5 things to watch in semifinals of World Junior Championship

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The championship and consolation games are Tuesday.

Semifinal schedule
(All games on NHL Network in United States, TSN and RDS in Canada)

Russia vs. Canada, 6 p.m. ET
United States vs. Finland, 9:30 p.m. ET

 

5 Things to watch

1. Levi’s dominance

Devon Levi (Florida Panthers) has taken advantage of a golden opportunity as the starting goalie for Canada.

Levi, who is making his first appearance in the tournament, leads all goalies in wins (five), goals-against average (0.64) and save percentage (.967), and is tied with Spencer Knight (Panthers) of the United States with two shutouts.

“I’m just super grateful to be here, to be honest,” Levi said. “I’m just taking every moment, savoring it, because I know that this is my last World Juniors. I’m going to be able to look back on this for the rest of my life, so I’m just trying to enjoy it the best I can. I think that really takes the pressure off.”

Levi, selected in the seventh round (No. 212) of the 2020 NHL Draft, is a freshman at Northeastern University this season. He and Knight, who has a 1.70 GAA and .924 save percentage, rank first and second, respectively, in GAA and save percentage.  

“Levi’s come up big in key moments when we’ve needed,” Canada coach Andre Tourigny said. “We’re happy about his performance, his consistency, his preparation, his assertiveness. Are we surprised by anything? Not really … we’re just happy about it.”

 

2. Farinacci in familiar role for United States

John Farinacci (Arizona Coyotes) continues to be a force at center for one of the more productive lines in the tournament with left wing Brett Berard (New York Rangers) and Bobby Brink (Philadelphia Flyers).

“I think I’m here to win face-offs, be hard on the forecheck and play a heavier game, and I definitely enjoy doing that,” Farinacci said. “I don’t think it’s too much different in how I try to play with Muskegon (of the United States Hockey League). I try and stay consistent with the way I want to play.”

Farinacci has scored six points (four goals, two assists) while averaging 13:55 of ice time in five games and is ninth among all skaters in face-off winning percentage (65 percent, 41 of 63). He scored two goals, took seven shots on goal, was 10-for-14 on face-offs and named U.S. player of the game in a 5-2 win against Slovakia in the quarterfinal round on Saturday.

“He hasn’t had to adjust his game … this is his game and we’re fortunate to have his game,” U.S. coach Nate Leaman said. “[Farinacci] is a guy who gets to the net, wins face-offs, and plays smart. He’s got a good IQ offensively and defensively, and I think people are just seeing that a bit now.”

Video: John Farinacci discusses his two-goal game

 

3. Chinakhov’s return for Russia

Yegor Chinakhov (Columbus Blue Jackets) is expected to return to the lineup for Russia after missing the past two games with a lower-body injury.

Chinakhov (one goal and six shots on goal in three games) was injured in the first period of a 7-1 win against Austria on Dec. 29. He left after falling to the ice and crashing into the boards 4:04 into the first period.

“[Chinakhov] will skate [Sunday] and we expect him to play in the semifinal,” Russia coach Igor Larionov said.

Russia could use the help on offense after escaping with a 2-1 win against Germany in the quarterfinal round Saturday. The top line of center Marat Khusnutdinov (Minnesota Wild), right wing Vasily Podkolzin (Vancouver Canucks) and Rodion Amirov (Toronto Maple Leafs) has combined for 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in five games.

Amirov leads Russia with six points (two goals, four assists) and Vasiliy Ponomarev (Carolina Hurricanes) has scored a team-high three goals.

 

4. Heinola’s poise on defense

Defenseman Ville Heinola (Winnipeg Jets) continues to thrive for Finland and is expected to again play a vital role in the semifinals against the United States.

Heinola, who played a game-high 27:58 in a 3-2 victory against Sweden in the quarterfinal round Saturday, ranks third in average ice time (23:08) among defensemen who have played at least five games.

It was Finland’s first win against Sweden in five WJC games since the 2016 semifinal (2-1 in Helsinki, Finland on Jan. 4, 2016).

“He’s one of our leaders and was so good [against Sweden],” Finland coach Antti Pennanen said. “He played a lot … I didn’t know he played that much. He’s skillful, a good leader, good on his skates, and he can make plays. He played both ways for us, offense and defense, and he’s a very valuable player.”

Heinola, who is participating in his third World Juniors, has two assists, is plus-1 with 18 shots on goal. He scored two points (one goal, one assist) in five games to help Finland finish first at the 2019 WJC in Vancouver.

Video: NHL Tonight previews the USA vs Finland QF match-up

 

5. Krebs’ versatility

Canada forward Peyton Krebs (Vegas Golden Knights) is heating up offensively and showing he’s adaptable.

Krebs had two assists, was plus-2 and 7-for-10 on face-offs while taking turns at left wing and right wing on different lines in a 3-0 win against the Czech Republic on Saturday.

“I just try and be as versatile as possible,” Krebs said. “Whenever I’m on the ice, I just play my game and the rest will fall in place. Obviously, I bounced around a few of those lines, but I’m just trying to stay consistent with my game.

“This team has a lot of great players and it’s easy to play with them, so any line you jump on is a treat and a lot of fun.”

Krebs began the game on right wing with center Connor Zary (Calgary Flames) and Cole Perfetti (Winnipeg Jets) and was moved to left wing with center Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals) and Dylan Cozens (Buffalo Sabres) in the second period.

He’s scored eight points (three goals, five assists), is plus-8 and fifth in face-off winning percentage (66 percent, 14 of 21).

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