Canada started it’s quarter-final game much better than they had played in the preliminary round in its entirety. They came out strong defensively and then began to sustain strong pressure in the Finnish zone. Throughout the three previous games (Denmark game excluded), I don’t think I had seen Canada maintain a strong cycle in the offensive zone yet this tournament, and the work they put in to control the play was, bar-none, the best effort this team has put in.
The Konecny, Stephens and Quenneville line pressured Finland in their own zone. Konecny scored within 5 minutes of the game starting to give the Canadians some confidence and to quiet the pro-Finnish crowd. Dylan Strome added to the lead after fishing a loose puck out from between the legs of Veini Vehilainen. Throughout this tournament, we’ve seen Strome’s ability to score from awkward angles with his great shot but this showed his knack to crash the net and find pucks.
Anthony Beauvillier stood out to me in the first period with his impressive play to trap the Finnish defensemen around the goal-line. He held them back for nearly 20 seconds before racing back to his own zone with the rest of his line only to bring it back into the Finnish zone. There seems to be some good chemistry between Beauvillier, Barzal and Gauthier. On any other team, that would be considered a top line. On Team Canada, that’s a 3rd line. It’s amazing how deep one country can continue to be year after year, regardless of how they finish.
In the first period, the Finns lack of depth showed significantly in the first period. The only time they started to pressure Canada in their own end was when they were on the powerplay, which turned out to be a sequence of both luck and a defenseman becoming a goalie for a hot second. Roland McKeown saved a weak shot from just below the right face off dot on Kapanen who had an open net. Blackwood got lucky with a few of the shots completely missing the net but, nonetheless, in that sequence, he didn’t let in a goal. The only line to sustain pressure on Canada has been the storied Puljujarvi, Laine and Aho line that’s been wrecking havoc at Hartwall arena for a week and a half. Laine scored just before the end of the first period to help give his team, and the crowd some life.
The second period started out to be pretty even. Finland tied the game pretty early but, great play to force a turnover by Jake Virtanen led to a goal by Lawson Crouse. It seemed like the tides were returning back to Canada’s favour until they ran into penalty trouble, and the Finnish powerplay began to take over. Blackwood has let in goals that he really should have made the save on and Canada headed into the second intermission down a goal when they could have easily maintained the 3-2 lead.
In the first period, I had really liked the way Travis Dermott was defending. He was moving the puck, finding open lanes for the forwards and being responsible in front of Blackwood but, in the second, he lost all of that. The defence corps in general hasn’t been one to rave about tonight. Brandon Hickey was responsible for the first two goals as a result of a missed assignment and a blown tire. Fleury has been disappointing throughout the entire tournament, especially for a 19-year old. McKeown hasn’t been amazing so far but, he hasn’t had a great moment since he transitioned to goalie for a bit. Hicketts has been pretty good, using his body when he needs to and skating the puck up the ice. Personally, I’m still torn as to how I feel about Sanheim, he’s had good moments but, then at others he has me shaking my head. Chabot, however, has been pleasantly surprising for me. He and Hicketts have served some good minutes on the powerplay together and they’ve shown a lot of chemistry. I like his offensive touch but defensive responsibility. He’s missing some consistency, as is the rest of the team.
“It was a really tight game, and I’m happy that we won. All the respect to Canada, I think they played a really good game today, we just happened to score more goals.” – Kasperi Kapanen
The third period was the most nervous I’ve ever been while watching a hockey game, and that’s including the gold medal game last year when Canada almost blew the 5-4 lead. Marner looked like a man possessed after the Laine hit on Strome. It looked like something switched in Marner’s mind after one of his best friends had been hit, and cradled his head while laying on the ice. He scored two equalizing goals and had many chances to fulfil the hattrick but it just wasn’t meant to be.
“Guys were good but we weren’t good enough” – Jake Virtanen
Canada didn’t play well in the tournament. Their discipline was horrible. Virtanen and Perlini took too many unnecessary penalties at inopportune times and the team just couldn’t recover once they were made, in every game.
“We took a lot of penalties and it didn’t help us for sure” – Brayden Point
The coaching was mediocre at best, and that is a part of the reason why I blame this tournament loss on the coaching staff. Dave Lowry didn’t make the necessary lineup changes when they should have been made. He didn’t relieve Mackenzie Blackwood when he was having a tough night and he over played Virtanen and Perlini despite knowing that they weren’t playing well. The poor coaching led to a lack of chemistry within the team. The only line that showed consistent chemistry was the Konecny-Stephens pairing. I thought they played well with Crouse but Lowry didn’t agree. In all honesty, the coaching decisions and the lack of discipline were the downfalls of this team and they have no one to blame but themselves. As a Canadian, you always want to see your team win but, they only played exceptionally well in one game(tonight’s), and even at times in that game, they didn’t deserve to win. For the first time in 17 years, Canada is not going to be competing for a medal.
When asked what he thought the team could have done better, Marner responded with:
“Nothing, I’m proud of our whole team. We came out, we were facing adversity the whole time. I thought we played really well” – Mitch Marner
“I feel fucking terrible” – Mackenzie Blackwood