Analyzing Juraj Slafkovsky's World Championship tournament opener

After a brilliant season with the Canadiens, Slafkosvky is looking to dominate while donning his native sweater.
Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens
Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

When Montreal Canadiens 20-year-old Slovakian phenom Juraj Slafkovsky was announced to be joining Team Slovakia for the World Hockey Championships, it had many Habs fans interested.

He played a tune-up game against the Americans, where he capped off the game with a sweet solo effort, that ended with a quick snapshot for a tally. USA ultimately won the game, much to the chagrin of Slaf, but he still made time for his buddy Cole Caufield. He wasn't pleased with the loss, despite it being a pre-tournament game.

So, with the tournament opener scheduled for Friday morning against the Germans, we will see what he has in store. A pissed-off Slafkovsky could be pretty scary and with his home team, the Slovaks will want to kick off their tournament on the right foot. With his past international success, he should feel confident, but even more so after his great season with the Canadiens.

From the get go against Germany, the Slovaks kept pace, neither team wanting to surrender the first goal.

Simon Nemec and Juraj Slafkovsky found a little chemistry on a mid-period power play. Slafkovsky for much of the period looked confident but didn’t sacrifice his 200-foot game to cheat on offence. All the things that made him stand out with the Habs, were the exact things that showed up from the moment the first whistle was blown, marking the start of the game.

The game stayed close and the checking tight, if a chance did occur it was from a minor mistake. But both goaltenders stood tall and both defences gave honest efforts. Germany pulled ahead while on a 5 on 3 power play. The Slovakians challenged the scoring play for goaltender interference but were unsuccessful, so they got a full two minutes up by two men.

Jonas Muller sniped a beautiful wrist shot just under the Slovak goalie's blocker with just under 7:30 to go in the middle frame. Slafkovsky was essentially taken out of the game for more than five minutes because of the penalty trouble. But down by two, he will need to concoct something to spark his squad's offence.

Former Canadien Tomas Tatar and current Canadien Slafkovsky might find some ice time together. Tatar has a knack for finding open space and threading the needle and Slafkovsky can hammer the puck with a little open space. The Habs 2022 first-overall selection had a close chance in the crease, but it hit something, which slowed the puck.

Moments later, Slafkovsky was robbed by Philipp Grubauer with a big blocker save, but the Slovaks stayed on the attack. With just under four minutes to go in the middle frame, Slovakia is within one goal. Slafkovsky was in the vicinity and drew an assist.

Slovakia drew momentum from the tally and it sparked a comeback, with their big pushback. But the stalemate didn't last too long. Germany pulled ahead with less than thirty seconds to go before intermission. So with the momentum back in Germany's favour, Slovakia will have a big test to start the third.

Just under four minutes into the final period, Germany almost turned the puck over in their zone. They recovered the puck and then one stretch pass later and they set up shop in the Slovak defensive zone. And then a quick shot put them up by two.

Slovak forward Pavol Regenda was heading to the net but was impeded by a hook, which earned Slovakia a power play with 12:20 to go. It's not a dire need to score now, but it would ease the tension from the deficit. Fortunately, they swarmed the front of the net, Regenda made a one-handed pass to the front of the net and Hrivik swiped the puck past Grubauer.

It was determined that the puck came out at the blue line, so the goal was overturned. The next play in front of Germany's net was all the time it took for tensions to boil over. A scrum ensued, with both sides drawing infractions, however, Germany drew a power play for their efforts.

Slafkovsky channelled the frustration for good, potting his first of the tournament on his second shot in the same sequence. He and the first line have created much of the offence, the important parts anyway, to draw the team to even at two. Slafkovsky has been animated for much of the game, trying to will the team through a frustrating game.

Germany scored to regain their two-goal lead and Slafkovsky continued from the bench. Defensively he has been sound, performing as one of his team's top players. While the first game didn't go the way they had hoped, it wasn't due to a lack of effort from Slafkovsky.

The Habs big man drew a goal and assist in the 6-4. Slovakia is off until Sunday, when they match up against Kazakhstan. While Germany draws the powerhouse American squad.