Switzerland ’09: A Review
For the second year in a row, Team Canada fell 2-1 to the Russians in yesterday’s gold medal game at the 2009 World Hockey Championships in Switzerland. Ilya Bryzgalov made 37 saves and the Russian defense managed for the most part to keep a prolific Canadian offense in check.
Schenn and White were on the Canadian roster, but neither saw any ice-time in the final game. Several other Maple Leaf players also participated in the tournament.
Luke Schenn: Team Canada
Overall, Schenn had a very quiet tournament, playing just a total 62 minutes during the 9 game span. He received 19 and 16 minutes during the first couple preliminary games, but then saw his ice-time significantly reduced as they progressed into the elimination rounds and did not receive a single shift during the each of the last 3 games. He also recorded 1 assist along with a +4 rating. Still, just getting the chance to practice with several high profile teammates and soak in the atmosphere was likely a good learning experience for the 19 year old. Two members of his draft class, Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty were absolutely fantastic for Team Canada. Stamkos scored 11 points including a team high 7 goals to go along with a team best +9 rating. Doughty on the other hand, averaged just under 20 minutes, putting up 7 points and a +5 rating.
Ian White: Team Canada
White was also used quite sparingly by Team Canada, and his tournament ended early with a neck injury. There were concerns that the sore neck could be related to a possible concussion, so White packed his bags early and returned to Toronto for further examination. He was quite effective in his role as an puck-moving defenseman when he did manage to suit up, scoring 3 points in 5 games with a +4 rating while averaging 16 minutes a night.
Anton Stralman: Team Sweden
For the second year in a row, Stralman will hope to use an excellent WHC performance as a launching pad for a permanent role in the NHL in the fall. During last year’s tournament, he impressed with 7 points in 8 games, including a pair of goals against the Canadians. This year, Anton recorded 5 points and to go along with a +7 rating in 7 games played. He earned nearly 18 minutes/game and impressed with a skating ability and confidence in leading the rush. Speaking with reporters at the tournament, Stralman expressed his obvious disappointment about not being with the big club this past season despite a strong tournament, perhaps implying that his impressive play at the worlds was not holding much weight with the Leafs organization.
Jason Blake: Team USA
After a strong comeback season with the Maple Leafs in which he scored at a torrid pace down the stretch, Blake hoped to have his strong play carry over to the WHC. Alas, he just didn’t seem to click with his teammates, finishing with 1 goal and 4 points in 15 minutes/game over a 9 game span. It was a trio of present/past LA Kings that led the charge for the Americans as Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson and Patrick O’Sullivan finished as the team’s top 3 scorers.
Lee Stempniak: Team USA
Stempniak managed to be even worse than Blake, recording just 2 points in 9 games played. He ended up averaging just 8 minutes a game and managed just 12 shots on goal over that span. He also managed to secure a team worst -2 rating, and was one of only two American regulars in the minus column for the tournament. Considering that Leaf Coach Ron Wilson was the one condemning Lee to the bench, it does not bode well for the young forward heading into next season.
Niklas Hagman: Team Finland
After a strong debut season with the Leafs, which was shortened due to injury, Hagman performed admirably for an undermanned Finnish team. He recorded 6 points in 7 games played, including a game-winner, good for 3rd in team scoring. He averaged over 18 minutes in ice-time and finished as one of the few Finns in the plus column with a team best +2 rating for the tournament.
Mikhail Grabovski: Team Belarus
Mikhail was probably the best Leaf player this past month in Switzerland, as he practically carried the entire Belarus offense on his back. He finished the tournament with a robust 9 points in 7 games played, including the lone goal against Team Canada in a 6-1 defeat. He also scored a beauty of a goal in the shootout against the Finns, pulling something similar to the backhand move that made Jussi Jokinen famous. Belarus had to call upon him for over 27 minutes/game, nearly double his ice-time average with the Leafs. His point total is even more impressive when you consider that only 8 of his teammates even managed to get on the scoresheet. The Leafs will be looking for big things from the speedster this coming fall.
Sidenote: Jonas Gustavsson
The highly sought after free agent showed everyone exactly why 24 NHL clubs expressed interest in him, with a magnificent tournament performance. He finished with a 2.83 GAA to go along with an impressive .914 SV%, twice earning player of the game honors. One of those awards came from the game against Ron Wilson and the Americans, in which Gustavsson stopped 39 of 44 shots. After the game, Wilson raved about Jonas’ performance and how he had made several highlight reel saves to prevent what easily could have been a double digit goal total for Team USA. As for the ongoing negotiations, Gustavsson confirmed that he has had the opportunity to sit down with GM Brian Burke for a bit of a meet-and-greet, and that he would be making his decision shortly in the next few weeks.
Always a pleasure,