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WJC: Day one

December 27, 2011

Tonight, there will be a thousand posts like mine, recapping the first day at the races–yes, it’s Boxing Day, and the 2012 IIHF U20 Championships, known more affectionately as the World Juniors, have begun.

Team Canada throttled Team Finland at Rexall Place in Edmonton this afternoon. I watched the game on an RDS feed, which worked out well enough. French helps, every day, doesn’t it? They did seem to focus more on Huberdeau and the draft picks of the Canadiens (Gallagher, Bournival and Beaulieu) disproportionately, but hey! 8-1, thump. Finland looked disorganized. There were blue sweaters everywhere, but none of them cloaked a body with a sense of what to do. Canada forced turnovers, stole pucks. By the same token, Finland’s forwards demonstrated poise and creativity with the the puck Canada’s forwards lacked. But that doesn’t matter one iota if you can’t actually score. It was a disappointing game, really. It wasn’t a fun hockey game to watch. No lopsided game is. Especially when they’re mostly still amateurs.

The United States seemed perturbed by the first period goals of Denmark–enough so that they were compelled to answer with an eleven-marker finish. Denmark didn’t look awful initially, but their goaltending and defense seemed insufficient for the American onslaught.

Sadly, I missed the Sweden-Latvia match.

Later in the night, I tuned into Russia and Switzerland. Much as everyone anticipated, Russia featured a dominant and stirring forward corps. Their goaltending bailed them out more than I would expect. Andrei Vasilevski stood tall in net time and again. But Russia’s defensemen were sloppy and undisciplined. They passed the puck to no one. They looked more like me out there than anything. They were slow to their feet. The forwards looked sharp, but Evgeny Kuznetsov seemed to hold onto the puck longer than necessary on more than a few occasions. Extra passes and dekes added little to the Russian offense. But the supreme talent of the group, on display in flashes last night, promises that there is much, much more to come. On the Swiss side, their workmanship ground down the Russians. Their consistent effort and determination could easily take any opponent off-guard in the round robin part of the tournament. They never let the other team have their way. That was surprising. Then again, it may just have been their opponent.

Overall, a solid first day. The Canadian nationalism is once more off-putting and upsetting. “Canada’s game” and the language and bravado that accompanies it has a way of spoiling it for the rest of us. That just makes me want to cheer on the other nine teams that much more.

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