In goal, Carey Price made perhaps the best save of the tournament- or saves. At least three of the future NHL starter's stops were highlight-reel denials with the paddle.
Not to be outdone, one member of the German national teal did his best to steal the show. 17 year-old goaltender Timo Pielmeier faced 34 shots, allowing only two. The 6'0, 167 lbs keeper, eligible for the upcoming Entry Draft, flashed elite agility and quickness throughout the contest.
In the end, it was two great reads by Kris Russell to jump into the play that sealed the win for Canada. Both goals were the result of shots that deflected off the shoulder of Pielmeier before spiraling into the net.
In was also an offensive defenseman that was responsible for keeping Team Russia undefeated. Pointless so far in the Russian Superleague this season, Slava Buravchikov doubled his goal totals for all of last year with a 2-tally outing against toothless Belarus during a 6-1 win. Drafted 191st overall in 2005 by the Buffalo Sabres, only the uncertainty surrounding a transfer agreement kept he and other Russians from being taken any higher. If Buravchikov comes on over, a #4/5 spot and PP specialist role will be his to lose.
Belarus, usually known for their hard work despite constantly getting tooled, has looked flatter than usual- if any team can look lively when losing by five or more goals. Not even wunderkind Mikhail Stefanovich, who scored 30 points in 37 Belarussian 2nd League games last season as a 16 year-old, was able to ignite his team. Stefanovich dominated the U-18s last year with a 2 goal, 4 assist performance in 6 games. Double digits at this year's festivities are likely.
The frontrunner for the Bobby Knight Award, as given to the American player incapable of bottling his emotion at vital times, is none other than Los Angeles Kings superprospect Jack Johnson. Immensely skilled and blessed with terrific size and muscle, Johnson has nevertheless looked like a Bantam-aged blueliner when engaged in physical play. 'JJ' has been caught out of position several times in the blind pursuit of opposing forwards to lay into, leaving holes for others to take advantage of. And they have. Through two tournament games, the 48th ranked Dobber Hockey prospect and former 2nd overall draft choice is a -1.
Mind you, that rating isn't helped any by a team that has only scored 4 goals. Draft-eligible NCAA forward Bill Sweatt leads the team in scoring with one goal and one assist. Marquee players Kyle Okposo, Peter Mueller and Jack Skille also have a goal and assist... combined.
And while the defense and offense are sucking wind for Team USA, the goaltending might as well jump in too. Jeff Zatkoff, one of the oldest members of the squad and a top-notch netminder for the University of Miami Red Hawks, has faced an average of 21 shots on goal over two games. And he's allowed almost 3.5 goals in each contest. The talent and quick pads of a possible future NHL goalie are there; it's the lack of a mental game or composure that have dogged the 2006 3rd round choice of the LA Kings.
Also underperforming: the best player not in the NHL. Expected to at least challenge some tournament scoring records, Swede Nicklas Backstrom has tallied a lone assist through Tre Kronor's first two tournament matches. AHL phenom Nicklas Bergfors has had a worse showing, having goose eggs for both goals and assists. Only linemate Patrik Berglund has made something happen, and he leads the team with 2 points (1-1).
Sweden, however, has at least seen breakouts from a couple unexpected contributors. Undrafted Linus Omark and Joel Gistedt have had surprising arrivals on home ice. Omark, a 5'8 pivot playing in the Lulea system, shares the team lead in points with Berglund. Quick, shifty and the owner of a soft pair of hands, Omark's below-average footspeed and size have nevertheless scared NHL teams away. With the draft cut 7 rounds, overagers from Europe are less and less likely to be taken, but the '87 born forward could draw renewed interest.
In net, Gistedt, draft-eligible for the first time in '06, has taken the reigns of the starter's job from the more highly-touted Jonas Enroth. Quick pads, excellent positioning and sound fundamentals form the basis of the Uddevalla native's game. Similar to Marty Turco, Gistedt will more than likely hear his name called this June if his 2.02 GAA can stand up as the tournament progresses.