January 02, 2014
Switzerland kept their World junior championship quarterfinal game against Canada close, but that was largely thanks to the play of goaltender Melvin Nyffeler. As was to be expected, Canada out-skated and out-shot the Swiss skaters by a near 2:1 margin in building a 3-1 lead, and then backing off as the Swiss managed their only sustained offensive pressure of the game.
Curtis Lazar scored to make it 3-1 with 15:49 left on the clock in the third period. That was Canada's 17th scoring chance of the game. At that point, the Swiss had only five, but managed to stay into the game thanks to some strong goaltending and a lucky deflection off the stick of Nico Dunner with a second to play in the middle period. After some good Swiss pressure that resulted in five key saves from Zach Fucale, Canada's Derrick Pouliot broke the game open, capitalizing on the open ice the Swiss had to give Canada in order to create their own opportunities.
The new tournament format—having the group winners play the fourth-seeded team from the other group—should result in more uneven contests at the annual tournament, something the IIHF may be trying to avoid in group play (as I type these words, the Group B winner Sweden has just taken a 1-0 lead over Slovakia) but the tournament-altering upset that seems to happen every year could occur a bit later and knock off a giant. The Swiss had a chance, but ultimately, they weren't in Canada's league in the quarterfinal game.
Canada's strongest players were their top six. Anthony Mantha scored another goal. Him and Jonathan Drouin created most of the offence for the Canadians, but they also generated some plays from more unlikely sources. Generally Scott Laughton only got his scoring chances when he was on the ice with Bo Horvat and Connor McDavid, but him and Sam Reinhart had some good chemistry together, both finishing with excellent scoring chance differential numbers. The full table is below:
|Player||Chances For||Chances Against||Chances +/-|
|10 - Charles Hudon||3||1||2|
|27 - Jonathan Drouin||6||3||3|
|28 - Anthony Mantha||5||2||3|
|11 - Bo Horvat||4||1||3|
|17 - Connor McDavid||0||2||-2|
|21 - Scott Laughton||6||2||4|
|14 - Taylor Leier||2||1||1|
|19 - Nic Petan||3||3||0|
|26 - Curtis Lazar||3||3||0|
|16 - Kerby Rychel||2||1||1|
|22 - Frederick Gauthier||2||1||1|
|25 - Josh Anderson||2||1||1|
|23 - Sam Reinhart||5||1||4|
|5 - Aaron Ekblad||5||3||2|
|15 - Derrick Pouliot||4||2||2|
|8 - Griffin Reinhart||7||3||4|
|24 - Mat Dumba||6||3||3|
|2 - Adam Pelech||4||2||2|
|7 - Josh Morrissey||4||3||1|
|3 - Chris Bigras||?||?||???|
Griffin Reinhart was named player of the game for Canada, and he absolutely deserved it. By the time the score was 3-1 for Canada, his individual scoring chance differential was +5, with the Canadians earning six chances with him on the ice, and the Swiss a single one (at 4-on-4, no less, seconds before his breakaway, and subsequent Lazar goal, made the score 3-1). Him and partner Mat Dumba controlled the ice yet again, and while Pouliot and Aaron Ekblad are the No. 1 pairing based on ice-time and matchups, Canada really pushes the play North wiith Reinhart and Dumba on the ice together. As we get deeper into the tournament, we'll probably see less of Adam Pelech and Josh Morrissey, whose time-on-ice seemed to be limited in critical situations against the Swiss, and seventh defenceman Chris Bigras has been nowhere to be seen since the return of Reinhart from suspension.
So, pats on the back for everybody, but the tournament gets tougher from here on out, and unless Canada really puts together a strong performance against Finland in the semifinals, these chance counts should even out.
Here's how the chances broke down by period. You get a better sense of the Canadian dominance in the first two periods. Mantha alone took five shot attempts that were considered chances in the first 40, including his penalty shot goal:
And the scoring chances by type. Fucale stopped every chance that was directed on net. Using the Copper and Blue definition for chances, the Swiss goal, which was a deflection off of a point shot, does not count towards the Swiss scoring chance totals:
After a shaky start against Slovakia, Fucale has stopped 21 of 22 scoring chances placed on the Canadian net. Generally, a goaltender will allow one out of every four, so there's no question he's played well in the two games it's really mattered for Canada to get a win. We'll see if he can keep that going, but goaltender performance is impossible to predict in small samples.