CANADA'S JUNIORS CRUISING
Offence red hot in win over Swiss
Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough.
After the Czech Republic stunned Russia 2-0 on Sunday — handing the Russians their first shutout loss at the world juniors since 2000 and turning Group B into a standings mosh pit — the excited teenagers were lustily singing their national anthem in the empty Rogers Place rink.
Two days later, they crashed to Earth. USA 7, Czechs 0
So, the Czechs lose their first tournament game by six, 7-1 to Sweden, then beat the Russians 2-zip and lose by seven against the Americans.
And Nate Leaman's American team loses to Russia 5-3, then has scored 18 straight goals without giving up any. They poured 73 shots against Austrian goalie Sebastian Wraneshitz in an 11-0 pasting, then got seven on Lukas Parik (WHL Spokane Chiefs), who had blanked Russia. Two straight U.S. shutouts — first time that's happened since 2015 when they beat Germany 6-0 and Slovakia 3-0.
Welcome to the strange world of junior hockey, where kids do the darndest things.
So the U.S. is 2-1, Sweden is 2-0, Russia is 1-1 with an expected win over Austria later Tuesday and the Czechs 1-2 but they haven't taken Austria to the woodshed yet. Sweden hasn't played the Americans or Russia yet.
The Czechs had the five-man patty stack defence with everybody back in the neutral zone in the win over Igor Larionov's Russian team, but the Americans got through the trap in the second period with a black-and-blue goal by Bobby Brink, and one by Trevor Zegras.
“It's a frustrating style, I give them a lot of credit ... they take away all your rush offence. Challenges you to win the game a different way,” said Leaman.
“We had good balance in our offensive zone play. First goal we scored (Brink) we were going to the net hard for second and third whacks at it and getting crosschecked.”
Meanwhile, American goalie Spencer Knight — Florida's top pick in the 2019 draft and one of the best prospects in the game — had a rough opening game against Russia where he gave up four goals in 12 shots and gave way to Dustin Wolf. But he bounced back against the Czechs with the shutout.
“Am I surprised? No, I've seen it. I've lived in the Hockey East,” said Leaman, who coaches at Providence College and plays against Knight's Boston College team.
ANOTHER STAR NAMED Z
While Zdeno Chara is the NHL'S tower called Z, Zegras has the same junior moniker with the U.S. squad. And you can add two other letters of the alphabet — G and A. He had five points against the Czechs, two goals and three assists and leads the tournament with five goals and 10 points, prompting a nifty tweet from fellow Yank Auston Matthews, wowed by the Anaheim Ducks 2019 first-rounder's puck skills.
“Zegras niceeeeee with it.” said Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs star.
“Pretty cool to see that, we all know what he's done for USA Hockey,” said Zegras.
He has 14 assists in the past two world juniors, which now ties him with Doug Weight for second most in U.S. tournament history. Weight did it in 1991 in Saskatoon. Jordan Schroeder is No. 1 in assists with 20 in three tournaments. He is currently playing for Jokerit in Helsinki in the KHL.
Zegras has five goals in 12 shots in the tournament but he's the best passer at the world juniors. “I was most impressed with his commitment away from the puck against the Czechs. I saw Z dumped two puck in and work back to get pucks,” said Leaman.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said on Tuesday he will not report to training camp next month ahead of the NHL season and will be out indefinitely due to a medical issue.
The 32-year-old Winnipeg native, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medallist, said in a statement he has been experiencing symptoms that have left him feeling “drained and lethargic.”
“I am working with doctors so I can better understand my condition,” said Toews. “Until I can get my health back to a place where I feel I can perform at an elite level and help my team, I will not be joining the Blackhawks for training camp.
“I do not have a timetable for when I will rejoin the team. I am extremely disappointed, but it wouldn't be fair to myself or my teammates to attempt to play in my current condition.”
Toews, who was selected by Chicago with the third overall pick in the 2006 National Hockey League Draft, had 60 points in 70 games last season.
“To Blackhawks fans, I will continue to do whatever I can to get back on the ice and return to play the game I love for the team I love,” said Toews.
“I will not be making any further comment at this time and ask everyone to please respect my privacy as I focus on my health and recovery.”
Toews is considered a complete package given his offensive skills, impeccable defensive game and leadership abilities that have established him as one of the NHL'S most respected players.
He was the centrepiece of Blackhawks teams that won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
“Jonathan's health is our top priority as he deals with this medical issue,” said Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.
“The Chicago Blackhawks organization and our medical staff will provide all necessary resources to help him return to playing hockey.”
The Blackhawks are scheduled to begin the regular season Jan. 13 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.