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World Juniors

5 things to watch in WJC quarterfinal round

United States goaltending, Switzerland forward Nico Hischier among top storylines

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

The 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship resumes with quarterfinal-round games at Bell Centre in Montreal and Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Monday.

The semifinal round will be held at Bell Centre on Wednesday, and the gold medal and bronze medal games at Bell Centre on Thursday.

Quarterfinal round schedule

Denmark vs. Russia (1 p.m. ET; Air Canada Centre, NHLN, TSN)
Sweden vs. Slovakia (3:30 p.m. ET; Bell Centre, TSN)
United States vs. Switzerland (5:30 p.m. ET; Air Canada Centre, NHLN, TSN)
Canada vs. Czech Republic (8 p.m. ET; Bell Centre, NHLN, TSN)

 

5 Things to watch

 

Defensive dominance

Defense has played a prominent role for the United States during its four-game sweep to first place in Group B at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. 

The United States opens the playoff round tied with Sweden for fewest goals allowed (four) through four games. 

"I'd say coming in the biggest question mark was defense but when the game ends and the coaches meet, there's only good things to say," U.S. coach Bob Motzko said. "They're getting it done. We get the puck up the rink and we can break it out. I still wish we'd shoot more, but it's been a great team effort."

The U.S. penalty kill is fourth in the tournament with an 80 percent efficiency (12-of-15). In a 3-1 win against Canada on Saturday, the U.S. went 4-for-5 on the penalty kill. Canada has the best power play in the tournament (47 percent, 9-for-19).

"We knew they would have stints where they would be in our zone and pressure," defenseman Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins) said. "It was important for us to keep our backs to the net; make sure we were getting sticks on them, and making sure whatever chances they got, they weren't big chances."

 

How Swede it is 

Sweden dominated all four games to finish first in Group A and extend its preliminary-round winning streak to 40 games.

"It doesn't matter who you play, you need to win your quarterfinal to be able to have a shot at the gold medal," Sweden coach Tomas Monten said. "So we can't decide who we're playing, we can only do our own thing and then focus on us. And I think we did that, and I'm happy for that, but now we have to step it up for the quarterfinals."

Despite finishing fourth in each of the past two tournaments, Sweden has medaled in six of the past nine events since the start of its preliminary-round winning streak in 2008. They won gold in 2012. 

"We've been talking about gold since we came here and that's what we're aiming for," said forward Jonathan Dahlen, who scored three goals in 5-2 win against Czech Republic on Saturday. "So we won four games and now we have to win three more."

 

Tale of two goalies

United States goaltenders Joseph Woll (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Tyler Parsons (Calgary Flames) have each performed very well when called upon at key moments of the tournament. 

Woll made 25 saves in a 3-1 win against Canada on Saturday and has two wins with a 1.50 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. 

Parsons, who will start against Switzerland, has two wins with a 1.50 GAA and .923 save percentage. 

"I'm going to play with confidence and consistency and be the team's backbone," Parsons said. "I want them to know they can rely on me."

Parsons made 25 saves in a 3-2 win against Russia on Dec. 29. The third goalie on the roster, Jake Oettinger (2017 NHL Draft eligible), was a healthy scratch for all four preliminary games.

"Rotating gives us some rest; it's a lot of games in a short amount of time so it's good to get the rest," Parsons said. "We're supporting each other whenever we're not playing."

 

Ready to rebound

Canada will be without defenseman Philippe Myers (Philadelphia Flyers) for its quarterfinal-round game against the Czech Republic at Bell Centre on Monday.

Myers, who left the game against the United States early in the second period because of a concussion, did make the trip to Montreal. He was playing on the top defense pair with Thomas Chabot (Ottawa Senators).

The top defense pair at practice Sunday had Chabot with Kale Clague (Los Angeles Kings). When Myers was injured, Clague moved up and played with Chabot, who had a game-high 27:45 of ice time against the United States.

Canada forward Mitchell Stephens (Tampa Bay Lightning) will return to the lineup after missing the past two games because of an ankle injury. Stephens was rotating with Michael McLeod (New Jersey Devils) on the fourth line during practice.

 

Hip-hip, Hischier

Switzerland forward Nico Hischier, an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list, has been one of the best 2017 draft prospects at the WJC. He leads all draft-eligible players with five points (two goals, three assists), and has played power play, penalty kill and even strength.

Hischier, 17, a left-handed center, has 23 goals and 48 points in 31 games for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in his first season in North America. 

"If we play as good as we can, we can beat the U.S., but we have to play our best game," he said.

The United States defeated Switzerland 4-3 in a pretournament game on Dec. 21.

"They're a really good team so we have to be ready right from the beginning until the end and play our best hockey," Hischier said. "Then anything is possible."

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