Exhibition 2: Canada Vs. Finland

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    Canada came through the gate a bit slow and sluggish. They managed to escape the first period tied at 1, but as the game progressed with chances equaling out by the midway point, Canada began to come alive and pounded the Fins with shots from everywhere being both unpredictable and a deadly force on every shift in the third period.

    Cody Hodgson has been a bit of a surprise in his two pre-tournament games. I say surprise because although everyone knew he was good, I’m not sure people knew he was THIS good. He’s been nothing but stellar in both matchups and will likely be the go to guy down the stretch. He blends well with whoever he plays with, even making them better players. Zach Boychuk is a perfect counterpart for Hodgson’s skill and vision.

    Their defense core had a shaky first period, but it looks like the chemistry is starting to grow. They’ve put more pressure on the opposition while in the defensive zone and are providing better coverage in front of the net. If the back end can get it together before the tournament begins, it will be difficult spotting the weaknesses that Canada has, and even more difficult will be exploiting it.

    Canada’s third and final pre-tournament game will be Tuesday night at 7:00 EST against Team Slovakia.

    The Game Breakdown:

    First Period:

    Dustin Tokarski gets the start tonight; he stopped all 8 shots in the 30 minutes he played Friday night against Sweden. Evander Kane arrived today but will not join the team for tonight’s matchup. John Tavares finds Chris DiDomenico on his wing who quickly draws the opening penalty of the game.

    Tokarski turns away a shorthanded 2 on 1 opportunity with ease while Canada’s defense core seems a bit sloppy and weak in the first few minutes, almost as if someone screwed up the blades while sharpening the skates tonight.

    Ryan Ellis continues to control the blueline on Canada’s powerplay. Despite having 2 man advantage opportunities in the first 5 minutes, Canada has given up 2 on 1s and breakaways and Eberle continues to look for a goal at impossible angles instead of feeding the open man. He’ll have to play more for the team instead of for himself if he wants the ice time he needs to shine.

    DiDomenico is starting to show what he can do as he pulls off a bit of stick skill deep in the offensive zone and proves his gritty side by finishing some hard, heavy checks. Jamie Benn is showing he is a legitimate top six forward and seems to be one of the more consistent players on the ice.

    Canada is getting caught flat footed and does not look like the same energetic team they were Friday night against the Swedes. Perhaps the matchup against one of the tournament’s best in Victor Hedman brought the A game out of the Canadians. Finland opens the scoring midway through the first frame.

    It doesn’t look as though Canada was expecting this type of defensive style of play on behalf of the Fins. As shown in multiple world hockey events, Finland has the ability to play an incredible trap system on both small and large ice surfaces.

    Cody Hodgson is showing great leadership qualities as he applies pressure down low and feeds Tyler Ennis in front to tie the game at 1 apiece.

    Canada has changed their offensive game plan to a dump and chase method and it looks to be paying dividends. The Fins are able to get their sticks in the passing lanes quickly almost suckering the team into making a few low percentage plays.

    Canada will have to up the pressure on the forecheck and continue throwing the bodies. The energy lines will be the difference makers in this game and it will require speed and grit to get the job done. It is possible the crash the net garbage goals will be the game winner rather than spectacular players in this game, but they’ll have to be aggressive in their own end to shut down the shifty Finnish opposition.

    Second Period:

    Team Finland could be a very underrated team. This club knows how to shut down the opposition, so much so that the stretch pass is practically eliminated and Canada continues to struggle getting the puck into the offensive zone. The trap has begun shutting down the dump and chase as they have a player waiting on the end boards to block the dump.

    Tomi Sallinen puts Finland in the lead thanks to a great pass in front of the net. The Canadians spent their time chasing the puck and didn’t take the body down low leaving Sallinen wide open in front for a gift. Tokarski had little chance of stopping a one timer from a sniper right in the slot.

    John Tavares jumps on the ice and provides a great speedy shift sparking team Canada. Insert the line of Hodgson, Eberle and Boychuk and you get a great charge to the net shift. Hodgson picks up the garbage goal that was necessary to get Canada back into this game.

    Canada is alive. A dump in chase play has Canada crash the net and once again they get the required garbage goal to get themselves their first lead in the game after a goal by Sonne. This is exactly what Canada needed. There is not enough space provided by the Fins to play the skilled game. Their energy lines are doing what is required to get the job done. Hard on the forecheck to force the Fins into making mistakes.

    Canada’s physical game is back in action as Stefan Della Rovere shows more of his strong presence that the team will miss from the injured Dana Tyrell, but he takes a charging penalty in the process.
    By the look of Finland’s powerplay, which hasn’t had a shot on goal thus far in the game, Canada is getting the most of the opportunities despite being down a man. Canada is communicating much better with each other as DiDomenico and Tavares kill off yet another penalty. On a side note, this has been a very consistent and well reffed game.

    Della Rovere is a thorn in the side of the Fins. A skirmish breaks out in front of the net with Rovere in the mix of it all. The process draws a penalty and puts Canada on the powerplay on a much needed occasion in the game to hopefully get Canada an insurance goal.

    The second period comes to an end with more roughing in the corner.

    Sources tell me the ice is terrible (E3) = )

    Third Period:

    Finland ties it up early in the third period as Jesse Jyrkko tips in a shot in front of the net. Immediately after, Canada rushes the net and after a mad scramble and Finland’s tender makes a brilliant pad save deep in his crease. This game has heated up a bit.

    Hickey crawls in from the corner and takes a hard shot from the side boards. The puck ricochets off the goalie, striking Della Rovere in the chest and bouncing into the net. Again, not a pretty goal, but it counts and Canada goes back on top.

    Jamie Benn gets tangled up with Finnish player Niemi who gives him 5 to 6 shots to the face. Benn gets two minutes for roughing while Niemi is saved from ejection since he did not drop his gloves in the act. Canada goes to the powerplay as Niemi rightfully gets the double minor.

    On the ensuing powerplay, Finland throws the puck over the boards and takes an additional penalty putting them down 2 men. John Tavares jumps on the ice, Hodgson uses his incredible vision to feed him the puck at the side of the net and Canada finds themselves with a 5-3 lead with half a period to go.

    Canada continues their pressure and just misses on the short side after a great heads up play started by DiDomenico. It’s nice to see this kid starting to come into his own.

    Finland is starting to put the pressure back on Canada as they try to climb back from a two goal deficit. Esposito joins John Tavares on a line – a bit of juggling for Canada. The Canadians look much more comfortable in their game and are more confident with the puck.

    An incredible opportunity for Boychuk is stopped by the Finnish goalie. Hodgson, Eberle and Boychuk are the real deal. Hopefully they will be together for the start of the tournament. John Tavares on the other hand has been somewhat quiet in this game, but has not showed any signs of weakness in his game.

    An odd goal is scored to increase Canada’s lead by 3 as Jamie Benn throws the puck out front from behind the net and it banks off the Finnish defensemen, off his goaltender’s leg and in. Seconds later, Canada breaks into the zone with a ton of speed. Della Rovera feeds Eberle and just like that, the game is 7-3. Just under a minute later, Finnish goaltender Juha Metsola robs him on a point blank shot that will certainly be on the highlight reel.

    Chris DiDomenico shows his strength as he hammers one of the Finnish players in center ice. The hit sparks Canada to a flurry of opportunities, but Metsola stands tall. Despite the score, the game hasn’t been one-sided and Metsola has been great in his outing tonight.

    Zach Boychuk hits the post late in the dying seconds that looked like a sure goal. Canada wins their second exhibition game with the final score of 7-3.

    My selected 3 Stars of the game:

    First Star – Cody Hodgson (Still an amazingly gifted force that leads Canada by example.)

    Second Star – Thomas Hickey (Provided a great two way game which makes me wonder why he’s not in the NHL today.)

    Third Star – Juha Metsola (Great saves in the dying minutes proving to be a bright star on team Finland.)

    Micheal A. Aldred
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