Exhibition 3: Canada vs. Slovakia

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    Overview:

    Canada did all the right things in tonight’s game. They played a great cycling game in the offensive zone and have gotten more creative in their passing plays. They continued their crash-the-net tactics and even moved the puck out for some big point shots. On the defensive side, they played the 1-2-2 trap system the Fins used Sunday night, and applied an aggressive attack in the defensive end to completely shut down Richard Panik and the Slovaks.

    Zach Boychuk quietly scored two goals tonight and was incredible with Hodgson once again. Eberle continued his somewhat puck hog play as he took unnecessary shots when teammates were open, but it’s likely he was approached by the coaching staff between periods as he played a great “team first” style for the rest of the match. Evander Kane saw little ice time, which was a shame, but connected quickly with Della Rovere. Despite his offensive talents, he’ll likely be used as part of a shut down trio with Della Rovere and Cormier. Della Rovere is such an aggressive player and has the ability to change the momentum in the game with ease. He is the “Steve Downie” of this Canada squad.

    Not much has been said about Chet Pickard and with good reason; the Nashville Predator prospect was so complete and solid tonight that he was hardly noticed for his spectacular effort. He was called upon in the first when the Slovaks outshot the Canadians and any attempt for the rest of the game, he turned away with ease. He’s my favorite for the number one position for the tournament. He reminds me of Carey Price, and with good reason, and he was Price’s backup for a few seasons on the Tri-City Americans of the WHL.

    Canada will now have a few days off until their game against the Czech Republic to start off the round robin of the tournament on Boxing Day.

    Play by Play Analysis

    First Period:

    Canada kicks off the first 8 minutes of the game with 3 separate man advantages. The first two opportunities seemed to be a nervous start for the home team as they made poor plays and moved the puck around too quickly to make any solid chances. On the third, Cody Hodgson slowed the play down to allow his teammates to get into position, makes a nifty play in front of the net. Eberle the shooter picks up the rebound and just like that, the game is 1-0.

    Evander Kane is given his first full shift and he quickly shows his gritty speed. He looks like he could be a great energy filler for Dana Tyrell but he’ll need his time to find chemistry just as the others have had two games to achieve.

    Richard Panik looks to be a good addition to the Slovakian squad. Watch for him to do anything and everything he can to capitalize on opportunities for the Slovaks powerplay.

    Esposito was thought to be injured after he left the first few minutes of the game but it is more plausible to have been equipment problem as he rejoins the game and throws a heavy hit by the Slovakian net.

    Eberle had a great opportunity to net his second of the game, but the eager shooter is showing more of his impatience and takes a spin around shot that misses the open net completely.

    The first period closes at the score of 1-0. Regardless of Eberle notching the goal, Cody Hodgson, Zach Boychuk and John Tavares continue to be the most impressive players for team Canada.

    Second Period:

    After two quick penalties to start off the period, Canada finds themselves on 2 man advantage powerplay.

    Ryan Ellis, despite being one of the younger players on the club, shows why he was kept around as he makes an unbelievable face shot to pass to John Tavares helping Canada capitalize on the 5-3 opportunity. This kid is smart and calm with the puck. He will definitely be a factor in this tournament.

    (Just a quick side note: It may be that I’m paying more attention to the Canada game rather than the Toronto game but Toskala looks pathetic tonight. Maybe he should’ve given his groin strain a bit more time to rest.)

    Near the end of the first, the shots on goal were 10 to 7 in favor of the Slovaks, now that we’re nearing the midway point of the second, it’s 19 to 12 for Canada. How quickly a game can turn.

    Nearing the midway point of the second, Jaroslav Janus of the Errie Otters robs Eberle on a clear break. It looks like Canada has learned quite a bit from the Fins as they have virtually eliminated any chance of a setup let alone a shot on goal in the defensive end.

    Quick statistical note thanks to tsn:
    Powerplay shots on goal, Canada 12, Slovakia 3

    Canada dodges a bullet as a clear delay of game shot over the glass was ruled to be deflected by the officials while on the penalty kill. Upon the expiration of the penalty, DiDomenico, Tavares and Benn jump on the ice and it is pure poetry between these three. I’ve yet to see DiDo play as good in the entire tournament as he has in this one shift. On not one, not two, but three opportunities the trio made some excellent plays and just missed out on scoring on all three chances in a matter of 25 seconds. I think Tavares has finally found the right linemates and it’s nice that DiDo is one of them.

    A large scrum takes place in front of the Canadian net after the Slovakian forward got a bit chippy after the initial save. Della Rovere’s jersey had been torn at the neck in the process and all I can think is “it’s a shame a nice jersey like that has been damaged”.

    The Slovaks take a bad line change and Zach Boychuk recognizes his opportunity. He jumps behind the defense and makes a great deke to the left side, hesitating on his shot as Janus goes for the pokecheck and snipes it top shelf to put Canada up by 3 with under 2 minutes left in the second period.

    Canada outshoots the Slovaks 15-4 in the second period.

    (During the intermission, I’ve tuned in completely to the Toronto game. After the 7th goal by Dallas, they showed a Dallas fan cheering happily. Next to the fan, a Toronto fan in full out tears. It was so funny and pathetic to watch I had to mention it in this blog. I’ll continue my focus on the Canada game for the rest of the night.)

    Third Period:

    Canada is up 3-0, it’s an exhibition game and Della Rovere and Evander Kane have hardly seen the ice. I don’t understand why you’re not allowing these guys to play equal minutes at this point. There’s no bearing on the game and quite honestly, you’re wasting talent. If Quinn had no real interest in giving Kane top two line minutes, why bring him in at all?

    Tavares, DiDo and Espo are back together and quickly making impact. I liked the combination of Benn and DiDo playing with Tavares but it seems John can create magic with whoever joins him on the offensive rush.

    Della Rovere is called for a questionable elbowing call, but no worry. Cormier grabs the puck and skates into the Slovakian end and snipes a great wrister short side shorthanded goal on Canada’s 33rd shot of the game. Evander Kane has been used effectively on the penalty kill.

    Canada goes to a two man advantage after Tomas Vyletelka clotheslines the Canadian player. But it wasn’t Tomas that got the penalty, it was his teammate Stajnoch who punched another Canadian player after the play was called dead. Why was the play called dead initially? Your guess is as good as mine since the roughing occured after the whistle. An interesting scenario, but none the less Hodgson steps on the ice with Tavares and you guessed it, magic in the making once again. Tavares increases the lead to 5.

    Under a minute later, Zach Boychuk gets on the ice and takes a down low pass from Ennis to make the game 6-0. The floodgates are open.

    Canada is definitely having fun. The entire bench jumped up to celebrate Patrice Cormier’s open ice hit on Stajnoch. Shortly after, Ellis tries to get physical but takes a roughing penalty in the process. It’s nice to see the kid get aggressive after being claimed to be a soft offensive defenseman. Even on the penalty kill, Canada is aggressively pursuing the puck and banging bodies as they go.

    Everyone got their 50/50 tickets out? Winning number: 134136 Good luck to all.

    Penalty expires, Tavares and Ellis skate to a 2 on 1, John feeds Ryan with a beautiful saucer pass but Ellis was too close to pull it up or it would have been the goal of the game.

    Canada is finally playing their bottom two lines, giving Kane and Della Rovere more ice time as they comfortably have this game in their hands. Then again, when Kane, Della Rovere, Subban, Benn and Cormier are on your bottom two lines, it’s difficult to say “Canada isn’t playing their top lines anymore”. This team has so much chemistry that they are almost underrated for their depth.

    Sonne works hard down low to with some great cycling in the corners with Cormier and Benn and the end result is a great shot by Benn to make the scoreboard read 7-0 to end the game.

    Micheal A. Aldred
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