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2018 World Junior Championships Recap: Silver for Liljegren as Canada wins 3-1

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It was anyone’s game until the last two minutes of the game.

Sweden v Czech Republic - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship
Liljegren getting checked by Czechs a few days ago nicely expresses how he feels now.
Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Before the gold medal game at the 2018 World Junior Championships, the bronze medal game was decided in favour of the USA, as they beat the Czechs 9-3. Joseph Woll didn’t dress for the game, and Jake Oettinger picks up the win. However, he was pulled with a few minutes left and Jeremy Swayman got his only few minutes in net for the USA.

The big game is Sweden vs Canada as the two powerhouse teams, and pool winners meet for the first time in the final. I hope you don’t need telling, I’m a Sweden fan.

First Period

Canada with a scary chance early, and this game is all over the ice a high speed really quickly.

Sweden settles down and gets some good cycle time going, which should settle the nerves.

Sweden is very aggressively harrying the Canadian puck carrier, there’s no falling back to the defensive zone like dutiful Europeans here.

On paper, Timothy Liljegren is playing with Jacob Moverare, but as in past games, sometimes it’s Jesper Sellgren, who has surprised a few people this tournament with his stability and defensive play.

Sweden take an unnecessary penalty, and they need to kill it. They do a very good job, but goalie Filip Gustavsson is the best PKer on the team for this one.

Rasmus Dahlin doesn’t come out until the penalty is about to expire, but he has been quietly very good at PK in limited action at this tournament, and gets no notice for this defensive skill.

Liljegren loses the puck at the blueline, which he does a bit too much, but he also retrieves it well in the neutral zone.

Canada gets the next penalty — you’re shocked, I know — and it’s time for a Swedish power play.

Liljegren starts out as the lone defender on the power play, unlike late in the last game, when Sweden had the lead and there were two on each unit. He’s also taking Dahlin’s spot here, at least for the first power play.

Alex Nylander struggles uncharacteristically with the passing and not much comes of this man advantage.

The pace picks way up post-power-play, and the teams trade furious chances. There’s so much speed in this game, it’s approaching NHL-level.

Sweden is struggling to keep pace, and Gustavsson holds the line while Sweden spins in circles. They get a break when the referee whistles play dead when Gustavsson doesn’t have control. There’s a TV timeout after, to give everyone a breather. Shots on goal are dead even right now, but Canada is on the cusp of taking control.

Liljegren is out playing left side with Sellgren again. This has happened a couple of times.

Dahlin doing some puck watching in the defensive zone behind the depth lines. The Swedish coach has changed up several aspects of his deployment to spread out scoring talent, and this might be more of the same.

Ray Ferraro making a point about defensive style: skating to take away space vs blocking the shot. He is saying that Canada has a better system than the USA, and I agree.

Swedes are getting some puck time, but it’s not turning into shots as much as I’d like, but the tide has turned their way, when it looked like it was going to the red team just a few minutes before.

The Swedish third line, which is 60% grind and 40% shooters, is out with Dahlin and they get a very good chance.

Lias Andersson, who had the surreal experience of standing on the ice for a game this year and watching his father’s jersey retirement ceremony, gets a great chance. Carter Hart is holding the line now.

And the period ends with no goals, and shots on goal of 16-9 in favour of Sweden.

Second Period

The broadcast says Liljegren led his team in ice time in the first.

The furious pace picks right back up in the second.

Canada takes the lead on a goal where Sweden could not handle the onrushing offence sprung on a really good neutral zone pass. Dahlin tries a poke-check, Liljegren had his man, but in the end, all he did with him was help screen Gustavsson. Not a shining moment for the defence.

1-0 Canada.

The teams trade giveaways and suddenly they look like kids. It doesn’t last, as the speed picks up and the action heats up more.

Dahlin in his wheelhouse with a good offensive shift. He makes everyone stop and watch.

Sweden has a problem. Like on the goal against and the speed picks up, the Canadians are harder to handle in open ice. The Swedes do well on the boards, but the mass and acceleration equation is working against them a lot of the time at speed. But speed is one of their weapons. They can’t slow it down and tightly check Canada.

Oh! Hart is the proof positive that mono doesn’t take years to recover from. He started his season with a case.

The Swedes are playing with the puck a lot now, and Canada seems to look a little lost. All but Hart.

Andersson takes a bad, bad penalty behind the play.

Canada to the power play.

Shorty! Sweden is so good on the PK, and Tim Soderlund (I love this player that Chicago was smart enough to draft) with a fabulous shot off of an aggressive 3 on 2.

1-1 on the scoreboard.

There’s still a power play though, but Canada has had the wind knocked out of them.

Another shorthanded rush, and there’s three Swedes deep again.

Sweden is dominating on the shot clock in this period, and Canada only has three shots on goal with five minutes to go.

Canada with a tough zone entry denial, that would be great if they got possession. They eventually get a net-front scramble, but Gustavsson is made of ice.

Canada comes right back with even more chances, and if they were sitting on a lead, they’d be impossible to beat. Sweden cannot gain the zone, but Canada can’t get past Gustavsson either.

Dahlin takes a really dumb tripping call late in the period, and I notice the Buffalo rink announcer actually knows how to say his name. Getting ready for the draft, I assume.

These very evenly matched teams are tied after two of the fastest periods of hockey at this tournament. The shots on goal are 25-18 for Sweden but ended up 9-all in that period.

Third Period

The period starts with most of a power play for the red team. Sweden fairly easily kill off the rest of the penalty.

Liljegren with a good shot on an equally good cycle, and the play is a touch slower and more controlled so far.

The crowd shots are amazing, and yes the place is full. Full of red. The occasional yellow shirt stands out.

Dillon Dube comes in on Gustavsson and Gustav Lindstrom can handle him. Truth is, Liljegren is still a bit light on the body on that sort of defending.

Sellgren gets a shot that rings off the post, but Sweden come back again straight away with another cycle. Carter Hart is the difference-maker in this game, make no mistake.

I have never seen a coach with absolutely stable lines and total chaos on defence like Tommy Monten in this game. I never know who is out with whom. I assume he’s trying to manage usage by zone.

Canada’s getting some time with the puck for the first time all period with seven minutes gone.

Canada also has a tough neutral zone checking game going again, but again, they aren’t sitting on a lead.

I can’t tell you who has the edge here. I’m not even sure which goalie is best.

Sweden takes a penalty, and it’s Lindstrom behind the play for interference. Can they score another shorty against the best power play in the tournament?

While the PK unit is at work, and I’m tense, I should mention that the Nylander, Andersson, Karlstrom line has been excellent all game even if I haven’t mentioned them much.

A totally gassed Johnsson tries to go in shorthanded, but he can’t even get a shot off, and the power play ends with no shots on goal.

Dahlin gets a rush chance right away. Monten has to play him constantly now to maximize scoring chances.

Sweden takes what might be a necessary penalty as Canada had a good scoring chance. It’s killer PK time again for Sweden with six minutes left.

All of the internet and Ferraro wonder where Cale Makar is on Canada’s power play.

Canada gets a post after some stunning passing work. The crowd is wild, the red team ices the puck, and that was the game in some other universe.

The penalty expires, Sweden starts controlling the play, but they don’t get a cycle going.

Two minutes to go, and if you can say who’s winning this game, you’re smarter than me.

A guy named Steenbergen scored. Alas, he is not a Swede. Canada has the goal that will win them gold.

The red team follow up with an empty net goal, and it’s silver for Liljegren.

3-1 Canada for the gold.

Congratulations red team. The blue and yellow will come for you again next year.

And can you all give Janik a hand, and a follow on Twitter for these gifs. It’s the middle of the night where he is, and he stayed up for love of the game. Thanks, Janik, you’re the best.