In what turned out to be the first marquee game of the World Junior Championships, it would be Team Russia and its defense holding strong and taking out Team USA, 2-1.
With all the stars on the ice for both teams, it would be Russian goalie, and Buffalo Sabres prospect, Andrey Makarov shining brightest stopping 41 shots and frustrating Team USA’s shooters all game.
When it wasn’t Makarov stopping them in goal, it was Russia’s skaters taking time and space away from the Americans and blocking shots. Even in the closing minutes, Nail Yakupov sprawled out head-first to get in front of a shot. (Bet the Oilers loved seeing that.)
Jacob Trouba had Team USA’s lone goal on the power play in the second period. John Gibson stopped 28 shots in the loss.
After the game, Team USA coach Phil Housley told NHL Network’s Rob Simpson he was happy with his team’s effort but thought they may have gotten “too cute” at times. Doing that helped nullify rushes up ice and ended threats before they could begin.
With the regulation loss, Team USA now heads into their game against Team Canada on Sunday needing to get points in one way or another. After Canada disposed of Slovakia earlier today, they moved to the top of Group B with six points. Russia sits in second place with five while Team USA is third with three. With Slovakia in fourth with one point, further American losses put them in danger of being jumped in the standings.
Sweden edged Switzerland 3-2 in a shootout. Habs prospect Sebastian Collberg and Hurricanes prospect Victor Rask each had goals for the Swedes.
Czech Republic upset Finland 3-1. Kings prospect Tomas Hyka scored for the Czechs while Teuvo Teravainen had Finland’s lone tally.
If you’re looking at that headline regarding the Carolina Hurricanes nabbing Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks in a state of awe, don’t feel too badly.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that even Darling’s representatives didn’t see it coming.
But it did indeed happen, as the Hurricanes sent a third-round pick in 2017 to Chicago for Darling. It sounds like the Blackhawks were going to part ways with Darling one way or another, so they get a decent pick for their trouble.
Darling is scheduled to be a UFA this summer, so the Hurricanes must believe that they can sign a goalie Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman described as “always reliable.”
The Hurricanes could have chosen to keep Darling in their organization, but apparently he didn’t make a huge first impression during this opportunity:
“Reliable” might honestly be selling Darling, 28, a little short. In 75 regular season games, he generated a fantastic .923 save percentage and even excelled when called upon in the playoffs.
With the Hurricanes’ mess in net in mind, you have to credit GM Ron Francis & Co. for being proactive … assuming they can sign Darling to a reasonable deal.
Carolina and Chicago seem comfortable as trade partners, as the two teams also made the Teuvo Teravainen/Bryan Bickell deal fairly recently.
P.K. Subban certainly made his presence felt to begin the Predators’ series vs. the Blues. Leon Draisaitl stole the spotlight in helping the Oilers beat the Ducks in their Game 1. Who will step up in Game 2 of each series? We’ll find out soon.
Here’s what you need to know:
Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues (Preds lead 1-0)
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)
Check out the highlights from Nashville’s 4-3 win in Game 1.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks (Oilers lead 1-0)
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)
Check out the highlights from Edmonton’s 5-3 win in Game 1.
Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.
Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.
It’s easy to see why.
He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.
“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.
On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.
Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.
From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.
In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.
And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.
During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.
Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.
“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”