Filip Novak, Defenseman, Czech Republic: From all accounts, Novak has played extremely well, although the team certainly isn’t. This year’s WJC is taking place in the Czech Republic, and the hosts are off to a surprising 0-2 start after winning back-to-back gold medals the last two years. The Czechs have been firing a ton of shots, but they have had bad luck when it comes time to put the puck in the net. So far, only Tomas Plekanec, a forward drafted in the 3rd round this past summer by Montreal, has been able to put the Czechs on the board. They suffered a 3-1 loss to team USA, and were shutout today 1-0 by Slovakia, largely in part to a brilliant 45 save performance from goaltender Peter Budaj, a draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche. Through the 2 games, Novak has no goals or points, and is a -1. He also has registered 8 shots on goal. The Czechs have 1 game remaining in the preliminary round, which is against Sweden on December 30th. Since Slovakia is already 2-0, even if the Czechs win and Slovakia loses, Slovakia will still be the top team in Group A. However, weird things have happened in the past once the medal rounds start, so there still may be hope for the Czech Republic to bring home a 3rd straight gold medal. However, they better turn things around fast.
Garth Murray, Center, Canada: Murray may be off to the best start out of all the Rangers’ prospects currently participating in this years WJC. Through 2 games, a 15-0 win over France and a 6-1 win over Switzerland, Murray is tied for fourth in scoring among all players in the tournament with teammate and top 2002 prospect Scottie Upshall with 2 goals and 2 assists for 4 points. Murray also has posted a +4 rating so far, along with 5 shots on goal. Canada is off to a very good start, and have played dominant through two games, albeit defeating teams that they should beat. There next game will be a tough one, as they square off against Russia. Expect a very entertaining game.
Fedor Tyutin, Defenseman, Russia: The Russian team is stacked with a ton of talented young players, but so far they have gotten off to an okay start at best. After defeating France by a score of 5-1, the Russians lost today to Finland 2-1. Through the first 2 games, Tyutin has played a solid all-around game. He has registered no points thus far, but is a +2 with 3 shots on goal. Russia’s next game will easily be their most important so far in the early stages of this tournament. With their 1-0-1 record, they will square off against the Canadians (2-0-0) on December 29th. If the Russians can come away with a win, they’d wind up as the top team in Group B heading into the Medal Rounds, as they would have a 2-0-1 record, better than Canada’s 2-1-0 mark. However, the Russians will have to give it their all from the first second to the final buzzer if they plan on defeating a Canadian team that has scored 21 goals in 2 games.
Bryce Lampman, Defenseman, USA: Through 2 games (A 3-1 Win over the Czech Republic and a 2-2 tie to Sweden), Lampman has been quiet but steady. That’s basically his game. He won’t beat you with speed or highlight reel offensive plays, but he plays a steady, physical game that is quite effective. He has registered no goals or points so far, with an Even rating and 2 penalty minutes. Next game for the Americans? A probable win over a weak Belarus team.
Ryan Hollweg, Forward, USA: Hollweg has gone out on the ice in both games for Team USA and has given 110% each shift. The fiery, physical pest hasn’t tallied any points thus far, although crushing Miloslav Horava into the boards in a game against the Czechs earns points in my book. Horava hit his head on the boards and had to receive 5 stitches. Other than that, Hollweg’s presence has been felt, but he hasn’t done much to get you out of your seat yet, but he won’t keep quiet for long. With no points and a -1 rating throught the 2 games, USA will need players like Hollweg to chip in offensively if they plan to bring home the Gold.
Henrik Lundqvist, Goaltender, Sweden: The 19-year-old Lundqvist has been dominant between the pipes for Sweden thus far. In the first game of the tournament, Lundqvist and team Sweden shut out Belarus by a score of 5-0. Lundqvist was only tested with 11 shots, but he got the job done. Earlier today, after allowing two second period goals to team USA, Lundqvist kept the Swedes in the game and gave them the opportunity to tie the score, in which they did. Lundqvist finished with 22 saves in the game. Through 2 games, Lundqvist ranks 5th among goaltenders in the tournament with a .943 Save % and tied for 3rd with a 1.00 Goals against average. Hopefully Lundqvist can continue to play great and put up excellent numbers.
Sven Helfenstein, Forward, Switzerland: The Swiss are off to an okay start, upsetting Finland 3-0 in their first game, then losing to Canada 6-1 in their second game. This being his third tournament, Switzerland is counting on Helfenstein to help out with the offense, but so far he has only managed 1 assist. He has 3 shots on goal through the 2 games, along with a -2 rating. Switzerland’s next opponent is France, who have been beaten by Canada (15-0!) and Russia (5-1) so far. Expect an easy win for the Swiss, and hopefully this could be the game where Helfenstein gets involved in the offense quickly and often.
Note: I apologize for not posting a stats update this past weekend. I was overwhelmed with things to do in preparation for the holidays and couldn’t find time to get on the computer. Expect an article this weekend. Happy Holidays to all.