Chicago, IL — Day 12 had scheduled another match-up of Team USA vs Team Russia for the bragging right of being #1 in Group A and maybe more importantly for the winner to plant a seed of doubt should they meet again.
Whenever you have these two teams playing each other it always has the potential to be a classic and this one did not disappoint. It was everything I thought it would be and more.
I had some questions of my own I wanted to see and hoped I would get answers to and I did.
Firstly could a young fast USA team beat a seasoned Russian team on big ice? Would the NHL/North American game translate to big ice?
How would our Blackhawks on both sides do? I was really curious how Artemi Panarin would do against an NHL team and how Nick Schmaltz would do against a skilled veteran Russian team.
Team USA maybe young, but they are fast, resilient and most of all fierce. Facing what was a Russian favored crowd and having to come back from being behind three times they answered the call and stepped it up when they needed to. When they took the lead they never looked back.
You basically had a NHL team in Team USA against a mix of NHL/KHLers for Team Russia but you would have to say that the USA would be an underdog on big ice. Well taking away time and space I guess works no matter what ice you are playing on.
Team Russia is very good in transition which did burn Team USA on several occasions. This is something they will need to tighten up going forward. Watching these two great skating teams was fun.
Coming into the game Artemi Panarin was the tournaments leading scorer with 13 points and Team USA kept him from getting any points while handing Team Russia its first defeat.
What I found interesting was Panarin and his line of Nikita Kucherov and Vladislov Namestnikov were put up against Schmaltz’s line with Dylan Larkin and Brock Nelson.
Now I’m not sure if this was Team Russia’s decision or Team USA’s choice, but we all see how this turned out. For the most part Schmaltz covered this line pretty well he had one slip up where Kucherov schooled him but in the end it was Schmaltz’s line that had the final say.
Schmaltz had no points himself but either did Panarin. Larkin and Nelson ended up with goals so Artemi’s line was -2. I’d say they did pretty well defensively covering Team Russia’s only true NHL line.
Panarin had a glorious chance late to tie up the game when shorthanded he stepped on the ice and sticked the puck past a defender and was stopped on a breakaway by Jimmy Howard. From there with Vasilevski pulled Nelson potted an empty netter for the 5-3 final.
I’m sure no one feels worse than Panarin for missing what was a golden opportunity.
As a side note Team USA management is Stan Bowman and Dale Tallon. Yeah I’m sure Bowman was there taking in this one.
Trevor Van Riemsdyk only played one minute yes that is correct. Must be punishment for his getting turned inside out the day.
Team Russia took to many stick penalties and were a bit undisciplined. There is no question Team Russia plays with passion maybe a little too much passion and emotion and Team USA made them pay. They played like professionals all the way. Team Russia was getting frustrated as the Americans kept them pinned in their own zone which is not where Team Russia wants to play.
But if these two teams meet up again which is highly likely don’t expect Team Russia to make these same mistakes.
In paying attention to Panarin and Schmaltz I think while they both are very talented they each can still improve their games.
Artemi Panarin is so gifted but he does need to play in the NHL. Watching this tournament he will only be challenged in the NHL, and if he wants to keep developing his game the NHL is where he can achieve this. He just needs to learn how to make room when none is given on the ice and maybe work on the defensive side of the puck.
For Schmaltz I’d say he needs to get stronger on the puck on the boards and shoot baby shoot. He may need to bulk up a bit but other than that he is good. His on ice vision is very good and tournaments like this will only help him in development.
With this win Team USA now will play Team Finland who ended up fourth in Group B. Team Russia will now take on Team Czech Republic who finished third in group B. Team Sweden who finished third in Group A will now play team Switzerland who finished second in Group B.
The medal rounds start on Thursday. Good Luck to all the Blackhawks!
Video taken from You Tube IIHF