It was awfully nice of the Toronto Maple Leafs to hold off on firing their coach until Tuesday, and your trusty correspondent means that in all sincerity. The Maple Leafs probably knew they wanted to fire Randy Carlyle on Monday, but held off the gong show and allowed the best teenagers in the world to have the stage all to themselves without turning it into a gong show. Good on them for doing that.
The day after the night before, here are some final thoughts that never made their way from the notebook:
The stereotypical Canadian hockey player is humble, sometimes to a fault. But this year’s edition of the world junior team wanted to be different, going way back to the summer: They wanted to bring some swagger back to a program that had not won gold since 2009 and now, they have done it.
Canada is golden at the World Junior Championship for the first time in six years, but its road to the championship was hardly paved with gold in the final game.
There were speed bumps along the way, a whole bunch of them, but Canada prevailed in the gold medal game by a score of 5-4. But not without first almost imploding after taking a 5-1 lead midway through the second period. In what looked like shades of 2011, Canada allowed the Russians back in the game when the visiting team scored twice in 32 seconds and three times in 3:16 to narrow the gap to 5-4 after two periods. Read more
When Canada faces Russia tonight in the gold medal game for the 2015 World Junior Championship, it will mark one of those few times in this great rivalry that convention is turned on its ear.
Most times when Russia faces Canada in international competition, it comes into the game with a bunch of wildcard players who are mysterious and unknown. That will not be the case tonight. These two teams have all kinds of familiarity with each other, dating back to the 2012 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge in Windsor, during which the Russians defeated an Ontario team with Darnell Nurse, Max Domi and Nick Ritchie in the semifinal before beating team USA in the final.
With exactly five minutes and 20 seconds remaining in Canada’s 5-1 manhandling of Slovakia Sunday night, Connor McDavid collided at center ice with a Slovak player and fell to the ice. He got up, grabbed both sides of his head, struggled to get back to the bench and didn’t see the ice for the rest of the game.
For the Canadian side, it could have represented a disaster. But there McDavid was after the game answering questions and not even hinting there was anything doubt concerning his status for the gold medal game against Russia Monday night. No quiet room, no concussion, no need for worry.
On paper, Canada should have run roughshod over Slovakia, a team they waxed 8-0 in the round robin. But as the Canucks learned in last year’s semifinal, when they fell unceremoniously to Finland before losing the bronze to Russia, those cliches about taking things one game at a time are spoken for a reason.
Russia will play for gold at the World Junior Championship thanks to a sturdy 4-1 win over Sweden, setting up a classic showdown with Canada on Toronto ice.
Part of the reason the Cold War has never ended in arenas is that there is a certain mystery and awe surrounding the Russians over here. Most of the world junior team still plays on the other side of the world and the KHL’s existence means that some of the better players in Russia never have to come over here.
Because rivalries are fun (and because I can’t write in Cyrillic), here are the five Russians that Canadians will love to hate – and learn to fear – in the gold medal game. To up the rivalry factor, none are plying their trade in North America right now.
It’s been a busy week for the Edmonton Oilers with a number of changes hitting the team’s line-up.
On Dec. 29 the Oilers grabbed winger Matt Fraser off waivers from the Boston Bruins, while also trading Mark Arcobello to the Nashville Predators for veteran Derek Roy.