Passing the halfway point of the IIHF World Championship round robin stage, the United States took down Denmark 1-0 in a game where the score was not indicative of the balance of play.
Despite a close game throughout on the scoreboard, the Americans dominated play throughout, leading the shot count 27 to 12 (69%) after two periods of play. Even that shot count is deflated, as Denmark’s collapsing defense blocked a good portion of American shot attempts throughout the game.
Although they employed a similar defensive strategy to Team Finland, plugging up their own blue line to prevent effective zone entries, the Danes were not able to prevent the US from carrying the puck into the zone. The Americans seemed to refuse to dump the puck in, opting instead to drop the puck back to their defensemen and wait for a route to open when they had trouble entering the zone.
It’s likely that the Danish collapsing defence contributed to America’s great possession play as well. Rather than putting pressure on the puck carriers, Denmark saturated the slot with defensemen in front of goaltender Sebastian Dahm. This gave the Americans room along the boards to negotiate the offensive zone.
The Danish defensive strategy changed going into the 3rd period down 1-0, though. Rather than collapsing, they put more pressure on the outside lanes to try and take the puck off the US forwards. They also put even more pressure on the forecheck, trying to create more offensive chances to tie the game. These tactical changes produced quality chances for Denmark, especially for star forward Oliver Bjorkstrand, as they forced quick plays out of the Americans and caused mistakes.
However, tactical changes and a good performance by goalie Sebastian Dahm were not enough to bring home a win for Denmark. An unassisted second period goal by Brock Nelson and a stellar performance by goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who stopped all 21 shots he faced, were enough to push the Americans to a three-point regulation win. They now sit atop Group B with 12 points in 5 games, their only loss coming in a surprise loss to Belarus.
Follow me on Twitter @CurtisMMorrison.