At the end of another day of competition there have been surprises and scares aplenty for the top teams at the WJC. Starting off the day was Finland - Czech Republic followed by Canada-Slovakia, Sweden-Switzerland and USA-Russia.
What was expected to be a relatively easy win for Finland was turned on its head as the Czech Republic went out and finished the game with a 3-1 victory. Finland suffered from a combination of failings. Its defensive unit was not as strong as it had been in previous games and their offensive unit failed to connect to put enough goals by the Czechs to win. Its quite likely that the injury to Miro Aaltonen has hurt their top six and damaged their chemistry. The Czechs were able to keep on the pressure and get the victory.
Teuvo Teravainen did show however why he should have been picked higher than he was in the 2012 draft and showed some excellent skills and a great shot to put up Finland's lone goal of the game. The Chicago Blackhawks got a steal out of the young Finnish forward. The Dallas Stars' own Radek Faksa also had an excellent game despite not getting on the score board. He is being used by the Czech Republic much like he is being used by the Kitchener Rangers - in a defensive style rather than a run and gun forward. His work along the boards and in front of the net continues to be of high standard. San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl also showed off some very impressive hands and had excellent chemistry with Dmitrij Jaskin.
When it comes to the 2013 NHL Entry Draft Sasha Barkov was probably one of the better Finnish forward but the top forwards as a whole were generally ineffective. Fellow Finn, Rasmus Ristolainen, showed a nasty edge when he decked a Czech forward at the side of his goal. He earned a two minute roughing call for it but showed that he wasn't in any way a gentle giant but a defenseman who could hold his own.
The Canada-Slovakia game for a while looked like it could be one of the big upsets of the tournament with Canada down 2-0 at the end of the first and finishing the second ahead 4-3. Considering this was a game which Canada was expected to walk they paid a heavy price for the eventual victory. The first goal, scored by 2013 draft eligible Marko Dano, was a result of Ryan Murphy being out of position and forcing Brett Ritchie to try and defend against Dano who had a shot at a wide open net. Marko Dano finished the game with two goals. The dam broke in the third period and the Canadians were able to win with a convincing score. Two of their players, J.C Lipon and Anthony Camara, were given game misconducts for on ice hits, Lipon will face the IIHF disciplinary board and could be suspended, and they played the game with only 10 forwards. Another consequence of these game misconducts was that Ritchie was split from team mate Ryan Strome and had to help anchor a defensive forward line for Canada.
It must be worrying for the Canadians however that they will be lacking at least Bo Jenner and possibly J.C Lipon for an important game against the USA. Despite their attempts to solve disciplinary issues they still continued to send men to the box regularly and at one point in the second period the Canadians had spent at least 25% of the game with at least one man in the box. Considering they only just managed to hold on against a gritty and determined side in Slovakia it's not a good reflection of what could happen if they put up this kind of performance against fellow top teams such as the USA, Russia and Sweden who could easily punish them for these infractions.
The Sweden Switzerland game also featured another near upset for a top side as the Swedes only just managed to hold on to take the game to overtime and the eventually a 3-2 shootout victory. One positive side of this is that during their gold medal winning tournament last season the Swedes also only managed to beat Switzerland in the shootout. Many of the top Swedish forwards were not performing up to scratch including Washington Capitals forward Filip Forsberg. However Emil Molin stepped in and constantly performed as one of their top players throughout the entire game getting an assist on their first goal. Molin played extremely well on the powerplay and was instrumental in setting up chances for the entire game.
Despite having some defensive slips, such as a failure to clear the puck from his own crease when it was right in front of him, he was one of the more energetic and noticeable forwards on the ice for the Swedes. It was really positive to see Emil Molin play consistently at a high level and be at the front of the swedish recovery and eventual victory. It makes me hope that we will see him in North America soon considering his problems getting ice time with Byrnas in the Elitserien.
Brandon: Had a chance to catch the USA-Russia game, which the Americans lost 2-1 despite controlling the play for much of the game. The USA seemed to really lose their legs late in the game when trying to tie the score and could barely manage an attack in the final six minutes of the game. Markov was really great in net but Team USA needs to have one of the forwards really step up and try and take control of the team; too many of the defensemen tried to do too much, leading to odd-man rushes the other way.
Seth Jones looked good at times but also a bit shaky against a very good team like Russia. He was the defender that was danced around in the third period when Russia took a 2-1 lead and he failed to generate much offense on a crucial power play late in the game.