Filip Gustavsson, the Penguins first pick of the 2016 NHL Draft and recent signeé of an entry-level contract with the organization, was without a doubt the best goalie in the IIHF U-18’s World Junior Championships two years ago. He went in the second round 55th overall, and though it was a strange move by Jim Rutherford at the time (considering Pittsburgh needed defensemen), Gustavsson was atop the list of goaltenders to go that year.
Often compared to Henrik Lundqvist (a bit of a stretch made from bias, but not a bad thing) Gustavsson’s combination of size, technique, athleticism, and hockey I.Q. is something notable, and he tends to make a large impact in every game he plays in. He also has the skills to keep opposing teams from ever coming within reach of beating Sweden, even if the team isn’t playing as well as it normally is. He’s easily been one the best goaltenders in the 2018 WJC.
Thursday night, in Sweden’s matchup against the U.S., favorites to win the entire tourney, Gustavsson laid out one the most impressive performances, effectively shutting down the lethal American offense and solidifying his team’s place in the gold medal game against Canada.
The talented net-minder put up 29 saves — many of which were extremely tough to make. Arguably his most impressive stop came on a 3-on-0 breakaway by U.S. forward Casey Mittelstadt in the final minute of the second period.
Not the ideal result for a 3-on-0…. pic.twitter.com/iiv66Yuuva— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 4, 2018
Mittelstadt entered this tilt with a tournament-leading 10 points and has a knack for scoring at will. Gustavsson didn’t seem to care.
His shut out bid ended in the third period, but he was basically a brick wall for the Swedes throughout the contest. Without him being as locked in as he was, the Americans would be preparing to repeat as champions instead of settling for a chance at bronze.
Sweden is still undefeated in the tournament and is set to clash against the electric Canadians and go for gold tonight — it marks six years since the Swedes last won it all. The matchup between Gustavsson and Carter Hart will be must-see television.