International hockey has forever been my favorite sport. It all started when I was about 6 years old in Marco Island visiting my grandparents on break and sneakily turning on the TV in the back room (where I was supposed to be sleeping with my older brother) to watch the ending of the Sweden-Czech Republic preliminary game. Ever since then I have been hooked (throw in Miracle coming out in 2004 as well). World Juniors, World Championships, Olympics (I watched every mens and womens game last year even without the NHLers), you name it. I love every bit of it. Just representing your country while playing the greatest sport in the world is just so awesome to me. And while I am cheering SO hard for the USA to win Gold for the first time since 1960 (!!!), I obviously am cheering for all of the Red Wings representing their countries to do particularly well in their own right.
So here’s how this will go. I can’t promise I will be able to watch every game, but I will update this daily including stats and other notes I pick up from throughout the tournament. Hopefully we seem some serious Winged Wheel dominance in Slovakia this May!
Jeff Blashill and Dan Bylsma, Team USA
Last game: 6-3 W vs. Great Britain
Update (5/15): It was a brutal win for the U.S. today vs. Great Britain, a team they should have drubbed 10-0. You have to give credit to the Brits, especially goalie Ben Bowns who made 59 saves, for putting up such a fight, but the Americans clearly did not have major motivation to play this game. Give credit to Blashill for not changing the lines once again, as well as going back to the clear #1 goaltender on this team, Thatcher Demko. Team USA is off until Saturday now when they take on Denmark at 6:15 ET.
Update (5/13): Blashill kept the lines the same between the win vs. France and today vs. Finland, outside of putting Schneider in goal instead of Thatcher Demko. Blashill almost got bit for starting Schneider, who is still showing signs of a major regression, even at the international level. But none the less, the US prevailed over Finland 3-2 in OT, and the team moves to 2-1 in Slovakia.
Update (5/12): Not much insight I can provide on the coaches as they aren’t the ones putting up the stats, but you have to like how Blashill was asked to coach Team USA for the 2nd time in 3 years at the IIHF Worlds, and Bylsma, who was head coach of the 2014 Olympic team in Sochi, was brought along with him.
However, you have arguably the most talented team in decades playing for the red, white and blue and they were dominated in the opener. Not to mention he started Patrick Kane on the THIRD LINE in that game. I know Slovakia is the home team, and it was only the first game for a bunch of players who don’t normally play together, but this is something to keep an eye on.
I obviously won’t buy in to international coaching that much, but anything less than a medal for Team USA this year will be head-scratching. They bounced back and crushed France this morning, but it’s France, so not reading into it at all. He did move Kane up to play with DeBrincat and Larkin, which clearly helped as that line combined for 6 points. They take on Finland tomorrow at 10 AM which will be the ultimate test to see where this team is at.
Last Game (5/15 vs. GBR): 0 G, 0 A, 6 SH, -1, 17:49 TOI
Totals: 4 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 13 SH, 2 PIM, +0, 18:05 TOI
Update (5/15): Larkin had a tough game on the stat sheet, but if you actually watched D-Boss play today, he looked great per usual. He didn’t take a shift off, beat everyone to lose pucks, back-checked well to break up rushes, etc. He had a goal in the 2nd Period that was eventually over-turned due to a high stick. Larkin is a playmaker first, not a goal scorer, and he is still making plays for Team USA. Now imagine a scenario where Mantha plays interested in all 82 games next year, as he is in this tournament, and then pair him with Larkin. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Update (5/13): DYLAN LARKIN IS THE GREATEST HOCKEY PLAYER EVER AND FINLAND NEVER STOOD A CHANCE VS. HIM (calms self down). Dylan Larkin played an awesome game in the USA’s win over Finland, and HE was rewarded with the most shifts of any American forward. He was flying around all game long, drawing penalties, and he was in the middle of scrums because he just would not stop pestering the Finns.
He was rewarded with the game-winning overtime goal that moved the Americans just two points out of first place in Group A. Hopefully D-Boss and the rest of the US can keep the momentum going Wednesday vs. Great Britain.
Update (5/12): No one really played well for Team USA vs. Slovakia in the opener. However, one positive was that Larkin got the 4th most ice time among forwards, behind Eichel, Kane and Gaudreau. He also recorded a couple of shots on goal.
In this morning’s game vs. France, Larkin, and the rest of Team USA, finally broke out in a 7-1 win. DeBrincat and Kane led the way (again), but Larkin added a couple of assists later in the game as he centered that line, which is good, since Kane and DeBrincat are the only two playing well since they play together regularly.
I was not awake to see it at 6 AM, but from everything I’m hearing, he had a pretty solid game vs. France. Hopefully that line stays together and keeps gelling, because the big one is next vs. Finland tomorrow.
Last Game (5/15 vs. GBR): 0 G, 1 A, 1 SH, +1, 7:19 TOI
Totals: 4 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 SH, +2, 8:58 TOI
Update (5/15): Glendening did what Glendening does once again. Saw some PK time, won faceoffs, played well in the defensive end and even picked up an assist. I’d love to see LGD put a goal up at some point in these Worlds, especially with some of the competition he is going up against, but he knows his role and continues to fill it nicely for Team USA.
Update (5/13): Glendening once again was the 4th line center for Team USA, which is, and will be, expected from him throughout the tournament. He had a tournament high in ice time, often drawing the matchup with Finland’s top line led by Kaapo Kaako, but other than that, just had himself another Luke Glendening-esque game.
Update (5/12): As mentioned several times, all of Team USA looked flat vs. Slovakia. Glendening had a typical LGD game with some PK time and really nothing else to show for on the stat sheet. Against France, Glendening still did not play much, but it has always been quality over quantity for him as he added an assist. He was the 4th line center between the rotation of Derek Ryan, Colin White and Frank Vatrano, and was not needed much on the PK as the USA only took 1 penalty (Hey Larks) in the game.
Keep an eye on LGD’s ice time going forward, especially tomorrow vs. Finland. My hope is we see that classic Blashill faith in him and he matches up with the red-hot Kaapo Kakko, but who knows with Blash.
Last Game (5/13 vs. SVK): DNP
Totals: 2 GP, 0 G, 0 A, +1, 2 SH, 11:58 TOI
Update (5/13): Bertuzzi played more 4th line minutes in Canada’s slaughter of Great Britain yesterday. He was held pointless, but saw a slight increase in ice time. He was scratched from Canada’s lineup today in favor of Pierre-Luc Dubois, which we certainly don’t like to see. I also could not find anything having to do with a possible injury, so safe to assume he was a healthy scratch. Hopefully Bert can find his way back into the lineup Thursday vs. France.
Update (5/12): Bertuzzi played on the 4th line for Canada in their opening loss vs. Finland. Bert had a pretty decent game, which is saying a lot for how bad Canada looked against. the Fins. He played on a line with 21-year-old Anthony Cirelli, and 22-year-old Mathieu Joseph, making him the seasoned vet on that line.
It will be interesting to see if Alain Vigneault changes the lines up at all for this afternoon’s contest vs. Great Britain. As is the norm for these international teams, it’s tough to expect them to play well right away as many have never played together before. Keep an eye on Bert’s ice time as the tournament goes along, especially with Tavares out for the tournament now.
Last Game (5/13 vs. GBR): 1 G, 1 A, 4 SH, +2, 2 PIM, 14:52 TOI
Totals: 3 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 10 SH, +6, 15:22 TOI
Update (5/13): Mantha must have heard me call him “part-time,” because wow did he wake up vs. Great Britain. Yes, I am well aware it was only Great Britain, but 5 points is 5 points no matter the opponent. As for Canada’s 6-5 thrilling win today vs. Slovakia, well, Anthony Mantha is now in sole place of 2nd in points for the tournament (thanks to William Nylander’s 5-point game for Sweden). Not only that, but the guy is hardly playing 15 minutes a game, and didn’t even hit 15 today. He’s producing at a phenomenal pace, and hopefully we can see more of the same from Mantha the rest of the tournament. Maybe even it carries over into next year. Either way, we are all liking what we see from #39 currently.
Update (5/12): Mantha was thrown on the 3rd line for Team Canada in their opener vs. Finland, paired with Kyle Turris and Jared McCann. Mantha is my key player to watch for the Red Wings at the Worlds this year. “Part-time” Mantha, as I like to call him, left a lot on the table this year with the Wings and vanished several times throughout the year.
I want to see how big of an impact he can have internationally against some of the games best, especially now with everyone having a chance to step up in Tavares’ absence. Like with Bertuzzi, it will be interesting to see what line he will be on this afternoon.
Last Game (5/13 vs. RUS): 0 G, 0 A, 0 SH -2, 12 PIM, 19:37 TOI
Totals: 3 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 SH, 14 PIM, +6, 17:59 TOI
Update (5/13): They ended up giving Hronek another assist in the Czech’s 7-2 win over Norway on Saturday, so coming into today, Hronek was tied for the league lead in points. However, that’s where the luxury came to a screeching halt for Hronek and the Czech Republic as they got shutout, 3-0, vs. Russia today.
Outside of generating no points, going -2 and picking up a 10-minute misconduct late in the game.... okay so he really came back down to reality it seems.
He did still have a personal tournament high in ice time today, and even saved a goal when it was only 1-0 Russia in the 2nd Period. Hopefully he can get back to form over the next few days as they are off until Thursday the Czech’s take on Latvia.
Update (5/12): BREATHE, BREATHE, REMEMBER TO BREATHE. That’s right, Filip Hronek is off to an unreal start at the World Championships. His stats in both games vs. Norway and Sweden speak for themselves, and HE LEADS ALL D-MEN IN POINTS so far.
I know it has only been two games, but four points in two games for our 21-year-old is just an awesome start and he has been by far the best Red Wing up to this point. The Czechs have a big one Monday vs. Russia at 10 AM and you better believe I’ll be flipping back-and-forth, at work, between this game and USA-Finland solely to see what Hronek may do next.
Patrik Rybar, Grand Rapids Griffins
Last Game (5/15 vs. GER): DNP
Totals: 1-1-0, 3.72 GAA, .862%, 40/46 SVs
Update (5/15): Ciliak got the start over Rybar in a HUGE game in Group A. Germany leads the USA by 1-point, and the home team, Slovakia, has just three points. Similar to Rybar, Slovakia got off to a great start vs. the Americans and just haven’t been able to match it since.
Update (5/13): Rybar had a real tough game vs. Canada today, and was pulled in the 2nd period after the 5th goal he allowed. He made 15 out of 20 saves, but his effort was not enough to last the full 60 today. Slovakia went up 2-0 and 4-2 during the game, and bad timely goals on Rybar, including three in nine minutes during the 2nd Period, led to an early exit. Slovakia plays again Wednesday vs. Germany and it will be interesting to see if they go back to Rybar or not. Either way, a tough day for the Griffins net-minder.
Update (5/12): The lone bright spot from Team USA losing was Patrik Rybar in net for Slovakia. Despite a very lackluster performance by the Americans, Rybar answered the call whenever he was needed. The only blemish was the Alex DeBrincat power play goal in the 1st period.
Other than that, the Grand Rapids Griffins net-minder was outstanding. With goaltender being a position filled with question marks down the road for the Red Wings, many probably don’t know who Rybar even is. The Red Wings signed him last May after his impressive performance at last years Worlds. The 25-year-old went 16-21-4 with a 2.49 GAA and a .908% for Grand Rapids this year.
The Czech’s went with Marek Ciliak this morning vs. Finland, and he did not look great allowing 3 goals on only 26 shots in their 4-2 loss. Slovakia’s next game is tomorrow morning vs. Canada, so let’s hope we see Rybar, and that he performs well, as it looks like he will own the net going forward for the home country this year at the World Championships.
Oliwer Kaski, Red Wings/Lahti Pelicans (Liiga)
Last Game (5/13 vs. USA): 0 G, 1 A, 2 SH, +0, 15:24 TOI
Totals: 3 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 4 SH, +1, 13:27 TOI
Update (5/13): Welcome to the Detroit Red Wings, Oliwer Kaski!
The 23-year-old right-handed defenseman will likely compete for a spot right away in Detroit in September. The former Western Michigan Bronco had his best game of the World Championships today vs. Team USA, which included his first point, a secondary assist on Niko Ojamaki’s tying goal late in the 2nd Period, and also saw him play a tournament best in ice time, 2:09 more minutes than his previous best.
His minutes worry me from the stand point that he is on a Finnish team with very few NHL/AHLers and isn’t a Top 4 defenseman, but I’m sure his age plays a part of that. He’s an offensive-defenseman, so hopefully we see more offensive production from him the rest of the tournament. He’s great at jumping up and joining rushes, which we have seen from him a few times this tournament, but because Finland is less-skilled than normal, being on the 3rd pairing hinders Kaski’s ability to seek more offensive rushes.
I certainly will be watching Finland much more now in hopes of learning even more about Kaski. The Finns next game is Thursday vs. Denmark at 2:15 ET on NHL Network.
We’ll see you back here again tomorrow! LGRW.