Team USA vs Canada in WJC Gold Medal Game – A Matchup for the Ages?

Team USA vs Canada in WJC Gold Medal Game – A Matchup for the Ages?

It could be a game for the ages. Or, the Americans could get blown out of the water. Either way, it’s going to be a party for somebody. Let’s hope for the former, as Team USA faces the overwhelming tournament favorite, Team Canada, in Tuesday’s World Junior Championship (WJC) gold medal game. 

Monday’s semifinals were a tale of two contests. In the early game, Russia—which opened the WJC with an impressive win over Team USA—was spanked 5-0 by the Canadians. That game even made the world’s best under-20 goaltender, Yaroslav Askarov (Nashville Predators prospect), look downright beatable. Team Canada coasted through the third period and never looked under duress. 

In the late game, USA ultimately came out victorious over Finland in an intense contest that went down to the wire. After the US allowed the tying goal at 16:17 of the third period, Arthur Kaliyev (LAK) rifled the game winner with just over one minute remaining. It was an emotional game that took every American player giving just about everything to get past the pesky Finns, who nearly overcame their second consecutive two-goal deficit of the knockout stage. 

Both teams will need to quickly reset as we turn our attention to the gold medal game, which will be played Tuesday between David Team USA and Goliath Team Canada at 6:30PM Pacific on NHL Network. 

Team Canada Lives Up to Hype

On paper, Canada should probably win just about every WJC. Yet—by their standards—the Canadians had a bit of a down decade, earning three gold medals between 2010 and 2020, including last year’s championship. Another win tonight would prove that the dip in dominance was simply an anomaly. 

In this WJC, Canada has lived up to its pre-tournament billing in every way. Despite its best player and captain, Kirby Dach (CHI), fracturing his wrist in an exhibition game and forcing him out of the competition, Team Canada has dominated every game it has played to this point. In fact, the star-studded squad has outscored its opponents 41-4 in six games, and netminder Devon Levi has allowed zero goals at even strength. 

You read that right. Canada has not yet allowed an even-strength goal in this tournament. 

Speaking of Levi, goaltending was perhaps the one area coming into the WJC in which Canada did not appear to hold an advantage over the field. Russia’s Askarov and USA’s Spencer Knight received the bulk of the ballyhoo, while our neighbors to the north questioned who would get the nod in their nation’s goal crease. 

Levi—an unheralded seventh-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers—has answered any and all questions to this point. The Northeastern University freshman has stopped 120 of 124 shots through Monday’s semifinal, good for a .975 save percentage. Still, one could argue that he hasn’t been tested that intensely, as Canada has allowed few grade-A scoring chances. 

Meanwhile, after losing the odds-on favorite for tournament MVP in Dach, Dylan Cozens (BUF) took the reins as the offensive leader and shined from the jump. Cozens—who has traded off wearing what was supposed to be Dach’s “C” with stud defenseman Bowen Byram (COL)—is tied for the WJC scoring lead with 16 points (8-8-16). 

Connor McMichael (WAS), Quinton Byfield (LAK), Alex Newhook (COL), and Peyton Krebs (VGK) are other players that we at Sound Of Hockey have noticed as particularly outstanding on a roster full of potential future NHL superstars. 

The Americans Are No Slouches

So if Cozens is tied for the tournament scoring lead, then who shares that honor with him? Why, it’s none other than USA’s Trevor Zegras (ANA), of course! 

Zegras has been incredible for the Stars and Stripes, scoring from everywhere, setting up teammates, and finding ways to be dangerous just about every time he’s been on the ice. In all, Zegras has six goals and 10 assists, and if USA shocks the world Tuesday, he has all but secured the tournament MVP award. 

Others that have wowed for the Americans have been Cam York (PHI), Matt Boldy (MIN), and Cole Caufield (MTL). 

Local Pacific Northwest hockey fans have been clamoring to see Everett Silvertips goaltender Dustin Wolf (CGY) receive a real chance to show what he can do on this global stage. He frankly has been buried on the bench behind Knight, despite not giving up a goal in a game and a half during the preliminary round. USA head coach Nate Leaman has clearly hitched his wagon to Knight, though, and almost certainly will give the start to the 2019 first-round pick of the Panthers. 

In fairness to Knight, he has played very well in this tournament, aside from a couple opening-game blunders against Russia that landed him on the bench. Knight boasts a .922 save percentage and was named one of USA’s three best players of the tournament following Monday’s semifinal. 

But Do The Americans Actually Have a Chance?

It’s not quite USA versus USSR in the 1980 Winter Olympics, but Canada will be heavily favored on Tuesday. The US will have to play a close-to-perfect game and will still have to get some breaks to beat the Canadians. 

So how can they actually do it? Most important for Team USA is that it wins the special teams battle. On Monday, the Americans took five penalties against Finland and relented two power play goals. They aren’t going to score much at five-on-five against Canada, but they do have the best power play in the tournament with Zegras, Kaliyev, and Boldy forming a truly elite forward unit. As a team, USA has scored at a 43 percent clip with the manpower advantage. 

Drawing power plays while playing a clean game and receiving stellar goaltending from Knight is how the Americans can pull this off. 

Still, it’s a huge long shot. 

Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at Sound Of Hockey and the host, producer, and editor of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is an inconsistent beer league goalie who believes that five players have to make a mistake before the puck gets to him. Follow him on Twitter @DarrenFunBrown or email

Seattle Kraken Milestones to Look for in 2021

Seattle Kraken Milestones to Look for in 2021

Here are some milestones Seattle fans should have on their radar as we turn the page on 2020, and the Kraken look to make their official debut in the fall of 2021.

Head Coach

There has been a lot of anticipation on the hiring of the Seattle Kraken’s first head coach. General manager Ron Francis has signaled that he is willing to be patient in filling this role. Unless there is a coach out there that he really wants, then there is no rush. However, the head coach should contribute to discussions around the Expansion Draft selections, so we would anticipate a coach will be hired in the April/May timeframe. This is conjecture, and the team hasn’t said anything specific about when it plans to hire somebody, but that would make sense.

Expansion Draft

The Seattle Expansion Draft is set for July 21st. I have this date etched in my brain. This is the date the Seattle Kraken becomes a team. This is how the core of the team will be built and is probably the single most important date on the calendar.

NHL Entry Draft

40% of the players in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs were playing for the teams that selected them in their respective drafts. Eventually, the Seattle Kraken will be mostly homegrown draft picks from the NHL Entry Draft. We might not see some of these “kids” play for the Kraken for several years, but while the Expansion Draft is the present, the Entry Draft is the future. The 2021 NHL Entry Draft will be July 23rd and 24th. Depending on how the Draft Lottery goes, Seattle will pick somewhere in the top six.

Jersey Reveal

Fans wanted their authentic Kraken jerseys yesterday, but teams usually unveil their jerseys the summer leading up to the season. There might be an exception to the Kraken being that they are not playing this season, so there is a chance the official jersey and uniform will come early. The earliest I could foresee the official jersey reveal happening is May 10th and the latest might be August.

NHL Schedule

I might be anticipating this more than most, but I can’t wait to see the NHL Schedule with the Seattle Kraken listed all over it. When is Opening Night? When are my San Jose Sharks coming to town? When do we get to see Connor McDavid play at Climate Pledge Arena? Schedule reveals tend to be around the NHL Entry Draft, so I would expect this in late July or early August sometime.

TV Partner/Solution

A lot of the current TV deals that sports franchises have are designed for business models and revenue streams built in 1990s. Has anything in the digital video distribution business changed since then? Of course it has.

Hello, Amazon Prime TV and Hulu Live Sports.

Figuring out what kind of “TV” distribution solution the team agrees upon should be interesting. There is the traditional pay TV route (Cable, Satellite, and Internet TV) or the aforementioned streaming services. Both have their pros and cons in terms of demographics, accessibility, user base, revenue, etc. I could write a whole separate article about this, but for now we’ll leave it at this. Expect information about the Kraken’s distribution partners and solutions in the summer.

Youth Hockey Engagement & Programs

The Seattle Kraken have been quiet in pushing youth hockey and Learn to Play programs since being awarded a franchise two years ago. You do not have to play the game to be a fan, but youth hockey has always been the lifeblood of building new supporters for life.

Expect a lot of Try Hockey for Free and Learn to Play programs all year round when the Kraken open the Northgate facility in the fall.

Puck Drop

It’s coming. 2021 will mark the inaugural season for the Seattle Kraken, which – assuming everything does get back on track now, as the NHL has planned – will commence in October.

Those are just some of the big milestones Kraken fans can look forward to in 2021. We’re just about 9 months away from dropping that puck. I hope you’re as excited as I am.

USA Can Win Group B at World Junior Championship with Regulation Win Over Sweden

USA Can Win Group B at World Junior Championship with Regulation Win Over Sweden

Before New Year’s Eve champagne can be popped and the fireworks can start there is still a big hockey game to be played at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton. Team USA will take on Sweden in the last game of the preliminary round and it will decide the winner of Group B and all-important seeding in the quarterfinals.

With a regulation win, Team USA will win the group and get the easier pathway to the Gold Medal game. They’ll face a smarting Swedish group that had it’s unreal 54-game preliminary round win streak snapped Wednesday in a gut-wrenching 4-3 overtime loss. Russia won it with under six seconds left in the overtime period.

It will be a good matchup as both countries ice rosters loaded with future NHL stars. The Unites States boast 23 NHL-drafted players, nine of which are first-round picks. Sweden counters with 18 drafted players and six first-round draftees.

The USA stumbled out of the gate to lose to Russia but since has found its legs, its offense, and now has a shot of winning the toughest group in the World Junior Championship.

Thanks to Russia having lost out on a crucial point due to their overtime win over the Swedes, Team USA has control of their own destiny and an excellent chance to finish at the top of Group B, going into their final game of the group on Friday as favorites over Team Sweden.

This will be entertaining hockey.

The Team USA Perspective

Russia beat Sweden in overtime which is only worth two points in the standings. That gives them eight points, and the US can get to nine points by beating Sweden in regulation.

The US has been on fire after losing to Russia in the opening game of the World Junior Championship. That game ended at 5-3, but the Americans played better than perhaps the score revealed.

A five-minute stretch in the second period saw goalie Spencer Knight struggle handling the puck and that resulted in two quick Russian goals. Knight was pulled for Everett Silvertips goalie Dustin Wolf who would hold down the fort which allowed the US to get to within one goal late before an empty-net tally put it away.

In the two games since, the Americans haven’t allowed a goal and have scored 18 times. Team USA is fast and full of skilled players, all of whom can put the puck in the net.

Anaheim Ducks prospect Trevor Zegras has sparked the USA and is tied for the scoring lead in the World Junior Championship with 10 points in three games. He’ll need to keep producing against the Swedes. Zegras isn’t alone as the US is getting balanced scoring and players like Matthew Boldy and Bobby Brink have had big offensive performances.

With Knight’s struggles against Russia, there was a bit of a goalie controversy that crept into the USA camp. Wolf started the following game against Austria and made 10 saves to earn a shutout. Knight was back in net the next night against the Czech Republic and he didn’t allow a score.

Spencer Knight is one of the top US goalie prospects ever (Photo courtesy of USA Hockey.)

Who will head coach Nate Leaman give the crease to Thursday?

Team Sweden Perspective

The win streak is over. It was heart breaking, losing in overtime with under six seconds on the clock. They won’t have time to mourn and can still win Group B. It’s simple, they just need to beat the US.

Sweden can score with the best of them and gets a lot of offense going from the blue line. Edmonton Oilers 2019 first-rounder Philip Broberg is having a strong tournament as is Arizona Coyotes prospect Victor Soderstrom.

Up front they are led by Lucas Raymond, a Detroit Red Wings first-round pick, who has been big during the preliminary games.

Like the USA, Sweden has options in goal and can argue they have one of the best tandems at the World Juniors.

Hugo Alnefelt is the older, more experienced goalie and played the first two games for Sweden. Against Russia, they gave the start to 2021 NHL Draft prospect Jesper Wallstedt. The younger of the two, Wallstedt, played well against the Russians but allowed four goals.

Was that enough to earn him a start against the Americans?

The USA – Sweden Matchup to Win the World Junior Championship Group B

Special teams are always Important in big games and will be a factor on Thursday.

The Swedes’ power play let them down against Russia, but they have been one of the better units so far. The USA comes in with the top penalty kill at the World Junior Championship. Whoever wins that battle will come out on top.

Both teams can score, but the US has a bit more firepower and skill up front than the Swedes do. Sweden’s defense is strong, though, so that will be another great strength-against-strength matchup to watch.

Sweden is coming off a tough loss to Russia that snapped their epic win streak. The USA club was off Wednesday and is more rested. In a short tournament, that could be the tipping point that will put the US over the top in this matchup.

Three Things We Learned from Team USA WJC Loss to Russia

Three Things We Learned from Team USA WJC Loss to Russia

That probably wasn’t the start the Americans wanted in the World Junior Championship. The first WJC game for Team USA against Russia on Christmas Day ended 5-3 with the Red Machine getting the better of the play for most of the evening. 

USA was sloppy with its puck management, committing dangerous turnovers it its own end and at both blue lines, and that really was the ultimate difference in the game. 

If you’re rooting for the Stars and Stripes in this tournament, though, there was some silver lining. After falling behind 4-1 in the second period, Team USA did fight back to make it a one-goal game before conceding an empty net goal in the closing minutes. 

So, there’s some fight in the Americans. Even in a game with careless puck play and as high as a three-goal deficit against a talented team with the world’s best under-20 goalie, there was still a chance for victory late in the game. And that is something upon which to hang your red, white, and blue hat. 

Despite the disappointing American performance, it was ridiculously fun to drink a few glasses of Christmas cheer and watch elite-level hockey. Here are the three things we learned from USA’s opening loss to Russia.

Thing 1: America’s Got Talent

Montreal Canadiens’ draft pick, Cole Caufield, got minimal playing time in the opening period Friday. Why? We have no idea. 

The Wisconsin Badger was dangerous every time he touched the puck and looked faster and more shifty than anybody else when he was in control. The problem was that he didn’t get that many looks, and when he did, it was too frequently on the perimeter and trying to create opportunities for himself. 

Caufield loves finding a quiet spot on the ice away from the puck and then quickly striking when a teammate finds him through a seam. That didn’t happen Friday. 

Trevor Zegras (ANA) also showed why he’s considered one of USA’s top offensive threats with a late power play rocket off the post and in. 

Meanwhile, Matt Boldy (MIN) was strong everywhere on the ice and Cam York (PHL) had USA’s first goal and added an assist.

There are kinks to work out for Team USA if it wants to have a chance in this WJC, and Russia exposed that. But there is real talent here, and despite the loss, there’s no reason to think USA can’t end up on the podium on January 5th. 

Thing 2: Goaltending Controversy? 

While Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov (NSH) has earned top billing for goalies in this tournament – and showed why on Friday with some remarkably athletic saves – Spencer Knight is one of the other netminders that has received plenty of hype and praise, including from yours truly.

Knight had a really tough… night… though. 

It probably wouldn’t have looked that bad for the Florida Panthers’ first-round draft pick, if it weren’t for his puck play outside of the crease. And frankly, Knight made a good pass on one of the his two gaffs before defenseman Jake Sanderson (OTT) turned the puck over and hung Knight out to dry. 

This one was pretty bad, though, and this goal – Russia’s fourth – landed Knight on USA’s bench. 

In all, Knight was credited with just four saves on eight shots Friday. Oofda. 

In came Everett Silvertip and friend of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast, Dustin Wolf (CGY). The 2019-2020 CHL Goalie of the Year came on in relief and looked solid, stopping all eleven shots he faced, including two Russian breakaways. 

Knight has long been considered the de facto starter for USA, but the team would have had a better chance to win if Wolf had played the whole game. 

One has to wonder now if Wolf will get more chances to start as we get deeper in the tournament. He has already been named the starter for Saturday’s contest with Austria.

While USA head coach, Nate Leaman, has maintained all along that he plans to use both Knight and Wolf in the WJC, the preliminary round games are absolutely auditions for the quarterfinals and beyond.

Thing 3: Execution Wins Games

Execution was the achilles heel for Team USA against Russia, and that has to improve as we move along in the WJC. Turnovers in bad spots on the ice ultimately did them in against a more opportunistic and more crisp Red Machine. 

A sequence four minutes into the second period summed up the contest pretty well. Bobby Brink (PHL) found himself with the puck on his stick in the slot and a gaping net in front of him, with Askarov nowhere to be found. 

But Brink shanked a snap shot wide of the net. A goal there would have given USA a 2-1 lead. 

Just seconds later, Maxim Groshev (TBL) hit Zakhar Bardakov with a glorious stretch pass that Bardakov promptly deposited behind Knight.

The Russians executed. The Americans did not. 

The US goes right back to work at 6:30PM Pacific on Saturday against a lesser opponent in Austria. Perhaps that will be a chance for the Americans to ramp up the execution that escaped them on Friday. 

Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at Sound Of Hockey and the host, producer, and editor of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is an inconsistent beer league goalie who believes that five players have to make a mistake before the puck gets to him. Follow him on Twitter @DarrenFunBrown or email

NHL RETURNING! Season Plan, Steen Retires, Henrik Sits

NHL RETURNING! Season Plan, Steen Retires, Henrik Sits

NHL Hockey is unofficially… officially… returning! The decision early in the week by the NHL to suddenly begin negotiating in public about a portion of its return-to-play plan for this season felt a bit ominous. We’ve seen from the lockouts of yesteryear that public negotiating by either side usually means bad things are coming. The league had started indicating that the COVID-related restrictions imposed by provincial governments could make it impossible for Canadian teams to play their games in their home arenas.

This would, of course, derail the widely publicized plan of having an all-Canadian division.

Thankfully, that all-Canadian division was not the lynchpin to getting a deal done after all, because the NHL and NHLPA announced in an obnoxiously late Friday night news dump that they have a tentative plan in place to begin the season on January 13th. All indications are that regardless of if Canadian teams are allowed to play in their own cities – or if they have to play in American cities – there will be a 56-game season.

Friend of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast, Scott Burnside, has the full breakdown of the plan in The Athletic, but here are the highlights:

  • 56-game regular season with no exhibition games
  • Playoffs will be top four teams in each division with each division producing a Conference Finals participant
  • Rosters will be expanded to 23 players
  • Each team will also have a “taxi squad” of 4-6 players
  • There will be schedule flexibility like in the NFL, in case games need to be postponed due to positive tests

Here is the latest divisional alignment plan, which still assumes that the NHL will be able to work out the all-Canadian division.


Obviously, if the all-Canadian division doesn’t come to fruition, then the above will be fully re-worked, and the Canadian teams will have to find American cities to temporarily call home.

Steen Hangs ‘Em Up

Alex Steen is hanging up the skates after a successful 15-year NHL career. The big winger played 1,018 games in his career, and notched 622 career points. Steen started his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2005 and was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 2008, where he played out the next 12 seasons, lifting the Stanley Cup in 2019.

Steen cited a back injury as his reason to retire, and more specifically, he apparently has some degenerative herniated discs that sound absolutely miserable.

As part of his announcement, Steen told, “This has been an emotional process. But as I look back on my years in hockey, I would like to thank our organization, our city, our fans, and my teammates as I am so proud of all the teams I was a part of.”

Steen has one year left on his contract, and apparently the Blues will still be charged against the cap.

Oh, and he just had a baby! What a week for Steen!

King Without A Crown

Speaking of health issues forcing players out of the NHL, Henrik Lundqvist announced that he will not be playing for Washington this season, as we were expecting.

Lundqvist apparently is dealing with a heart condition that would make it unsafe for him to participate.

While there is no indication in the statement that Lundqvist is planning to retire, he is now 38 years old, will not have a contract next season, and is dealing with a serious issue here. If this is the last we see of the dreamy Swede as an NHL player, it will be very sad to see it end this way.

King Henrik has had an incredible run. In his 15-year career, Lundqvist, who holds a career regular season record of 459-310-96, became synonymous with the New York Rangers and has been the perfect ambassador for the sport. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2012 and led the Blueshirts to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, but has never lifted hockey’s greatest prize.

There was hope that in a back-up or secondary role with Washington, he may get one last kick at the can.

While it certainly isn’t the main takeaway here, one has to wonder who will platoon in Washington’s goal crease this season with 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov. Veteran free agents left out there include Jimmy Howard (36), Cory Schneider (34), Ryan Miller (40), and Craig Anderson (39).

Speaking of Free Agents

The Minnesota Wild signed Andrew Hammond, AKA The Hamburglar, to a one-year, two-way deal. The signing comes after a revelation that Wild back-up, Alex Stalock, is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

Never forget Hammond’s time with the Senators.

Oh, and speaking of the Senators, former Senator Anthony Duclair finally signed a one-year steal of a deal for the Florida Panthers, worth just $1.7 million. That seems like a pretty great rate and a no-risk deal for a speedy winger that broke out for 23 goals and 17 assists in 66 games for Ottawa last season.

It is curious why Duclair, skilled and still just 25 years old, continues to get bounced around the league. Florida will be his sixth NHL team.

Advanced stats do offer some explanation…

Mike Hoffman, Mikael Granlund, Sami Vatanen, Carl Soderberg, and many others remain unsigned.

WJC – The “C” Stands for “Concerns”

Teams have arrived in Edmonton for the World Junior Championship, though they haven’t gotten there without some challenges.

Two planes were sent to Europe to bring six teams and their luggage. The planes were simply not large enough to carry everyone and their things, and still allow for social distancing. After a long delay to the teams’ journeys, cargo planes were eventually chartered to bring their belongings separately.

Now in the so-called bubble, positive COVID tests have been returned for eight of Germany’s players and two of Sweden’s staff members. Remember, Sweden lost several players from its roster at the last minute before traveling, as well as its head coach, due to positive tests.

Sweden also shared a too-small plane with Russia and Finland on the way to Canada, which adds to the concern around the positive tests.

Hopefully these are the last positive tests we see, and that everyone recovers quickly.

It’s also unclear at this time if the IIHF plans to resurrect the penalty music from last year’s WJC in Czech Republic. We remain optimistic that every time a player commits an infraction at this year’s tournament, he will again be subjected to the embarrassment of hearing this tune as he enters the box.

Around the Boards

  • There’s also been a lot of uncertainty around college hockey this season, including when Big Ten teams would even play in the second half. Well, those schedules have finally been released. Play resumes January 3rd and concludes with the Big Ten Tournament March 18-20.
  • We don’t yet know what the format will be for the NCAA Tournament, or even how the NCAA will choose its participants, especially considering that many Division I teams have still only played a handful of games. Nonetheless, here are the latest rankings, per
RnkTeam(First Place Votes)RecordPointsLast Poll
2Boston College(3)5-1-07412
3Minnesota Duluth(1)5-1-17353
4North Dakota(2)4-2-16981
5Minnesota State2-1-06086
9St. Cloud4-2-040113
13Bowling Green6-1-031516
15UMass Lowell0-1-03018
16Notre Dame4-4-023215
18Ohio State3-5-019314
20Robert Morris5-2-038NR
  • Our good friends at Oak View Group are building a 5,000-seat arena for ASU, and it’s going to be awesome. Construction begins in January.
  • Finally, the WHL announced that it is further delaying the start of its season, though a date has not been confirmed. The league said in its statement that “The Board of Governors will meet in January to consider potential start dates.”

Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at Sound Of Hockey and the host, producer, and editor of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is an inconsistent beer league goalie who believes that five players have to make a mistake before the puck gets to him. Follow him on Twitter @DarrenFunBrown or email