We’re on to day No. 4 at the 2021 World Junior Championship and while the action slows to just two games on tonight’s slate, the best is certainly yet to come.
We’ve already had our first big upset of the tournament with the Czech Republic knocking off Russia on Sunday night by a 2-0 score, and rightfully celebrating as if they had won the whole thing. Keep in mind the Czechs were not only heavy underdogs in that one, but also haven’t medaled in this tournament since taking home bronze at the 2005 event in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
While there’s been some lopsided affairs as well, Sunday night’s action was a far superior display of the intensity and unpredictability this tournament brings to the table on an annual basis.
I don’t expect that to come to a halt on Monday night, so let’s check out this Germany vs. Slovakia World Junior Pick from Edmonton!
Germany vs. Slovakia Betting Odds
- Germany (+115)
- Slovakia (-150)
- Germany +1.5 (-285)
- Slovakia -1.5 (+210)
- Over 5.5 (-105)
- Under 5.5 (-125)
Germany vs. Slovakia World Junior Pick Breakdown
The biggest headline of Germany’s tournament to this point was the 16-2 blasting they took at the hands of the host nation Canada in day two of the tournament. While it’s an eye-popping result, let’s make note of a couple other things that should have made headlines instead.
Secondly, people quickly forgot how the Germans played the previous evening in which they battled the Finns with all their might in an eventual 5-3 loss. The Finns were heavy favorites in that one, and despite missing all those bodies and their best goaltender, Germany certainly made a game of it. Needless to say, they were out of gas in a hurry when it came time to play the tournament favorite Canadians in their second game in as many nights.
Given their personnel situation, the IIHF offered Germany the opportunity to have a day off between their games against Finland and Canada. They declined. Why? Because they not only knew those two games would be losses regardless, but that they would be getting bodies back — including No. 1 netminder Florian Bugl — for the final two round-robin contests against Slovakia and Switzerland. They knew these final two round-robin contests would decide their fate towards the medal round.
Leading the way for the Germans is 2020 third-overall Ottawa Senators draft pick Tim Stuetzle who happened to sign his entry-level deal with the club yesterday. However, Stuetzle isn’t on his own up front for this one as J.J. Peterka represents his partner in crime. The 2020 Buffalo Sabres second-round pick centers Stuetzle on the club’s top line and has a goal and two helpers through two games at the tournament to this point.
JJ Peterka from Tim Stutzle!
The #2020NHLDraft pair hook up again to help power Germany to a 2-0 lead!
— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) December 28, 2019
Stuetzle and Peterka represent Germany’s two NHL prospects to this point, although it’s a far cry from what was supposed to be a big year for German ice hockey at this event.
One thing we know is that the Germans are ready for this. They were prepared to be shellacked twice to open the tournament (turned out to be just once) before gearing up specifically for Slovakia and the rival Swiss. Getting Bugl back is huge after both Arno Tiefensee and Jonas Ghar were torched against Canada, and they’ll have their legs under them with more bodies on the bench following a day off.
Tonight mark a back-to-back situation for Slovakia after they gave Canada a major run for their money 24 hours earlier.
Trailing 1-0 all the way into the third period before Canada’s Philip Tomasino scored a breakaway goal to up the lead to 2-0. However, L.A. Kings prospect Martin Chromiak tallied a power play marker with just 1:24 left to pull the Slovaks back within one, only to see Canada’s Jack Quinn notch an empty-netter soon after.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 28, 2020
All that said, a 3-1 Canada win aided by an empty-net goal is not what anyone had expected after Canada routed Germany 16-2 to open its tournament.
Netminder Samuel Hlavaj of the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix wasn’t nearly as busy as he expected to be, but he stood tall and made some key saves to keep his team in the game as the Slovaks pressed hard for 10 third-period shots after managing only eight across the first two periods.
Hlavaj was lit up at last year’s tournament at 18 years old when he posted a 5.37 GAA and .851 Sv% in five games, but he was also one of the better goalies in the Quebec league, working to a sturdy 2.25 GAA and .915 Sv% in 39 appearances, posting a whopping 33-3-2 record in the process as the team finished first in the regular season before the postseason was cancelled.
Chromiak — the Kings’ fifth-rounder from 2020 — is the team’s top offensive player and is coming off a season in which he tallied 11 goals and 33 points across 28 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs. He the leader and lone NHL prospect up front while defenseman Samuel Knazko is the team’s only other NHL prospect at the moment.
The Slovakian blueline actually retained four members from last year’s team, giving them more experience to rely on this time around while Hlavaj’s game appears to be in finer form this time around as well.
Germany vs. Slovakia World Junior Pick
While these two nations seemingly aren’t gold medal contenders, I think we’re in for a good one here.
I love how this game sets up for the underdogs, however.
As noted above, the Germans have had this game circled on the calendar as the first meaningful game of the tournament, more or less. Sure, they would have liked to pull off the upset over Finland or Canada to start, but they took Sunday off knowing they would be far better suited to face this Slovakian team on Monday night. Make no mistake, they are geared up for this one.
Hlavaj was good last night, but it’s his second game in as many nights, something that usually does not bode well for a goaltender of any ilk. Contrarily, Germany’s Bugl is, of course, well-rested and likely to start his first game of the tournament in this one.
The German blueline is suspect, but Slovakia isn’t exactly littered with high-end talent. They had a couple more opportunities last night, but didn’t generate a ton of offense on just 18 shots and eight across the game’s first 40 minutes.
After such a hard-fought effort last night, the Slovaks could have fatigue issues as this game moves along, something the Germans should not have to deal with coming off an off day and gaining bodies in the process.
Look for Stuetzle, Peterka and Bugl to lead the way in what I predict will be a German upset in this one.