It seemed like Team Canada was well on pace to win the gold until they faced the American squad for the second time.
Now they find themselves playing Russia in another pivotal rematch for the bronze medal.
Canada has earned a medal in 14 straight World Juniors tournaments. I see no reason why that should stop now.
Canada next plays on Saturday, January 5th at 3:30 am/12:30 am (ET/PT) against the desperate Russians.
1) It seems fair to say that both Team Canada and Team Russia had higher hopes for this tournament. I know there was never really another target for the Canadians than the gold medal and I’m sure the home town was just as eager to win it all. Now the two teams find themselves battling it out for third place. For most other hockey nations, this would be considered a win in itself, but it isn’t much comfort for these hockey giants. Having to settle for less, which teams shows more desire to still win?
Both teams showed a strong desire to win this game, exchanging goals throughout the high-paced affair and taking the game to over time. Unfortunately, one team must win and this time it went to Russia. There was absolutely no need for them to taunt the Canadian bench afterwards.
2) The Canadians found themselves in penalty trouble once again against the Americans in Thursday’s heart breaker. They also found themselves unable to capitalize on the power play once again. These are two special team units that must excel in any hockey game – which says nothing about a tournament final – to secure the win. The disappointing point is that Canada showed significant improvement in both areas during their two prior games against the Americans and Russians. Will the PK and PP shine one last time or fade away like Canada’s medal hopes?
The power play was definitely effective in this game, accounting for four of Team Canada’s five goals. The young Canucks couldn’t avoid penalty trouble, however, and it cost them a pair of goals that they surely want back.
3) After starting every game in the tournament to date, Canadian netminder Malcolm Subban will find himself riding the pine. In his place, Jordan Binnington gets the start. I actually think Binnington looked good in his relief appearance against the Americans, but I’m reluctant to blame either goalie for the loss. The team in front of them simply lacked drive until the dying minutes of the game. Does Binnington impress in his one start?
Binnington was pulled after allowing three goals in eight minutes. Subban made a decent attempt to play out the remainder of the game, but neither goalie was spectacular. This is the one game where Canada’s efforts in net deserve criticism.
4) It’s time to show some selfishness. Canadian captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is tied for second in the tournament points race with three goals and eight assists. His 11 points overall put him only one point behind the two Fins (!) tied for first. Finland is done playing so Nugent-Hopkins has a chance to secure the lead for himself. Does he take advantage of the opportunity?
Nugent-Hopkins’ four points on the night – one goal, three assists – easily powered him into the top position for overall points in the tournament. You cannot win them all, but we’ll gladly take this one. Let’s see if he can produce the same success at the NHL level. He has a head start over most other players.
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