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Day one at the 2017 IIHF World Championships: All Leafs saw action

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It wasn’t the heroic debut William Nylander wanted, but both Mitch Marner and Miro Aaltonen got some offence going.

Sweden v Russia - 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

Sweden vs Russia

2-1 Russia in a shootout

The most competitive match likely for Group A in Germany came on the opening day, when the top two teams met in the early game.

In front of a sold out crowd, the pace was fast and the whistles seemed to be in pockets, NHL style.

Sweden dominated territorial in the first half much of the time. Their top line was particularly effective and their first goal was scored by Elias Lindholm from Victor Rask and Victor Hedman. Unfortunately that was the only goal the Swedes scored all game.

Russia came out with power and speed in the third, and everything that had been working before started to fray at the edges. Countering the Vegas/Chicago line of Vadim Shipachyov, Yevgeni Dadonov and Artemi Panarin with the Rask, Lindholm and Gabriel Landeskog line stopped working as it had been in the second.

Sergei Andronov evened the score for Russia from Alexander Barabanov, and Ivan Provorov, who was excellent all game.

The third period didn’t decide the game, and neither did a thrilling overtime that was the first three-on-three as the Men’s World Championships. The shootout decided the game on one goal by Panarin. William Nylander was up next with a chance to hold even, but he flubbed his shot attempt.

Nylander did not have a great game. He wasn’t terrible either, but he struggled with slower and less offensively gifted linemates in Carl Söderberg and William Karlsson. Perhaps a more experienced player would know how to tailor his game to what was a sort of strange, hybrid checking line, not really different from what Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov do, just nowhere as gifted.

Landeskog was on the Söderberg line in the tune-up games, and he has a game that can emphasize either facet of his play, so it worked.

Nylander was able to utilize the active defence to have able scorers to make plays to, but he was in the offensive zone too far ahead of the other forwards much of the time. When they were moving up-ice, they weren’t connecting on passes, negating Nylander’s major talent at zone entries.

This fan speaks for me.

Early in the game, the Swedish coach had Nylander’s line facing Shipachyov a lot and they held their own, but they did it mostly in the Swedish end, and they weren’t generating chances.

In the overtime, Nylander was both brilliant with a hard backchecking steal from Panarin, and dull in his attempts to outplay Panarin in the Russian zone. He also got stuck on for too long and turned the puck over on purpose just to get off.

Interestingly, some of Söderberg’s value showed up in OT, with some tough board work and good defensive play. But earlier in the game, on a scoring chance, he had no shot, and he didn’t have much to offer in support of Nylander’s play. He had three shots on goal to Nylander’s one, and the obvious problem is obvious: Nylander is a passer who has no shooter to pass to.

In the shootout, Nylander did not look like a man with a plan. The Swedish forward pool is so shallow, that Oliver Ekman-Larsson was the second choice to take a shot. If Nylander had evened it up after Panarin’s goal, there is no guarantee the Russians wouldn’t have just won it on the next round.

So, it was a team loss, as they all are, and a mixed bag for Nylander’s Worlds debut. Not his best game ever, and I’d like to see him with Marcus Krüger and Joel Eriksson Ek in the next one.

Just a note, Calle Rosén is not yet on the roster as they leave openings for more NHL players.

Finland vs Belarus

3-2 Finland in regulation

Miro Aaltonen played his first World Championship game at the same time as the Russia - Sweden game. He was supposed to play on the top line with Valtteri Fillpula and Sebastian Aho, and those two teamed up to score the first goal.

Aaltonen played very low minutes in the game, as did Aho, as Finland looked to be riding out a 2-0 lead they had after five minutes of play.

Belarus scored once in the second period and again early in the third, before Finland won the game on a power play goal.

The highlights show Aaltonen (#15) in the slot screening on the first goal. And then you see his two shots on goal, so he was in the game! And wow, that first Belarus goal is a stinker for Finland.

Czech Republic vs Canada

4-1 in regulation

Nothing very unexpected happened in this game beyond the Radko Gudas on Giroux punch. It might surprise some that a maligned Colorado Avalanche goalie was excellent, but that often happens when Calvin Pickard gets the red and white team in front of him. No wait, these uniforms are more black and white for some reason.

Mitch Marner played on a line whose collective age is 61 with Travis Konecny of the Flyers and Brayden Point of the Lightning, and they were fast and fun, and had a lot of chances. This was the prettiest early on:

Canada did what they do, scored, scored again, dominated a lot of the time, gradually exhausted the Czechs, who have a very good team, and cruised on through the third period up 2-0, easily killing a few penalties with a PK almost as good as the Swede’s.

And then with about seven minutes to go, the Czechs finally scored on the power play. The best Czech chance before the goal was a miss on an open net, although there were many other good chances.

At 2-1, what the Czechs got for their trouble was a newly re-awakened Team Canada. Mitch Marner and Travis Konecny took the play deep from a Giroux pass below the goal line with some forechecking power, and dished it out to a lurking Tyson Barrie. 3-1 Canada.

Don’t poke the bear, is the lesson, but then, you have to if you want to score. The inevitable conundrum for even good teams against Canada.

Jeff Skinner capped it off with an empty net goal.

USA vs Germany

2-1 Germany in regulation