Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Semi-final Canada/Sweden Observations

And it's official, the organizing committee's dream has come fruitful as a battle of North America will commence as Canada will battle the United States. Canada outplayed,outwitted and outlasted the Swedes in the semi-final. For those enamored in reality television, yes that was a Survivor reference and to continue this line of thinking it's as if Canada won the immunity idol and acquired the numbers and ran with the game the rest of the way through. Sweden had it's moment but the minute Dominique Ducharme elected to turn to Carter Hart it was all she wrote.

So about Carter Hart, Hart's performance was a footnote in a collection of great news in Everett Silvertip land today. First the Silvertips  acquired Edmonton Oil King leader and perennial point producer Aaron Irving which if that wasn't enough good news in one day, Carter Hart spelled Connor Ingram early and channeled his inner Ron Hextall and was dynamite for the Canadians. The pre game intuition to favor Conor Ingram swung back in Ducharme's face as for whatever  reason he couldn't handle the pressure and let in two absolute softies before being pulled. There's no other to use when describing Hart's night aside from classifying it as phenomenal. He had excellent rebound control, looked confident and completely stymied a fairly potent Swedish offensive attack. It'll serve the Canadian troops well heading into tomorrow's final.

I've been diff when assessing the play of Matt Barzal. After swimming through neglible performances where I felt he was trying to do too much individually, he bought into the team philosophy and never looked back from there. Mathieu Joseph is an easy guy to play with because of the respect the opposition must give him due to his speed which will create more open space for players like Barzal for where they thrive. He was more mindful of making quicker passes because essentially previously what was happening was that the opposition was backing off as them as with the rest of the nation could blatantly see that she was mindlessly stick handling and could afford to back off. It was gutcheck time for Matt as not often are you graced the world's greatest hockey stage and the New York Islanders should be pleasantly impressed with how he showed himself today. I touched on this in the Czech Republic game observations but the longer this run of Canada carries on the better and better Ducharme is looking for dropping Pierre-Luc Dubois down to the third line alongside the other two Quebecois. It's been a rough year for Dubois as he's had to deal with the warranted criticism that beamed from him getting selected third overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets whilst skating to an unproductive campaign with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. When you ponder his strengths and weaknesses, a conspicuous weakness is his choppy skating stride.It's come night and day to what it used to be in my previous viewings from last year but still at times he struggles to maintain an elite pace. I'm not here attempting to condone Columbus' selection just yet but what happened today is Pierre-Luc appeared engaged as from opening puck drop you could visibly see him physically dominating some of the Swedish defenceman with him dismantling the bulky David Bernhardt on a couple of occasions. Some and perhaps most importantly Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen will spout that Dubois projects out as a skill player but the more I watch him play the more I'm convinced he exudes Rick Nash(ironically a former Blue Jacket) qualities.

As I'm watching the game I had the following thought. Jeremy Lauzon is under appreciated. He's such a mundane player that probably in earlier games his ranking of mine was undeservingly negatively effected but the time is now that I point out the  positives, and their are many! In many sports being invisible can be met with negative connotations but in hockey going unnoticed can be just as important as someone who's all flash. The Phillipe Myers injury opened the door for more ice time for some of the unheralded  and Lauzon has flourished in the newly adopted shutdown pairing beside Dante Fabbro. In previous renditions of this tournament TSN has pushed real hard in selling the shut down pairing and maybe in lieu of the constant line shuffling it's been difficult to attach to one pair but if it wasn't already apparent it is now with Fabbro and Lauzon being assigned to "tackle" some of the skillful specimen in the event.On several occasions I've been quick to identify this backend as a whole as too weak,not fit to square up an aggressive forecheck. Well in response to that now with one game to go I'll say that we haven't been exposed to teams who thrive on the perimeter I genuinely wish the squad the best of luck containing the crash and banging Americans, specifically Kieffer Bellows and Jordan Greenway. Additionally, one last game note is this blogger opining how absurd it is that Noah Juulsen wasn't selected as one of Canada's top three players in this tournament.

Game Rankings:

1.Pierre-Luc Dubois(47)
2.Dylan Strome(49)
3.Noah Juulsen(32)
4.Jeremy Lauzon(68)
5.Taylor Raddysh(71)
6.Blake Speers(49)
7.Matt Barzal(59)
8.Anthony Cirelli(53)
9.Kale Clague(65)
10.Tyson Jost(66)
11.Dillon Dube(87)
12.Dante Fabbro(80)
13.Julien Gauthier(50)
14.Mathieu Joseph(54)
15.Mitchell Stephens(55) * 4 games*
16.Thomas Chabot(36)
17.Jake Bean(76)
18.Nicholas Roy(67)
19.Michael McLeod(81)

Phillipe Myers-DNP with an injury

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