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Team USA Wins Bronze At The 2016 World Juniors

USA 8, Sweden 3 | (5-2)

Boston Bruins fans have plenty of reasons to be excited today after their 5th round draft pick in 2014 Anders Bjork scored one of the prettier goals of the tournament in USA’s rout over Sweden in the bronze medal game. Now obviously the Bronze medal is a bit of a disappointment. This was a year that USA was primed to take home the gold. They had the best player not currently in the NHL in Auston Matthews. They had Matthew Tkachuk, another potential top 5-10 pick in this upcoming summer’s draft. They had a second line filled with talent. They had a goaltender who was standing on his head all tournament long. But they just ran into a bigger and more physical Russian team yesterday in the semifinals and their quest to win gold was stopped right in their tracks. But it’s their 6th medal in this tournament since 2004 (gold in ’04, ’10 and ’13) and their first medal since winning gold back in 2013. So even though it would have been nice to leave Helsinki with the gold, the tournament wasn’t a complete disappointment.

Today’s game against Sweden was a bit of a gongshow at the beginning of the game. Team USA jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period only to have that lead completely deteriorate in just a couple of minutes. It’s pretty difficult to come into a game for 3rd place after losing an absolute heart breaker the day before. I get that it’s difficult for a bunch of kids to get themselves up for that and the first period showed their heads weren’t completely in this one. They were a mess defensively in transition but cleaned up in the 2nd and started to pour it on offensively.

Like I said, it was a huge day if you are a Boston Bruins fan. 2 goals from Anders Bjork. 2 goals from 2014 2nd round pick Ryan Donato. And 1 goal from 2015 2nd round pick Brandon Carlo who was Team USA’s best defenseman all tournament long I think. Werenski was great at the blue line offensively for the Americans during the World Juniors but struggled a ton in his own zone. I think if this tournament showed us anything, it’s that he still needs a little more time to develop a physical side to his game before he’s NHL ready. But yeah, as much as a Gold medal would have been nice, I’ll take the Bronze in dominating fashion like this.

Now the problem is that as stacked as the  American team was this year, you have to expect a down year for the next tournament. Team USA will almost certainly be without Auston Matthews and Zach Werenski next year. They’ll definitely be without goaltender Alex Nedelkovic, Sonny Milano and Nick Schmaltz. If I was a betting man, I’d say they’ll be without Matthew Tkachuk next year as well. So there’s not going to be as much star power for the Americans playing in Toronto/Montreal in 2017. But a win today for Bronze means that USA and Canada will be in the same group again next year which means that you can expect the traditional USA vs Canada New Year’s Eve game to resume.

We’ll have a full tournament recap podcast recorded tonight and hopefully it will be posted by tomorrow or Thursday.