Canada vs United States : Everything At Stake

Frequent contributor der Eishockeyzuschauer takes a look at today’s Canada/USA match, and what it might mean to the Flyers and Phantoms.

If potential future Lehigh Valley Phantoms goaltender Carter Hart cannot handle the enormous pressure of playing at the annual IIHF World Junior Championship then how the youngster would fare on behalf of the Hamilton Street Heroes at the cauldron that is the PPL Center with American Hockey League powers such as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears skating about must be seriously called into question ..... (photo courtesy Elena Rusko / TASS news agency)

If potential future Lehigh Valley Phantoms goaltender Carter Hart cannot handle the enormous pressure of playing at the annual IIHF World Junior Championship then how the youngster would fare on behalf of the Hamilton Street Heroes at the cauldron that is the PPL Center with American Hockey League powers such as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears skating about must be seriously called into question ….. (photo courtesy Elena Rusko / TASS news agency)


Less than twenty-four hours after the out of form Philadelphia Flyers finally benched slumping 19-year-old media darling Travis Konecny, the physically over-matched rookie right wing who has now gone 22 consecutive National Hockey League games without finding the back of the net despite the benefit of having spent this whole time skating on one of the club’s top two scoring lines, seemingly unstoppable Canada will face off against the still unbeaten United States on the final day of round robin competition at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships in a New Year’s Eve clash which has far more than continental bragging rights at stake.

Also up for grabs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto this afternoon will be first place in Group B and the accompanying right to what should be, at least in theory, an easier match in the quarterfinal round against the fourth place team from Group A ,which, at this point in time, could still be any one of three countries — Switzerland, Denmark or the Czech Republic. Furthermore, from the Canadian perspective as reported by the Toronto Sun newspaper on Friday evening, this upcoming battle between the Americans and the Canucks gives the host nation at this year’s WJC a chance at redemption.  As far as the United States is concerned, after having defeated Canada in dramatic fashion at the 2016 WJC in Helsinki last winter, the precious opportunity to make history is now at hand.
Aside from the simple fact that Canada hold a decidedly lopsided lead versus the United States in the all-time series (32 wins against just eight losses with three draws) at the annual WJC tournament which was officially recognized by the International Ice Hockey Federation beginning in 1977, the bottom line is that the underdog Americans have never ever beaten the Canadians in a meaningful WJC contest in consecutive seasons.  It is true that the U.S. downed Canada 5-2 in Winnipeg at the 1999 IIHF WJC twelve months after having blanked their great rival to the north 3-0 at the 1998 IIHF WJC meeting in Hameenlinna, Finland.  The latter of these two matches, however, had been a so-called “placement game” between a pair of countries who had already been eliminated from medal contention at that particular tournament; the practice of staging meaningless matches for the purposes of final rankings has since been abolished.
Konecny and Lehigh Valley Phantoms rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim, both of whom were first round NHL Draft picks of the Philadelphia Flyers, were on the 2016 Canadian world junior team which lost to the Americans 4-2 last season after conceding two lightning strikes just 41 seconds apart all with less than three and a half minutes remaining to play.
Whether or not Canada suffer another late-game collapse again this time around could very well depend upon potential future Lehigh Valley Phantoms shot-stopper Carter Hart, the 18-year-old netminder who was the second round pick (# 48 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2016 NHL Draft and currently plays in the Western Hockey League for the Everett Silvertips.  Hart appeared to be extremely nervous while surrendering three goals despite facing only seventeen shots against Russia in the Canadians’ opener at the WJC this term and also allowed a pair of goals against an underwhelming Latvian outfit; the .881 save percentage that Hart currently shows is just not impressive.  The other alternative for Canada would be Connor Ingram, the 19-year-old goaltender who was the third round choice (# 88 overall) of the Tampa Bay Lightning at that same 2016 NHL Draft this past summer — the potential future Syracuse Crunch puck tamer Ingram needed to make just six saves to earn his shutout versus Slovakia in a contest that saw Canada equal a team record for the fewest number of shots permitted that was originally established against lightweight Norway thirty-four years ago at the 1983 WJC affair.
From the Lehigh Valley Phantoms perspective, the one player to watch on the United States squad would be Tanner Laczynski, who was the sixth round pick (# 169 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2016 NHL Draft.  The 19-year-old freshman for the Ohio State Buckeyes has been averaging a little less than twelve minutes per game operating as the fourth line center for the Americans.  Laczynski notched a goal in the win over Slovakia and also assisted on the game-winner against the Russians.

Categories: Phantoms Hockey

5 replies

  1. Now that our Konecny wager has become the thing of legend–and your feelings on him are well known d.E.–I have to say that I still see both sides of it. I think he’s a skilled young player who doesn’t have a lot to prove in Juniors. However, it has become clear to all who watch without orange-colored glasses, that the weaknesses in his game are getting exploited very easily by the opposition. Going 22 (23 if you count yesterday in the press box) without a goal on a goal-scoring line with established teammates–is not good.

    So what do you do with a player who has mastered Juniors, but is not quite ready for the NHL, but is too young for the AHL? I don’t know. The Flyers certainly have the ability to roll him out there and not worry as long as they can see the improvement on tape, because they’re not really a cup team this season, it would seem.

    But what I’d do is change the rules to allow each franchise to designate one player as a “transition” player. A player they could move from NHL to AHL and back again during one season of their development under 20. Make them pay full NHL salary for the whole season, and designate a minimum amount of time that said player has to remain with the NHL team so that the teams can’t abuse the rule. I know Juniors wouldn’t like it, but it would be a way for NHL clubs to keep a closer eye on a key prospect who needs ice time but isn’t accomplishing as much as they would have liked on the biggest stage. It also keeps the AHL as a developmental league, as they have always desired, by providing the possibility of some additional young talent.

    • Lacherlich! Dass kann nie passieren. Ganz klar verboten … The current regulations regarding all “Canadian junior” players” that exist for all National Hockey League and American Hockey League teams were negotiated who knows how long ago and exist for a very specific reason. The Canadian junior teams, unlike American NCAA college teams, need to sell tickets in order to survive economically, period, end of story. And it IS (and always has been) in the very best long-term interests of the NHL and AHL to have the strongest possible Canadian junior hockey system constantly churning out legions of qualified professional players. When asked to explain why Russia does not win Olympic gold medals the way the Soviet Union used to, three-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time Stanley Cup champion Vyacheslav Fetisov said that, ever since the dissolution of the old USSR, too many highly skilled forwards have been leaving for either Canadian junior hockey and/or North America pro hockey so, therefore, young defensemen (18-22) who make it to the domestic elite league at an early age are not developing quite the way they once did during the Soviet era because the real cream of the country’s crop actually play in foreign leagues … One player per NHL organization does not sound like a lot but, in reality, it is — just ask the Russians or perhaps a ticket manager for a Canadian junior team.

  2. der Eishockeyzuschauer’s disdain for Konecny is strong in this one. The Flyers have 9 players at the WJC. Provorov and Konecny are the only two eligible who are not playing. Provorov and Konecny are more valuable to the Flyers playing for the Flyers vs being allowed to play at the WJC. Although Konecny has not scored recently he is currently fifth in points on the Flyers. Only Voracek, Simmonds, Giroux, and Schenn are ahead of him. Id say thats pretty good for a 19 year old rookie still in the process of developing. Yes Canada has historically dominated USA at the WJC. This is to be expected as hockey is Canada’s sport. Within the past 20 years however, USA has implemented an excellent development program. The gap in talent has closed significantly. In the las ten years Canada has 4 wins, Finland 2, USA 2, and Sweden and Russia both have 1. And look at that….USA has now beaten Canada in a meaningful WJC game two years in a row.

    • I said it before and I’ll say it again – Konecny got off to a somewhat fast start with four goals and ten points in his first 15 NHL games but, aside from the goal-less skid, even his points per game average has been in serious decline (from .667 in first fifteen to .364 in his last twenty-two appearances) … I think Konecny surprised opponents at the beginning but now the National Hockey League, as a whole, has clearly adjusted and the memo outlining the plan — pound on the punk kid — has been both distributed and successfully implemented … NHL teams are having entirely too much ease knocking Konecny off the puck and onto his ass night after night nowadays – it’s fun to watch, really. I was genuinely disappointed that Konecny was scratched against San Jose. I hope there is no repeat of this against the Anaheim Ducks on New Year’s Day because the German national team defenseman Korbinian Holzer (6’3″ 215 lbs) eagerly awaits his chance to properly welcome the youngster to West Coast. 😉

  3. Note To Kram :

    On the subject of busting myths, I heard it stated that Canada skating against the United States at the annual IIHF World Junior Championship was an annual New Year’s Eve tradition. Nothing could be further from the truth as it should be remembered that the Americans beat the Canadians 4-2 in Helsinki on Boxing Day (Dec 26th) last winter. For starters, both the United States and Canada must be drawn into the same preliminary round robin group, which is, of course, never guaranteed to happen each and every season. Even given that, the actual schedule of which games will be played on what date is ultimately determined by the host country … It is true that Canada and the United States have met in the preliminary round of the annual WJC every season now since 2012 but one must also remember that from 2001 thru 2005 the Americans and Canucks did not face off in the preliminary round even once … It is fair to say that, far more often than not, a Canada vs United States preliminary round match at the annual WJC ends up taking place on New Year’s Eve.

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