Sunday, December 26, 2010

Caps' Kids in WJC: Day 1

The 2011 IIHF World Junior Championships began today in Buffalo, N.Y, and all five of the Caps prospects participating in the tournament were in action. It began today at 12:30 when Germany took on Switzerland. Prospect Philipp Grubauer minded the net for the German team, who had to fight back from an early 4-0 Swiss lead in the first period.  While Germany would go on to score three goals, it wouldn't be enough to complete the comeback and Grubauer picked up his first loss of the tournament.  He was relieved by backup Niklas Treutle during the first intermission.

At 4:00 pm, excitement filled the air as longtime rivals Canada and Russia faced off to open their tournament play. Three of the Caps prospects played in that game, with Cody Eakin suiting up for Canada and Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov playing for Russia. Eakin played a feisty game, creating chances for himself and his linemates. He even drew a penalty, even though he took a slashing call halfway through the third period as well. Overall, he did his job and filled his role, helping Canada to a 6-3 victory over Russia.



On the Russian side, Kuznetsov had the best, most notable game of any of the Caps prospects. While he didn’t show up on the score sheet, Kuznetsov was constantly applying pressure and creating chances. He stick-handled through four Canadian players to get a good shot on goal right in the slot in the first period, though to no avail. He also drew at least two penalties and played considerable time on the penalty kill.

Orlov is a more complex case. Overall, he had a very solid game, doing a good job of shutting down Canada’s talent. He played on both the power play and the penalty kill, and recorded an assist on Russia’s second goal (scored by Nikita Dvurechenski) halfway through the second period. However, several Russian chances were lost because of his indecision. He looked a little nervous, holding on to the puck too long until all of his other options had disappeared. Once he makes his choices quicker, he will make a huge impact on this tournament.

In the 8:00 pm game, the Caps were represented by defenseman Patrick Wey on team USA, who played Finland in end the hockey-filled day. Wey was relatively unnoticeable throughout the game, which, considering his role, is kind of a good thing. On a star-studded team that includes four professionals and eight players returning from last year’s gold medal-winning squad, Wey’s role as a third-pairing D-man means he needs to do his job efficiently, which he did. He didn’t make any egregious mistakes and was silently dependable as the USA won 3-2 in overtime.

All of the Caps prospects begun the tournament with promise. Throughout these next 11 days, we will hopefully be able to get a good idea of where they are in their development, and what to look for come camps next summer. The fight for Gold and national pride continues tomorrow, with Grubauer and Germany taking on Slovakia at 7:00 pm.

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