Could there perhaps be a curse on Team Canada’s World Juniors when playing in Helsinki? Many spent Boxing Day staring at the TV with family as the World Juniors kicked off and we watched Canada begin the fight for gold for a consecutive win like last years. But this year, Team Canada did not even place for a medal round for the first time in 17 years. The significance? The last time Canada did not place for a medal round also happened in Helsinki.
As we all sat in shock as Team Canada failed to produce results like last years World Juniors, many of us looked to Team Canada’s goalie Mackenzie Blackwood as he summed up how we all felt after Canada’s loss over Finland. Not being able to use the word he said, it can be noted that the word he used rhymes with “puck”.
Some early signs showed that it might have not been Canada’s year at the World Juniors as Blackwood himself (a New Jersey Devils prospect) was handed an eight-game suspension due to an “out-of-character slash in early December” reported Sports Reporter Kevin McGran.
The suspension was tacked onto Blackwood just days after he was announced as Canada’s starting goalie for the tournament, which changed Canada’s plans as they were planning on bringing only two goalies to the tournament. As a result, Mason McDonald would start while Sam Montembeault would be his backup.
Typically, Blackwood would have played in three or four preliminary games but instead he only played in two and wasn’t playing like his normal self as he’s dominating the OHL with the Barrie Colts.
Like a proper teammate should though, Blackwood wouldn’t blame his suspension as he said, “I can’t blame anything, I definitely could have played better.”
But Blackwood cannot be entirely to blame for the outcome of the tournament. Overall, Canada was placed second worst overall as they averaged five minors a game and had the worst penalty kill of all 10 teams as they capitalized on only 59 per cent of power plays.
When asked on the outcome of the tournament, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner commented saying, “I think all tournament it was our downfall. We were just playing a little too aggressive. It’s a lot of stick work and stuff like that they call. I think the main issue was trying to stay away from that and we didn’t do that too well.”
Perhaps if Vancouver Canucks Jake Virtanen played differently during the game against Finland, the outcome may have been different. During the game, Virtanen took two penalties and was in the box during the game-winning goal made by Finland’s Patrick Laine.
At the end of it, Virtanen must feel guilty for his actions as he was the only NHLer on the team as Hockey Canada lobbied hard for him, hoping for the same magic they got last year when the Senators loaned Curtis Lazar, commented McGran. But his gameplay didn’t turn out anything like Lazar’s last year.
Another downfall that could have led to the outcome of Canada’s loss could potentially be from the brains itself, coach Dave Lowry.
Lowry treated the preliminary round as an exhibition series instead of a competition for top seed and became frustrated when his team did not produce.
Because of this, it was noted that Lowry pushed his team hard. “As Canada struggled through the preliminary round, Lowry continued to run hard practices and morning skates,” wrote McGran. “The only skate he gave them off was Saturday’s. Otherwise they skated hard. That was his choice, of course, perhaps borne of the need to find some chemistry. But previous Team Canada’s usually take things a bit easier.”
Overall many will be pointing fingers at many different reasons as to why Team Canada lost against Finland and did not even qualify for a medal game for the first time in 17 years.
The last time Canada did not qualify for a medal game was during 1998 in Helsinki when Nikolai Antropov’s Kazakhstan beat Vincent Lecavalier’s Canadians.
The Brock Press World Juniors Predictions:
Satbir Singh predicts:
Gold medal: Russia over Finland
Bronze medal: USA over Sweden
Connor Allen predicts:
Gold medal: Russia over Finland
Bronze medal: Sweden over USA
Assistant Sports Editor