After barely pulling off a victory against a massive underdog in Denmark, Russia made a couple switches to the lineup for yesterday's game against Switzerland; both moves in favor of Rangers' prospects. For one, Blues' first-round pick Ivan Barbashev was put on Buchnevich's line. More notably, Igor Shesterkin was given the start in goal. Buchnevich, who did not get on the scoresheet against Denmark, certainly did so against Switzerland. Late in the first period, Barbashev made a drop pass to Buchnevich, who ripped it home.
A cynic could point out that the goal came against a low-end hockey country. Pragmatically, though, almost no NHL goaltender is stopping that shot, let alone a junior goalie. Buchnevich has a bit of that annoying Zuccarello quality in that he has a very good shot but is too unselfish to use it as much as he should. It's great that Buchnevich is a playmaker, but he can also rip shots like this. Do it more often, Pavel!
Speaking of being a playmaker, he tallied two assists as well. Here was his second one.
These are the kinds of plays that make the stereotyping of Buchnevich based on his nationality so ridiculous. The stereotype is dumb to begin with, but here you see Buchnevich working hard to force a turnover; in a 6-0 game no less. He's throws hits. He battles for loose pucks and does his job on the forecheck. He'll stand in the slot and take abuse for the sake of a screen or deflection. He even earned a penalty in the second period of this game for retaliation after Shesterkin was bumped.
As good as Buchnevich was, Shesterkin was surely the story of the game. It's a strange thought, given that the game was a 7-0 blowout, but Shesterkin put in a high-quality performance in net. Here's a gallery of some of his best saves.
In total, Shesterkin made 32 saves and was named the Player of the Match for Russia. Again, this was a game in which they scored seven goals. There were a few frantic moments. Switzerland hit two posts in the final minute of the game. Also, what the hell was he doing clearing the puck through the middle like that in the second GIF? That's just the kind of goaltender he is, though. He does unconventional things and makes unconventional, though incredible, saves. Ilya Sorokin, Russia's starter heading into the tournament, did nothing wrong in particular in the shootout win over Denmark, but Shesterkin has always been just behind him on the depth chart. One has to believe that this game will give the Russian coaching staff something to at least think about. It would be a shame if Shesterkin rode the bench the rest of the way after a game like this.
Brandon Halverson also got his first start of the WJC yesterday and he too earned a shutout in the appearance. Unlike Shesterkin, though, he didn't have much to do in the 6-0 win over Germany. Halverson was credited with 14 saves, and Germany didn't even reach double-digits in shots until the latter part of the third period. I pulled a few of the "best" highlights for Halverson. I'm warning you ahead of time that it's a stretch.
Though for a different reason than Shesterkin, it will be a shame if this is also the last of Halverson we see this tournament. Thatcher Demko has earned the spot as USA's starter and it's his to lose, but it would be nice to see Halverson get a chance to play against a halfway decent team. Switzerland's no powerhouse, but they at least made Shesterkin work for his shutout and then some. Halverson was literally not even visibly sweating post-game.
Outside of the WJC, the CHL finally returned from its holiday break. Adam Tambellini scored twice for the Calgary Hitmen in a 4-3 loss to the Kootenay Ice. Both came off of broken plays. Here's his second goal.
Keegan Iverson scored a goal and added an assist in Portland's 4-3 loss to the Spokane Chiefs as he was named the game's Second Star. Iverson now has two goals and three assists in his last six games after previously having no goals and five assists in the previous 17. The Winterhawks have three key forwards - Chase De Leo, Nic Petan, and Oliver Bjorkstrand - at the WJC, and so it's going to give Iverson a few weeks to earn some quality offensive minutes. So far he's taken advantage.
Some final notes: Richard Nejezchleb totaled one goal and one assist in two games this weekend with Tri-City. The Wolf Pack earned three of a possible four points on Friday and Saturday. Cédrick Desjardins injured multiple ligaments in his right leg, and he'll be out a while. Jason Missiaen was recalled, but Mackenzie Skapski will likely receive the bulk of the starts until Desjardins' return. Tyler Nanne had an assist in his game with the Madison Capitals on Friday.