Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Canada Just Good Enough Today

Team Canada opens up the 2007 World Juniors Championship with win against Team Sweden. Canada won 2-0 with goals by Luc Bourdon and Brad Merchand. A solid 31 save effort by the Tri-City American Carey Price for the shutout. Now you can go to any site to see all those results but what most of the sites will not say is that Canada was horrible. Their last two dominating performances at the 2005 and 2006 World Juniors were on the small North American ice. The difference between the North American ice and the European ice is evident in the first period of the game. The dominating pair of Guelph Storm defender Ryan Parent and Sudbury Wolves main attraction Marc Staal looked like 16 years old skating around in circles and making bad passes which resulted in a few chances for team Sweden. Even Kristopher Letang and Luc Bourdon another returning defence pair had a shaky start in their first game on the big ice. It took the Canadian D line a good 2 periods before they were able to get their footing and realize that a normal 40-foot pass is now a 65-foot pass that can be picked off and turned into a scoring chance. They can only go up from here and it looks like that it will be smaller mistakes being made by anyone on Canada’s back end.

At times it looked like the big problem with Team Canada was their special teams: they couldn’t cycle the puck, they couldn’t keep the puck in the zone, the passes were missing the tape, and a few stick handlers, honourable mention to Sam Ganger, kept making one or two extra moves that made sure the puck was lost.

This isn’t taking anything away from Team Sweden of course, but that was not the same team who was competitive in the exhibition game against Canada. The team was flat, and had few highlights, specific players making awesome moves, even having Carey Price moving all along the crease not knowing where the Swedish player was behind him. In a short tournament every game is critical as Team USA and Team Finland are now placed under the gun. And Sweden was highly regarded in this years tournament as having a good shot to gain a medal. Sweden had a hiccup this game and this will probably not happen through out the rest of the tournament, but the fact of the matter remains that Canada was not good, but just good enough to beat Sweden. The Power Play needs a lot of work, and the Penalty Kill has to remain solid. And even the Gold medal can be yours, if the Price is right.
Canada vs. USA 1:30 EST on TSN

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