Two more games on the schedule today at the World Cup of Hockey and the Lightning had five players dressed on three teams in action. The first game included an exciting overtime finish and the second feature two of the more skilled teams in the tournament in one of the most exciting games so far in the tournament.
Team Europe 3 versus Team Czech Republic 2 (OT)
Ondrej Palat – 0-0-0, E, 4 SOG, 4 Hits, 3 Blocks, 19:01 TOI
Andrej Sustr – 0-0-0, E, 2 Hits, 2 Blocks, 20:09 TOI
This game was a back and forth game as each team traded goals all along the way with Team Europe coming out victorious in the overtime period on a break away goal from youngster Leon Draisaitl.
Palat had 3:41 on the power play and 3:18 shorthanded. He was third among Czech forwards for TOI as the Czech’s tapped their best players on the shoulder more often during this game instead of rolling lines. Milan Mihalek had 22:17 and Martin Hanzal had 23:50 in TOI. On the other end of the spectrum, Michal Berner, Dmitrij Jaskin, and David Pastrnak were all under 10:00 of ice time.
Andrej Sustr had a bit of surprise power play time as he got 2:50 playing the point for the Czechs as he had the third most TOI for their defense. He also added 4:06 on shorthanded. The Czech’s were perfect on the penalty kill on the night and Sustr put in a solid effort in the game.
Team Russia versus Team North America
Nikita Kucherov – 1-0-1, E, 1 SOG, 1 Hit, 1 Block, 12:37 TOI
Vladislav Namestnikov – 1-0-1, +1, 1 SOG, 1 Hit, 8:59 TOI
Nikita Nesterov – DNP
Andrei Vasilevskiy – DNP
Jonathan Drouin – 0-0-0, E, 9:59 TOI
Wow. Let me just start by saying that. Wow. I guess I had to say it again. What an exciting game. To all of the fans that thought the World Cup of Hockey wouldn’t be fun to watch… you… were… dead… wrong. I can rarely remember a game outside of a playoff game that was this incredibly exciting.
Now, there is a bit to look at in this game that makes me a little unhappy.
First, Jonathan Drouin. He had a decent first period, but late in the 1st period started to get dominated in possession. He didn’t play much in the 2nd period only getting just over 2 minutes of ice time in the 2nd. In the third period, he only had 0:38. One of those shifts came from him serving a Too Many Men penalty and going straight to the bench when he got out of the box. He ended up without a single shot attempt at the net and just did not look great this time out. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays in the next game and if he has a reduced role against Team Sweden. Despite being benched, Drouin wasn’t the least of North America’s forwards as Dylan Larkin only played 5:33 and didn’t see the ice in the third period.
It also took until the third period before Kucherov finally got time on the power play. Russia’s power play was absolutely horrid early in the game. They couldn’t get into the zone. They couldn’t keep the puck in the zone when they did. And Kucherov is a guy that can make zone entries, but they did not utilize him when the power play was struggling. However, Kucherov did end up scoring a goal for Russia on a fluky bounce off of the stanchion. Team Russia’s coach also didn’t seem to have much confidence in Kucherov despite him being one of the leading shot producers on the team. His 12:37 TOI only exceeded Namestnikov. It’s really baffling to me how he was used tonight.
Namestnikov had a fine game coming in after being scratched in Russia’s first game. It was pretty much expected that he wouldn’t play a whole lot and he ended up last in TOI for Russia. In the pre-tournament, he was used on the penalty kill, but Russia did not use him for that in this game. He did make a nice play to get behind Team North America’s defense and put a puck off the post, but it bounced off of Murray and into the net.
North America had a chance to tie the game up late with a 5-on-3 power play for more than a minute. However, Espo’s Law states that a team that doesn’t score on a 5-on-3 power play doesn’t deserve to win. And they didn’t. Russia gave them a chance in the last minute with a penalty that gave them a 6-on-4 power play opportunity. A post by the Ghost and some amazing saves from Bobrovsky kept the game from going to overtime.
On a side note, I want to give props to Ivan Telegin. He is a KHLer from CSKA Moscow that was selected for the team because of his defensive play. He played a lot on the penalty kill and sacrificed his body taking two hard shots off the leg during power plays that hurt and kept him down on the ice.
At 0-2, the Czech’s are in a tough spot for making it into the Semi-Finals. They have to have Team Europe and Team USA both beat Team Canada. If both games went to overtime, even with a loss in both for Team Canada, then the Czechs would be eliminated. If Team Canada beats Team USA tomorrow, then they would eliminate both Team USA and Team Czech Republic at the same time and secure their own spot in the Semi-Finals with Team Europe. All-in-all, it doesn’t look good for the Czechs and Palat and Sustr could be back in Tampa by the weekend.
In Group B, its still wide open with Russia and North America sitting at 1-1. Team Sweden is currently in control of their destiny as they just have to win out to win the group. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
Tomorrow, Team Finland will take on Team Sweden in one of the most fierce rivalries in all of hockey. Team Canada will take on Team USA in the evening with Team USA facing elimination if they lose.