For The Love of the Game

by Mike Ries

The NHL trade deadline came and went as teams loaded up for the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs. The biggest surprise it seemed was the Los Angeles Kings moving veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenceman Vladislav Gavrikov and the key to the deal goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. Quick was upset, his wife was upset and the Los Angeles fan base seemed quite upset. This of all the trades and movement at and before the trade deadline really rubbed me the wrong way and unfortunate circumstances did not allow me to voice my opinion until now.

Jonathan Quick at this stage of his career is not the top tier goaltender that he once was, as the Kings captured Stanley Cups in 2012 and again in 2014. The Kings after the All-Star break seemed to find their game and despite the inferior goaltending of Quick and Cal Peterson the heir apparent to the crease after Quick retired. Fast forward Peterson is in the AHL as an 0.868 save percentage is not to NHL standards. Quick and his 0.876 in 31 games proved his time as NHL goaltender were coming to an end. That left journeyman Pheonix Copley as the answer and Kings management were not comfortable with him as the only answer heading to the playoffs.

Back story set, Los Angeles needed an upgrade and in Korpislao they have a solid top tier NHL goalie. Here is what is bothersome to me. The fact that Quick was upset, that he was traded to Columbus and how he was treated by general manager Rob Blake. Sorry Mr. Quick but in your career you have made an estimated 63 million dollars. The rest of us in the real world should not have any sympathy for you and your entitled lifestyle. It was a business decision and what was best for the Los Angeles Kings as the NHL lives in a cap related world. You have your millions, your cup rings and a stellar career. You sir are not an NHL Hall of Fame goalie, a hero 10 plus years ago to the Kings faithful. But now your time as a King was up and instead of just saying thank you to the organization and the Kings fans. You decided that you would take the unprofessional and entitled stance that they, the Kings organization owed you something. They owe you nothing, it is sports, it is a business and you are not entitled to your opinion and feelings. The unfortunate thing about people this day and age, is everyone it seems is owed something.

The NHL player that plays for the love of the game is rare. There are exceptions of course as it is unfair to paint everyone with the same brush. It seems especially the top tier players are more concerned about their brand and the next endorsement deal than the Stanley Cup. Sports are a reflection of life to a point and with the age group that makes up the bulk of NHL rosters it is no wonder that the entitled moniker is fitting. This in turn is why the lack of passion and desire is missing from the game today. It still is alive in the minor pro, college and junior hockey, as players still have the desire to improve their game. Some play for the love of the game as they know an NHL career is not in their future. That passion is what is lacking in today’s NHL game, no hitting, no fighting, no aggression and this is the game we have now.

The days of Punch Imlach and ruling the team with an iron fist are long gone. But the way the players are treated now is an absolute joke. To play a game you love and make millions of dollars is a dream for most and the players that make it to this level need to appreciate that. Unfortunately in this era most do not and feel that the team and the league owe them something beyond a fat paycheck. Paraphrasing a couple of sayings to cap these thoughts …. give your balls a tug, shut your mouth and know your role


Trades, Trades and More Trades

by Mike Ries

The March 3rd 3:00 pm NHL trade deadline came and went with clear cut winners and a few shall we say losers in respect to adding to their respective rosters. The league leading Boston Bruins made the biggest splash by adding Orlov, Hathaway, and Bertuzzi to add to their solid lineup. The New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs added significant pieces and are proving they are all in for Lord Stanley. The Rangers, with Tarasenko and Kane added to the forward group will be tough to beat come playoff time. The Leafs added much needed defensive depth and heavy players to the core that is sorely lacking in any physical presence. The key with the Leafs will be goaltending, as previously noted Samsonov should be the go to guy as he has been the most reliable and less fragile than Matt Murray. Kyle Dubas as also suspected has gone all in with this group. For him and his tenure with Toronto, it is Stanley Cup or bust. The other team in the East that took a major step forward are the New Jersey Devils. They added Timo Meier to a solid group that is still maturing and ahead of schedule as far as their development is concerned. Tampa Bay is well, Tampa Bay and added a depth forward, Tanner Jeannot for what seems the last of their draft picks for the near future. But rest assured they will be in the mix in the East when all is said and done.

One of the biggest losers appear to be the Carolina Hurricanes who did not jump into the arms race in the East and chose not to mortgage their future as many have this year. A shrewd move as the team is solid in their own right and will be able to add in the off season to bolster their roster. General Manager Don Waddell is one of the best in the business and may be banking on next season as the year of the Caniac. The team that once again seems to lack any direction and added players that will not help them improve now or in the future as the Minnesota Wild. The addition of Nyquist and Johansson are depth forwards at this stage of their careers. The Wild are not solid contenders and should have moved pieces, including Matt Dumba to secure their future. Alas Bill Guerin continues to go about his job with no solid direction.

People will argue that the Buffalo Sabres and Seattle Kraken did not improve at the deadline. As well they should not have neither is a solid Stanley Cup contender and are a few years from contention. To stay the course and follow the plan is smart on both teams and respective general managers. The Pittsburgh Penguins have decided to ride or die with Crosby and Malkin and added pieces to help reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs once again. The Washington Capitals have accepted their fate, that they are not contenders and cast off spare pieces for draft picks.

Coming out of the West, the defending Stanley Cup Champions Colorado Avalanche added depth and are poised to defend their title. The Avalanche will have the Oilers, Golden Knights and possibly the Los Angeles Kings to deal with on their quest for the Cup. The East will be a meat grinder to reach the Cup Final, the Bruins, Devils, Rangers, Leafs, Hurricanes and Lightning are all capable of reaching the Final. What is known for sure is that there is no clear cut favorite for the right to hoist Lord Stanley and it will make for an exciting post season.

Toronto Maple Leafs Begin to Roll the Dice

by Mike Ries

The Toronto Maple Leafs added veteran center Ryan O’Reilly in a deal that cost the Leafs a first and third round pick this coming NHL Draft and a second round pick in 2024. O’Reilly adds more than an offensive side to the Blue and White, he brings leadership and grit. Those two attributes are sorely lacking in the Leafs dressing room and on the ice. Ryan will slot in as the second line center, shifting captain John Tavares to the wing for the near future. The other piece they acquired in the trade with the Blues was Noel Acciari center/ winger a piece that coach Sheldon Keefe can move up and down his lineup who like O’Reilly plays hard on the puck.

While the O’Reilly trade improves the Leafs upfront and solidifies the forwards for the playoff push. The general manager still has glaring holes in his lineup. Most notably the defence and the lack of mobility from the Leafs top pairings. As much as he has played admirably this season Mark Giordano should not be a second pairing defenceman at this point of his career. As well the play of Justin Holl does not justify being your top pairing right defenceman. Morgan Reilly has seen his game suffer this season as the truly only offensively gifted defenseman on a thin Leafs defence corps . The obvious fix is San Jose defenceman Erik Karlsson, the elephant in the room is his cap hit of 11.5 million. That would be the stumbling block for Toronto, the Sharks would have to retain a good portion of the salary for the duration of the contract( though the 2026/27 season). This year of course it is pro-rated to games remaining in the regular season. His resurgence at the age of 31 may only be temporary , but he is what Toronto desperately needs to solidify the rearguard position.

The other glaring hole in the Maple Leafs roster is goaltending. Toronto has not learned that trying to rehash other teams cast off goalies and career backups into starters does not work. They have tried this solution to their woes going back to Jonathan Bernier and we all know how well that went. Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray was brought in to replace the underwhelming Jack Campbell and has performed on par with what critics expected. Flashes of brilliance, but often injured and when he has a bad game, it is really bad. As predicted at the beginning of the season Ilya Samsonov has been handed the number one spot, more by default than performance. If the Leafs and Dubas are comfortable with Samsonov and Woll heading into the playoffs, they are delusional to say the least. The list of upgrades in goal are short and may place Toronto in the same boat they find themselves in currently. What the management team decides may determine the Leafs destiny this season.

The Leafs need to continue to wheel and deal if they truly want to appease the rabid Leafs Nation fan base. The caveat to that may be the fact the Dubas and Shanahan may actually be arrogant enough to believe that this season will not determine their fate. This NHL trade deadline may be one of the most important Trade deadlines in recent Toronto Maple Leaf history.

Time To Put Up Or Shut Up For Some NHL Teams

by Mike Ries

As the NHL Trade Deadline fast approaches front running teams and teams on the bubble have major personnel decisions to make. These decisions will dictate their teams future for years to come and can ultimately decide how far they advance in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The deals have already started as the New York Rangers who at the beginning of the season, were chosen by yours truly to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals…added a key piece in Vladimir Tarasenko for very little in return. The Rangers are not done by a long shot, but may not be in the Patrick Kane sweepstakes. Kane seems generally pissed off that he has not been moved to the Rangers already instead of Tarasenko. He may now end up with the Toronto Maple Leafs, an asset the Leafs do not need but a perfect fit for the Kyle Dubas circus. The Leafs need more physical players in the top nine forward positions and an aging Kane is not something that will propel the Leafs going forward. The Rangers rival the Islanders their own splash trading for Canucks Captain Bo Horvat again for a relatively low price tag.

The biggest prize may be St. Louis forward and Captain Ryan O’Reilly is the type of player any and I mean any Stanley Cup contender would covet and be an integral part of building a championship team. A second line center who can score and is responsible at both ends of the ice, can kill penalties and play on a power play two. The perfect marriage would be the defending Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche as they desperately need a second line center.

Patrick Kane would be a better fit on the Edmonton Oilers as a support piece to McDavid and Draisaitl at this stage of his career. The Oilers are in need of a puck moving defenceman more than a secondary scoring winger. Unfortunately those are hard to come by and unless Ken Holland can work some magic with San Jose for Erik Karlsson they may have to live with what they have. The Oilers still need help in goal , the improved play of goalie Jack Campbell is still not enough to convince anyone he is the answer between the pipes for Edmonton.

The other team that may be a big player as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches are the Minnesota Wild a team that appears to be on the rise. They added Ryan Reaves earlier this season and it seemed to change the dynamic of the team for the better and pushed them into a playoff position. The problem is they are not a true contender for the Stanley Cup, mid level at best . If they mortgage part of their future this season for a chance to have an extended playoff run this year it will hurt them in the long run. It is unlikely that they will be able to land Kane or O’Reilly and General Manager Bill Guerin seems to throw things at the wall to see if they will stick and has done a lackluster job at best in his role as the teams General Manager and do not be surprised if the job is handed off to Ray Shero who is the current Senior Advisor to Guerin.

There is one thing for sure, with bottom teams tanking for Connor Bedard there will be more deals than ever at or before the NHL Trade Deadline. The bottom teams will be looking to jettison anyone who is of any value to a contender and not part of their young core. It will make for a solid post season and an interesting home stretch for the regular season.

The Florida Panthers and How To Mismanage A Pro Franchise

by Mike Ries

The Annual NHL All-Star game descends on Sunrise Florida this weekend and it appears that hockey fans do not seem to care or are oblivious to the fact that the Panthers were on the upswing and poised to become serious Stanley Cup contenders. The former regime of General Manager Dale Tallon and Director of Amatuer Scouting Jason Bukula together had built a solid team from the ground up. Tallon had previously built the Chicago Blackhawks into a Stanley Cup Champion and was unceremoniously let go as a result of infighting and politics in the Blackhawks organization. He landed in Florida in 2010 and was joined by Bukula the following year and the transformation of the Panthers began.

Tallon and Bukula developed a solid draft record over their tenure and set the wheels in motion as the team began to gain traction and develop into a winner albeit on a slow curve. The Panthers had success in their top NHL Draft picks during the decade that Tallon was the General Manager with the likes of Huberdeau, Crouse, Ekblad, Barkov, Matheson and Knight finding success at the NHL level with the Panthers organization or other NHL franchises. To have a successful NHL team you have to hit on your first round draft picks. Just ask the Montreal Canadiens previous regime, who had the worst draft history in recent memory. Tallon, who has a profound knack of trading for serviceable players as prefaced with the Blackhawks.

The Panthers were well on their way to contention, when along came Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and for some unknown reason wanted changes. That included the unprofessional firing of Head Coach Gerard Gallant and the hiring of nonhockey analytics people. Tallon had been moved to an executive position the previous season and replaced by Tom Rowe, who then replaced Gallant as Head coach. The turmoil in the organization had begun even though the team on the ice still was building towards a bright future.

By the 2018 season it was clearly evident that the Dale Tallon regime was a ticking time bomb and all the success they had in bringing a team from last in their Division into contention was all for not. By the 2020 season it was over for Tallon and Bukula as they were let go, or however you would like to phrase it. Tallon did have one parting shot as he rewarded free agent goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky with a 7 year $70 million dollar contract after the pair had drafted Spencer Knight to be the goaltender of the future. One wonders if that was a giant middle finger and a parting shot to the Panthers organization and specifically owner Vincent Viola.

Enter the new regime of Bill Zito, who has taken credit for the Panthers success, when it is widely known he is riding the coat tails of the previous regime. His handling of the Andrew Brunette coaching situation, in not bringing him back, even though he was loved by the players and would have been the smart choice to lead this team going forward. His trades have been horrendous to put it midly. The Claude Girioux and Ben Chiarot trades last season were a feeble attempt to make an ill-fated run at Lord Stanley. The previous season he brought in a core of veterans that jumped the team salary cap and did little to improve the team. It did however hurt their future as prospects were given away like cars at an Oprah Winfrey show. This off season he gave away their most undervalued defenceman in MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt, another first round pick(2025, at least this one is protected as the Panthers will be once again at the bottom looking up) and the one guy who truly embraced playing for the Florida Panthers Jonathan Huberdeau. The golf course phone call is legendary.

Now the Panthers are in danger of not making the playoffs , having an aging overvalued roster and little talent in the prospect pool. Not to mention a coach who the players do not like and are under performing for, who also is overpriced. This all in two plus seasons after a decade of constructing a winner, that was on the doorstep of something special. Do not blame the players, they just take what is given, blame mismanagement and a meddling owner. Once again the FLA live arena will be empty and the team will be on the outside looking in.

The Leafs Will Be All In For Lord Stanley

by Mike Ries

It is well known that this is the final attempt by the Shanahan/ Dubas/ Keefe regime to get the Toronto Maple Leafs over the hump and at the very least a deep Stanley Cup playoff run. But what is expected from Leaf Nation is a Stanley Cup parade in downtown Hogtown. It also is no secret that the Leafs need to tighten up defensively as the run and gun style they have utilized with this core. As pretty as it is in the regular season teams clamp down in the run for Lord Stanley and it has cost the Leafs every year of this regime. As successful as they have been in the regular season it has been nothing short of demoralizing with no playoff series wins. It has been a long time since the Cup win of 1967, it also is approaching 20 years without a series win, going back to 2004 and 2002 since they won two playoff rounds. This group has to their credit, except for Mitch Marner who seems content to set meaningless team records have become very defensive minded and responsible at both ends. They are led by Auston Matthews, who has put the Rocket Richard trophy aspirations on the back burner and become a leader on the team with a solid 200 foot game.

Expect the Leaf brain trust to be active at the trade deadline. They may well add another goaltender with NHL experience as an insurance policy if either Matt Murray or Ilya Samsonov falter or worse end up on IR. The Leaf faithful, while happy with the play of both this season are waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop and have the unenviable task of watching another train wreck that has become the goaltending in the Blue and White over the past few seasons.

With the emphasis on defense this season and the solid play of the defencemen most notably Mark Giordano who is playing for the league minimum and while not to the level of his prime he has been the steadiest of the rearguards on the Leafs all season. That being said expect the Buds to add a top four defenceman to the fold. Who that will be, will depend on who their trading partner will be. Most likely Arizona or the Montreal Canadiens will be looking to the Leafs to add some of the prospects from the Marlies or drafted players. Both Jakob Chychrun or Shane Gostisbehere would be perfect fits on the Leafs blue line. From the Habs Joel Edmundson and David Savard, while not as attractive as Chychrun and Gostisbehere will be less expensive and allow for Toronto to make a move on a top nine forward. The Leafs will certainly add to the forward ranks as an insurance policy and to give the coaching staff options come playoff time. This leads one to believe that they may pull off a multiplayer trade with the likes of the Habs who have numerous forwards available and who are serviceable to Toronto. Players that come to mind that would be a great fit in Toronto are Dvorak, Monohan and Anderson. Both Arizona and Montreal have cap space to help the Leafs in that regard as well.

One thing is for certain the team that the Leafs are icing at the present time will undergo some changes by the time that the NHL trade deadline passes. Do not be shocked if there are four to five fresh new faces in the Leafs lineup to start their quest for Lord Stanley and to erase the ghosts of seasons past.

What is Connor McDavid to Do?

by Mike Ries

The Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid were joined at the hip in 2015 as the Oilers again won the draft lottery and the biggest prize in hockey since the Pittsburgh Penguins finished last and were rewarded with Mario Lemieux in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. The look on McDavid’s face when the Oilers lottery ball was shown, was well priceless and foreboding. It would be their fourth lottery number one pick, Taylor Hall(2010), Ryan Nugent Hopkins(2011) and who can forget Nail Yakupov(2012). A golden ticket to the Stanley Cup, one would think with four first overall NHL picks in six years in your lineup. But quite the contrary as the Oilers stumbled their way to a 31-43-0-8 record and last place in the Pacific Division. The Oilers had traded for up and coming New York Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot. Talbot was left exposed by a weak defensive Oilers team to say the least and despite his best efforts he was tossed away for career backup Anthony Stolarz in 2019 and has continued to be a serviceable goalie at the NHL level. Much better than the options the Oilers have in the net today, yes even better than Stuart Skinner.

In the 2016/17 season the Oilers seemed to have gotten things right, Talbot logged 73 games and went 42-22-8. McDavid was the phenom everyone had hoped for topping the 100 point plateau and the 2014 third overall pick Leon Draisaitl was fast becoming a superstar. The Oilers had rid themselves of Yakupov and traded Taylor Hall the previous savior of the Oilers for a solid defenceman in Adam Larsson. Things were looking great again in the Oil Country as they added muscle with Milan Lucic, Pat Maroon and Zack Kassian. These additions were in the hopes they would create space for their budding superstars. They also had the additions of more first round picks in defencemen Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and forward Jesse Puljujarvi. Things were certainly looking up for Edmonton as they won their opening round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, but would ultimately lose their next round series in seven games against the Anaheim Ducks. This would be the summit of the success of the Connor McDavid led Oilers and the losing would begin the very next season.

Fast forward six seasons and the Oilers are in the same quicksand they have been since McJesus had burst onto the scene in Oiler Territory. Unfortunately you just cannot make this crap up. Edmonton without a doubt is the most mismanaged and inept hockey club in the NHL. Even the Toronto Maple Leafs have learned to play defence, the Oilers not so much and for all the scrutiny Kyle Dubas is submitted to, he was smart enough to let goalie Jack Campbell walk. Edmonton would have been smart to keep Eberle, Larsson and Talbot along with Maroon and Kassian. They gave away Eberle and the draft rights to Matt Barzal , Mitchell Stephens for Griffin Reinhart, if Oiler fans have not forgotten.

The Oilers have had McTavish, Chiarelli, K.Gretzky and Ken Holland as General Managers all touted as saviors and promised to bring back the glory years. Not one has done even close to that. Coaches have been the recycled variety from McLellan, Hitchcock to Dave Tippett. Now we have Jay Woodcroft who was a hold over from Mclellan and his San Jose Staff that relocated to the great White North. Woodcroft was an assistant in the NHL and a head coach in the AHL and it shows in his lack of command of the room. His solution to the Oilers and the lack of success is to pair up McDavid and Draisaitl on the same line…… genius, no one would have thought that one up. Then he turns and uses McDavid as a penalty killer another brainstorming idea.

Connor McDavid is without a doubt the greatest player since Wayne and Mario and it is a crying shame that he has wasted eight seasons in Edmonton and has nothing to show for it besides four Art Ross, three Ted Lindsay and two Hart Memorial trophies and 774 points in 529 NHL games. Any other franchise would have had at least a pair of Stanley Cups to go with his personal accomplishments. This year alone he is on his own, trying to will them back into the playoffs. The culture is what needs to change to bring back Lord Stanley North of the Border and specifically to Edmonton.

Connor will be an unrestricted free agent in 2025/26 and 29 years old. He will not continue with the Oilers if they cannot get their collective asses together and refocus this team once again, but this time in the right direction. A disconnect from the old guard, although sacrilegious in Edmonton, it must be done and let Ken Holland do his job. He is a great hockey mind and has yet to be left to build this team as he sees fit or Connor may well wear the 97 in different colors in the near future.

Ohhhhh Canada!!!!!!

by Mike Ries

Team Canada played their most complete game of the 2023 World Junior Championship in a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory to capture Gold twice in less than six months. The game was a revenge game of sorts for the Canadians as they dropped an embarrassing opening game to Czechia. As with short tournaments the team will take time to round into shape and this was never more true as with this version of Team Canada World Juniors. Canada played strong at both ends of the ice and capatilized on the few mistakes Czechia made to grab a 2-0 lead. Czechia continued to be the strongest defensive team in the tournament, slowing the transition game of Canada by pressuring the defencemen and disrupting the pass out of the Canadian zone.

Canada benefited from sound goaltending once again by Thomas Milic, this time he did not have to be spectacular, just solid and let the offence do its thing for Canada. Canada as expected held a significant edge with shots on goal 38-26. Tomas Suchanek of Czechia was outstanding in the early stages of the game and steady throughout the later stages giving his team a chance at Gold. Jiri Kulich the Buffalo Sabres first round pick, it seemed was in on every Czechia scoring chance and always around the Team Canada net.

Canada played an almost perfect game, with every shift it appeared as each player on the ice gave everything they had. Canada played as a team, not as a group of highly skilled individuals as they had in the opening game against Czechia. As the tournament progressed you could see the team start to come together and individualistic play became less and less. This game showcased once again that Canada has the infrastructure to produce some of, if not the best hockey players in the world. There was a time when Canada was miles ahead of countries in developing professional hockey payers and as the game grew and the world became a smaller place that talent gap narrowed. As the game has changed we as a country allowed ourselves to become complacent and we seemingly took a back seat to other nations in developing hockey talent. With the growth of the game at home now being a focus for both men and women and boys and girls we are rising to the top of the international hockey scene once again.

Two World Junior Championship Gold Medals inside of six months is, hopefully a feat we will not repeat. This tournament belongs over the Christmas holidays and lets pray we have put the Covid era behind us for good. This tournament also belongs in smaller markets and not NHL sized arenas, it needs to be brought back to its roots. This tournament was a huge success thanks in large part to the fans in Atlantic Canada. The fans were genuine and supported not only Team Canada but all the Teams involved. They cheered their hearts out for every underdog in the tournament. Take a bow Canada you did yourself proud!!!

The Thomas Milic Show Leads Team Canada to a Gold Medal Showdown with Czechia

by Mike Ries

Team Canada once again is heading to the Gold Medal game at the World Junior Championships. Team Canada can thank goaltender Thomas Milic for the berth in the final. The undersized four year Seattle Thunderbirds goalie, who was passed over in the NHL draft not once but twice stood tall in the Team Canada net. His performance was without question the best by a goaltender in these World Junior Championships.

Team USA stormed out to a two goal lead early in the first period and by all accounts should have widened their lead by at least two more goals before the end of the period. The Phenom Connor Bedard instead closed the gap before the end of the opening frame. The USA seemed to take their foot off the neck of the Canadians and allowed them back into the game. The disallowed USA goals, of which both were challenged by Team Canada were a bone of contention with American fans and USA coach Rand Pecknold, were both by IIHF rules waved off. Whether it affected the play of the Americans after each is a distinct possibility.

The bottom line is the USA goaltending was not good enough, as I had mentioned previously either team needed their goaltender to not necessarily win the game, just not lose it. This held true with the Americans, as Canada had 36 shots on USA netminder Trey Augustine. He was not sharp and did not give the Americans saves when they needed them. Milic on the other hand time and time again made highlight reel saves to keep Canada in the game. That was the difference in the end.

The Americans were the better team in the opening period and held a 9-0 advantage in shots on goal at one point. They contained Connor Beard for the most part, but his linemates Joshua Roy who had four points and Logan Stankoven added a goal and an assist. Projected early first round pick Adam Fantilli had his best game of tournament facing several of his University of Michigan teammates, adding a goal and an assist.

The second period was the undoing of the United States as Team Canada gave them a taste of their own medicine scoring three unanswered goals to all but bury the Americans. The breakdown of the Americans defence cost them as Team Canada used their size and speed to overwhelm the undersized but highly skilled USA defence pairings.

The conjecture over the disallowed goals has clouded what was a dominant victory by the Canadians. Regardless Team Canada won and if not for the play of Thomas Milic, the disallowed goals would have only lessened the margin of victory for the USA. The score very well could have been 8-6 for the Americans, but it was not to be and Canada deserves full marks for their 6-2 win and now turns its focus to a revenge game versus Czechia for Gold.

Team USA Will Be A Tough Test For Team Canada

by Mike Ries

The all-time points, goals and points in a single World Junior Championship tournament leader for Team Canada was also the overtime hero to send the Canadians to the semifinals against their old foe Team USA. Sweden will face-off against Czechia who is looking to medal since 2005 when they captured bronze. Connor Bedard finished the game with three points(2 goals and an assist) including the highlight reel overtime winner.

Slovakia showed the hockey world that Team Canada is sorely lacking in defensive play and the Canadian offensive prowess is the main skill they bring to the table. Canadian fans will disagree, but for another Bedard highlight goal they may well have been sent packing. Slovakia was in a prevent defense throughout the overtime and was playing for the shootout. With a goaltender on a heater the way Gajan was, it was a strategy that may have worked well. Bedard looks like a man amongst boys and seems to impress in different ways every game. Bedard has become the darling of the tournament and the press loves a good story and oh how they have shifted the focus from the team to squarely on Bedard. Every few years it seems there is another phenom that comes along and Bedard is the one in this tournament.

Slovakia goaltender Adam Gajan was nothing short of spectacular stopping 57 of 61 Canadian shots. The 18 yr old Gajan started the tournament as the third goalie for Slovakia but soon captured the number one role and turned in the goaltending performance of the tournament , he and his Slovakian teammates deserved a better fate as they gave Team Canada fits all game. Gajan has been buried in the NAHL with the Chippewa Steel as his USHL rights are held by the Green Bay Gamblers. Green Bay already has standout goaltender Kristoffer Eberly between the pipes and is scheduled to attend Ohio State next season. Gajan will be attending the University of Minnesota-Duluth, unless a CHL team can lure him north of the border.

The USA will present a whole set of new problems for Team Canada and coach Dennis Wiliams. Along with lack of solid team defence, the coaching this year has been less than stellar and as the tournament moves along the cracks in the armour of Team Canada have begun to show. The United States, for the first time in a long time has not iced a team that is highly skilled talent wise at forward. They are solid top to bottom and have the best one, two punch on defense with the Luke’s Hughes and Middlestadt. They have the strongest defense corps in the tournament, with five second round NHL picks, one first round pick and one fourth round pick and Middlestadt. The key to this matchup will be Canada’s offense versus the Americans defense. The Americans have an edge in coaching with Rand Pecknold and though they do not have the offensive firepower of the Canadians, they are more of an evenly balanced roster. The goaltending has been less than stellar for either team and whichever goaltender doesnt make a mistake will be key. The game will be hard fought, but whoever can manage to secure a lead will be in the drivers seat and move on to the Gold Medal game