Thursday, December 20, 2007

Team Canada WJC update - the exhibition games

This year’s Junior team has been in Europe for almost a week to do some team bonding activities – like give each other nicknames, or impersonate TSN legend Gino Reda (I’m talking about you, Stefan Legein). Oh, and they have also played a couple of exhibition games to iron out the ‘kinks’ in their play.

Let’s briefly recap these two games, shall we?

Game 1 vs. Red Bull Salzburg in Austria.
Final score: 5-0
Alternate captain Brad Marchand had two assists and was named player of the game on the same day that he was traded from Val d’Or of the QMJHL to Halifax for a 17-year-old player and 5 (!) draft picks.

Game 2 vs. Slovakia.
Final score: 6-1
Seventeen-year-old superstar John Tavares had two goals and a helper, and the other 17-year-old phenom Steve Stamkos is quickly making a name for himself as a solid two way player.

If you’ve ever watched Team Canada play in an international game, what quickly becomes apparent is the so-called lack of discipline by Canadian players. Referees in the international arena call the game differently, and the Canucks typically find themselves in the box for committing offences that wouldn’t be punishable in North America.

It really tests a team’s abilities on the PK, and it can make for some frazzled fans.

As usual, these two exhibition games saw the Canadians parade to the penalty box as if Santa himself was in there giving away an Xbox 360 to all who come and visit. Thankfully, the PK (penalty kill, not defenceman PK Subban) was money, just like it was this summer in the Super Series.

In fact, this year’s team appears solid all around – goaltending, defence, and offence. With so many players returning from the Super Series, and the new players adapting so well, I firmly believe that the Canucks have a great shot at the four-peat. They may not have Jonathan Toews, Marc Staal, or Carey Price, but they do have one fine group of young hockey players with tons of potential who want to win – badly.

"There's definitely a lot of pressure but we got a close bunch here and we know what we want to do together," said Matthias. "We want to bring home a fourth consecutive gold medal.

"We're going to do everything we can to make Canada proud."

And we are all pulling for them.

Next up: a third (and final) exhibition game against Finland on Saturday.

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