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Thrashers in USA vs. Norway + Pavelec Shutout

Ondrej Pavelec backed the Czech Republic to 6-0 victory over Denmark today.  He stopped 24 of 24 shots, and while Denmark may not be one of top tier teams in the IIHF championships, they were ranked 13th in the world, one ahead of Austria coming into the tournament. 

As for team USA's oponent, Norway managed to beat Sweden in a shootout on Saturday getting their first win over  their Nordic neighbor in over 60 years.  This also meant that today's game would decide who took over the lead in group C. 

Team USA quickly worked itself into a 2 goal hole.  After a video review that showed the puck sneaking by Montoya, Norway was up by one and quickly took a penalty.  On the ensuing power play, team USA gave up a shortie.  Team USA would stop the bleeding there, but it wasn't until the 3rd period that they'd get on the board eventually scoring 4 goals for the win.  Here's my impression of how our Thrashers did.

I'll start with Stapleton who finished the night +1, with 1 primary assist, 3 SOG and 10:45 ice time.  Watching Stapleton in the world's playing against competition that is slightly less talented than the NHL and with more ice than the NHL clearly shows why he keeps getting chances in Atlanta despite his lack of production on the ice.  He intercepted a strong pass while on the PK and took it down the ice for a short handed shot on goal, managed to weave his way through the Norwegian neutral zone trap a couple of times with his speed, and with 3 SOG in ten minutes of play that included significant PK time, he just always seems to be doing something right when on the ice.

Blake Wheeler was on the ice for the Short handed goal against, so he finished the day -1, but he had 21:02 of ice time and 3 SOG.  Wheeler has looked very good in the tournament.  His line is getting chances, and its just luck that tonight his line didn't get on the scoresheet.  Wheeler's effort is encouraging for next season as well.  He's forchecking hard, driving the net, and helping his line create very good scoring chances.  He may be team USA's best forward all around even though the score sheet doesn't indicate so.

Mark Stuart got hit pretty bad in the 3rd period when he got caught watching one of his passes, but he was back on the ice by the end of the period.  His stats for the night were 1 SOG, an even rating, and 16:19 of ice time (team USA skated 8 Defenseman since rosters can have 22 guys on the bench).  Stuart played the general physical game  we came to expect from him in his few months with Atlanta.  As an example, even after breaking his stick on a failed slapshot, he stuck with the play and laid a check in open ice separating a Norwegian from the puck.   Like Ladd did all year, he's leading by example.  

All of our guys are looking very good so far, but they haven't really played any team's of the same calibre as the NHL competition we're used to watching them face.  To an extent that will change as the tournament progresses, but for the time being, I'm using it as an excuse to build optimism for next year.

Team USA faces Sweden on Wednesday at 2:00 pm et.  The team has already qualified for the next round (shocker, I was expecting relegation games), and with a win or OT loss to Sweden on Wednesday afternoon, Team USA will win group C.  A loss in regulation will give Sweden group C. 

Kulda missed today's game between Latvia and Finland due to his 2 game suspension.

Kane and Ladd play tomorrow when Canada meets Switzerland.  Burmistrov has not yet played for Russia who tomorrow faces the host Slovakia.

UPDATE:

Canada beats Switzerland in overtime for a 4-3 win.  Kane had the only assist on a goal scored by Eberle (who also got the OT marker).  He also produced 4 shots on goal, had 13:55 minutes of ice time, and finished the morning +1.  Ladd finished the game even with 4 SOG, 13:30 ice time, and an even rating.  Didn't get to watch the game, so I can't comment on how they did, but 4 shots on goal each in about 14 minutes of ice time is not bad.  And the Swiss are no slouch on the world stage.  With the win, team Canada take their group and moves on to the qualification round robin.

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