HELSINKI, FINLAND – In a perfect world, Canada would have played the same way in the final two periods of the quarterfinal as it did in the first 19 minutes of the game against Finland: smart, responsible hockey. One penalty taken, one penalty killed off.
But that’s not how things went down at Hartwall Arena on Saturday night. Canada racked up the infractions in the second and third periods, giving Finland’s lethal snipers too many opportunities and taking out important players such as Joe Hicketts and Mitch Marner at the wrong times. On top of that, the game turned into a track meet and Finland had more, well, finish.
HELSINKI, FINLAND – Conventional wisdom dictated that Sweden’s offensive charge at the 2016 world juniors would be led by the veterans. William Nylander, Axel Holmstrom, Oskar Lindblom and Adrian Kempe all came in with great resumes and experience. But wouldn’t you know it? The Tre Kronor has actually been paced by three youngsters who are absolutely flying out there.
HELSINKI, FINLAND – Canada has officially finished the preliminary round of the world juniors with a 2-2 record and third place in its pool. The Canucks won just one game in regulation (against Denmark) and were practically blasted out of the Ice Hall by Sweden in their final medal round tune-up.
I say “practically,” because there were flashes of excellence from the Red and White. But those flares need to transform into a firestorm if this team hopes to continue its tournament past the quarterfinal.
The reason the World Junior Championship is so fun is that in the past five years, five different countries have won the gold medal. That parity is a blessing to the tournament, but it also makes it difficult to handicap a showdown in which two teams with championship aspirations often meet in the quarterfinal, as Russia and the United States have done in the past two years.
But if we’re talking favorites for the 2016 installment, which kicks off in Helsinki on Boxing Day, I will take Sweden. And here’s my logic:
Canada’s world junior team has traditionally been dominated by major junior players – in fact, in many years, the entire roster comes from the CHL. But what if Canada didn’t have major junior kids at its disposal? I thought it would be an interesting experiment to put together a roster comprised of eligible players from Jr. A, USHL, NAHL and NCAA teams. It wasn’t easy, but here’s my squad that would head to Finland (with current team and draft status included):
As we all know, Mackenzie Blackwood, a 19-year-old goaltender for the Barrie Colts, did a really impetuous and ill-advised thing a week ago today, when he essentially used his stick as a battle axe on an opponent. It earned him an eight-game suspension, two of which will be served in the first two games of the World Junior Championship.
The subject of the stick attack, Danny Desrochers of the Sudbury Wolves, was not injured on the play, but any player who puts a uniform on in the Ontario Hockey League does so knowing full well that commissioner David Branch has absolutely no tolerance for gratuitous violence and comes down very hard on offenders.
The Auston Matthews watch has already been kicked into high gear, and it’s not hard to see why the 18-year-old appears to be the runaway leader in the race to become the first overall selection at the 2016 draft. If you need further evidence, though, a goal from his most recent game should do the trick.
In a game against HC Fribourg-Gotteron, Matthews scored a water bottle-popping tally that was NHL calibre. With Matthews’ ZSC Lions on the power play, he received a pass along the boards and had room to move into the middle of the ice. Matthews took the space and glided through the circle towards the slot area before pulling the puck back towards his body and unleashing a pinpoint-accurate wrist shot that found the sliver of daylight available: Read more
Justice is swift and unmerciful in the OHL and since they’re dealing with teenaged victims, it’s probably for the best. But that’s probably cold comfort for Team Canada and Mackenzie Blackwood after the world junior goalie and Barrie Colts starter was suspended eight games by the OHL – a long enough ban to see him miss time at the world junior tournament in Finland.