For the remainder of the World Juniors tournament, I’ll be posting a set of four key questions before every game that Team Canada must answer if they hope to leave Russia as champions.
Comeback afterwards to see how Canada fared, what others think and share your own thoughts.
It’s time to reclaim our gold.
Canada next plays on Friday, December 28th at 4 am/1 am (ET/PT) against the dreaded Slovaks.
1) Talk about leadership: wow. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins led his team with a dynamic opening-game effort against the Germans, collecting four assists and one goal in the process. Is this the type of performance that we can expect from the Burnaby, BC, native throughout the remainder of the tournament or is this simply the type of performance that we can expect from a good player facing-off against a weak team? (In any case, I’m sure Edmonton Oilers fans are proud to claim him as one of their own.)
The captain added another goal and assist to his tournament leading seven points. Directly behind him sit four other Canadians so there might be some dressing pressure for him to remain ahead. I think he’s got the right stuff.
2) The Canadians showed their penchant for taking too many unnecessary penalties against the Germans. Canada made a total of four trips to the penalty box, which may not seem bad, but it’s the type of penalty that suggests a need for greater discipline, especially following the suspension of Boone Jenner for three games after a late (and reckless) hit on Team Sweden’s Jesper Petterssonin the pre-competition stage. As the tournament progresses, will we see Team Canada evolve to a more mature game?
Two game misconducts with possible further disciplinary actions, meaning we might be limited to ten forwards against the Americans on Sunday. This counts as a devolution in game play. Enough said.
3) If there is one glaring weakness on Team Canada, it can be found in net. While the three goals surrendered to Team Germany cannot be blamed entirely on Malcolm Subban, the young netminder was guilty of sporting a sub-.900 save percentage on the night. This brings thoughts of 2011′s gold medal game collapse and last year’s 6-5 semifinal loss against the Russians back into mind. Canada needs solid goaltending to win this tournament – Russia (or even Germany for that matter) won’t hesitate to capitalize on a weak goaltender. Whoever starts in net on Friday, will he respond to the critics and stop the issue dead in its tracks?
Subban posted nearly identical numbers in Game 2 as he did in Game 1. Once again, it was awfully difficult to gauge his individual play given the antics of his fellow teammates. This is an area where we’ll need to keep a close eye.
4) If anything, the Canadians can be accused of not taking the Germans seriously enough, allowing for an uncomfortably “close” second period. In the Slovaks, they will be facing-off against a much stronger team. Do they show the level of respect towards their opponents that is deserved of all teams and necessary to win with grace?
The Slovaks were guilty of playing undisciplined hockey themselves so there was very little respect shown between the teams. At this point, it appears Canada may be able to win the tournament on offence alone – good goaltending, disciplined hockey and respectful play be damned – but it won’t be pretty.
Bonus Question: Leafs fans will want to keep an eye on prospect Morgan Rielly. Does he continue to impress? (Obvious/easy answer: yes.)
The young blueliner collected three points – one goal, two assists – on the night and now stands at four points overall in the tournament. He’s already surpassed Mike Komisarek‘s career totals. Rielly is going to look great playing alongside Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson and John-Michael Liles. (In response to another question that I forgot to ask: yes, there are some Canadians in the Leafs’ system. Good ones, too.)
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