the early chances, but it was Canada who struck first on the scoreboard, with Edmonton Oilers young star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins firing a wrist shot from the right circle past US goalie John Gibson just seven minutes into the game. Shortly after, Canada goalie and Bruins 2012 first round draft pick Malcolm Subban made a huge save at the other end of the ice, rejecting USA and Boston College star forward Johnny Gaudreau on a breakaway to keep Canada up 1-0.

With five minutes left in the first Canada struck again, with Islanders’ prospect Ryan Strome burying a nifty feed from line-mate Brett Ritchie. B’s prospect Anthony Camara also factored in on the goal with an assist, after his work in the left corner freed up the puck to Ritchie behind the net, who then found Strome open in front. The period would end with Canada up 2-0, with Subban making a few good stops on a late US powerplay.

Team USA had a prime opportunity to get back in the game early in the second after Canada defenseman Griffin Reinhart received a double minor for high sticking, but Subban was there to keep USA off the board. The young Canada star made 8 stops over the four minute span alone, and by the midpoint of the period he had already racked up 20 saves. The teams traded chances for the remainder of the period, but the score remained 2-0 Canada heading into the third.

It didn’t take long for things to get interesting in the third period, as Subban took a rare tripping penalty seven minutes in to send the US back to the man advantage. After killing off that penalty, Canada found themselves shorthanded less than a minute later after Strome lifted the puck over the glass for a delay of game call. While it was Canada that first had a great 2-on-1 shorthanded opportunity, a big save by Gibson sent the USA heading the other way on a 3-on-2 rush. The puck eventually found the stick of US defenseman Jacob Trouba, who beat Subban on on a fluky five hole goal after whiffing on his first attempt, to draw his team to within a goal at 2-1.

Bruins Prospect Malcolm Subban

Photo by Mark Blinch (Reuters)

The ensuing minute had the US buzzing around the Canada goal, with Subban being forced to make a huge pad save on US forward Ryan Hartman to keep Canada ahead. While it looked like the US had finally wrestled the momentum from the Canadians, the change was short lived, as seconds later USA defenseman Jake McCabe took an ill advised hit to the head penalty which came with an automatic ten minute misconduct. It would get worse for the US, who went down another man after forward Tyler Biggs interfered with Subban while on the forecheck.

Team USA managed to kill those two penalties, but then immediately gave Canada their second two man advantage of the night after Hartman and Trouba drew simultaneous penalties with just three and a half minutes to play. Highly touted Bruins prospect Dougie Hamilton saw significant time at the point on both of Canada’s advantages, but had trouble finding the net despite numerous opportunities to unleash his slap shot. Some think Hamilton could be ready for the Bruins roster this year if play resumes, but he’s been relatively quiet during the tournament.

Bruins Prospect Malcolm Subban

Photo by Mark Blinch (Reuters)

Despite Canada’s chance to seal the victory, the US once again escaped unscathed, and had a great opportunity of their own to tie the game after Nugent-Hopkins took a boarding penalty with just 1:37 left in the game. After pulling Gibson with just over a minute to play to give the US a 6-on-4 advantage, Subban once again stifled the Americans, making numerous stops from close range around the net. A final clear by the defense closed out the win for Canada, who earned their third straight victory of the tournament, sitting comfortably in first place in Pool B heading into their matchup with the Russians tomorrow morning.

This was the performance that many had been waiting for from Subban, who faced some criticism for his somewhat shaky play in the first two games, despite earning two victories. He took Player the Game honors for Canada (Gibson appropriately earned the honor for the US), and finished with 36 saves on the night and a tournament save percentage of 92%.  He’s likely solidified his spot as Canada’s go-to goalie heading into the playoffs as well.

As mentioned above, tomorrow morning’s games will decide the final slotting for the WJC playoff round. USA and Slovakia play first at 5 am, being followed by Canada and Russia at 9 am. Both games will be carried by the NHL Network and NHL.com, so check out some future Bruin stars if you’re an early riser!

Game Highlights: