As an annual tradition, the World Junior tournament begins with Canada facing off against an overmatched opponent before ramping things up over the next couple weeks. This year is no different, as tonight they opened things up on home ice against Slovakia, a team they’ve never lost to at this competition.
Team Canada did endure a little bit of a scare from the Slovaks last year, overcoming a late 3-1 deficit to eventually take them down 5-3, so they weren’t about to take them lightly, but there would be nothing to be nervous about in this one.
This game was never close. Canada jumped out to an early lead on a goal from Robby Fabbri and fed the puck down Slovakia’s throat from there on. Fabbri would add another before the end of the first, along with a goal from Duclair, and the rout was a go.
(gif from TLN’s own @Jeffler)
What sticks out about this Canadian team is they have a ridiculous amount of speed. I mean, this country always puts together a strong team of hockey-playing robots, but this might be the fastest group I’ve ever seen. Canada is usually good at being hard on the puck and shrugging opposing players away from it near the boards, but I noticed that with so much speed these guys were simply winning every battle before it even started. We’ll see how that plays out against the stronger teams, but either way, speed is definitely a strength of this club.
Canada would add four goals in the second period with another in the third, and while it’s tough to break down each of them, Petan (3), Domi (2), Fabbri (4) and Virtanen (2) all ended the night with multi-point games.
(gif from TLN’s own @Jeffler)
The heavy forecheck and smooth puck movement resulted in a 34-12 advantage in shots on goal for the Canadians, who chased Godla on five goals through 23 shots and added three against Okolicany who was brought in for relief.
It’s sometimes tough to pick a player of the game when a team looks as overpowering as Canada did tonight, but Fabbri with the four-point performance would have to be the Maple Warrior. There was probably some fear that Slovakia would be able to keep this game close and take it down to the wire, especially considering how some of the earlier games had turned out, but two first period goals from Fabbri had this thing nearly out of reach after twenty minutes.
There will be some talk around McDavid and how he was held off the scoresheet in a rout like this, but with a few bounces he could have been in Fabbri’s place as the player of the game. He was dominant.
Around the tournament
As mentioned above, there were a couple of scary moments for other powerhouse teams, as the States went to the shootout to beat the Finns, and more surprisingly, the Russians had to rally from 2-0 down to Denmark to salvage a shootout win. I was floored by how good Jets’ prospect Ehlers was for Denmark.
Leafs prospect William Nylander notched the winner in Sweden’s opening 5-2 win against the Czech Republic, spawning a “Go Leafs Go” chant at the ACC, in case you were wondering how insane we are.
(gif from must-follow @myregularface)
Canada will be back at it tomorrow evening against Germany. Puck drops at 8, but you’ll probably be able to tune out by 9.