If Saturday was a pleasant surprise, today was the worst nightmare for the United States. They couldn't capitalize on numerous opportunities as they sputtered to a 1-0 loss to Sweden.
Here are my thoughts on the loss:
-Overall, this wasn't a terrible effort from the United States. They played a good game all things considered. Since the start of the tournament, I've talked about how the US wanted to play a low-scoring, high variance game. Against Canada, they were able to get a couple bounces to go in the net. Today against Sweden, they didn't. Linus Soderstrom made a lot of saves, but I can't think of too many where I thought he stole a goal away.
-That said, days like today are why it's so important to take a team that is as deep as possible. The US gave away a lot of shifts with a third and fourth line that wasn't all that dangerous to score. The only segment of the game Sweden had the advantage was the final ten minutes of the game. That should have been the strongest segment for the US as they pushed to tie the game, but they were dead tired because they had to rely so much on their top lines.
-The other area of blame for the lack of offense is the US going 0-for-8 on the power play, including 1:21 of 5-on-3 man advantage. The big problem I was seeing was a lack of puck movement side-to-side across the Swedish box. The US was trying to set up their shooter in the low slot with a quick pass from the goal line. They executed it a few times, but Swedish goalie Linus Soderstrom was in good position. Again, I would have liked to see the US try to move the puck side-to-side more and get him moving his feet a little more.
-We'll have to wait on the status of Alex DeBrincat, who left the game in the first period with a head injury. Even if he misses some times, I suspect he'll be ready by the quarterfinals on January 2nd, which is when they really need him back by. With him out, the US offense really becomes thin.
-I've really liked how Nick Schmaltz has played so far in this tournament. The problem is that he's been exiled on the third line, and once DeBrincat went out, he played with Ryan MacInnis and Ryan Donato. MacInnis has been a huge drain on possession through two games. I'd swap Schmaltz with Christian Dvorak, who has been very quiet in both games, on the second line.
-The defense was mostly very good again. Spending so much time on the power play helped, because it allowed them to give ice time to Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Fortunato in those situations. They tried to sneak a shift out of Fortunato in a 5-on-5 situation in the second period paired with Louie Belpedio and that ended with the Alex Nylander goal. Chad Krys was used very sparingly, and looked a little rushed and out of his league when he did play.
Having two reliable D pairs isn't ideal, but it's better than expected coming into this tournament for the US. The key in the next games will be taking care of business early so that they can use their bench and save some legs on the top D.