Fans can celebrate the 7-0 win against the Czech Republic, but the team won’t be patting themselves on the back for winning a game that they were supposed to win. Sure, they scored seven goals, but this team has a lot of work to do if they want to win this tournament.
If you doubted Spencer Knight, then I don’t know what to tell you other than why? He has a track record, a pedigree, and he hasn’t played a lot of games this year, so the team didn’t panic, they threw him back in, and he got a shutout.
“I kind of just came in today just wanting to play hockey and have fun,” Knight responded in a deadpan voice. “Not get too worried about the game and come to the rink with a smile on your face and have fun. That’s when I honestly think I’m playing my best.”
To beat Canada or Russia when it counts you have to have at least three fully functioning lines, and that’s not the case currently. Trevor Zegras is playing on a different level, so it bails out the first line. Cole Caufield did score the sixth goal, but his play hasn’t been great. While Bobby Brink has been scoring better and playing a better all-around brand of hockey, I would swap them out until Caufield proves to me he’s dialed in. This tournament is about the here and now and not what you will be down the road.
“We knew they were going to pack it in (meaning the neutral zone) and try and keep us to the outside. So, we knew we were going to have to penetrate with a couple of guys at the net and was just hoping to get a couple of greasy rebounds,” Brink said.
Honestly, I would sit Ryan Johnson. He hasn’t played well, he’s been penalized and he’s committed turnovers by being casual with the puck at times. You can’t afford to have that happen as the games get more important.
I would give Kaliyev one more game on the top line. His goal was very indicative of how he should be scoring and the fact that the Czechs weren’t completely beaten down at that point in the game. Yes, it was the fifth goal, but they were still playing “ok” hockey at that point in time.
I thought Matt Berniers was the best face-off guy on the team and he was a cool 82% that game. Still, keep him on the second line based on his age but Alex Turcotte’s 47% isn’t great and hasn’t been in the 2021 World Junior Championship so far.
Spencer Knight (left) and Bobby Brink talking about the win.