(Nikita Kucherov scores the first goal for Russia but goals were hard to come by for the medal favorites today).
It was not the way Russia had drawn it up needless to say but they did win today over Slovakia 3-2. Russia was favored by several goals and could only muster a one goal win. Needless to say, it was not the desired result for a team that looked like a middle of the road squad as opposed to a team who was picked by many to at least medal if not win gold. Yet there was Canada today, who looked every bit the favorite as they overcame a sluggish first period to club Germany by a 9-3 score. It was not a contest after the first as Canada bombed Germany with seven goals over the final two periods.
On the negative side of the ledger was Russia who only squeaked by and then there was Finland who looked ready to blow out the opposition then stopped scoring even though the spread was 4 1/2. Latvia provided very little opposition but their goaltender was able to hold the Finns off the scoreboard in the third period as the brake pedal was applied as opposed to the gas. Shots on goal were 44-12 Finland by the way. By all rights, this was a case where the bookies had the spreads right on the money today.
Sweden was favored by 2 1/2 goals and proceeded to win by three and in their "five slot", that was again a perfect fit for a wager. There are usually few upsets in the first two days of the World Juniors for a reason. The gap between the haves and have nots are pretty wide usually. This tournament is no exception where the top five teams are genuinely a good deal more talented than the bottom five units.
Tomorrow Team USA debuts and again this is a team that has medal potential, maybe even silver or gold if things break right. However, for a team that has had troubles scoring in the pre-tourneys, a spread of 5 1/2 does seem high. Then again, Canada did beat Germany by six goals and was absolutely shell shocked when Canada turned it up a notch. Can Team USA do the same? The talent is there but is the chemistry just yet? The answer seems to be NO and if it were to happen we'd have to question ourselves. There is no way the Americans can beat the Germans by six at this time. If this was a week from now, then maybe. It will be interesting to see how fast the American squad comes out tomorrow. Any nerves will be the cause of panic of course, much like what Russia felt today and never could fully get over.
It is going to be a fun day of action as Team USA plays its three games in four days stretch that will tell us a lot about this country's chances at a medal while setting some of the numbers for the bookies. Stay tuned and watch. This one is not going to be dull in the least.