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World Juniors

3 'Star' keys to success for United States against Czech Republic

NHL Network analyst Dave Starman says goaltending, depth players must continue to shine

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The NHL Network will provide exclusive live telecasts of all United States games during the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic.

The United States (2-0-0-1) will play the fourth of four preliminary-round games in Group B at Ostravar Arena against the Czech Republic on Monday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN). The United States, which won 3-1 against Russia on Sunday, will begin the playoff round on Thursday.

Longtime NCAA hockey analyst Dave Starman, who will handle the broadcast along with Stephen Nelson, will give his three keys to victory for the United States before each of their games during the 11-day tournament.

"After a very methodical and professional win against Russia the U.S. will play its fourth game in five nights against the home team, Czech Republic," Starman said. "This game is interesting because of the atmosphere in the building, which will be pro Czech.

"However, what the U.S. showed against Russia was that Spencer Knight can win a big game at the Under-20's and the U.S. can dial it down on surviving on high-end plays and win with simple and methodical ones. Also, their penalty kill has found a lot of traction."

 

1. Goaltending 

"We'll expect Spencer Knight to play as the U.S. ends pool play on Monday and won't play again until Thursday. That's a favorable schedule in the medal round after a grinding one in the preliminaries. I liked Knight versus the Russians. He was in control, the rebounds were scarce, no leakers. Just a solid game."

 

2. Buy-in has started

"U.S. coach Scott Sandelin and his assistants showed the team film, and certain assistants showed some individual players some film and the theme was, 'it's OK to have a shift where we own the puck, make other teams defend, move it around, and not get a shot.' The theme was to make sure to leave those highlight-reel, behind-the-back or between-the-skates plays alone and play with the puck as a five-man unit. Own it, get it back, be above it, be hard on it. There were maybe one or two plays against Russia where the U.S. had that wow factor, but to the educated hockey eye that was an eye-opening game for this team who played it smart, controlled, and efficient. When a guy who has won three national championships as a head coach, and two as an assistant, discuses playing it simpler, listening to him is probably a good idea. Surrounded by a staff that has been through this tourney multiple times, the message they have sent apparently has been heard."

 

3. The other guys

"While certain names have been bandied about for their draft status, highlights and Hobey Baker Award nominations, the other guys have been carrying the mail. Mattias Samuelsson (Buffalo Sabres) is eating minutes, Spencer Stastney (Nashville Predators) is eating pucks, Jack Drury (Carolina Hurricanes) has solved his face-off issues, and guys like Parker Ford (2020 NHL Draft eligible), John Beecher (Boston Bruins), Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks), Jacob Pivonka (New York Islanders), Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings), among others, have given the U.S. quality minutes and big shifts. The list is too long, but in my 11 years broadcasting this tourney, there are a litany of players who were not household names who became huge factors in medal-winning performances. When the depth pushes and even outplays the stars, either they wind up carrying the mail or the stars crank it into high gear. Either way, the formula works when the grinders are good in the preliminary rounds. Expect more of that against the Czech Republic."

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