The 2018 World Junior Championships are almost over, with only the two most important games remaining today.
The relegation games wrapped up yesterday, and blowing my prediction out of the water, Denmark won twice over Belarus. Denmark hang on to come to Vancouver/Victoria next year.
USA at Czechia
The bronze medal game is the worst game in hockey. No one wants to be in it. Roman Polak has a WJC bronze, and he told the press yesterday he’s not sure where the medal is.
And yet, playing for pride often drives the guys on to put on an entertaining game. This is a toss up in team strengths and weaknesses, and I wouldn’t try to call this one. Either team could end up with medals they’ll likely forget about as soon as they return to their regular teams.
This Czech team is very good, the best all around junior team that country’s produced in quite a while, which is why they’re in a medal game. It’s no fluke.
The USA has to be deeply disappointed to not be repeating a final appearance at home, but barring the first 15 minutes against Sweden, they never looked like they were in the game.
The game is at 4 p.m. and is on TSN 1.
Canada at Sweden
Here it is: the matchup of the two strongest teams at this event. They have the number one and two ranked goaltending results; they were the top two teams in goal differential in the preliminary round, and they both finished first in their pool. The separation between the two teams comes in power play results, where Canada is the clear leader.
Both teams have dynamic, offensive defenders. Canada’s Cale Makar is making a lot of noise this year, and the Swedes have the best in the world for that job in Rasmus Dahlin.
Canada took until the second period of their semifinal to really get rolling, and then they annihilated the Czechs, leaving no doubts.
Sweden really played tight for most of their game, until they were up 4-0 over the USA, and then they did not tighten up defensively very well at all.
There’s lots of gifs of Liljegren and others in the recap post if you haven’t seen it.
Sweden has very good, high-ranked defencemen, and they have some handy scoring coming from their depth forwards. The trouble is they don’t defend as well as they should. and Filip Gustavsson bails them out a lot.
A lot of odds-makers have the edge going to Sweden, and they’ve got power up front to make that happen. Elias Pettersson, Lias Andersson and Alex Nylander should all be familiar to anyone who watched Sweden last year, those three plus Carl Grundstrom were swapped around to make the top line.
Canada is getting star turns from Jordan Kyrou, Sam Steel and Drake Batherson, who had a hat trick against the Czechs. And Carter Hart in net is so close to Gustavsson’s results, I’ll call them tied.
These teams are stacked, and if you thought last year’s final was close and exciting, this should be even better.
Watch for the Swedish coach to lean hard on Dahlin early on and then to swap out to more Liljegren, Sellgren and Moverare if they get a lead.
Oddly, this game might be decided by Vegas prospect Erik Brannstrom. If he’s having a better day than yesterday, then Sweden might just roll over Canada.
This game is on at 8 p.m. on TSN 1.