Thursday, December 27, 2007

WJC - CAN 2, SVK 0

Not a pretty game, that’s for sure.

In the pre-game show, we get to see a nice little piece on Kyle Turris, the superstar freshman at the University of Wisconsin. Seems as though his father, Bruce, is a former professional lacrosse player and he taught his son the game, but Kyle ultimately chose hockey for a career. We also learn that Bruce Turris is an economist, but Kyle couldn’t say it when he was a kid, so he told all his friends that his father was a ‘communist.’ Classic story to tell the kids someday…

Coming into today’s game, goalie Julius Hudacek was the story for the Slovak team. He went undrafted in the NHL, but he played incredibly well yesterday against the Swedes, stopping 46 of 50 shots in a heartbreaking loss. The only goals that he allowed against Sweden were of the power play variety (3) or shorthanded (1). He was expected to continue that performance in today’s game against the Canucks.

Yesterday’s game against the Czech’s saw the Canadians take penalty after penalty, and I’m happy to say that the penalty total for the red and white was lower this time around, but that doesn’t mean that the refereeing was any better. More on that later…

This game wasn’t exactly the best game to watch. It seemed as though neither team could really get things going. Sure, there were a few players who played great – Kyle Turris and Drew Doughty come to mind – but the overall play by the team was not stellar. This team is known for winning faceoffs to control the play (they won 68% of their faceoffs in the first game, with a number of players winning more than 80%), but I don’t think they won half of their faceoffs today. And then there was Brandon Sutter…

I will start off by saying that Brandon Sutter is one of my favourite players on this team. He doesn’t score a lot of goals, but he is normally great on faceoffs, and I believe that he will be one day win the Selke in the NHL because he plays a great defensive game. He blocks shots, makes big hits, and causes the opponent to turn over the puck. However, he hasn’t been that great in this tournament yet, and I believe that it’s because he is hurt. Sutter hit Michael Frolik yesterday in the first period and hurt his arm/shoulder. He came back for the 2nd period, but he hasn’t been the same. Pierre McGuire noticed this too, and said that he is definitely hurt but playing through the pain like any Sutter would do. Today, it looked like he hurt his shoulder again, and potentially hurt his leg as well. He is one courageous kid for playing through it all, but I wonder how effective he will be in the long run. Hartsburg already gave Turris faceoff duty because Sutter doesn’t have the strength to win faceoffs. Team Canada does have a 13th forward in Tavares, but he doesn’t have the defensive mindset of Sutter. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, for sure.

As you will notice at the top of this piece, Canada did manage to score two power play goals. The first, from Turris (Alzner and Doughty) came in the second period while Canada was up on a 2 man advantage. The insurance goal came late in the third period when Drew Doughty was skating in the neutral zone, made a nice spin-o-rama play to avoid the Slovaks and get back into the offensive zone, identified Kyle Turris going to the net and made a slick pass that Turris lifted over Hudacek.

The Good about the Canucks – A Defensive Minded Team

It’s a little hard to lose a game when you don’t give up any goals. Canada’s defensive core is solid, and the goaltenders have been the best players on the ice. It’s not often that goalie will earn a 44-save shutout, and then sit out the next game, only to watch the other goalie earn a shutout of his own. Here’s the million dollar question for Hartsy – who’s the starting goalie? Bernier or Mason?

The Bad about the Canucks – Where are the Goals?

Sure, Canada is winning, so it’s hard to really be down on scoring, but these last two games were games that Canada was ‘supposed’ to win, and the results could have gone either way. The power play is working pretty well, although it looked a bit flat at times today, but the Canucks only have one even strength tally in two games. If their offensive unit doesn’t start to make things happen soon, then the winning streak may snap before the end of the tournament.

The Ugly – The Striped Buffoons are in Europe too

Remember how I said that neither team could get things going? Well, do you think that 19 penalties could have an effect on the flow of the game?

Granted, some of these penalties are justified, but a number of them made you want to yell obscenities at the television or computer. Sure, the Europeans don’t like the North American style of hockey with all of the hitting, but they were dishing out penalties to players – Slovak and Canadian – for stupid reasons, and the Slovaks got the dirtier end of the stick today. The refs truly seem to want to take any kind of physical play out of the game of hockey. As McGuire likes to say, “That was 2 minutes for being strong.”

And how’s this for a stupid penalty: the puck goes up and over the glass (which is a measly three feet high), and Turris goes to the box for delay of game. This one had me scratching my head because, in international hockey, it’s not a penalty. And it’s not as though Turris did it on purpose.

Three Stars of the Game
(1) Kyle Turris, with 2 power play goals
(2) Steve Mason, with the shutout
(3) Julius Hudacek, with 32 saves and keeping his team in the game

To close things up, here’s a Team Canada stat – they haven’t allowed an even strength goal for more than 375 minutes of play. The last one scored on Canada was by Bill Sweatt in Game 2 of last year’s WJC.

For more WJC coverage, make sure to check out

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