Strive for Five: Mission Accomplished

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    When Team Canada went for the third straight Gold Medal, they were ruled “too small and lacked the necessary talent” to win. They proved them wrong. When Team Canada went for the fourth straight Gold Medal, they were ruled as “an underdog team with potential but not enough skill” to win. They proved them wrong. This year, Team Canada went for the fifth straight Gold Medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship. They were ruled as “too small” and we’re slated to win nothing more than silver. Again, Canada proves them wrong. How can you rule out the Hockey Capital of the World?

    PK Subban opened the game exactly the way Canada needed to kick start the Gold Medal game; a quick goal (38 seconds in) on the PP. The rest is history. Dustin Tokarski, despite two shaky performances in which he let in a total of 9 goals, shut the door on Sweden and allowed just one goal that deflected off his defenseman’s stick. He definitely proved the critics wrong, myself included. Angelo Esposito, the man who was on a mission for the last few games, was at it again tonight – he scored an incredible backhanded shot to the top shelf far side. His game tonight was nothing short of stellar.

    But deep inside the win for Canada was another story that developed early – Jacob Markstrom. Despite having a great save percentage coming into tonight’s game (0.954) it wasn’t his goaltending that was the story of the night, it was his character. Just when we thought the days of Ron Hextall and Dominic Hasek were over, Markstrom comes along to silence the crowd; scratch that, he made them more loud as they booed the youngster every chance they got. He was flailing around in his crease so often Tony Ambrogio of The Score thought he might concuss himself. Sweden was not only the hockey team for the World Juniors, but they are also Sweden’s Olympic Diving team. Markstrom’s helmet came off easier than Paris Hilton’s dress. Victor Hedman came to his aid, if only to punch Esposito in the head while he was already down on the ice. No harm no foul; Esposito stays on for the next shift and pots the backhander on Markstrom. Sweet Revenge.

    It all came down to one thing – Canada was relentless and unstoppable. Tokarski, when bumped, did not overreact, or even react at all for that matter. He was calm, cool and collect and it paid off for his club. DiDomenico took another stick to the face, a growing fad, and seemed to be under Sweden’s skin.

    The only disappointment was John Tavares, and I’m not talking about his game. It was unfortunate that he was unable to capitalize on a goal scoring opportunity in order to break the record of most goals by a Canadian. After failing to find the back of the net in his last two appearances (his lack of goal scoring did not reflect his lack of talent), Tavares finished off the tournament with 12 goals in 13 games (1 more game played than Jeff Carter) despite scoring the 12th goal in his 11th game. This will push him to second place on the most goals for a Canadian player list.

    Team Canada’s Top 3 Players of the Tournament:

    (As voted by the coaching staff)

    PK Subban. Jordan Eberle. John Tavares.

    Top Goaltender of the Tournament: Jacob Markstrom (For his Oscar worthy performances, no doubt)
    Top Defenseman of the Tournament: Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators prospect)
    Top Forward of the Tournament: John Tavares (Should hold the rights to the number 1 spot in the 2009 draft by now)

    Tournament All-Star Team:

    Nikita Filatov (RUS) – John Tavares (CAN) – Cody Hodgson (CAN)
    PK Subban (CAN) – Erik Karlsson (SWE)
    Jaroslav Janus (SLV)

    The tournament was a success and will be back in Canada next year where the Canadians will have their “Fix for Six” opportunity. Don’t expect John Tavares to be joining the team for that one. It’s a shame the NHL doesn’t have more support for the tournament.

    Canada Drive for Five – No Sweat … (maybe a little).

    Micheal A. Aldred
    [email protected]