For the first time since 1998, Canada leaves the World Junior championships without a medal. Nail Yakupov scored two goals as the Russians won by a score of 6-5 in a sloppy, back and forth affair.
The bright side. The lone good news for Canada as a team has to be that this doesn’t get close to the humiliation of the 1998 loss. The last time Canada missed out on a medal, they went 2-2 in the round robin, lost to Russia in the quarter final, lost to the United States in a placement game, and then lost the seventh place game to Kazhakstan. Missing out on a medal is tough to swallow for Canadian fans, but it beats finishing eighth.
Ryan Murphy. Kitchener defenseman Ryan Murphy (playing for his junior head coach) was a major factor at both ends of the ice. He picked up a goal and two assists on offense, and finished a team-worst minus-2 on defense. Even before the game-winning third-period marker for the Russians there was no question that he was a liability; it surprised nobody save perhaps his coach when Valeri Nichushkin beat him wide and cut to the net for the winner.
Steve Spott. Canada’s head coach was criticized heading into today’s game, and it’s criticism that he richly deserves. His decision to put all his eggs in the Malcolm Subban basket for the near-entirety of the tournament proved costly, and his choice to throw an untested Jordan Binnington in net for the final game may have cost Canada the win (Binnington allowed three goals on five shots, two of them weak ones). After his third line of Danault, Jenner and Ritchie were lit up by the Americans yesterday, he made the decision to match them almost exclusively against Russia’s best line, the one centered by Mikhail Grigorenko. The unit had a strong third period but was outchanced 11-4 at even-strength over the course of the game – surrendering more scoring chances than the rest of the Canadian team combined 5-on-5. His misuse of MacKinnon, his conservative strategies… nothing worked out for Spott today. It was an ugly finish to a tournament marked by poor decisions.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins/Nail Yakupov. Canada’s best player drove the team’s dynamic power play against the Russians, scoring the team’s opening goal and adding three assists before the game was through. Meanwhile, Russia’s best player scored a pair of power play goals, including a gorgeous marker in the first period that saw him win a puck battle, make a nice pass and then get into position to finish the play off on the same sequence. Nugent-Hopkins finished the tournament with 15 points in six games and (barring an unlikely explosion in the gold medal game) will win the scoring title; Yakupov finished with three goals and eight points in seven contests.
Malcolm Subban. Subban, like many a Canadian goalie in recent years, comes away from this tournament with a diminished reputation. I think he deserves credit for solid play against Russia, however – despite the optics of three goals against on 20 shots, Canada was bleeding chances all night and Subban was the difference early into his relief appearance.
Daniil Zharkov. The Russian fourth-liner gets a mention here because he’s an Oilers draft pick; he had a solid bronze medal game which included a huge hit on Jonathan Huberdeau and lots of time against Canada’s first line (by my count, he was on the ice for two scoring chances for, three against, despite the level of opposition he faced). Russian coaches generally don’t line match and so Spott tried to get Nugent-Hopkins out against the fourth line as often as possible, though ultimately it didn’t pay off.
That’s how I saw the game; I’m looking forward to other takes in the comments.