For the fourth straight year Canada will be leaving the World Junior Tournament without a gold medal after losing to team USA 5-1 in the semi-finals. The game was completely dominated by the Americans and the confused Canadians were left just watching their opposition skate around them, so much for the "dream team" assembled due to the lockout.
The Canadians got off to a slow start and were quickly left in the dust of the Americans who came out ready to play and with something to prove. With 2 first period goals by American captain Jake McCabe they found themselves in a deep hole, needing to score 3 goals on the red hot John Gibson. Going into the 2nd period the Americans scored the next 2 goals and the game was quickly put to bed before Canada was even able to show up. Whether it was the 2 days off after earning the quarter final bye or they were to over confident, they just didn't show up ready to play when the puck dropped and that's what killed the Canadians.
The Canadian players played with no heart or passion during the tournament and the reason is they have a sense of entitlement. They believe because they're star Canadian players and wear the maple leaf on their chest they should immediately be in the gold medal game. The star players on the Canadian team were just given a spot on the team and weren't forced to work hard and actually make the team. Just look at the games during selection camp, every player who had already made the team (after only 1 practice) got to sit in the press box and eat wings while the fringe players (many of whom got cut) had to fight like crazy for a chance to represent their country.
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Canadian players upset after loss to Team USA[/caption]
When watching Canada in the tournament you could tell that players like Jonathan Drouin who had to battle to earn the honour to put the Canadian jersey on, were the better players and they actually seemed to care. For the first round draft-picks who were given a spot on the roster before touching down out West, the tournament becomes almost a "right of passage" that they must compete in before making the jump to the NHL. It seems like they don't put their full heart into the tournament because they know they're already headed to the NHL.
When push comes to shove Canada just expects to win gold, so much has been made about hockey being their game and how dominate they used to be that they just expect to wind up in the gold medal game. You could see today that was the mindset they brought into the semi-finals, they just expected to be in the finals but team USA had other plans.
Thanks to the lockout Canada had the added benefit of some very talented players including first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. With so many stars suiting up for Canada there are 2 things to take away. The first is the fact that all the star players are used to being the star players, it's hard for 5 guys who are used to be being "the guy" to come together and mesh as a unit and thats what happened. When watching them play it truly looked like 5 individuals out on the ice instead of a team as each guy wanted to be the hero and tried to do to much. The second thing to take away is the coaching from head coach Steve Spott, I have no clue where they drew his name from, but he had absolutely no clue how to coach the players. One thing that really stood out for me was the fact he didn't even go into the room before the semi-final game, what kind of coach doesn't at least talk to his team before a big game like this? He was unable to get the right lines together and flat out did a horrible job managing the players.
Now moving onto the underdogs of the tournament Team USA.
After a disappointing 7th place finish last year at the World Juniors, Team USA has rebounded nicely and will now be going home with at least a silver medal. Not a bad turnaround by the Americans who chose a fine mix of CHL players and NCAA players. The best part of the Americans roster going into the tournament was the lack of politics. They were comfortable cutting first round draft picks Stefan Matteau and Brady Skjei because they didn't perform as well as other players during the selection camp. That's a team that is willing to take the best players instead of the biggest names.
Their decision to take college players John Gaudreau and Rocco Grimaldi payed off in the end as Gaudreau scored 2 big goals in the win over Canada and is 2nd in scoring with 9 points (7 goals and 2 assists). When you have 3rd and 4th liners who are able to produce at the rate Gaudreau has been able to it makes scoring a lot easier. All 5 goals scored by the Americans against Canada came from players playing in the NCAA (Gaudreau 2, Jake McCabe 2, Jim Vesey) proving that you can win with players from anywhere.
But perhaps the biggest story and the number 1 reason they're in the finals is due to the play of goaltender John Gibson. He has been absolutely phenomenal throughout the tournament and if it wasn't for a questionable whistle would have recorded his 2nd straight shutout. The Canadians had many golden chances where players were left alone in front of the goaltender but Gibson stood strong and shut the door time after time. With his strong play he ended up getting into the Canadians heads forcing them to miss the net trying to pick corners or shooting right at him. When a team is able to get the strong type of goaltending team USA has gotten, it does wonders for the confidence of the team. Going into the tournament their main goal was defence but against Canada they managed to generate offence and let Gibson take care of the rest.
The Americans knew they had something to prove after last years tournament and their satisfactory play during the round robin, beating Canada who they had lost to earlier would be a huge step for them. They came out for the semi-final game on fire, ready to play and with a chip on their shoulder. They were a determined team and right from the start they showed they weren't going to roll over.
During the semi-final match team USA was the better team, period. They out-played Canada in every aspect from skating, to scoring to goaltending. After their effort they were the team that deserved to advance to the gold medal match not Canada. At the end of the day you have to earn your way into the gold medal match not just show up. While I stand by the Canadian hockey team, their effort today in the semi-final was pathetic and an embarrassment to themselves and Canada. They didn't bother to show up until the 3rd period and by then the game was over, they allowed themselves to become impressed by who they were and believed they couldn't be beat.
Thursday, 3 January 2013
Team USA Beats Canada Advances to Gold Medal Match
Labels: 2012 World Junior Championship, 2013 World Junior Championship, John Gaudreau, John Gibson, Jonathan Drouin, NHL, Rocco Grimaldi, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Semi-finals, Steve Spott, Team Canada, Team USA, The Americans, USA going to gold medal game, World Juniors