In what was supposed to be an epic battle, the United States easily dismissed Team Canada at the 2013 World Junior Championships today, embarrassing head coach Steve Spott and the Canadian squad by a final score of 5-1.
American Defenseman Jake McCabe scored two goals in the first period, while forward John Gaudreau (who was coming off a three goal effort against the Czech Republic) also bulged the twine twice en route to what can only be called a “fisting” courtesy of the Americans over Team Canada.
Canada came into the game undefeated, including a 2-1 victory over the United States in the preliminary round. To be fair, the U.S. probably outplayed Canada for the final 30 minutes of that game, but somehow Canada pulled out the “W”. It took an exceptional game from Canadian netminder Malcolm Subban to get by the United States in the Prelims, looking back on things Canada may have got lucky the first time around.
American netminder John Gibson furthered his argument for Tournament MVP, making 33 saves on 34 shots on Thursday morning. To be fair, Canada didn’t really test Gibson until the third period when Canada finally picked up the pace of their game. Still, Gibson was pretty much flawless in the rematch against Canada. The one goal that got past Gibson should have been called back as one of the refs had inexplicably blown his whistle seconds before the puck crossed the line.
To his credit, the bad goal didn’t bother Gibson, as he kept his cool, making Canadian forwards miss high and wide on countless occasions and showing why he is the best goaltender at the tournament with his considerable poise, tremendous rebound control and excellent positioning.
At the other end, Canadian netminder Malcolm Subban had a tough game. Screened on the first two American goals, Subban looked frustrated with his defense’s positioning, while his confidence seemed to wane after the third goal got by him at the 2:58 mark of the second period.
You could hear the millions of Canadians from their living rooms begging for a timeout and a goaltending switch after Subban allowed the third goal. Against his better judgment, Canada’s head coach, Steve Spott, chose to leave Subban in the game after the third goal. Subban would give up his fourth and final goal of the contest just four minutes later at the 7:16 mark of the second, before Spott finally inserted Jordan Binnington between the pipes for Canada.
You cannot put all the blame on Subban, but clearly he did not bring his “A” game against the Americans this time around. Subban would finish the game having made 12 saves on 16 shots; earning a paltry 0.750 save percentage.
To his credit, Binnington played spectacularly well in relief of Subban, stopping 25 of 26 shots faced, earning a tidy 0.962 save percentage in just over a half a game of work.
Needless to say, the debate over which goaltender should start in the Bronze Medal Game against Russia on Saturday will be all the rage on Twitter over the next 36 hours. Spott will have a tough choice to make, hopefully he gets it right this time around.
Up front, Canada got a horrific effort all the way around.Canada lacked tempo, poise and creativity throughout the contest and failed to establish a physical game against the Americans. QMJHL product Jonathan Huberdeau emerged with a team-worst plus/minus at minus-4. Mississauga native Ryan Strome had an equally inept game, emerging with a minus-3 rating while defensemen Ryan Murphy, Dougie Hamilton and Griffin Reinhart all emerged with a minus-2 rating.
Thought to be a key player on the power play and in terms of developing offense off the rush, Canadian defenseman Ryan Murphy (who plays for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL) was invisible all tournament long, registering zero points.
Fellow defenseman Griffin Reinhart (who had one assist and one shot during the WJC) might have been Canada’s most disappointing player, failing to register any offense and looking completely lost out on the ice more days than not.
Of course, when you lose a game by a final score of 5-1 there is plenty of blame to go around. Edmonton Oilers star forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looked very average against the States, while the speedy Jonathan Drouin was also a non-factor.
To be fair, the only players on the Canadian squad that had a decent game were forward Boone Jenner (who was excellent on the penalty kill and in keeping the Americans in check) and defenseman Morgan Rielly, who had more scoring chances than most of Canada’s forwards.
With the loss to the United States, Canada will now go home from the WJC without a Gold Medal for the fourth straight year. That said, Canada will get a chance to keep their overall medal streak going with a chance to earn a Bronze against the disappointing Russian squad. Should Canada win the Bronze Medal that will be 14 straight years Canada will bring home a medal from the WJC, something Canada can be proud of despite the recent letdowns.
Everything from the coaching, goaltending and overall selection process will be under scrutiny for Canada over the next 12 months. When you consider the big picture there is nothing wrong with Canadian hockey. Canada still spits out more talent than any other Country, but it has become painfully clear that many Nations have found their way at this event, culminating in Canada having to endure four tough loses over the past four tournaments, including back-to-back Gold Medal Game loses to the United States and Russia in the 2010 and 2011 tournaments, a 6-5 loss to Russia in 2012 and now this years ugly 5-1 loss to the Americans.
Canada had won five straight Gold Medals from 2005 through 2009 before the wheels fell off. There is hope that Canada will find its way once again, but with the United States continuing to ice great teams, Russia and Sweden still strong and the Slovakian’s and Swiss starting to show signs of climbing the ladder, the days of any Nation winning five in a row may be a thing of the past.
And so, Team USA will play Sweden for the Gold Medal, while Canada and Russia try to pick up the pieces for what should be an entertaining Bronze Medal Game.
Sweden will likely give Team USA a stiff test in the Gold Medal Game. Should Sweden pull off the win they will earn back-to-back Gold Medals for the first time in their history at the WJC. That said, something tells me this American squad will continue to dominate, taking the Gold home for the second time in four years.
Congratulations Team USA!