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: 3-1 W vs. Germany
Update (5/19): The U.S. caught the Germans in such a vulnerable position and failed to capitalize on it earlier today. A day after Canada dismantled Germany, 8-1, the United States won a tight one today vs. the Germans that ultimately saw them win 3-1. Unfortunately, they do not control their own destiny to win Group A as they only have one game left, the big one vs. Canada Tuesday at 2:15, while Finland has both France and Germany left. Unless they do win the group, it’s looking like they will play the Czech Republic or Sweden in the Quarterfinals. If they do end up winning the group, they would get a much more favorable draw vs. Switzerland. The United States will need some help, but a win vs. Canada Tuesday could be huge. Also of note, Blashill rolled the dice and went with Schneider in goal today, but this time it paid off. The U.S. goaltending situation just got a lot more interesting heading into the playoff round.
Update (5/18): The US looked more like the US in their win over Denmark. Same lineup once again and the consistent flipping of the goalies happened once more with Schneider getting the call. Also, Jeff Blashill became the winningest American coach at the IIHF Worlds for what it is worth. Congrats to Blash!
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 (5/18 vs. GER): 1 G, 0 A, 2 SH, +2, 19:10 TOI
Totals: 6 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 15 SH, 2 PIM, +2, 18:08 TOI
Update (5/19): Ohhhhh baby he did it again! Dylan Larkin scored the game-winner vs. Germany today with about 10 minutes left in the game. He was set up beautifully by JVR, then roofed it short side to give the US the 2-1 lead and they never looked back. He played awesome, set a new tournament high in ice time and outside of Patrick Kane, had the most shifts of any American forward. The showdown between him and Mantha on Tuesday is going to be something else and I can’t wait.
Update (5/18): Larkin had a niiiice goal today vs. Denmark, but other than that, not much. He continues to center the DeBrincat-Kane line and is playing Top 6 minutes, but he’s not wowing anyone at the tournament currently. That is not to say he’s playing poorly, quite the opposite. He’s done a lot of things right, just hasn’t loaded up the stat sheet like I thought he might. Either way, D-Boss and the US are rolling in to their final two games vs. Germany and Canada respectively.
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 (5/19 vs. GER): 0 G, 0 A, 0 SH, +0, 8:44 TOI
Totals: 6 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 SH, +2, 9:22 TOI
Update (5/19): One day I will be able to tell you about how amazing Glendening was in one of these games, but today is not that day. Mr. 4th Line Consistency filled his usual role once more and just played solid. That’s the best word to describe LGD, solid. You know what you will get every game and that is exactly what he has brought to the table in this tournament. I really hope he gets the task of keeping Mantha in check Tuesday, but I doubt he will since matchups haven’t been a priority, or even need, for the U.S. yet in the tournament.
Update (5/18): Glendening saw a tournament high in ice time vs. Denmark, his first game in double digits. It helps when the US finally blew out a team, but they also took five penalties so LGD played much more PK minutes. Either way, he filled his role once more and the 4th line is certainly not a concern for Team USA the rest of the way.
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 (5/18 vs. GER): 0 G, 0 A, +0, 1 SH, 10:52 TOI
Totals: 4 GP, 0 G, 0 A, +1, 3 SH, 9:18 TOI
Update (5/20): Bert was back in the lineup for team Canada in their win vs. Denmark today and even registered a shot. Will be interesting if he plays in back-to-back as the US-Canada game we have all been waiting for takes place tomorrow at 2:15 ET.
Update (5/18): After Alain Vigneault only played Bertuzzi for two minutes last game in their win vs. France, he was scratched for the second time this tournament. It’s tough to really tell if Bertuzzi is playing that poorly or if he is just not getting his chance. Regardless, hopefully he plays again this tournament, because things are looking bad for Bert.
Update (5/16): I was unable to watch today and currently have no clue what happened with Bertuzzi. He was back in the lineup after being scratched vs. Slovakia, yet played all of four shifts. I see nothing about an injury, so that may be performance based. If so, I’d almost rather have him scratched because that little of ice time, vs. France no less, is insulting. Hopefully Bert proves his worth and AV gets harassed by a bunch of Flyers fans even though the season hasn’t started. If you watched, or know anything I don’t about possible injury, penalty, etc. comment below
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 (5/20 vs. DEN): 0 G, 0 A, 1 SH, +1, 18:21 TOI
Totals: 6 GP, 7 G, 4 A, 23 SH, +9, 4 PIM, 15:51 TOI
Update (5/20): Mantha’s impressive point streak ended today in Canada’s win over Denmark. However, he eclipsed his previous best in ice time by over two minutes. D-Boss and Mo are set to meet in a head on collision tomorrow at 2:15 ET on NHL Network with the possibility of a Group A title still on the line.
Update (5/18): Anthony Mantha has been, and should be, the MVP of the tournament. Two more goals today, including an absolutely FILTHY move between the legs in Canada’s domination of Group A leading Germany today. He leads the tournament in goals and is now 3rd in points, two points behind Nylander. He also had his most ice time of the tournament in this game. Canada has one more game before the big finale vs. the United States, as they take on Denmark Monday. Regardless of how Canada finishes, this has been an eye-opening tournament and expectations continue to grow for Mantha going into next year.
Update (5/16): Another day, another game of stat-stuffing by Mantha at the World Championships. He scored the 1st and 4th goals of the game for Team Canada today and is currently 1-point behind Kucherov and Nylander for the tournament lead, and 1-goal behind Evgeni Dadonov and Kaapo Kakko for most goals. What’s funny too is ice time has gone down every game so far. Not sure what has gotten into Mo, but I love it. Let’s do it again Saturday vs. Germany, okay, Anthony?
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 (5/17 vs. ITA): 0 G, 2 A, 1 SH, 4 PIM +1, 19:05 TOI
Totals: 6 GP, 3 G, 6 A, 8 SH, 18 PIM, +7, 19:05 TOI
Update (5/19): Filip Hronek continues to be the best defenseman in the tournament. He had another great game today vs. Austria, adding two assists and playing over 19 minutes, and his point lead for defenseman is up to three. The one concern is his PIMs, as he took two penalties today, and he leads the tournament by 14 PIMs. That’s right, the next closest player only has four. I tend to think it is because of how aggressive he has played offensively, which clearly has been a plus for him as well. But for the Czech Republic to go far in this tournament, Hronek will be needed much more on the ice then in the box, and boy, does that feel awesome to say. There is a bright future in front of us Red Wings fans and it is led by FIlip Hronek on the blue line.
Update (5/17): Hronek was not needed either offensively, or defensively, in the Czech Republic’s dismantling of Italy, 8-0. He led the team in ice time once again, even though he dropped off by about 5 minutes from his previous game. So clearly the Czech’s were just playing everyone as they cruised through Italy. They take on Austria next as they continue to stay in the hunt for the Group B title.
Update (5/16): Oh yeah, the Hronek train is back on track! A goal and assist today vs. Latvia, as well as the most ice of any Czech player by over FOUR MINUTES. His 7 points are the most among D in the tourney, by two, his ice time continues to go up every game and, outside of Kappo Kakko, has been the most impressive young player in this tournament. He’s become THE #1 defenseman for the Czech Republic as well, who are now 3-1, so hopefully that’s foreshadowing the rest of his time in Detroit. Hopefully he, and the Czech’s, can keep rolling tomorrow vs. Italy at 2:15 ET
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 (5/18 vs. GBR): DNP
Totals: 2-1-0, 3.45 GAA, .863%, 57/66 SVs
Update (5/17): Rybar got the start in net for the Slovaks today vs. France, and played okay. For only facing 20 shots, allowing 3 goals isn’t great, but he did end up with the win. It’s clear Ciliak has gotten the #1 job the rest of the way, so hopefully we see Rybar at least one more time before the tournament ends.
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 (5/17 vs. GBR): 0 G, 1 A, 6 SH, +1, 16:09 TOI
Totals: 6 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 16 SH, +2, 14:03 TOI
Update (5/19): Kaski had his best game of the tournament today vs. France. He picked up an assist, and set a new tournament high in ice time. Finland has allowed just seven goals all tournament long, good for 2nd behind the LOADED Russians, and Kaski has proven to be a big part of that. The 23-year-old also has the 2nd most shots of any defenseman in the tournament, just one behind Slovakia’s Erik Cernak, so hopefully he puts one in the back of the net soon. Finland looks to be on their way to a Group A title, and Kaski has played a solid role in that run.
Update (5/17): Kaski is getting closer and closer to scoring in this tournament. He had another stellar game vs. Great Britain, a game which saw both his ice time and shots go up. The Fins are in the running for Group A still, so hopefully we can see a big time goal down the stretch for Kaski at some point.
Update (5/16): Consistency is the name of the game for Kaski. His offense has still yet to be seen in the Worlds, but he had another steady game on the blue line as a 3rd pair D for Finland in their 3-1 win over Denmark. Their next game will be tomorrow vs. Great Britain at 2:15 ET.
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.