TORONTO -- There's certainly a lot to like about the play of the United States through the preliminary round of Group B at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship at Air Canada Centre this past week.
It marked the first time since winning a bronze medal at the 2011 WJC in Buffalo that the U.S. finished first in its group. The playoff round now takes center stage with quarterfinal-round action set to commence here and at Bell Centre in Montreal from Monday through Thursday.
The U.S. will play Switzerland in its quarterfinal game at Air Canada Centre on Monday (5:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN). Switzerland has never defeated the U.S. in 22 WJC games, which includes two ties. The U.S. has outscored Switzerland 128-43.
U.S. national junior team general manager Jim Johannson has been encouraged by the play of the group he helped select, but realizes fulfilling the ultimate goal requires three more victories.
Johannson did a Q&A with NHL.com on Sunday prior to the start of the medal round:
What do you like most about the team?
"I think our demeanor and our resiliency. I think we've put ourselves in a little bit more penalty trouble than we would like but, because of that, we've had to show resilience and we've done that. The players know what's going on and I don't think they're intending to take penalties, but it unfortunately puts you in that tough position. It's something we'll have to keep working on."
What do you think of the two-goalie rotation coach Bob Motzko has employed?
"I think we go into the World Junior tournament thinking someone will take command of the crease but both [Joseph Woll and Tyler Parsons] have played very well. Going into this, we said we had three great goaltenders (including healthy scratch Jake Oettinger), and I think so far they've shown that they're really good goaltenders who can play at this level. There's a comfort level with all of them. I think in talking to [Motzko], it just felt right to him. That's part of the dynamic of the team. It just feels like everyone is engaged and involved, so why can't the goaltenders be the same way."
It seems like rest has been a major talking point for Motzko during the tournament. Why?
"In the end, it is seven games in 11 nights. The game against Canada on Saturday was so emotional. It's not only the physical part, but it's just being on the road and being together for a long time. It gets tiring; the same meals, hotels. We want to keep them mentally sharp every day and have something to engage with every day. In all honesty, you have to take control of that rest for these guys because they don't yet really know how to."
How impressed have you been with the play of the defense?
"It's been excellent, and I think they've shown to play in all styles. We've moved the puck pretty well to the forwards and against Canada you saw some sturdiness that a lot of people questioned coming into it; we had questions coming into it. The grit and the shot blocks and the very strong defending showed up the entire game [in a 3-1 win against Canada]."
Video: WJC Preliminary Round Highlights: USA 3, CAN 1
Is the forward group playing to your expectations?
"It's been a good group, and the neat part is we're rolling four lines over the boards and they're all contributing in their own ways. Obviously Clayton Keller has some highlight plays, but Jordan Greenway has been an absolute separator; everyone seems to have trouble handling him. I look at the way Tanner Laczynski, Troy Terry and Joey Anderson have played, they've been constant puck hounds who have been able to advance the puck for us."