Straying away from traditional game recaps, Five Thoughts will provide late-game analysis for Team Canada games at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo.
Game One: 6-3 win vs. Russia
The rush How many odd-man rushes did the Canadians create, only for shots to miss the mark or be blocked? Six goals scored, and all came with established zone possession. The Canadians were wasting a lot of shots on those rushes by not passing, but I admire that they didn’t try to get too pretty in those situations. A miss or a block at least keeps the puck deep and doesn’t allow a counterattack.
Ryan Ellis Ryan Ellis has evolved from the pizza-faced, undersized kid we saw in Ottawa to an undersized defenseman with clearer skin. He hasn’t added any size or brute strength over the years he’s been in this tournament, but his total production is improving. He was always, in years past, primarily a passer and a set-up man, but he’s added a well-placed shot to his arsenal. His line today was a goal and seven shots, spaced evenly throughout the game. His goal may not go in 99 times out of 100, but Ellis was playing for the ricochet — it just so happens there didn’t have to be anybody in front for a goal to be created.
The depth players The more I see out of Casey Cizikas and Quinton Howden, the more I like them. Cizikas had that penalty killing shift in the first period where he kept the puck in the offensive zone single-handedly against two Russians. I don’t think I’ve seen him lose a puck battle yet. It is nice to see that, despite his troubled past (Google ‘Cizikas’ and ‘rugby’ if you’re unawares), Casey hasn’t lost his competitive edge. Howden, like Cizikas, was winning puck battles in all three zones and turning Russian breakout attempts into repeat chances. I wish I could have seen his Corsi numbers. He finished plus-two despite having just one power-play assist.
The top line So Ryan Johansen, Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian spent a fair deal of time in the offensive zone, but they also were Canada’s only minus-forwards. Kassian is a bit of a wrecking ball, and in at least two instances, went for the big hit instead of making the smart play, which opens up a lot of ice. I might like to see Brayden Schenn see more time up with Johansen in place of Kassian, being a bit more responsible with the puck and has better set-up ability.
The defense Olivier Roy played OK but should have had a little more help against Russia. Dylan Olsen was caught looking in the wrong direction twice and was a minus-one, and Calvin De Haan, despite his strong pre-tournament play, lost control of a few pucks. It’s still early, but obviously both players weren’t at their best but will need to be as this tournament goes on.
The three stars/les trois étoiles:
1: Ryan Ellis
2: Dmitri Orlov
3: Quinton Howden
Next up: Canada has shaken off their strongest mental challengers in Russia, which is probably enough to land them a spot in the medal round. The Canadians face the Czechs on Tuesday, which should be a tough-enough task, as this team actually beat the favored Americans in a shootout in a pre-tourament game, and the shots were pretty even at 33-32 in favor of the US.