Six years ago, Slovakia's goalie at the World Juniors was Jaroslav Janus. I didn't need to look that name up. I struggle to name any other player from that tournament, but I remember Janus.
That tournament was held in Ottawa and Janus became an adopted Canadian son as he made save after save against a frustrated American team in the quarterfinals of the tournament helping the Slovaks pull off an unlikely 5-3 upset to knock the Americans out of the tournament.
Slovakia didn't do much after that. They gave up five goals in both the semifinals and bronze medal game, both losses. Didn't matter. He was named to the All-Star team for the tournament. They put his freakin' jersey in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
For about half of the game against Slovakia today, this game had a similar feel. The US controlled play, but couldn't put anything together offensively against a very good Slovak goalie in Denis Godla.
The saving grace for the US was just how far off the map Slovakian hockey has fallen, even in the past six years. They were shut out today, like they were against Canada, and they likely wouldn't have scored a goal if they played another 60 minutes of hockey.
Meanwhile, the US finally broke offensively with a late second period goal by Sonny Milano when he beat Godla high to the short side on a rush down the left wing. Dylan Larkin added another short-side goal in the third period, and John Hayden added a goal in the final minute to make things look easier than they actually were.
It wasn't the best performance for the US, but it certainly could have gone worse. The US gets the day off tomorrow as they prepare for their biggest test of the preliminary round: a New Year's Eve match-up with the host Canadians for first place in the group.
-Scoring still appears to be a huge issue for this team. Mark Osiecki is trying every possible left wing on the top line with Eichel and Tuch hoping for a spark, and just not finding it. Dave Starman made the comment that Osiecki was keeping the possibility of Sonny Milano on that line "in his back pocket" in case they need it, but I think they would prefer if somebody else stepped up in that role, so that they could keep Milano and Larkin working together. So far, nobody has stepped up in that role though.
-The defense, meanwhile, has been stellar. The US has now played the equivalent of three full regulation games without allowing a goal. They haven't played the toughest competition yet. They're going to face some teams that will score eventually, and they'll need to find the offense to answer that.
-It's tough what to make of the US offensive struggles. The struggles on the power play have been a big part of that. From what I'm seeing, they've had pretty good puck movement around the perimeter, but they're just not forcing very many switches by the opposition and doing much to get the other team running around and out of position.