While the United States and Canada kick off the 2011 World Junior Championships in different groups, they both were able to kick off the tournament today with wins, albeit in much different situations.
Team USA needed overtime to take out Finland 3-2 in their opening game of the WJC. Florida Panthers prospect Nick Bjugstad (pictured) scored the game-winner in overtime to give the Americans the win over a pesky and tough Finland team. Justin Faulk and Jason Zucker had the U.S.A.’s first two goals while Stars prospect goalie Jack Campbell played tough in stopping 32 shots. Finnish goalie Joni Ortio almost stole the show for the Finns stopping 27 shots including some spectacular saves throughout.
With the overtime win, the United States gets two points while Finland gets one point for reaching overtime. Unlike how the NHL awards points, you can earn three points for a regulation win but a win in overtime or the shootout only gets you two. Teams want to get the most amount of points in their group so they can earn a bye straight to the semifinals in the elimination round. The top team in each group earns a bye while the second and third place teams play in the quarterfinals.
For the tournament favorite U.S. team they’ll have to play a bit cleaner defensively and gain some killer instinct if they’re going to repeat as gold medal winners. Jack Campbell had to do his fair share to bail out his teammates in this game, a reminder of what he had to do throughout last year’s tournament to take the U.S.A. to the title.
Canada kicked off this year’s tourney with a 6-3 win over rival Russia. The two teams were matched up evenly through two periods of play, but in the third it would be all Canada scoring three goals in the final period to ice the game. Team Canada captain Ryan Ellis was their player of the game scoring a goal.
Six different scorers got on the board for Canada in the win while Olivier Roy led the way in goal. Jaden Schwartz had two assists to lead the way in points for Team Canada. 2010 top draft picks Erik Gudbranson and Ryan Johansen added goals for Canada as well. Igor Bobkov made 36 saves for Russia in the loss. Dmitri Orlov and Yuri Urychev each had two assists for Russia.
In the day’s other two games, Nino Niederreiter led Switzerland to a 4-3 victory over Germany while Sweden stomped on Norway 7-1 to win their opening round games. Both Canada and the United States resume action on Tuesday with the U.S. taking on Slovakia (8:00 pm) while Canada takes on the Czech Republic (4:00 pm).
Talk about getting thrown into the fire.
Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.
Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.
Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.
We’ll start to find out tonight.
Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.
— Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.
— Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.
— Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.
— Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.
— Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.
— Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.
Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.
“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly.
So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.
That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”
The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.
“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”
That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.
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