Team USA and Team Canada to face off in World Junior Championships semifinals

It’s the game that will be the one everyone will remember from this year’s World Junior Championships. That’s not just North American bias here, it’s the truth. Team USA and Team Canada will clash for the first and only time at this year’s tournament tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. after Team Canada downed Team Switzerland 4-1 in the quarterfinals. The winner of the game goes on to play for the gold medal.

It’s an odd juxtaposition for these two teams as they’ve virtually swapped roles from last year’s tournament. This year, Canada had to deal with a loss to Sweden in the preliminary round that forced them into the quarterfinals rather than getting a bye into the semifinals the way the United States did.

Canada failing to get the bye ensured that the only way the USA and Canada would face each other would be before the medal round of the tournament and sure enough, that’s where we’re at now. While the two teams have equal amounts of talent at forward and defense, the difference between their goaltending is stark and very much in favor of the United States.

The Americans will run with Dallas’ 2010 first round pick Jack Campbell. Campbell was the goalie for last year’s gold medal winning team and he’s looked much stronger this year. Being another year older and a bit more savvy in goal has turned him into a stud in this tournament. In four games, Campbell has won all four games and has put up stunning numbers with a 1.03 goals against average and a .957 save percentage.

Canada’s tandem of Coyotes prospect Mark Visentin and Oilers prospect Olivier Roy have had their problems but Visentin has, so far, proven himself to be the better of the two but not in a way that has given Canadian fans a lot of confidence. Visentin will get the start against the United States tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. The game might not be head-to-head for the gold medal, but this game features the tournament’s two best teams and with the crowds being decidedly more pro-Canada the audience dynamic should be fascinating.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

Getty
1 Comment

Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

1 Comment

Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

3 Comments

The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

1 Comment

Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.