Archive for the ‘2014 World Juniors’ Category

finland wins

Below are some scattered thoughts from Canada’s semi-final loss to Finland, in which they got their backside handed to them 5-1. Once again, these “thoughts” are predominantly Canada-centric.

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Blunt assessment

Before we get too into it, the blunt assessment: that was a Bad Hockey Game. Not in a “Canada lost, Canadian writer is upset about it” way, but in a “that was seriously a Bad Hockey Game” sort of way. I thought for sure when Finland went up 2-0 the game would end up being a thrill ride. Canada would feverishly press, Finland would valiantly defend, and desperation would turn the game into something like the frenzied, thrilling Sweden/Russia semi-final.

Yeah no.

Canada mustered three shots on goal in the third period – can we call a timeout here, and let that sink in – Canada mustered three shots on goal in the third period despite being down a couple goals the entire time. The Finns played their system to a T, blocked a ton of shots, and held on. You can call that “good” hockey if you like, and for Finland, it was, but it made for a Bad Hockey Game when it came to the viewing experience.

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Matt Dumba’s struggles

I know Matt Dumba is not a bad hockey player. He’s an extremely good one, in fact – he made the Minnesota Wild as a 19-year-old for crying out loud. But he has been, in my eyes, Canada’s least impressive defenseman at the World Juniors (okay, Bigras, but I had no expectations for him and he barely played). Even expectations aside I’d think that.

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sweden wins

The final 10 minutes of the Russia/Sweden semi-final match-up was mayhem. Sweden, an overtly talented team with the ability to pour pucks into the net seemed to toss on the emergency break to stop from rolling down the hill towards defeat, which only served to stop them from advancing towards their destination. The Russians won damn near every puck battle as the clock wound down, and Oscar Dansk was left with the one goal lead as his baton to take across the finish line. And, wearing a similar yellow to that of Usain Bolt, he got it done in impressive fashion.

He stopped 26 of 27 shots, including an absolute circus save (that apparently wouldn’t have counted because the net was off?) with 11 seconds left in the game to lock things up for the Swedes. That stellar performance earned him player of the game honors. (We’ll ignore the one Russian goal, which was…less than stellar.)

As the final buzzer sounded…more mayhem. Many punches were thrown.

(Video removed by CTV. You can watch it here.)

There were no misconducts handed out on the play, which feels a little like a pretty blatant attempt to avoid players getting suspended for the gold medal and bronze medal games. It’s still possible players could face supplementary discipline from the IIHF and miss those games, and by players, I’m thinking of Jesper Petterson who flew out of the penalty box to go at Andrei Mironov, and the latter, who dropped his mitts after the initial attack and engaged. You just can’t convince me they wouldn’t be suspended if those events happened after a round-robin game. (That said, I’m all for having teams at their best when they play the best in the biggest games, so I’m happy they weren’t auto-booted – I’m just observing that I think the non-call was made based on the situation.)

Regardless of all that, the Sweden/Russia semifinal game that whipped itself into a frenzy was a stunning display of talent. The skating was borderline artistic. The biggest change for me in skating these days is the ability to move laterally ala Pavel Datsyuk – strafe, as I’ve occasionally put it.

The Swedes will remove their parking brake and continue the ride towards the top of the hill, where they’ll face the winner of Canada/Finland (1 p.m. EST), and they’ll be favored to beat either team. They’re juuust a little bit scary.

Mantha sets up Canada's first goal.

Mantha sets up Canada’s first goal.

By now you know: Canada beat the US 3-2 in their round robin matchup on the heels of a couple third period powerplay goals from Connor McDavid and Curtis Lazar. I watched the contest start to finish, and had these hockey thoughts run through my head. Keep in mind I’m based out of Canada working for a Canadian company, sooo the thoughts are pretty one-sided.

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Great jersey game

I know you’re not here for cutting analysis like that, but come on – those white US jerseys are sharp as hell, and the Canadian reds are pretty killer too. Good contrast, good style, just an aesthetically pleasing game. On to the hockey.

Fucale got off to a good start

Canada’s goaltending hadn’t exactly been stellar heading into their match-up against the Americans. Zach Fucale was coming off a pretty “meh” win against Slovakia (three goals against, three posts), but he was getting another chance, and Team Canada was dying to find Their Guy. It was an obvious chance to win and take the reins for good.

He allllmost clinched the job for keeps. Almost.

He got off to the great start he needed, which seemed to give him confidence. He sucked up first shots to kill rebounds, and even mixed in a couple show-stopping glove saves. After Canada took the 3-1 lead his big moment arrived – American Connor Carrick had a three-zone breakaway with under seven minutes to play…and Fucale stoned him cold on a great move, the very one Carrick used to score his first NHL goal this season. Fucale got his toe on it, the fans went wild, Twitter went wild, and the job was his for the tournament (GIF by Ian McLaren).

…Only minutes later he dropped a shot he should’ve caught cleanly with under three minutes left, and it ended up in the back of Canada’s net to up the risk of cardiac arrest around the nation for the final couple minutes, and the door was left open a crack for Paterson if Fucale struggles at any time going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Tiffels goal

Scores

Czech Republic 0
Germany 3

Russia 1
Finland 4

Canada 5
Slovakia 3

Switzerland 3
Norway 2

Notable Numbers

* The Germans upset the Czechs thanks in large part to a tremendous effort by Frederik Tiffels, who had two goals and an assist. His teammate Dominik Kahun had one and one for two, while goaltender Marvin Cupper did his part with a 40 save shutout.

That upset means that the Czechs have to beat the Slovaks to avoid relegation, but it looks like they will. They’re up 4-1 as I write this.

* Finnish goaltender Juuse Saros made 28 saves on 29 shots to help the Finns upset the Russians. The only two point performance in that game was from Teuvo Teravinen, both assists.

* The Slovaks were looking like they might upset Canada after taking a 3-1 lead courtesy two and one for three from David Griger and one and two for three from Martin Reway. But, big performances from Anthony Mantha (one and three for four) and Nick Petan (two and one for three) pushed Canada to victory. By the way, Petan had a pretty decent day, all told:

You can find more on my thoughts about that game here.

An Opinion

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petan goal

The phenomenon isn’t limited to hockey in the slightest (dating comes to mind), yet it’s still counterintuitive – there is such a thing as trying too hard.

When Canada got started against Slovakia Monday morning, that was my first impression after puck drop. Jonathan Drouin came out flying and took a “check to the head” penalty 10 seconds in, because what he did, you see, was check a player directly in the head, 10 seconds into the game. (Math checks out.) It felt like the team was pressing while skating into a sagging Slovakian neutral zone defense, and the frustration started to mount. And, it’s easy to see how that could happen.

Playing hockey for Canada in international play comes with the most pressure any athlete north of this continent’s 48th parallel can feel, and these kids know how important the World Juniors have become to the country (largely thanks to TSN playing it up the way ESPN has with college football and basketball). Not only is the tournament important to the country, but it’s important to their careers as individuals, and with that knowledge comes some serious stick squeezing. F*** I need this to go well, and so on.

The Slovaks got on the board first (which didn’t help), and I started to wonder something that I promise a few guys on the bench were wondering too – are we actually even good, as a team? I assumed Canada’s national junior team would be excellent (usually a safe opinion), and of course, the players assumed the same thing. But for some reason sometimes groups just can’t come together to form anything meaningful, and this looked like it could turn out to be one of those teams. I’ve been on a couple of those, and it’s a damn confusing thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Drouin shootout goal

Scores

Saturday

USA 6
Slovakia 3

Sweden 4
Finland 2

Canada 4
Czech Republic 5 (SO)

Russia 7
Switzerland 1

 Sunday

Germany 0
USA 8

Norway 0
Sweden 10

Notable Numbers

* During USA’s Saturday victory, Slovakian sniper Martin Reway potted two goals, which has him in a tie for third in tournament scoring with six points through three games.

* Sweden’s off to a great start in their home country, thanks in no small part to Alexander Wennberg. He had a goal and two assists in Sweden’s 4-2 win over Finland Saturday, and matched those numbers Sunday in a 10-0 romp. He leads the tournament with seven points in three games, a number only matched by teammate Filip Forsberg.

* The Czech Republic took down Canada Saturday, and managed to do it on four regulation goals on which one total assist was registered. Sam Reinhart and Jonathan Drouin both tallied one and one for two in the loss.

* The Russians won their Saturday contest versus Switzerland 7-1, thanks in no small part to Andrei Vasilevski’s 25 saves on 26 shots.

* In the American’s 8-0 rout of Germany Sunday, Vince Hinostroza registered two and two for four, which is, y’know, pretty deec.

Where Things Stand

WJC Standings

The Canadian play Slovakia this morning – a win there helps them grab a top-two seed in their division, which means they avoid Russia and Sweden, which means they’re likely going to make the semifinals. That’s about all you can hope for coming out of the round robin.

An Opinion

I’m a little confused by the conversation heading into today’s Canada/Slovakia game when it comes to Connor McDavid. Apparently he wasn’t pleased with his own play after the weekend, and TSN made some references to him being stapled to the bench a bit more in the next game. My thinking is…isn’t that the opposite of logical?

If you’re going to use this kid as a tool, then you have to use him as an offensive threat. There’s no point in taking a talent like McDavid and asking him to play dump and chase safe hockey. Your best chance of getting him going is using the hell out of him against a comparably bad team like Slovakia, playing him with studs, and letting him feel the puck and create some chances. Maybe he gets a couple, maybe that gets his mojo going.

I’d say right now’s the worst time to back off his usage. If you aren’t gonna play him much in a round robin game against Slovakia, you’re basically saying he’s going to be useless in games that really matter.

Programming Note

We’re back into the swing of things full-on over here after the holidays. Check back later for more on Team Canada’s game vs. Slovakia, Russia/Finland and more. Things are about to get interesting.

mcdavid

You’re a hockey fan. You enjoy the World Juniors every year, and hey why not, it’s a great event. But quite frankly, World Juniors and presumptuous World Junior media, you don’t have a sniff who 15% of these kids are because it’s junior hockey and you follow the NHL and you’ve got a job and a life outside being a hockey fan, goshdarnit. Am I close?

Well, don’t you fear. We’re just a couple days into the event and you haven’t missed much (anything) yet. To really enjoy the tournament it helps to know the basic details, so let me fill you in on those. We’ll call this “World Juniors for Dummies,” and yes, I include myself in that label. Here’s what it helps to know:

The what: The World Junior Championship! It matters to nations like Canada!

And…sort of Russia.

Maybe Sweden a bit?

Yeah.

…Canada, though. F’real.

The who: If you’re under 20 years old and one of the 22 best hockey players in your country, you can play. Assuming your country is into the whole thing, of course.

The where: Malmo, Sweden. More on that below.

The when: December 26th til January 5th. But not much all that cool happens til the second of January, when the not-really-contenders are officially wiped out.

The how: Ten teams, separated into two groups of five. The teams in each group play each other once. Top four from each group advance and are seeded how you’d expect. Bottom two teams play a best-of-three to avoid relegation.

Okay, the last part wasn’t true, just seeing if you’re paying attention.

The why: What, we’re getting existential about the whole thing? I don’t know.

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