World Junior Championship Pre-Tournament – December 19, 2016 @ Bell Centre

dec_19_can_finNot sure how much you can take away from a pre-tournament game, but if they are any gauge whatsoever then this one showed that the Finnish side is no way near the calibre of the one that won the gold medal at last year’s World Junior Championship. But then again the Canadian side that came in 6th place last year defeated the Finns in a pre-tournament tilt. So, we are back to not putting much weight into games like this. Yes, teams have been selected and the players that played are pretty much who Canada and Finland are going to go with, but coaches are still tinkering with their lines, players might get hurt and goalies are still trying to prove who should be number one.

Canada started quickly and before everyone was sitting down from the national anthems they had already scored a goal. It only took 11 seconds for Tyler Jost to score the first of his two goals on the evening. He capitalized on a big rebound Finnish goalie Veini Vehvilainen kicked out to him. Cheering has just abated when OHL product Taylor Raddysh blew by Robin Salo like he was standing still to double Canada’s lead to 2-0 and we were not even two minutes into the game.

Finland was able to stop the bleeding for the next 13 minutes or so then second year Canada player, Mathew Barzal, made Vehvilainen look bad on a wrap around. At this point most in attendance thought that the game was pretty much over. Canada had too much of a jump on the evening and Finland seemed overwhelmed. Or maybe underwhelmed at the prospect of playing a pre-tournament game is the better way of putting it. Canada scored their fourth of the period with just over two minutes left in the 1st. For his second of the period Jost wristed a shot past Vehvilainen after Julien Gauthier quickly moved the puck to him after a Nicolas Roy face off win to the right of the Finnish goalie.

The 2nd period saw an improved Finnish side hold the Canadians scoreless while earning a few scoring chances of their own. To complete the scoring Canada’s fifth goal was by Raddysh midway through the 3rd when Dillon Dube caused a turnover deep in the Finnish end and Raddysh benefited. Luck was truly on his side as Raddysh’s second goal went in off a Finnish defender.

Canada’s goaltender Carter Hart (after a little gaff at the beginning of the game in which he skated to the wrong net and started his warm-ups) earned his shutout. He played well stopping the shots Finland directed on the Canadian net. When called upon he was able to come up with some big saves. His best of the game was probably about mid-wimageay through the 2nd period when Finland’s Kasper Bjorkvist came in on him on a breakaway, deked, but Hart was up to the challenge stretching out his left pad to make the save.

Like the Montreal Canadiens, it is hard to tell which is the first, second and third lines for Canada. Before the game the Jost-Julien Gauthier-Nicolas Roy line was considered the third line, but after this game could you really consider them that? A nice looking line with Jost as the smaller finisher amidst these two giants. This line has the potential to contribute offensively and showed some good chemistry in one of their first games together.

Though Jost and Raddysh each notched two goals, the Canadian player that caught my eye was Barzal. He was composed on the puck and seemed faster than everyone else on the ice. With his linemates Raddysh and Mathieu Joseph they played most of their shifts in the Finnish end causing plenty of havoc. Each shift Barzal usually gave one or more hints of his elevated hockey sense. The assistant captain has to play an important role if his team is going to get a medal.

What I did not like from the Canadians was all the penalties they took. Seven minor infractions in which five were stick offences. Lazy and sloppy. If you are winning games 5-0 there is no reason to take that many penalties. Think back to last year where indiscipline led to the downfall of the Canadian side. Let’s hope they learn their lesson. You cannot keep giving teams power plays and expect to win games.

What we can conclude is that the Finns are better than this. As demonstrated by their play after Canada pulled out to a four goal lead. They were much stronger after the 1st period and even got their shots up near Canada’s. Though I am not sure they are good enough to win gold this year. They have sent over a young team to play in the tournament. We’ll have a better idea, though, after we’ve seen teams like the United States, Sweden and Russia play.

Fans of the Canadian team should not let this 5-0 victory go to their heads. Again it is just a pre-tournament game. Teams take time to gel and injuries can happen over the course of the tournament. Remember this is a team that is pretty much an unknown quantity besides players like Dylan Strome and Barzal. No big names on the team though they have the capabilities to play a high speed and skill game. And we did finish in 6th place last year. Temper your enthusiasm!

Canada’s next game is against the Czech Republic on Wednesday night against in Ottawa. Their first tournament game (they play all their round robin games in Toronto) is on Boxing Day against the Russians.

Game Stats:

-Goals:  1st Period:

0:11:  Canada – Tyler Jost assisted by Julien Gauthier and Thomas Chabot

1:39:  Canada – Taylor Raddysh assisted by Mathew Barzal

14:28:  Canada – Mathew Barzal assisted by Mathieu Joseph

17:46:  Canada – Tyson Jost assisted by Julien Gauthier and Nicolas Roy

3rd Period:

10:06:  Canada – Taylor Raddysh assisted by Dillon Dube

-Shots on Goal:  Canada – 30

Finland – 25

-Players of the Game:  Canada – Tyson Jost

Finland – Olli Juolevi

-Final Score:  Canada – 5

Finland – 0

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