Final Score: USA 4 - 2 Norway
Johnson (A) /Fayne
Stuart (C) /Fowler
(Johnson/Fowler on first PP line)
Roster and Stats:
GOAL 1: Palmieri - Equal strength, 41:16 (18:44 left in the 3rd)
Shannon, on a break, passed the puck to Kreider on the left side just above the faceoff dots. Kreider then made a beautiful pass to Palmieri who was coming in on the right side of the net. Since the goalie was expecting a shot from Kreider, Palmieri had an open net and easily popped it in. The goal was reviewed to make sure he didn't kick it, but the goal stood, putting the USA on the board 1 - 2.
GOAL 2: Skille – Equal Strength, 44:59 (15:01 left in the 3rd)
After the first goal, the momentum really swung the US’s way. They were cyling the puck really well in their offensive zone. Porter made a drive to the net drawing the goalie, then missed the cross-ice pass from Stapleton that ended up instead on the stick of Jack Skille on the left side. He flicked it home into the nearly empty net – tie game.
GOAL 3: Palmieri – Power Play, 53:44 (6:16 left in the 3rd)
Again, the US was cycling the puck well in their zone on the powerplay. Shatty passed the puck down to Shannon (who was standing on the left side goal line), who zipped it up to Palmieri (who was driving down the center to the net). One pretty little 5 hole goal later and the USA is up for the first time in the game 3 – 2.
GOAL 4: Smith – Power Play, 58:34 (1:26 left in the 3rd)
Johnson made a nice pass from the left-side point to Stephan (left side, just below the dots). Instead of shooting, Stephan made a great pass to Smith who was coming down just to the right of center. Smith fires it home into the open net, locking up the USA win. This was one of the prettiest goals of the game – it looked like something the Sedins would do. You can tell that these two spent some time together at the University of Wisconsin.
Overall, the USA, despite their youth, have a surprisingly solid team that is fun to watch. While more of an offensive power, they have a strong defense that jumps into the plays and saves their goalie. If given the chance, they are a fast-break team capitalizing on odd-man rushes, but if that is taken away from them (like Norway did today), they have shown they can regroup and cycle the puck well in their own zone to create good chances. They don’t let a deficit bother them – they play confidently and without panic throughout the game (especially in the second and third), and their energy and compete level really help them in the 3rd when the other team fizzled. Their game may not be the most physical, but they hit enough to let the opponents know they’re there. Plus, they flat-out outshoot the other team, and even though their goals might not always be the prettiest, they find a way to win.
Basically, they are a model of what I hope the Avs will be next year.
If we can find a solid partner for our Johnson, our defense next year will probably look like the US's did today – and that’s a good thing. They only allowed 15 shots on goal in the entire game, which is pretty darn impressive. It’s also not an anomaly – they only allowed 13 last game. Jack Johnson (whose style is very similar to EJ’s) has been doing well so far. Last game he tallied 1A and matched that again today. He’s definitely the US’s top defenseman and has been getting quite a bit of playing time (22:42 today, second only to forward Derek Stepan’s 23:56). He’s also the only “Big Name” player we have this year (unless you count Stastny, but that’s more because of his dad/uncles/brother than his play), and has taken up a leadership role on and off the ice (he’s wearing one of the As). Shatty’s also doing well (YAY Shatty!), scoring last game and snagging the 2nd assist on Palmieri’s second today. Also, Fowler has been looking pretty solid on the PP – he just finished his rookie campaign with Anaheim with 40 points (10G, 30A) in 76 games, which made him 2nd in rookie d-man scoring behind Shatty. He’s 6’2 with a left hand shot and plays very well on the power play with Jack Johnson (who, like I said, plays a similar game to EJ). I would love it if the Avs were able to make a deal for him, even if it means giving away our #11. He looks like he’ll be a solid player and a mainstay at Team USA’s blueline for the next decade.
In the case of the forwards, even the Avs have more star power than the USA does right now, so it’s a more overall effort from everyone on the team to get the job done. However, I must admit that the top line of Kreider/Palmieri/Shannon line looks really good right now. Kreider is only 20 and is a prospect for the Rangers – he’s a left wing who plays a solid power forward game and got an assist on Palmieri’s first goal today to go with his goal from last game. If I were the Avs, I might be giving this kid a serious look, and if I were the Rangers, I’d be looking at penciling him into the lineup next year. Palmieri is also young at 21 and just finished up his rookie season with the NJ Devils. Even though he only got 17 points in 42 games this season, he’s already tallied 3 here (2G (today), 1A (last game)) and leads the team in points along with Derek Stepan (3A) and linemate Shannon (the old guy on the line at 28 with 2A today and 1A from last game). The second and third lines are also solid – as mentioned above, there is some serious chemistry on the Wheeler/Stepan/Smith line. It’s been fun watching them play. They’re an energy line that can score… again, very similar to what the Avs are looking at next year. FSoS (First Son of Stastny, Yan), is currently on the 4th line, and apart from his goal last game has been very quiet in this tourney. I’m hoping he steps it up since it’s always nice to hear “Stastny scores!!!!”
The US goaltending is nothing to write home about. Montoya did ok today, probably because he only faced 15 shots. Even so, he only stopped 13 of them. The first goal by Olimb (Even Strength, 8:09 (11:51 left in the first)) was scored off momentum from a successful NOR PK and just barely squeaked across the goal line as Montoya tried to cover it, giving Norway the early 1-0 lead. The second goal was a pretty weak one (Bastiansen, Shorthanded, 9:22 (10:38 left in the first, 1:13 after the first goal)) as the Norway player was on a breakaway after a steal with no one in front of him. Still, the American defense was able to come back after a shitty first period and swing the game to their side during the second. They only allowed 5 SOG during that frame, while their forwards posted 20.
Overall, the USA has a good team. They don’t have the star power Canada does, but they find ways to win and are fun to watch.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday, May 4th, 12:15PM (MST) vs Sweden
USA's Penalty Kill - so far, a perfect 10 for 10 (and I'm really hoping I didn't just jinx it). They've managed to score on 3 of their 10 power play chances, although they allowed a shorthanded goal today.
Canada (the other team I’ll be doing updates on) plays tomorrow at 8:15 MST vs Switzerland. I’ll post links in whatever playoff thread is the most recent.
Holos – he played well today. Even though Norway only got 15 SOG in the entire game, he had 2 of them. It was mentioned at least twice that he was an Avalanche player and was easily of the best skaters on the ice for the Norway team. He was their top defenseman with 27:52 TOI and was +1 on the day.
Norway’s Defense – it’s good. Really good. At one point in the first, they forced the US to make 10+ passes because the Americans couldn’t penetrate the neutral zone, then the Norwegians caused a turnover and had a scoring chance off it. Their coverage fizzled in the 2nd and 3rd – their man to man D started to get beat by the faster USA team – but in the first especially, Norway’s defense was very strong. Their second goal was scored off of a steal (by a forward, but still). And they also play a physical game. They cleanly hit Stuart so hard he was down on the ice long enough for a trainer to come out. He was fine, although he looked really dazed (and pissed) when he got up. Norway will go far in this tourney if they can play a full 60 minutes without so many penalties (7 today) and make sure all their hits are as clean as the one against Stuart.
So, there you have it. GO USA!!!