The good news for Canada is that it won another game thanks to its overwhelming offense. The bad news is it will likely lose another player because of a dirty, indefensible hit and can’t stop bad teams from pouring goals past Malcolm Subban.
Oh yeah, another win, this time 6-3, is one of those things that likely has Canadian fans reminding themselves, “You don’t ask how, you ask how many,” while they rock back and forth on their bathroom floors, but they might also do well to remind themselves of the fact that, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
Two wins and top of the table is all well and good for a Canada team that we are constantly reminded should have two wins and be top of the table, but the actual road to those six points and the plus-9 goal differential has been rocky far more often than not. Take, for example, the start to the game, in which the Slovaks utterly pushed Canada around the rink for the first 20 minutes, outshooting them 11-5, and outscoring them 2-0. Sorry, but there’s absolutely no excuse for that. Subban wrote off his team having conceded three goals to Germany as his being “nervous,” so what possible excuse could anyone on that side conjure this time, apart from blaming the refs.
You see, Canada racked up 27 penalty minutes in that first period, the result of a hold by Mark McNeill — which seemed a reasonable enough call — and a beyond-dirty hands-up headshot by JC Lipon at 13:39 that resulted in him getting five and a game. In all, Canada piled up 58 penalty minutes (largely the result of another five-and-a-game hit by Anthony Camara that was questionable and certainly scary). What say you, Steve Spott, who has whined about the officiating in any game that has been even remotely close?
“There was a lot of frustration, a lot of questions on our bench as to what is acceptable and what isn’t,” Spott said. ”The challenge for us is to adjust to the standard that’s here. But that’s something that our supervisors will have to deal with and we’ll deal with it from there. Our job is to make sure we keep the focus of our hockey club.”
Well hey correct me if I’m wrong but running into a guy with both fists at 20 miles an hour behind the net is illegal in just about any league on earth, and any time a kid is brought off the ice and to a local hospital, that’s usually a pretty good indicator of a game misconduct too. All of which goes without mentioning that Mark Scheifele seems to have figured out pretty much exactly what the refs will call, given the frequency with which he spent the entire game flopping all over the ice, including the crucial and most egregious dive that led to Canada’s game-tying goal. Ray Ferraro would call that “heady,” any non-homer observer would call it “chickenshit.”
There is, however, something to be said for Canada’s ability to turn it on at a moment’s notice, albeit against an inferior opponent. After being outscored 3-1 in the first 30 minutes or so of the game, the Canadians scored three in a space of less than eight minutes before the end of the second period to take the lead and never look back and pumped in two more in the third just to rub a little more salt in the Slovaks’ wounds.
Still, though, Canada was outshot 30-28 in the game, and often didn’t look like the team that everyone tried so hard to remind us has never lost a World Junior game during an NHL lockout. Winning dicey games against weak opponents is all well and good, because you have to do it, but when Canada gets into the teeth of its preliminary round schedule against the US and Russia in two days, with just 10 forwards on the roster, one imagines the ability to turn a game on its ear will dry up real quick.
Russia 2, USA 1
There’s probably not going to be a more entertaining game played all tournament than this one, which was full of physical play, speed, skill, and impressive goaltending. The Russians came out on top but generally found themselves dealing more with American attacks than generating any of their own. Shots were 42-30 and that’s pretty reflective of how the game went, I think. Both teams were all too eager to block shots (the hosts especially) and both netminders made a number of big stops, but if you’re going to talk about it being a game of mistakes, then it’s pretty clear the Russians made fewer.
The first goal came on another bomb from Albert Yarullin, who had the game-winner against the Slovaks two days ago, and it deflected twice on the way past John Gibson. The US leveled on another bomb, this time from Jets first-rounder Jacob Trouba on an eminently impressive power play keyed by Milwaukee’s best, Alex Galchenyuk. The score stayed that way until early in the third period, when 17-year-old Valeri Nichushkin — Russia’s best player by far — took the puck coast to coast, beat Seth Jones to the outside and then back in (no small feat) and generated a rebound for Vladimir Tkachyov to slam home.
There was very, very little separating these two teams and Russia escaped a number of late chances as well, including on a late US power play, but the fact of the matter for both teams is that the offense isn’t where it needs to be. That’s particularly true of the US, which hasn’t gotten much at all from its top line of JT Miller, Rocco Grimaldi and Johnny Gaudreau. Combined, they have fewer points than Sean Kuraly, who I thought might get cut after the exhibition games last week. So, y’know, lots to build on.
Czech Republic 3, Finland 1
Time for the Finns to start worrying. Not bowling over Latvia by more than four is one thing, but getting it handed to you by the Czechs is another entirely. It’s fair to point out they outshot and reportedly outplayed their opponents, but nonetheless, this is one of those “short tournament” things that should be a major point of concern. Don’t forget, Finland beat both the US and Canada in the pre-tournament games, so this kind of result just doesn’t make a lot of sense, and they’ll have to right the ship in a hurry considering their final two games in the tournament are against Switzerland and Sweden. Speaking of which…
Sweden 3, Switzerland 2 (Shootout)
Sweden also shouldn’t be giving away points to anyone. It’s atop the group with five points, but only up one on the Swiss and two on the Finns, so there needs to be some worry there as well. If you outshoot a team 13-6 and 17-9 in the first two periods, you shouldn’t need a shootout to settle things.