World Junior Championship: Canada-USA preview

Ryan Kennedy

Canada and the U.S. come into the final day of round robin competition in very different shape, but one game can change all that. While the Canucks struggled against the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Team USA has been cruising along. Can they continue the good times Tuesday against their North American neighbors?

Whichever team wins on the last day of 2013, don’t be surprised to see these two squads go hammer and tong against each other in a very physical contest that, at the same time, will hinge on special teams.

While the Americans have been disciplined, with only Russia taking fewer minor penalties in the tourney, the Canadians have put themselves in danger numerous times. The Americans have also had a cracking power play, converting at a WJC-best 57.9 per cent success rate. And not to rag on the Canadians, but they’ve been slogging along at a poor 37.5 per cent clip, while the penalty kill has also struggled.

So is this game in the bag for the Red, White and Blue? Not necessarily. If the Canadians can play disciplined and perhaps entice American bruisers such as Stefan Matteau or agitators such as Ryan Hartman to get the gate, then you can throw the previous stats out the window. Similarly, if the U.S. boys can get Matt Dumba off his game, the defenseman has shown so far that he is fallible.

Perhaps most important however, is the first 10 minutes of the game. In last year’s semifinal in Ufa, Russia, the Americans dominated the play against Canada, taking a 2-0 lead after the first period and eventually winning 5-1 in a laugher. Considering the North American teams are quite familiar with each other – both teams feature major junior players, even some teammates – expect a fiery start. With Canada looking fragile right now, a deficit of two goals or more after 20 minutes may not be salvageable. Should the Canucks bring the pain early, the Americans will be faced with something new in Malmo: adversity.

Get scores, schedules and more on THN.com’s World Junior Championship Central page.