Wrapup: Flyers at World Championships
Congratulations to Flyers defenseman Erik Gustafsson and the rest of Tre Kronor for ending Switzerland's undefeated run at the 2013 IIHF World Championships, capturing the gold medal game by a 5-1 score. The Swedish team had some ups and downs during the preliminary round but peaked at just the right time in the 10-game tournament.
Additional congratulations go out to Team USA for its 3-2 shootout win over Finland to win the bronze medal. This has been a very good international season for USA Hockey. Team USA captured gold at the Under-20 World Championships, silver at the U18 Worlds (ending a streak of five straight golds) and bronze at the senior level Worlds. Team USA will also be a medal contender at the Sochi Olympics.
Here's a look at how each of the 10 Flyers-affiliated players fared at the Worlds.
Erik Gustafsson (D, Sweden)
: Gustafsson followed up his strong run in the final 10 games of the NHL regular season (two goals, one assist, three points, +3, 23:18 average ice time) with an even better run in his 10 games at the World Championships.
"Gus" led Tre Kronor in ice time with an average 23:59 per game and was tied with defense partner Henrik Tallinder with a team-best plus-seven rating. Gustafsson was not out on the ice for a single opposition even strength goal during the tourney. He made very few mistakes with or without the puck, and his outlet passing game was especially sharp.
As well as he played in the preliminary round, Gustafsson truly stepped up his game in the medal round when Alexander Edler was lost for the remainder of the tournament due to a kneeing penalty major penalty, game misconduct and two-game suspension.
In the quarterfinals against Canada, Gustafsson wound up playing a staggering 33:27 of the 70 minutes of game action. In the semis against Finland, Gustafsson skated 24:17 and was a plus-one in the 3-0 shutout win. In yesterday's gold medal win, the defenseman played 22:24 and opened the scoring for Sweden with a first-period even strength goal that tied the score at 1-1 a few minutes after Roman Josi put the Swiss ahead early. Gustafsson finished the tourney with one goal and one assist.
Claude Giroux (C, Canada)
: The Flyers' captain centered the top Canadian line, flanked by Steven Stamkos and Andrew Ladd. This is a potential Olympic line for Canada.
Giroux's tournament performance reflected his season with the Flyers. His final numbers -- three goals, five assists, eight points in eight games -- were fine. His overall play, though, was somewhat inconsistent. There were a few games where Giroux dominated and a few where he was not especially assertive.
Giroux's two biggest tournament highlights came in winning Best Player honors for Canada on the strength of a three-point outburst (one goal, two assists) against Belarus and scoring the tying third-period goal in the quarterfinals against Sweden to forced overtime.
Matt Read (LW/RW, Canada)
: Despite tallying a modest three points (one goal, two assists) in eight games, the Flyers forward quickly became a favorite of Team Canada coach Lindy Ruff. The coach moved Read around the lineup as needed and had him play a main role in penalty killing situations. He averaged 14:38 of ice time per game; more than the likes of Taylor Hall (10:54), Jordan Eberle (13:49), Jeff Skinner (10:31), Ryan O'Reilly (14:02) and Jordan Staal (13:21).
Primarily, Read's five-on-five linemates were Flyers teammate Wayne Simmonds and Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal (prior to Staal's knee injury). Read's biggest individual highlights came on a game-tying goal against Switzerland in the preliminary round and a pair of nifty assists on goals by Luke Schenn and Jordan Staal in Canada's 3-0 preliminary round win over eventual gold medalist Sweden.
Wayne Simmonds (RW, Canada)
: Simmonds tends to be a streaky goal scorer, and he went cold offensively at the Worlds. The power forward, who averaged 14:01 of ice time per game and saw time on the second power play unit, notched a power play goal against the Czech Republic for his lone point of the tournament.
However, Simmonds was among the Canadians most tenacious forecheckers. He did a good job at creating opposition turnovers while adapting his crash-and-bang North American game to the bigger international rink and the way penalties get called in Europe.
Perhaps Simmonds drew upon his experiences during the lockout where referees sent him to the penalty box multiple times on hits that would be considered clean in the NHL. The Flyers power forward, who logged 82 penalty minutes in 45 NHL games this season and a combined 51 penalty minutes in 15 Euro league games in Germany and the Czech Republic during the lockout, had one only one minor penalty in the entire tourney.
Luke Schenn (D, Canada)
: The big Flyers defenseman had a few ups and downs at the tournament. On the positive side, Schenn was a plus-four in seven games while averaging 16:28 of ice time. He also scored a goal against Sweden and registered an assist on a rare pinching foray deep in enemy territory in Canada's opening win against a pesky Team Denmark.
Schenn had some issues with turnovers and getting out of position in Team Canada's preliminary round shootout loss to Denmark. Early in the second period of Canada's game against the Czech Republic, Schenn got tossed out for boarding Zbynek Irgl. The IIHF suspended Schenn for the next game.
Overall, Schenn played effective hockey. He was often paired with the offensive-minded Brian Campbell and was a solid complement.
Jakub Voracek (RW, Czech Republic)
: The tourney was not a great one for Voracek or the Czechs, apart from an impressive 7-0 shellacking of Norway in a must-win preliminary round game with a spot in the medal round at stake. Voracek led his team in scoring with seven points (one goal, six assists) in eight games, but he had a tournament much like the one Giroux played for Canada. Some games, Voracek was a force. Other games, he was barely noticeable.
Throughout the tournament, Voracek was a major threat in power play situations. Five of his seven points, including his lone goal, came on the man advantage. He top-shelved a right circle blast in the Czech's opening 2-0 win over Belarus (one of eight shots on goal Voracek fired in that game). He also won Best Player honors for his team in a 2-1 loss to Canada. Although Voracek was held without a point and had one shot on goal in that game, he set up numerous scoring chances for teammates.
At five-on-five, however, Voracek was largely a non-factor in the tourney. He finished with a minus-four rating, tied for the lowest on his team. There were a few times where Voracek was guilty of leaving the defensive zone too early to try to get open for transitional rushes.
Ilya Bryzgalov (G, Russia)
: Bryzgalov's tournament play for Russia was rather similar to his performance for the Flyers, and the reception it received. There was more focus on the bad than the good, and he struggled to come up with momentum saves in marquee games when there were breakdowns in front of him.
He opened with an easy 14-save shutout against Belarus and was generally solid (apart from looking bad on a breakaway by ex-Flyers forward Branko Radivojevic) turning back 23 of 24 shots in a 3-1 win over Slovakia. On the flip side, he was just so-so in a pair of games of Team USA.
In the first game against the Americans, Bryzgalov was criticized for "ducking away" from one deflected goal, and for dropping his stick in a crease scramble in the other. In the quarterfinal rematch, Bryzgalov was pulled late in the second period after allowing four goals. He looked bad on three of the four goals, although only one could be fairly characterized as a soft goal. Bryzgalov's replacement, Semyon Varlamov, fared no better.
Overall, Bryzgalov finished with a 3-1-0 record, 2.20 GAA, and .901 save percentage. Varlamov was 2-1-0 with a 3.59 GAA and .878 save percentage. The team's other goalie, Vasili Kosechkin, appeared in one game, losing 2-1 to France while stopping 17 of 19 shots.
Oliver Lauridsen (D, Denmark)
: The Great Dane followed up on his enjoyable late season cup of coffee with the Flyers with an impressive tournament for a Danish team that played better than its 2-4-1 record would suggest. The Danes were competitive in each and every game they played, and Lauridsen's physical and generally solid defensive play was an important part of it.
Lauridsen averaged 18:58 of ice time per game in the tournament, which would have been higher had he not been forced out of a match against arch-rival Norway early in the second period due to a strained left hip flexor. He did not miss a game and finished up by playing 20-plus minutes in a must-win 3-2 victory over Belarus (which ensured the Danes could not be relegated) and a hard-fought 4-2 loss to Sweden. Lauridsen did not record a point, was an even plus-minus and had six penalty minutes.
The biggest issues that Lauridsen needs to work on are the same, whether it's on the North American or international rink. He struggled a bit with turnovers in a couple of the Danes' early games and was guilty a few times of overplaying the puck carrier and leaving a passing lane open for trailers. Overall, however, there was much to like about the way Lauridsen played for his underdog team.
Marcel Noebels (RW, Germany)
: The Phantoms rookie forward skated on Germany's fourth line in three games and was a healthy scratch in four other games. He received very limited ice time in his first two games. In his final appearance, Noebels played well enough to see extended ice time, skating 13-plus minutes.
Cal Heeter (G, USA)
: The Phantoms rookie goaltender was the third-string goaltender for bronze medalist Team USA, seeded behind John Gibson and Ben Bishop on the depth chart. Heeter did not dress for any of the Americans' 10 games.
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