Friday, January 05, 2007

2007 World Junior Hockey Championship
Final: Canada v. Russia

Alright — here's the game thread, one I'll have near the top of the site until after Friday's gold-medal final at the world junior tournament.

Let's see if we can get some sort of a discussion going, starting with how the Russians have really impressed despite not having an Ovechkin/Malkin type and no one really calling them the favourites going in. Two players who have been phenomenal are goaltender Semen Varlamov and 17-year-old Alexei Cherepanov, who has been the best 2007 draft-eligible player in the tournament.

McKeen's Hockey had Cherepanov ranked 18th overall heading into the world juniors, but I fully expect him to rise considerably given he's been one of the scoring leaders so far.

As for Canada, one of the real surprises has been how hard goals have been to come by. One wonders if this team wouldn't have benefitted from having the likes of Angelo Esposito and John Tavares to add a touch more explosiveness to the lineup. (Then again, American fans are probably asking the same thing about Bobby Ryan.)

So, in that sense, Friday's gold-medal final is a matchup between one team that's had trouble scoring, and another that has had almost everything go in to this point. Russia has outscored its opposition 24-5 through five games — a total skewed just a little due to games against Switzerland and Belarus.

In goal, both Varlamov and Canada's Carey Price have been lights out, which likely means we're in for another low-scoring nailbiter.

Thoughts, rants and/or predictions?

(There's really been a lack of buzz over this tournament so far, and I haven't been able to figure out if it's because the games have all been in the early afternoon or if the lack of the marquee names has caused a sag in interest. Here's hoping it's a slow build from now until Friday's game.)

UPDATE I offer up a few more thoughts on Cherepanov.

UPDATE The talented American squad takes the bronze medal with a 2-1 win over Sweden.

UPDATE Game time.

UPDATE Canada holds off Russia to win 4-2. That's three gold medals in a row, medals in nine tournaments in a row, and medals in 14 of the past 15 years.

As Eric Duhatschek says in his postgame piece, the country's hockey youngster are in good hands.

The only real shame of this tournament, in my estimation, is the lack of interest from the host country, despite the fact the Swedes had their best showing (4th) in years.

Are Canadians the only ones that care about this event? The answer seems clearer now than ever, and my guess is the IIHF can't wait to have the tournament back in Canada when Ottawa hosts it two years from now.

And one wonders, given their dominance, if Canada will have lost a game by then.

UPDATE Here are a few thoughts from Cousin BJ, who I took in some of the 2006 tournament with in British Columbia last year:
It's funny that Sweden can't even sellout a medal game with their country playing in it .... and here in Canada a game between Uzbekistan and Eastern Zimbabwe sells out.
He means Latvia and Slovakia, I think.

22 Comments:

At 5:31 PM, January 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It won't earn me any friends around here, but as Varlamov is a Caps' prospect, I've gotta say... Go Russia!

 
At 5:33 PM, January 03, 2007, Blogger girlysportsrant said...

There's never a buzz when the World Juniors play outside of Canada. Especially this year since the final is on Friday! (who can watch that?)

There was some buzz when Canada won 5 in a row in the 90s. Then there was nothing when Canada won nothing. Only the star-studded 2005 team (plus the insane Winnipeg fans that went down to Grand forks) and last years defense in Vancouver drew some buzz.

This tournament isnt even a blip on the radar in Europe.

As for the final. Canada will definately have to play better and more intense than they did today. But I expect a gritty performance and close nail-biting 3-2 win.

 
At 5:35 PM, January 03, 2007, Anonymous berestoff said...

No one (apart from Russians) considered Russia to be a WJC favourite because of lack of knowledge about players who chose to master their skills in domestic league in spite of stagnating in North American minors. To the contrary that's why Czechs were so highly rated before the tournament and where are they now?
As for the final game prediction I'd vote for Russia with the only "if" - if the refereeing will be appropriate. We don't have neither Ovechkin nor Malkin this year but we own good lines depth, best coaching in years and solid goaltending by Varlamov who is Top-3 goalkeeper in SVS% in Russian superleague this season.
Anyway let the best be the winner.

 
At 1:15 AM, January 04, 2007, Blogger Desdemona said...

How were the team favourites chosen? I'm curious, many Russians have been picked below where their normal ranking would be simply because Russia haven't signed the IIHF deal. If teams are ranked, even in part, by the draft pick ranking, perhaps that's why they weren't considered a threat.

It seems everyone here is in agreement that Canada has to play better, much better to win. Since it's pretty much impossible to improve as much as they need to from now until Friday, then I say just play their Canadian physical game.

Perhaps we can't match Russia's skill, but we can stunt it, and I highly doubt that they'll be able to match our physicality (if that's how the game turns out).

 
At 1:32 PM, January 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call me a homer, but how could they not take Cody Burki of the Brandon Wheat Kings despite his being in the top of the WHL for scoring this season? Is it really true that Wheat Kings owner/GM/coach Kelly McKrimmon is so disliked that they go out of their way to avoid his players? (ala Eric Fehr and Ryan Stone)

 
At 12:02 AM, January 05, 2007, Blogger Jamie Fitzpatrick said...

Hard to know what to make of the Russians after seeing them just once. But a number of trends suggest Russian gold:

1) Bet the Russians when they play Canada in Europe, and Canada when they meet in North America.

2) Their last two WJC showdowns have finished 5-0 Canada (2006) and 6-1 Canada (2005). With the two countries normally so closely matched, the market is due for a correction.

3) Two of the last three WJC have been won by supposed underdogs. The U.S. was believed to be a year away in 2004 and Canada was thought to be rebuilding in '06. Much the same was said about Russia this year.

4) Most of the Canadian forwards couldn't put the puck in the ocean off a pier. So the game plan is presumably to lean on the defense and goaltending and squeeze out another 2-1 nailbiter. They've shown they can do it. But two games in a row?

5) Short tournaments reward teams that improve as the games continue. Canada played its best hockey in its opening two games, and hasn't matched that level since.

Here's hoping all of the above turns out to be a load of nonsense.

 
At 2:05 PM, January 05, 2007, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

Canada must prevail. Otherwise...THE COMMUNISTS WIN!

 
At 2:08 PM, January 05, 2007, Anonymous pete said...

Awesome. Just awesome. This teams wants it. They're hustling to every puck. Proud to be a Canadian today just watching them play.

 
At 2:13 PM, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Arcanas said...

3-0 after the first period. I wish I was watching the game instead of TSN's update screen :/

 
At 2:16 PM, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TSN has been hyping their broadband all tourney long. its TERRIBLE!!! Thank god I have a TV at the office.

 
At 2:28 PM, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The broadband is killing me :(
I feel like a poor Russian getting steamrolled by the Canadian juggernaut.

 
At 2:35 PM, January 05, 2007, Blogger girlysportsrant said...

go to rds.ca if you dont mind the french :P

 
At 3:57 PM, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Proudest moment might have been when Toews drops an F-bomb during the postgame interview.

They're real kids, these boys.

 
At 4:00 PM, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOOO!!!!

Great work by the PK and the entire team! Very proud of the boys.

 
At 4:57 PM, January 05, 2007, Anonymous grace said...

No interest when Canada plays outside of North America? I beg to differ.

Prior to the beginning of the third period I went 2 buildings over to the food court to catch the rest of the game and the place was packed with "late lunchers" watching the game. No place to sit.

I stuck around to watch the kids butcher our anthem in their own precious way and listened to some nuckleheads talk about how Horcoff may soon be a Canuck (AHAHAHAHAHAHA).

 
At 5:16 PM, January 05, 2007, Blogger Desdemona said...

CANADA WINS GOLD!!!!

Honestly, I was really unsure about this game, Russia looked really good in the one game that I saw them in beforehand, and their stats were remarkable, but Canada fed them the boards, threw them off of the game and finally got some offense going. What an exciting game, the best of the juniors that I've seen.

Where was that Canada team when we played the USA. No mind, it all worked out.

Every time we play the Russians, I find myself often thinking "pussy divers". No mind, it all worked out.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!! Canada wins! 3rd year gold!!! First gold in Europe in 10 years!

Congrats to Russia and US for Silver and Bronze, respectively.

 
At 5:46 PM, January 05, 2007, Blogger Desdemona said...

A friend of mine who lives in Sweden went to the first US/Canada match. He said that there's nothing to do in Leksand, it's a tiny remote little city (town?) and he had to travel 9 hours in total to get there and back. I'd hate to think how long it took those who live outside of Sweden. Also consider that their gas costs about twice as much as ours.

Canada would still support their team in a small town... just saying that when there are obstacles you tend to think it's easier to stay home.

 
At 9:36 PM, January 05, 2007, Anonymous phillie said...

I thought both TSN's coverage and the radio coverage were terrific. Best part was post-game interview with Jonathan Toews when he dropped the F-bomb.

 
At 11:50 PM, January 05, 2007, Blogger girlysportsrant said...

"No interest when Canada plays outside of North America? I beg to differ."

Bandwagoners.. where they there when Canada was life and death against the US? They probably couldnt name 2 guys. And hey, it's an excuse to get out of work.

Anyone can watch a Canada-Russia final and pretend to know what they're talking about.

 
At 1:07 AM, January 06, 2007, Blogger Desdemona said...

Mirtle: I read your piece on Cherepanov. Is your opinion of him based solely on the Sweden/Russia game? Or was there some way that the rest of us were able to see more games than just that one?

girlysportsrant: I watched it all and was the only person worried about today's game. Everyone else I knew said "Of course we won, was there ever any doubt?" Well, there was for me, yet I was the one who came off sounding like I didn't know what I was talking about.

 
At 1:13 AM, January 06, 2007, Blogger girlysportsrant said...

Desdemona: the fact that you were worried shows that you followed the tournament. We were all worried but I had a feeling that 'hitting' the russians would knock them off-stride like usual. However, they made a furious comeback and if it wasnt for that save on the 3-on-5 breakaway, who knows what would have happened.

People who know nothing just show up to a random tv and say...'that was pretty easy, we won again' Lets see later in november if they come up to YOU and tell you that the 2008 tournament is starting soon :)

 
At 7:05 AM, January 06, 2007, Anonymous MrSifter said...

First of all, thank you for a great hockeyblog.

As a swede i feel that i need to comment on the "lack of interest from the host country". The tournament has been a big success compared to the expectations. 57000 tickets sold (35000 was expected) and one of the public channels broadcasted most of the games (never happend before, not even the swedish games). So personally I hope they continue to air the future WJHC:s.

Of course, for obvious reasons, all games would be sell outs if the tournament was in Canada. But compared to the previous attention to the WJHC in Sweden, this tournament was a huge success and may result in more swedish attention in the future, which hopefully bode well for Swedish youth hockey.

 

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