What can you really say about pre-tournament games? Are they a good indication of how a country is going to do in the tournament? If they are then Canada is looking good. After finishing their 3rd of 3 pre-tournament games last night at the Bell Centre (the other two were in Toronto and Ottawa) Canada ended with a 2-0-1 record. In each game they vastly outplayed their opponents and looked very much like the superior side. Canada seems to be going into the tournament ready to compete, being a balanced side and looking confident.
Canada dominated from beginning to end in this one. They outshot the Swiss in the 1st period 14-2, but only managed one goal. It was their only power play goal out of five opportunities, but it was a beaut. A nice tic-tac-toe play with the man advantage opened the scoring ledger. Defence partners Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey started it off. Morrissey then first timed a pass across the face of the net to Brayden Point who just had to redirect it into a gaping net. Points for style, boys!
It could have been much worse for Switzerland coming out of the 1st as they allowed 14 shots. They avoided complete disaster due to the strong play of their goaltender Ludovic Waeber and the fact that Frederik Gauthier, Nic Petan and Nick Paul all came up empty on good scoring chances.
Switzerland was handed a couple of opportunities through a trio of Canadian penalties to begin the 2nd period though they could not cash in. They even enjoyed a brief 5-on-3, but could not solve Canadian goaltender and Montreal Canadiens’ property, Zachary Fucale. It seems as though with the start against the Russian in the first pre-tournament game and this one that Fucale is likely to be Canada’s number one goalie going into the tournament.
When Canada escaped paying for their indiscipline they did what good teams do and put their skates on the Swiss throats. They sealed the game late in the 2nd period with a trio of goals in 53 seconds. There were two by Max Domi, son of former NHLer Tie Domi, and another by Jake Virtanen. The romp was on.
The 3rd period saw the Swiss finally hit the double digit mark in shots and Canada add two more goals. Nick Ritchie scored and then just over 2 minutes later Domi completed his hat trick. The 6-0 victory meant that Canada had outscored its opponents 12-4 over the three pre-tournament games.
Even in such a lopsided affair you can learn a few things. First thing I noticed was that Anthony Duclair is going to be a handful for opposing teams. He possesses that deadly combination of speed and strength plus he has skill to boot. Duclair is not afraid to use his size to go to the net and there seemed to be very little the defence could do to stop him. He is going to do some damage in the tournament.
Second is that Canada can be physical. With players like 6’7” Samuel Morin, Duclair, Ritchie, Paul, and Darnell Nurse, who can all throw their weight around it gives Canada a physical dimension to add to the skill one. Duclair, who seemed to be buoyed by playing in front of his hometown crowd, delivered a couple of bone crunching hits.
Third is that Josh Morrissey has quickly established himself as the leader on defense. He is very poised with the puck and rarely makes a bad decision. A strong skater and intelligent, Morrissey did not show any hesitation to jump in on the rush or contribute in the offensive end. That plus he makes a very good first pass out of his own end.
Fourth is that Connor McDavid is going to have a couple of “oh boy” moments during this tournament. The kid, he is not quite 18 years old, has been deemed as “The Next One” for the past couple of years and seen as the next great one after Sidney Crosby. He is just coming back from a broken hand he suffered in a fight during an OHL game. Obviously after not playing for 4 weeks he is a little rusty and needs some games to get his timing back, but there have been signs in the two games he has played of how good he is. McDavid just seems to be able to do things at a high speed. Makes quick decisions and can stickhandle in a phone booth. Going to make his mark this tournament, which is already his second.
Finally, Fucale is a good goalie, but he has to work on consistency. It seems like he occasionally loses his focus and fumbles with the puck or lets in a weak goal. Though he did not have much to do there were a couple of times where his mind seemed to be wandering and he did some ill-advised things. A hard thing about being a goalie for a Canadian hockey team is the fact that because we are stronger than many teams there will be long periods in which the goalie will have precious little to do. They will be called upon to make a couple of big saves per game and Fucale has to get into the right frame of mind for that type of work load.
Canada will start the tournament at the Bell Centre on December 26th against Slovakia.
-Goals: 1st Period:
13:34: Canada – (pp) Brayden Point assisted by Josh Morrissey and Madison Bowey
15:46: Canada – Max Domi assisted by Anthony Duclair and Josh Morrissey
15:59: Canada – Max Domi assisted by Anthony Duclair and Sam Reinhart
16:39: Canada – Jake Virtanen assisted by Darnell Nurse
6:02: Canada – Nick Ritchie assisted by Connor McDavid
8:16: Canada – Max Domi assisted by Anthony Duclair
-Shots on Goal: Canada – 43
Switzerland – 14
-Final Score: Canada – 6
Switzerland – 0