Florida Panthers prospect Jonathan Huberdeau set up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins third goal of the tournament as Team Canada held on to beat Team USA 2-1 at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia on Sunday. In addition to the helper, Huberdeau finished with a +1 rating but failed to register a shot on goal. Huberdeau set up a couple of other good chances that could have led to secondary assists but Nugent-Hopkins passes to Mark Scheifele were not crisp enough, giving USA goaltender John Gibson the time to slide over and deny Scheifele. Huberdeau also picked up a slashing minor late in the game.
Team USA's Rocco Grimaldi started off on a line with J.T. Miller and John Gaudreau but played most of the game with Sean Kuraly and the dangerous Alex Galchenyuk. Grimaldi was involved in the play but only had one shot on goal and finished with an even rating. He also went 2/2 on face-offs.
Vincent Trocheck continued centering the third line. Tyler Biggs was one of his wingers again while Jim Vesey replaced Mario Lucia with Lucia seeing fourth line duty this time out. Trocheck looked good killing penalties and won 9/16 face-offs. He finished the game with an even rating and had two shots on goal in the third period. Trocheck received a minor late in the game for cross-checking fellow Panther prospect Huberdeau in the back after the whistle had blown.
Ryan Strome notched his fourth goal of the tournament to put Canada up 2-0 in the first period and Jacob Trouba scored the only goal for the US on a third period power play. Trouba has now scored in all three games for Team USA.
Click here for a detailed recap of the game from the official 2013 World Junior Championship site.
Some random observations:
- Jonathan Huberdeau looked pretty good early on but of the three games so far this was the least effective performance by Canada's powerhouse top line. Nugent-Hopkins scored another nice goal off a nifty flip pass from Huberdeau but took a seriously dumb penalty late in the third period and the US came real close to tying the game with time running out. Mark Scheifele continues to impress as the third forward on that line. Despite being a natural center he is shooting first off the wing and not looking to hold on to the puck too long. Huberdeau needs to start putting some more effort into finding the back of the net. No shots on goal is unacceptable for a player of his caliber.
- Rocco Grimaldi was again one of the harder-working US players but this wasn't his best game either. I like Rocco's speed and love his work ethic, but if you are a Panther fan already penciling in this kid as a front line player for the Cats, I'd say hold your horses, at least for now. His size is going to be a bit of an issue and I'm not seeing the elite scoring ability or enough willingness to go to the dirty areas he will need to overcome that. He is definitely worthy of a spot on the big club one day but it might be as a super-pest type bottom six guy with scoring some pop instead of as a top six forward.
- Vincent Trocheck continued to be strong on draws and also seems to be a pretty solid penalty killer. Nothing of note from his line offensively. From a purely selfish point of view as a Panther fan, I'd like to see what he could do with more offensively effective line-mates.
- Malcolm Subban had his best game by far for Canada, stopping 36 of 37 shots. The only shot that beat him came on the power play and off a bit of a broken play. His confidence seems to be growing as Canada picks up wins. I stumped for the Panthers to draft Subban in the first round at the 2012 entry draft but they passed and he was selected by Boston. After looking a bit uncomfortable in the first two games, he definitely proved himself a worthy first-round selection today.
- John Gibson was very good in goal again for the USA. He made a couple of sterling stops to keep the game 2-0 and made a key save on a shorthanded chance that led to the only US goal.
- Team USA really shot themselves in the foot late in the game. After cutting the deficit to one, they had a couple of great chances but then the parade to the penalty box started. The Americans took four really stupid penalties that cost them valuable time to get the equalizer. Canada also took too many penalties and as mentioned above the needless one by captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins almost proved very costly.
- This game wasn't really as close as the final score indicates. Canada completely controlled the play for the first 50 minutes. The Canadian defensive unit had it's best game of the tournament and Subban was slightly better than Gibson today. They did show a lack of killer instinct as one more goal would have put this one to bed early. They should have pressed harder to get a third goal. I fully expected Canada to win this one as they are clearly the better team but I did expect a different type of game. This one was tight but the intensity level wasn't as high as I thought it would be.
- The US is a scrappy, solid bunch but they need to find a way to get some goals and beat Slovakia or they will find themselves in the regulation round. I have to wonder if the Americans left some better goal scorers at home because this group is really struggling.
- Hate to single out a young player but Dougie Hamilton looks like a liability on Canada's power play. He has been sloppy with the puck at the blue line and is downright awful at hitting the net with his shots (does he need an eye test? - I am not kidding here). Canada might want to make a change there going forward, someone is going to burn them for a shortie if this keeps up. On the flip-side, The New York Islanders have a real good one in Ryan Strome who is having his second-straight great performance at the WJC.
- I hate, hate, hate the logo Team Canada uses on its sweaters. Please remove that skater from the Maple Leaf please, it looks ridiculous.
- Other games today - Group A: Finland 5, Switzerland 4 (SO) / Czech Republic 4, Latvia 2 Group B: Slovakia 2, Germany 1 (OT)