Monday, May 2, 2011

Stepan, Kreider, McDonagh All Play Roles In Team USA 4-2 Comeback Win Over Norway

In their second game of the 2011 IIHF World Championship tournament, Team USA played a game very reminiscent of the 2010-11 New York Rangers. The team fell behind 2-0 heading into the third period despite dominating in shots for the opening 40 minutes.  In the final period they finally solved Norwegian goaltender Lars Haugen and once they got the first one they erupted on their way to a 4-2 win over Norway. 
All three Rangers prospects had a role in the comeback win for Team USA.  Chris Kreider made a beautiful cross ice feed to Nick Palmieri of the New Jersey Devils for the tap in goal to get USA on the board and cut the deficit to 2-1 early in the third period.  The assist was Kreider’s second point of the tournament to go with his goal against Austria.  Kreider’s speed has been on display for the American squad in the two games thus far. 
Team USA tied the game on a goal from Jack Skille in which Ryan McDonagh got the secondary assist.  McDonagh was not as impactful in this game in terms of ice time or his overall level of play in comparison with his performance against Austria, but he still saw 15:19 of ice time and was a plus 2.
Derek Stepan, the top line center for Team USA, struggled some early in the game, but was very effective as the game went on and recorded an assist of his own on the final goal for the Americans.  Late in the third period, while on the power play, Stepan played a perfect deflection pass off the stick of former Wisconsin teammate Craig Smith with just 1:26 left to seal the game.  Stepan has shown great chemistry with Smith and Blake Wheeler during the first two games and coach Scott Gordon is clearly relying on the Rangers’ rookie forward as he played 23:56 during the game.  Stepan recorded seven shots in the game, four of which were in the third period. 
While the USA power play was not the prettiest thing to watch at times today, especially giving up a shorthanded goal, it is encouraging to watch Derek Stepan used properly along the left wing wall on the man advantage.  It is easy to envision a power play unit with Stepan along the wall and Chris Kreider manning the slot in the not so distant future.
It would have been fun to watch Mats Zuccarello take on Team USA today, but with his injury he was unable to participate and play against his Rangers counterparts.