MALMO, SWEDEN – So what went wrong with the Canadians, who went meekly into the bronze medal game after a dominating 5-1 victory by the underdog Finns in the semifinal? Just ask captain Scott Laughton.
“Everything,” he said. “From penalties to neutral zone play to turnovers…we just got beat, fair and square. It’s not like we deserved to win tonight.”
Defensively, Finland put on a clinic, led by Buffalo Sabres prospect Rasmus Ristolainen and undrafted Mikko Lehtonen. But on top of the blueliners, the forwards were also breaking up passes and jumping routes, with several goals and other great chances coming off counterattacks. There wasn’t a lot of space out there for Canada’s talented forwards.
“They trap up,” Laughton said. “They had a 3-2 in the neutral zone and they trap up everything. They don’t give you room and it was tough for us to get through.”
Canada’s stars did make runs, particularly Jonathan Drouin and Griffin Reinhart, but they often weren’t supported by a cast that looked disorganized and a little sleepy. Matt Dumba, Derrick Pouliot and Aaron Ekblad all struggled on the blueline while Drouin and Nic Petan both sat for 10 minutes or more due to major penalties. Petan’s came for abuse of an official, as he could be seen yelling at the refs after a scrum in front of the Finnish net, while Drouin got two plus 10 for a “hit to the head” on Ristolainen that looked perfectly clean and suspiciously was not replayed on the arena Jumbotron.
Canada now takes on Russia for bronze, while the Finns renew their blood rivalry with Sweden for gold. Here’s a scouting report on some of the NHL prospects and draft hopefuls from the game.
Sam Reinhart, 2014 draft – Did some excellent work on the penalty-kill exactly when Canada needed it (just after first goal of the game). Though it didn’t matter in the end, Reinhart continued to play smart, responsible hockey. Plays for Kootenay in the Western League.
Derrick Pouliot, Pittsburgh (8th overall in 2012) – Had ups and downs. Despite not having his best performance he was strangely named Canada’s player of the game. Offensive skills and puckrushing abilities are top-notch, but sometimes tried to do too much and needed to be stronger in his own zone. Turnovers are going to be expected, but no excuses for blown coverage on Artturi Lehkonen’s goal, when he left the Finn all alone to put in a second-chance shot. Plays for Portland in the WHL.
Nic Petan, Winnipeg (43rd overall in 2013) – Tough night for Petan. Not only did the major for chirping the refs take out most of his second period, but he just couldn’t get his stick going in the game. Puck control was a problem, passes were tentative; he certainly wasn’t the only one to struggle, but he was given ample opportunities to help and couldn’t hack it tonight. Plays for Portland in the WHL.
Juuse Saros, Nashville (99th overall in 2013) – Finland’s star netminder is so positionally sound, he often barely moves, even when confronted with a dangerous shot, such as the chance Scott Laughton had early on. His calmness and confidence were great for Finland, but at the same time Canada only mustered 24 shots on net, so credit also goes to the team’s defense. Saros plays for HPK in Finland.
Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo (8th overall in 2013) – Big, crunching check on Connor McDavid set the tone early. Showed his offensive side as well on Finland’s third goal, swooping in and popping one over Fucale’s shoulder. This was a game where Ristolainen had to play like the guy on the team with NHL experience and he did that. Plays for the Rochester Americans of the American League.
Artturi Lehkonen, Montreal (55th overall in 2013) – Great goal-scorer put one in thanks to his quick hands. Also pretty good in the neutral zone thanks to his active stick – knows how to break up a pass by getting in the right spot. He and Teuvo Teravainen (who scored on a penalty shot and an empty-netter) were two of Finland’s best forwards. Plays for KalPa in Finland.
Get scores, schedules and more on THN.com’s World Junior Championship Central page.