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Meltzer: Checking in at Worlds

Flyers contributor gives his impressions on the eight Flyers in action overseas

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer

After a wild day on Monday at the 2019 IIHF World Championships that featured a buzzer-beating game-winning goal for Team Canada against host team Slovakia and a Team USA overtime victory over previously undefeated Finland, there is a relatively "light" docket at the tournament on Wednesday. 

Most notably from a Flyers standpoint, Michael Raffl and Team Austria will look for their first win of the tournament as they aim to upset Switzerland. By the end of Tuesday, all teams in the tournament will have played three games in the preliminary round. Here's a look at how the Flyers participants have fared so far.

CANADA (2-1-0, 6pts)

Head coach Alain Vigneault's team has not played its best hockey so far, but has six points (regulation wins count for three points in international hockey) by virtue of back-to-back wins over Great Britain and Slovakia following an opening-day loss to Finland. 

Sean Couturier : Serving as an alternate captain for Canada, Couturier has seen all-situation use similar to responsibilities with the Flyers. That includes penalty killing duties and 5-on-5 matchups against opponents' top lines. Couturier scored a third-period goal against Great Britain for his lone point through three games.

Carter Hart: The rookie wunderkind made his senior-level national team debut on Sunday. He breezed to a 12-save shutout in Canada's 8-0 blowout of massive underdog Great Britain. Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Matt Murray was in net against Finland and Slovakia.


UNITED STATES (2-1-0, 5pts)

The Americans opened the tourney with a subpar performance in a 4-1 loss to Team Slovakia, which is coached by former Flyers assistant and head coach Craig Ramsay. Team USA bounced back for a 7-1 win over undermanned France (which does not have either ex-Flyers forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare nor fellow NHLer Antoine Roussel available this year). On Monday, the Americans built a 2-0 lead against Finland only to see the Lions bounce back to tie the game. Dylan Larkin rescued a victory in overtime. 

James van Riemsdyk : JVR has moved around the Team USA lineup, including seeing time on lines with Jack Eichel and Patrick Kane as well as with Jack Hughes and Alex DeBrincat. Against Finland, Hughes started out on JVR's line but van Riemsdyk also saw time with linemates Clayton Keller and Colin White. Overall, JVR skated 11:17 of ice time against Finland, across 21 shifts. For the tourney, a nifty assist against France represents JVR's lone point through three games.


SWEDEN (2-1-0, 6pts)

The back-to-back gold medalists opened the tournament with a 5-2 loss against the Czech Republic. Tre Kronor bounced back with 8-0 (vs. Italy) and 9-1 (vs. Norway) blowout victories to compile six points. 

Oskar Lindblom : The young Flyers winger has scored one goal apiece in each of his team's three games to date; a continuation of the strong second half of his NHL rookie season with the Flyers this year. Lindblom gave the Swedes a short-lived 2-1 lead in the second period of the game with a power-play marker against the Czechs and chipped in a goal against both Italy (power play) and Norway (even strength). In the latter game, Lindblom was uncharacteristically tabbed for a 10-minute misconduct early the third period and then returned to tally the game's final goal.

Robert Hägg: Skating on Tre Kronor's third defense pair, Hägg has averaged 16-plus minutes of ice time over the first three games. Thus far, he is +2 and has taken a pair of minor penalties, including a late-game scrum against the Czechs that also involved Flyers teammate Radko Gudas.


CZECH REPUBLIC (2-1-0, 6pts)

The Czech squad opened the tourney with a mild upset win over the Swedes and then breezed past Norway in a blowout 7-2 victory. However, Russia blanked the Czechs, 3-0, on Monday behind stellar goaltending by Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy and one goal apiece in the first, second and third (empty netter) frames.

Jakub Voracek : The Flyers right winger skates on his team's top line and logs heavy ice time. He opened the tournament with four points in the first two games: two assists apiece against the Swedes and Norwegians. Against Russia, Voracek had one shot on goal and was minus-two in 17:41 TOI. Overall, his four points in three games is tops among Flyers players in the tourney.

Radko Gudas: The hard-nosed Flyers defenseman has logged extensive ice time for his team. Through three games, he is +1 with six penalty minutes. Against Russia, Gudas was minus-one with three shots on goal in 21:54 TOI across 28 shifts. In the third period, with the Czech trailing 2-0, he goaded Russia's Artem Anisimov into a penalty after a whistle near the the Czech net. 


AUSTRIA (0-2-0, 0pts)

A perennial underdog, the key game for the Austrians will be their game against Italy. Pending the outcome of their game against Switzerland (which has become a regular in the medal round), the match against Italy could be a must-win for the Austrians to avoid potential relegation. The Austrians have already lost in regulation to Latvia (5-2) and Russia (5-0). 

Michael Raffl : Primarily a checker and penalty killer for the Flyers, the versatile 30-year-old Raffl takes on more of an offensive-minded role when playing for the Austrian national team. He scored three goals in four games last year at the Worlds. This year, he gave Austria a short-lived 1-0 lead with a goal in the first period against Latvia. Michael's older brother, Thomas Raffl, is a teammate on the Austrian squad.

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