While many people use Boxing Day to go out and buy the gifts they actually wanted at Christmas, a lot of people in Canada view this as the start of the World Junior Hockey Championship. This means big hits, bigger goal celebrations, and learning all the names of small towns across Canada where these kids grew up.
“Maple Bacon, Ontario is a real place? What?”
Yes, the proud tradition of watching kids carry Canada’s hopes and dreams on their backs started up again today, with Canada taking on the U.S.A. While in years past these teams have met up on New Year’s Eve (which have been the source of some of the best games in the tournament’s history), this year they faced each other right off the bat.
It also meant that two of the Canucks more prolific draft picks in Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen would be matching up against each other.
So how did it go down? How did Jake and Brock do? Did they find a mutual acquaintance named “Body” to round out their group? Here is what went down, in a period by period recap:
- The game was on TSN, which was a nice breather from the deluge of Sportsnet produced hockey. Gone were the weird intermissions where men in suits played with hockey sticks, and in their place were the familiar tones of Ray Ferraro and Gord Miller.
- I will say that I miss Pierre McGuire. Sure, he’s like you’re weird uncle whose had too much to drink at the holiday dinner, but I miss him freaking out over plays and over hyping them to mythic proportions.
- TSN had an odd intro video before the game that combined the wildly violent movie The Revenant with hockey clips. People thought I had made this up when I tweeted it. I did not.
- While Canada’s style of play usually favours huge hits during this tournament, this game never really got to that level of “I think someone just attempted to murder somebody on the ice” we usually see.
- The first period was actually quite a restrained affair, with both teams playing tight. There wasn’t a tonne of open ice out there. The best chances were one from Canada’s captain Brayden Point:
And another one later in the period where US goalie Alex Nedeljkovic got a blocker on what looked like a sure goal from Coyotes prospect Brendan Perlini:
Perlini was so sure it was a goal he got caught celebrating what turned out to be a save, then had to drop his hands like nothing happened and skate back into the play.
“I was just stretching guys. My lats. My lats were cramping.”
- A potential turning point of the game occurred when American player Alex DeBrincat lost his shit for a second and speared Team Canada’s Travis Konecny. Remember, this is international hockey rules, where having sideburns and long hair can get you two minutes in the box. Not surprisingly, DeBrincat was tossed from the game with a 5 minute major.
- Spearing remains high on my list of “things that usually don’t hurt nearly as badly as they look”. Don’t get me wrong, a good, stiff spear can be painful, but rule 101 of hockey is no matter how little or how much it hurt, act like someone physically stabbed you with a knife if you get speared. Feel free to break ketchup packets for extra effect.
Team canada pp = Canucks pp 😂
— JD (@SoCalCanuck85) December 26, 2015
- Despite the five minute power play, Team Canada didn’t do much with it. Lots of puck movement around the perimeter, but that was about it.
- How did Jake Virtanen do?
- Jake wasn’t too dynamic in the first period. It felt like other players were hustling to loose pucks more than him, and Jake kind of got stuck in a strictly north/south game where he would take shots that were ineffective, or in the case of that last part of the gif, after the whistle.
- Canucks’ prospect Brock Boeser didn’t do much in the first period, either, but a lot of that had to do with the type of game it was, and the fact Canada was carrying the play a bit. Once DeBrincat got kicked out, though, Boeser got to play with Auston Matthews, or as Canucks fans call it, “Utopia 2016”.
- If you’re as easily amused as I am, then watching Marner chase his stick will give you a chuckle:
- That foreboding sense you had while watching the game suddenly made sense when you found out Chris Chelios was an assistant coach for Team USA
- Team Canada finally got a goal when Gauthier made a pass from his knees to a wide open Barzal, who put it top shelf where Mom keeps the old almonds and expired jello mix.
The best part of the goal was Chartier doing the double tap and putting the puck into the net “just in case”, before joining the celebration.
- Canucks fans got to watch as Boeser started getting some chemistry with future Canuck linemate (?) Auston Matthews:
- The US managed to tie the game up on what looked like a bounce straight out of Detroit:
That is a goal Rollie Melanson will hate watching.
- If you hoped they would play “Born in the USA” after each American goal, you were in luck today.
- At one point during the second period, Canada had a line that got caught in its own zone and couldn’t make a change, with the team eventually having to take a timeout just to give them a rest. How tired where they? Crouse falls over due to no longer having a will to live because he’s so tired, and ices the puck before he can make it to the red line.
He just sort of slides along the ice, watching as the puck goes for icing, waiting for the cold embrace of death to free him from his hockey burdens.
- How did Virtanen do in the 2nd period?
He continued to take shots from poor angles. On one hand you like seeing a guy get lots of shots, but the criticism of Virtanen at the draft was his hockey IQ in regards to passing and utilizing his teammates. Today’s games did nothing to quell those thoughts, as throughout the game Virtanen seemed to be putting on a one man show.
It was a lot of racing down the ice (and to be fair, he does have good wheels) but nothing much would come from it. He would either lose the puck trying to beat one too many players, or he’d get a poor shot off or have his shot deflected.
When he did try passing the puck, it was often with poor results.
Virtanen didn’t even have the other side of his game going (the murderous hits) either, nor did he try and bring the puck to the net. On that last gif you can see Jake have a bit of a path to the net and he instead opts to go around the net.
Of course, this is just one game, so it’s best not to get carried away with things, but if you were to rate his play on this one game alone, it wasn’t that impressive.
- He did at least avoid getting railroaded himself at the end of the period:
@ShaneMalloy I described the play.
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) December 26, 2015
- The “Mike Smith Award for Excellence in Acting” was awarded on Day One of the tourney to the US goaltender, who drew this penalty:
The ref assures Alex he thinks he will be up for a Golden Globe.
- This penalty resulted in the US taking the lead, which was getting everyone in Canada ready to write strongly worded letters to the refs. Which means in Canada, only saying “sorry” 20 times or less instead of the usual 30.
“I’m real sorry aboot this, eh, but I have to say the reffing, and I’m sorry to say this, but the reffing-”
Please note on that goal Brock Boeser setting up a screen. Sure, the screen was super far from the net, but it helped add to the chaos of the goal. Also a tip of that hat to the Canadian player trying to play goal on the shot, but gets beat glove side.
- Luckily “game management” kicked in and Canada was awarded a dubious power play of their own. Dylan Strome then tied the game up:
Dylan Strome had himself the kind of game Canucks fans wish Virtanen had. All game long he was bull rushing the puck to the net, and getting into the dangerous areas of the ice. Strome ended up being chosen as the player of the game for Canada.
- If you want to know why TSN is the best at hockey, it’s because they figure out ways to teach the games to Americans. “We need more baseball references. Go make me a ‘home plate’ graphic for high scoring areas.”
- Let’s check in with Jake Virtanen
Rush # 1
Rush # 2
This highlights the best and worst of Virtanen. You can see how exciting his speed is, and when you add hitting and a good shot to his resume, it’s a skill-set many people would find desirable.
However, it also shows how uncreative his game can be at times. He didn’t really use his size or speed to create room for his linemates, nor did he get open for good looks at the net. He seemed stuck into doing speed rushes down the ice that would end up, as stated before, with a deflected shot or him trying to beat the defenceman, and losing.
On top of that, his passing seemed to lack context (hoping someone would be there vs knowing someone would be there) or at times, his pass accuracy was simply just not there.
In that clip you can see Jake doing a drop pass (Canucks management will be stoked at least) that didn’t have the accuracy it needed. Then the clip continues to Jake just throwing the puck through the middle, hoping someone will get it. The danger reveals itself when the US intercepts the pass and now they have the speed and the puck going the other way.
- Canada almost gave the game away when Hickey didn’t get enough on the puck, and it ended up bouncing right to the Americans for a great chance:
- Canada’s insistence on playing with fire caught up to them when they went against Don Cherry’s advice and started waving their sticks at shots going at their goalie. Two deflected pucks later and the US had taken a commanding 4-2 lead, a lead they would never give up as they went on to win the game by that same score.
Auston Matthews enjoyed getting the easiest goal of his career.
- Despite the loss, Tkachuk at least gave Canadian fans a parting gift. The reminder that there’s a little beer leaguer in all of us.
Or maybe he has too much junk in his trunk.
- The best irony of the game? Player of the Game awards came with an electric razor. In a tournament where Sidney Crosby would have one of the more commanding beards.