3 Star keys for United States against Czech Republic at WJC


The NHL Network will air every game of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

It includes comprehensive coverage of the United States national junior team (1-0-0-1), which will play the third of four preliminary-round games in Group B against the Czech Republic (1-0-0-1) on Tuesday (2 p.m. ET; NHLN). The United States, which won 11-0 against Austria on Saturday, also will play Sweden (Dec. 31). The playoff round begins Jan. 2.

Longtime NCAA hockey analyst Dave Starman, who will handle the broadcast along with Stephen Nelson, will give his three keys to victory for the United States before each of its games during the 12-day tournament.


[RELATED: 2021 World Junior Championship schedule]


“I think we all can agree that we loved the offense against Austria, but don’t expect that to be the norm,” Starman said. “The Czech Republic channeled their inner 1990s New Jersey Devils and shut down Russia with a passive neutral-zone defense and a ton of blocked shots. There is nothing more frustrating to a skill team that wants to play with pace than to play in a slow game, and the Czech Republic just might have that in store.”

Here are Starman’s 3 keys to victory for the United States against the Czech Republic:


1. Grind them down

“The bottom seven for the United States might be more valuable than the top six if the game is more of a grinding game. As ridiculous as that sounds, the United States’ grind contingent, the likes of John Farinacci (Arizona Coyotes), Landon Slaggert (Chicago Blackhawks), Brendan Brisson (Vegas Golden Knights), and company, will be needed to tenderize the beef and allow the U.S. to establish its ground game. Good deposits behind the Czech defense and allowing the physical players to establish a forecheck to create turnovers and shrink the rink from 200 feet to 65 feet, becomes a key strategy. If greasy goals are the theme of the game, your secondary scoring might be a factor.”


2. Dictate the pace

“I liked the new lineup with Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens) on a line with Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild) and Matthew Beniers (2021 NHL Draft eligible). The latter are puck retrievers with skill and Beniers has shown he can get the puck to anyone, anywhere. While Caufield has become more of a puck transporter in all three zones at the University of Wisconsin, his bread-and-butter brilliance is being in the right place at the right time with no one knowing he got there. If he does that, Boldy and Beniers will get him the puck. Conversely, Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings) and Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks) play a similar hard north-south game with skill. Each can score, create, has a physical component to their offensive game and are good in tight spaces. Against the Czechs, that might prove useful if they pack it in. Arthur Kaliyev (Kings) can score from distance, so once again you have a line where two players can possess, and one has a unique ability to finish. If the U.S. can dictate the pace with its transition from defense to offense, these lines should have some opportunities to impact the game.”


3. Stay out of the box

“If the Czech Republic can duplicate their defensive feat against the U.S., then you can’t afford to give up a leaker or take a bad penalty. If you can keep power-play opportunities against to under three in these types of games, you’re in good shape. Whether it be Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers) or Dustin Wolf (Calgary Flames), you need your goaltender to be your best player in a one-shot game. Can the Czech Republic duplicate its performance from the net out? That I can’t say but, if they do, every shift counts in all three zones, most specifically the defensive zone. Chasing games against defensive teams is draining and the U.S. playing with a lead will create the game they want. The first goal is huge.”

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