|Johnson and Jagr at IIHF quarterfinals
Photo by Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF
Out of the sixteen countries to play in the main pool at last year’s IIHF World Championships the United States finished 13th – ahead of only France, Italy and Kazakhstan.
They’ll finish five slots higher this year, but there isn’t much to celebrate. After advancing to the elite-8, they were bounced in their first game by the defending champions from the Czech Republic.
In today’s opening game of the quarterfinals Team USA lost 4-0. Al Montoya (New York Islanders) was announced as injured, so Ty Conklin (St. Louis Blues) was given the start in goal. Jack Johnson played over 20 minutes again, but the offense just couldn’t get anything going.
The Kings defenseman also laid out Patrik Elias (New Jersey Devils) behind the net in the third period. Probably should have been a penalty, but there was no call.
Johnson finished the tournament with 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in seven games, picked up eight penalty minutes and was a minus-4. He also led all U.S. defenseman with 20 shots on goal.
Jaromir Jagr looked every bit the part of a player ready to return to the NHL, posting three goals on his first four shots in today’s game. He’s now tied for the lead on his team with five goals and eight points (matching the totals of Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec).
The Czech’s beat Russia for the gold last May and this year’s brackets have things lining up for a possible rematch. Russia has also played in the finals for three straight years, having won the gold medal in 2008 and 2009.
Germany and Sweden will play later today. The winner of that game will play the Czech Republic in one of Friday’s semi-final games.
On the other side, the winner of tomorrow’s two games – Canada/Russia and Finland/Norway – will meet up in the other semi-final game.
Both the gold and bronze medal games will be played on Sunday, airing live on VERSUS in the U.S.
But, back to that Canada-Russia game. Coach Ken Hitchcock has already announced he’s sticking with Jonathan Bernier in goal, who is 2-0 in the tournament. One of the many story lines to watch in that game is if Bernier and the Canadian defense can shut down Alexander Ovechkin. In two games played, he’s yet to register a point.