Friday, 19 May 2017

An Improving Germany

At the start of the IIHF World Hockey Championship, the Germans pulled off an impressive upset over the Americans. Since that time, there have been victories, but none over the top teams on the planet. When Canada and Germany met yesterday, there were a few new players since the opening game, and it's clear that if the Germans have their full squad they can be a formidable opponent. Canada won their game against the Germans by a 2-1 score to advance to the semifinal, but the Germans weathered the oncoming attack from the Canadians all game and lost by just a goal. While the score favors the Germans' efforts, the stats tell two stories: Canada was dominant, but Germany was resilient.

I've resisted the temptation in all mock expansion drafts to grant Las Vegas the opportunity to pick up Philipp Grubauer simply because I believe that Washington values the netminder more than they let on. I can't speak for Washington management, but my guess if that Grubauer's play for Germany yesterday was both a message for current Washington management and an audition for a former Washington GM and current Vegas GM George McPhee.

Grubauer was outstanding in turning aside 48 shots for the Germans, some in spectacular fashion, as the Canadians imposed their will on the Germans. As an example, Germany didn't put a shot on Canadian goaltender Calvin Pickard for the first fifteen minutes of the second period as the majority of play took place in the German end. Instead, Grubauer kept it a 1-0 game at that point by denying chance after chance including a laser by Matt Duchene and a one-timer from Claude Giroux that looked like a third Canadian marker.

"What can you do when you run up against a goalie like him?" Canada's Chris Lee asked Andy Potts. "He was fantastic. We put pressure on him all night, we created chances but in the end we got the win, and that's what matters for us."

Germany's longtime defender in Christian Ehrhoff had an outstanding game as he seemed tireless and was on the ice for every second shift as time ticked away in the third period. It was Ehrhoff who set up the Germans' lone goal as his outlet pass found Yannic Seidenberg behind the Canadian defence while shorthanded, and Seidenberg beat Pickard to make it a 2-1 game with 6:39 to play. Ehrhoff was amazing in his poise and durability as he nearly willed his team to another upset.

Where Germany may need improvement is in developing scorers. While Leon Draisaitl is certainly in the mix, players like Dominik Kahun and Brooks Macek have to start improving as players such as Patrick Reimer and Yannic Seidenberg begin to hit the twilight of their careers. Not one forward under the age of 25 had more than two points, and that should worry Germany when it comes to setting themselves up for future international tournaments. Germany will need to score goals to win games against the big-six teams.

While Germany's stated goal was to make the top-eight in this tournament, they were legitimately one goal from pushing Canada to a next-goal-wins contest. And while that should excite German fans, there's still tomorrow to think about when it comes the next tournament for Germany. They're in a good position, but they just need to take that next step!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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