Well, this is kind of like kissing your sister. Unless you lose, in which case it’s kind of like going to prom alone and leaving alone.
The problem with a single elimination tournament is that you only need to play one bad game to lose your chance at a championship and boy, did Canada ever play a bad game.
Trying to predict whether or not a team will be able to “get up” for a bronze medal game is a bit of a fool’s errand; ultimately, it’s anybody’s guess. There’s no shame whatsoever in coming away from a tournament with a bronze medal so I hope that the boys will be able to bring their all this morning.
Whether Steve Spott has learned from the first few games of the tournament or not may be the key to this one. Spott was reluctant to start Binnington in any of the games of the tournament despite an exceptional camp and a couple of below average performances from Malcolm Subban. Subban vindicated that decision in a pair of strong games against the Americans and Russians but went back to being lacklustre in the semi-final matchup. Binnington, once called upon, was terrific.
Morgan Rielly has been one of Canada’s better defensemen in this tournament despite limited icetime while Ryan Murphy has been an unmitigated disaster with lots of icetime. The reigns came off Rielly in the third period of the game against the USA but it was too little too late. Murphy simply doesn’t have the defensive chops to play against top-tier teams in this tournament and with Reinhart suspended, Spott will have to figure out how to balance Murphy’s risk/reward better in this morning’s game.
Perhaps the least discussed wart on the face of Team Canada has been the play of Jonathan Huberdeau. His point totals are respectable but does anyone think he’s looked particularly good in this tournament? When Drouin took his place on the top line, I thought the first unit became more dynamic for it and I can’t say the same of the second line that Huberdeau found himself on. For one of the best prospects in hockey and a guy who’s in his last year of WJC eligibility, he hasn’t been particularly impactful. Hopefully Spott will be able to find a line combination that works for him.
On a final note, I’d like to offer a tip of my hat to the Russian fans during this tournament. They’ve brought a great energy and enthusiasm to the tournament and it’s made every game more exciting. It’s clear that they care about this tournament every bit as much as we Canadians do and they’ve given the kids a great atmosphere in which to play their games.
1st Intermission Update
Well, that period was certainly eventful. Khokhlachev opened the scoring with a soft one on Jordan Binnington, beating him with an unscreened wrister from a sharp angle. The shot got stuck on Binnington’s pad and when he pulled his leg back in to his body, he also pulled the puck back in to the net.
Russia scored the second goal as well as Boone Jenner took a stupid penalty with an elbow to the head of the Russian forechecker. The ensuing penaltykill looked more like a game of chase-the-puck by the four penaltykillers and Yarulin made a nice corner to corner pass to Yakupov who fired the puck into a wide open net.
Canada clawed back into the game after Strome drew a penalty in the slot (the penalty prevented a scoring chance) and the Canadian powerplay took advantage. RNH scored the goal on a nice shot.
The Russian’s pulled back ahead by two after Diakov fired home a shot after an offensive zone faceoff win. Binnington was probably screened on the shot but was pulled after allowing three goals on five shots. By not giving Binnington any starts in the group stage, Spott didn’t have nearly enough information on who to start during these later rounds. Do you start Binnington who has played well in selection camp and in one period in the tournament but hasn’t started in two weeks or do you start Subban who was inconsistent? Impossible to know.
Canada pulled the game back to within one on the powerplay as Ryan Murphy fired a shot off the post which found the stick of Huberdeau who put it into the net with the goalie well out of position after the initial shot. Murphy has been much better in this game because he’s been put in a position to succeed. He’s made shrewd plays on the powerplay and hasn’t had any significant defensive miscues in limited 5-on-5 icetime… to the surprise of precisely no one.
2nd Intermission Update
More of the same in the second as the tempo of the game stayed high as you’d expect in a Canada / Russia game.
The first goal of the period came on the powerplay as Mark Scheifele fired in feed from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Canadian powerplay really does look unstoppable today and the Russians should probably stop taking minors if they want to win a medal on home soil.
The fourth Russian goal was scored by Yevgeni Mozer. The first shot was blocked by the Canadian defenseman but the block was scooped up by Mozer who was able to take advantage of Subban having committed to the original shot.
Canada tied it up on another powerplay goal, this time by Ryan Murphy. Heck of a shot from a smaller defenseman.
3rd Intermission Update
Yakupov scored the 5th Russian goal after some really strong work by Kapustin to bring the puck out of the corner in the offensive zone. Solid shot by Yakupov but the real work was done by Kapustin on this one.
Brett Ritchie scored the fifth goal for Canada on a scramble play in front of the Russian goal. Not much to break down on this one; it was messy but it went in.
Fitting that Canada’s tournament would end with Ryan Murphy getting burned on an even strength breakout. Heck of a goal by the draft eligible Nichushkin, beating Murphy to the outside and then driving hard to the net, stuffing the puck past Subban who played well in relief of Binnington.