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World Juniors

3 'Star' keys to success for U.S. against Canada

NHL Network analyst Dave Starman sees emotional control, dealing with crowd as focal points

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NHL Network is providing exclusive live telecasts of all games for the United States national junior team at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal.

The United States defeated Latvia 6-1 on Monday, Slovakia 5-2 on Wednesday, and Russia 3-2 on Thursday. It plays one more preliminary-round game in Group B at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, against rival Canada on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET).

The playoff round begins at Air Canada Centre and Bell Centre in Montreal on Monday.

"NHL Now" co-host Steve Mears and NCAA hockey analyst Dave Starman will provide commentary for each U.S. game. Starman will give his three keys to victory for the United States before each of its games during the 11-day tournament, which runs through Jan. 5.

Here is his fourth installment, looking at the U.S. game against Canada on Saturday:


1. No change necessary

"There is this myth that teams are like chameleons, they can change colors and size to match and adapt to their surroundings. People are asking: 'What will the U.S. have to do to adapt their game to beat Canada?' Well, last I looked the U.S. and Canada were each 3-0 after beating the same three teams. The U.S. has established its identity as a skill team with speed. It has a good back end that gets through the neutral zone quickly. It's a good offensive transition team and has very good goaltending. If you have those as your assets, why change? The key for the United States on Saturday is matching the intensity and passion that Canada will bring to the game. For the first time the crowd will be a significant factor, and the emotional pitch of their opponent will be off the charts on a shift-by-shift basis. Emotional control is important. If you have a bad shift or allow a bad goal, forget it. Play for the next shift and play it with energy and passion."


2. Play your game

"The U.S. is 3-0 because the skill guys have delivered. In all three games you can make the case that their best players were their best players. Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes) has imposed himself on games, Colin White (Ottawa Senators) has been terrific in all areas. Captain Luke Kunin (Minnesota Wild) has been great on and off the scoresheet. The goaltending has been there; there have been no bad goals through three games and that's huge. The defense corps has been able to gap up with confidence because 95 percent of the time the U.S. third forward high in the offensive zone has been responsible getting back to keep numbers even while also contributing in the offensive zone. A lot has gone right and the coaching staff has the players playing in a way that is finding success. The combination of zone entry chances off the rush and soft chips to create footraces and 1-on-1s has been good. Winning the hard areas and quiet zones in front of each net, below the goal line and along the half boards in the offensive zone and defensive zone have been major factors in their success. The buy-in has been there. There's no reason to think that the game plan won't yield success as they keep moving forward."


3. Don't be your own worst enemy

"The coaches are working with this group of forwards on moving pucks low to high and not moving pucks toward the offensive blue line from low in the offensive zone. Guys like Clayton Keller and Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg Jets) are skilled puck-possession players, but they are being asked to limit their high rolls up the walls in the offensive zone so that the puck doesn't wind up in an exposed position near the blue line. When it did in their last game, Russia started to attack those pucks and create transition against the U.S. How the U.S. handles pucks in the offensive zone is important because it's playing a team that can harass puck carriers, create turnovers and get going the other way quickly with speed and skill. While maintaining their identity as an attack-based team, they also must make sure to prevent giving Canada extra opportunities to create quick strikes through poor puck management. When given that chance so far, Canada has been great as a quick counter team."

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