Howdy folks! Today was day one of World Junior hockey action – not the type that counts, or anything, but still: humans wore the jerseys of their respective countries and competed, so it sort of mattered.
Canada played Finland at 9:30am EST, and as many others did, I watched intently. I made notes throughout the game, so below are my thoughts on Canada’s debut performance, in semi-running diary form.
Right off the bat, I should point out – we put together primers on every potential contending team (in our opinion), and we included Finland as our dark horse, so here’s a look at their squad.
You can read up on the other teams below:
So! Notes on first Canada’s exhibition game:
* Ray Ferraro had a neat little tidbit for us: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins becomes Canada’s second player to ever play for the World Junior team after having represented the country at a men’s event, the World Championships. The other was Patrice Bergeron in 2005.
* The Finns, deserving or not, are labelled the edgiest (pest-iest) team in the tournament. Jarkko Ruutu has made an impression too tough to shake on the NHL.
* Dougie Hamilton intrigues me, because he reminds of Tyler Myers and Chris Pronger in the “if he’s ever able to control all those limbs, he’ll be great” kind of way. Two questions for those who watch him often: can he shoot (as in, hard), and is he smart? I saw a couple nerf-sticked slappers which made me wonder question one – number two is just something I wonder about all d-men.
* This is an important note: as someone who spent four years in University on olympic ice (home and six rinks in our conference), I learned that it’s way, way too easy to just “have” the puck on the powerplay. The ice is so big that defenses will let you sit out by yellow paint and pass it around – you’re not threat out there. And, it feels like you’re doing a good thing, because you have possession and are moving it around. You’re not. You have to make a conscious effort to shrink the ice to get anything accomplished.
* Congrats to Scott Harrington, who took one of the dumbest penalties you can take: a crosscheck, in which you violently propel an opponent into your own goaltender. Savvy.
* Finland’s first goal was a great finnish (ha!) by prospect Markus Granlund, but really the play was all made by Joel Armia, who walked the puck into the shooting area on the 5 on 3. Because nobody fronted him as they should of, Subban had to honour him, so he was frozen when Armia moved it to Granlund.
* The first period featured Canada’s NHLers kinda having a bit of the “too cool” bug. Too good for a simple dump-in, too good for the smart play, they seemed to think things would be a cakewalk, and they could play by their own rules. Well, all they accomplished was turning pucks over. A lot.
* I should note that Finland was resting some of their studs, as it turns out that Canada is the only team who’s made final cuts entirely so far. I think Sweden is making their cuts on Christmas Day. Ba-rutal.
* Canada’s first goal came on the heels of some bad hockey – there was a terrible rush that left three Canadians below the far goal line, which allowed a long finnish 4-on-2 which they over-committed to, which left a Canadian 2-1, where Charles Hudon made a patently terrible pass to Jenner which the Finnish defenseman missed because it was such an off-speed pitch, then Reinhart buried the rebound because none of the Finns had him marked. Just a ghastly sequence.
* Our first glimpse of men among boys came on Canada’s second goal. There was a great pass by Scheifele in the neutral zone that made the whole thing happen, followed by three Finns doing more puck watching while Scheiflele wheeled down broadway and caught a sick pass off a Nugent-Hopkins delay.
* I had to Google/Wiki/Hockeydb Joel Armia after a single shift in the second caught my eye (and ear – they said his name like seven times). He’s noticably big (6’3″), has great hands, is shifty, has good vision…geez. I guess he “disappears” at times according to Ferraro, but wow – Buffalo is lucky, he looks amazing.
* Finland’s second goal saw the same Canadian problem as their first – Canada let’s a guy wander in the shooting area without fronting him while shorthanded. Somebody give those penalty killers a talking to, coach. Also, please stop taking penalties.
* Canada had a goal waved off because Salomäki smoked his own goalie after laying out to block a pass, then knocked the net off as the puck went in. Refs are allowed to use their judgement on plays like that, and the ref thought the puck went in too far after the net was off. I disagree – it was pretty clearly was going in, and it’s not Canada’s fault Finland plowed their own tender.
* I’ve never seen Morgan Rielly play prior to this, and heard great things, but so far I’ve been un. im. pressed. He’s wee, and doesn’t seem under control.
* On Canada’s 5-on-3, Ty Rattie had one of those “if that had only gone in, maybe things would’ve been different” moments. When Huberdeau is back next game, he’ll lose his spot on that top line, and opportunities like he had will disappear. Gotta cash in when you get ‘em.
* Granlund hit two posts in the second, cleanly beating Subban twice, who so far looks like he’s playing to hopefully not get any bad breaks. He doesn’t look very confident. …Unlike Granlund.
* When Finland scored there third, I tweeted: “And there’s the goal that sparks the goalie controversy heading into the tournament.” A low knuckler under Subban’s glove that shouldn’t have been a problem kissed the post and went in, and ended up being the game winner. Commence with the hand-wringing over who to start on Boxing Day.
* Gord Miller, discussing MacKinnon: “MacKinnon is the first to explain that he’s not like Sidney Crosby. …Though in some ways, he’s very much like him.” Hmm. He disagrees I think. Gord says they’re both tenacious. By the way, I didn’t see much of him, but was really impressed with his liney Drouin when he was involved. Quite dynamic.
* The Nuge took a slashing minor with two minutes left down a goal while wearing the C, which is generally frowned upon. Didn’t see much from him today aside from his nice assist.
* And as the game winds down, Armia outmuscles Harrington, Harrington takes a penalty, Armia proceeds to rag the puck and run out the clock. Love it. Armia has a new fan.
And that’s a wrap! Finland downs a pretty blasé Canadian team 3-2.
3. Ryan Murphy (This kid is electric. He’d scare the shit out of me if I were the coach, but as a fan, he sure is fun to watch.)
2. Marcus Granlund
1. Joel Armia
3. Scott Harrington
2. Malcolm Subban
1. Morgan Rielly (It’s apparent he has skill, but man, he made one decent play all game and had a whole bunch of “whoopsies.”)