Team USA Beats Norway 6-1; Pavelski Notches Two Assists
The Americans had a pretty good game, with the exception of ten minutes in the middle of the second and the start of the third period. During that time frame there were more of the same mistakes that plagued them against Switzerland on Tuesday-- defensive breakdowns that led to odd man opportunities. Norway didn't hold the zone for consecutive shifts or anything of that manner, but was able to counterpunch in transition effectively, forcing Ryan Miller to bail his team out with some big saves.
The final tally says 6-1; the game wasn't that ugly. Three of Team USA's goals came in the last five minutes of the tilt, and up until that point, Norway did a good job of hanging around to make things interesting. There was improvement from the first day of group play, but the case could be made that was due to the level of talent the Americans faced. Switzerland is definitely a better team in comparison to Norway.
Joe Pavelski had two assists on the day, the first one coming off a sweet little backhand touch pass across the neutral zone that sprung Phil Kessel for an uncontested shot he ripped into the far corner to put Team USA up by one. The second came at the end of the third, where Pavs won a draw in the offensive zone and fought to the front of the net. Brian Rafalski ripped the puck from the point, and it looked like it bounced off a Norwegian defenseman on it's way to the twine.
There was an opportunity for more though-- a few shifts after his first assist, Pavelski made a great no look forehand pass from the sideboards that Ryan Malone deflected off the crossbar. Would have been the play of the tournament up to this point. A second opportunity for number 16 to get on the scoreboard came when he made another tape to tape neutral zone pass, springing Kessel again. This time however, the puck seemed to bounce a bit on Kessel, forcing him to try and slip it five hole past Pal Grotnes of Norway. That bid was unsuccessful.
Jeremy Roenick continued his analyst duties for NBC today, and it seems as if Pierre McGuire may be rubbing off on him. At the end of the game he described Pavelski as a monster, and while that may be an accurate representation of his play thus far, the hope here is that JR doesn't go down the awkward road McGuire has paved before him.
Goal differential stands at +7, with a date against Team Canada awaiting on Sunday. There will be a lot to clean up defensively before then, and that tilt should be a good indicator what we can expect to see from the Americans as we make our way into the elimination round.