Canada’s medal streak ends as Nail Yakupov and the Russians win bronze

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.

My thoughts

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.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

    • I understand that the Russians were excited, but the way they behaved after the game was over the line. Taunting the Canadian bench (as Slepyshev did) was ridiculous. I’m not willing to blast Yakupov for being happy but he was awfully thrilled with a bronze medal.

      I’m not a guy who spends a lot of time critiquing athletes for how they behave, and don’t think things like ‘did they talk to the media after a loss’ should matter much in terms of evaluating their merit as hockey players. But I respect a graceful winner and a guy who steps up and takes responsibility after a loss. Yakupov did neither, which is unfortunate.

      Then again, it could well be an age thing, too.

      • I believe the attempted slashes at the head from the bench was much worse.

        For you to say that you have no respect for Yakupov, because he maybe celebrated a little more than you thought he should have, or because he didn’t want to answer stupid questions after a loss his team had no business losing- is just plaing sad. I don’t where the the absence of fortune is in all of this or what it had to do with Yakupov’s behaviour.

        Yakupov is still a kid/youth and maybe acted a little more on his emotions than necessary, maybe. Awfully thrilled? Come on. I don’t know if it is Yakupov or you that is more a youth.

        Maybe you should spend more time critiquing, maybe then you wouldn’t come up with such swallow conclussion and then share the opinion with others.

        Your comment is a sh!t sandwich, go ahead and enjoy it, too.

        • I have a ton of respect for Yakupov as a hockey player, and as a person I’m observing from a distance like everyone else.

          His actions over the course of this tournament didn’t fill me with respect. That’s different from saying that I don’t respect the player.

          As a for instance: after Jeff Deslauriers had a bad game, he used to come out and publicly accept the blame for it. I respected that about him, respected it a lot. I’m not sure that it’s the ideal frame of mind for an athlete to have (baseball scouts, probably scouts in hockey too for that matter, talk about a “major league memory” where guys don’t get down based on team/individual failures) but you have to give the guy credit for coming out and taking the heat.

          You’ll also note I didn’t include it in the article – I was asked for an opinion, so I provided it. I didn’t think it mattered enough to be included on the main page.

          That’s a more respectful, nuanced reply than your comment deserves, and I didn’t feel the need to take a bunch of incidental shots at you along the way. I’d appreciate it if you were to take the trouble to grasp what I’m saying before blasting me for it in future, but I’ll understand (and won’t especially care) if you don’t.

    • book¡e

      Absolutely Disgusting, I hope the press are all over this. I can’t believe he did that!

      What was it he did?

      Whatever it was, I suspect it can be excused by the guy being young and being the target of far too many people who spend far too much time caring about Yakupov’s ‘antics’.

      I assume Cam Cole will have an article on it soon. Reporting at it’s finest there!

  • John Chambers

    I thought Ryan Murphy was a liability the whole tourney. Hockey Canada fell in love with Ryan Ellis two years ago for his powerplay wizardry, but they’re better off with six guys who excel at playing defense instead of guys who both create and bleed chances.

    Meanwhile Justin Schultz was -4 last night.

    • In fairness, that was also Schultz’s worst game of the season. He’s not a Ryan Murphy-liability defensively, not even close.

      I also have to disagree on Ellis – he was a small guy and a primarily offensive guy, yes, but as I remember it he was far from a total nightmare defensively.

      But I have no argument for Ryan Murphy. He’s had a terrible OHL season and he just has not been a guy who generates enough to make up for what he gives away.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Murphy should just play PP and stay on the bench 5v5. IDK why he didn’t put Mackinnon and Drouin together, and RNH really needs to work on his faceoffs.

  • HOZ

    Hit many nails on the head. I thought Spott was in over his head. Starting of with the whining about officials in Finland. Is he the only Canuck that has not watched any international games in his lifetime?

    Like Duh? They suck…Dude….DUUUUUDE!!!

    Great article but it would have been more satisfying with more spittle.

  • HOZ

    I think our selection process has to factor in whether the game is played on international ice.It requires better skating ability.When is the last time we have won on their ice

    We seem to select from the scoring lists of CHL rather than picking a mix of scorers and defensive players.Our third and fourth lines were not composed of what I would call shut down defenders

    It was same with defence Rielly and Murphy are both small defenders.You only needed to pick one for use on the power play.Not select both.

    • On your second point, I have to disagree. Jenner, Danault, McNeill are all guys with a solid defensive reputation. Camara and Lipon were specifically brought in as fourth-line, energy forwards. Only Ritchie and Mackinnon really break the mold as skill guys on checking lines.

      I don’t think ‘not bringing enough defensive grinders’ was the issue Canada had, and looking at the successful teams of the past I wouldn’t recommend it as the solution for future tourneys.

  • Old Soldier

    Ok selection process from Hockey Canada might of been a bit off… Speed wins in international play and we were probably the slowest of the big 4 Canada, Russia, US, and Sweden.. (Prendergast) Selection process of Spott? Also a bit off.. ultra conservative coach.. come on?! (Prendergast). 3 out of 4 years with Prendergast at the decision helm and what do we get 2 silvers, a bronze, and 4th.. Prendergast was mediocre to poor as Head scout for Oilers for years.. and now he’s mediocre to poor working for Hockey Canada. Fire his ass and hire someone that actually knows how to assess talent.

  • Starving Student

    Why bring Nate McKinnon if you aren’t going to throw him into a role he’s familiar with. No one questions his willingness to accept any role to make team Canada, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the right person for the team. Frank Corrado or Daniel Catenacci (both 19yrs old) would have been much better options.

    If Team Canada needed a PP QB as a 7th D,
    Codi Ceci: 40 games, 7PPG with 0.93Pts/Game (on a last place team)
    Ryan Murphy: 31 games, 3PPG with 0.71Pts/Game (Kitchner’s 4th in the West)

    Word of the day: Nepotism

  • HOZ

    Ryan Murphy was an absolute mess out there. I remember watching him in the red and white games in Alberta last year and thinking that he’s defensive game is horrible.

  • Spydyr

    Not sure why hockey Canada picks a different coach every year.Why not go with coaches with proven records.The Suters the Hunters Don Hay.

    Any program run by Kevin Prendergast will always have doubt IMO.

    Maybe Scotty Bowman would like a part time job in retirement.As an adviser.

  • Spydyr

    Everyone that follows oilersnation should read the article on hockeybuzz about Willis. This Willis fellow has always irked me and I guess he irks quite a few peers in the same profession as well.

    • Muji

      LOL hockeybuzz!

      Whatever bad things were said about JW in that article are, like all things on hockeybuzz (lol), false and made up. If a hockeybuzz (lol) writer really wanted to blast JW, they would say good things about him because, again, everything on hockeybuzz (lol) is false and made up.

    • GVBlackhawk

      I read it and it is not worth recommending. An amateur hour blogger named Richard Cloutier put Willis through the ringer for calling Eklund a fraud…which is true, of course. Cloutier goes on to brag about his “success” as a blogger and Hockeybuzz’s popularity. He figures that Willis is jealous of Hockeybuzz. In reality, Cloutier’s blogs are poorly written, not very well thought out or researched for accuracy, and he contradicts himself on a regular basis. He argues that his blogs are written for entertainment as Hockeybuzz is a rumour site. But then contradicts himself when Eklund broke the story of the last CBA offer by the NHL. He figured that the MSM owed Eklund some props for breaking that story, which proves Eklund is legitimate. Wills called him a fraud and Cloutier got sand in his vagina.

      • Any credibility Eklund might have, he loses when he decides to allow Cloutier to write on his site. Cloutier is out to lunch, all day everyday. I only read Cloutier’s blogs during the guilt I feel for masterbating to granny porn.

  • Well all the posts covered my thoughts to a tee.When it comes to Yakapov he proved he has all world class BUT his celebrations look like all world ass.I couldnt be happier when they picked him first but now I cant help but wonder how or where he will fit in with the TEAM.

  • Muji

    The Canadians were good but not great when the game counted.

    There is no doubt that team selection and coaching were as crucial to the success of the team as were the players. In that regard we failed and failed miserably although one can hardly blame the players efforts.

    Ryan Murphy showed very little. His last play of the game where the big Russian walked around him like he was standing still was indicitive of his play throught the series.

    RNH was stellar and showed class throughout the series…..something the Russians could learn from. I for one did not like the way Yakapov behaved after the win…….it’s a Bronze, really nothing to be proud of.

    • Muji

      “I for one did not like the way Yakapov behaved after the win…….it’s a Bronze, really nothing to be proud of.”

      I disagree. I enjoyed seeing Yakupov celebrate. A bronze medal IS something to be proud of. If it wasn’t, Canadians wouldn’t care that they lost this game (hint: they do care).

      Don’t forget that the Russians lost a close shootout in the semis. Plus, the Russians were playing in frigging RUSSIA. Why not celebrate? Why not get the home crowded excited?

      Do you go to Oilers games and tell people who have paid a lot of $ to attend to stop cheering after a home victory because it’s a meaningless game and we’ve already been eliminated from the playoffs 2 months ago?

      • Old Soldier

        Xenophobia………are you for real man??? You probably never get out of the politically correct insulated vacuum you live in.

        Exactly what offended you comrade?

        • Professor Q

          I do not live in a vacuum 🙂 I was simply commenting on the general sense of Canadian self-righteousness which has already been talked about in the comments (so I’m not certain why I am the one to be targeted…). Was nothing to do with political correctness.

  • Old Soldier

    I remember a few years back hearing nothing but negative comments on Ovechkin’s antics during the WJC and lockout comments aside, he has proven to be a pretty solid player overall.

    I tend to excuse questionable behaviour when it occurs in the heat of the moment, and in Yaks defence, his team had been blasted for not making the Gold medal game and to beat your biggest competitor for a bronze probably felt like gold in that moment.

    We as Canadians tend to be a little self-righteous when it comes to foreign hockey players behaviour, never admitting when it comes to the pro-leagues the jack asses tend to be Canadian, with the odd American thrown in.

    I can remember being an 18 year old kid in a highly adrenline charged environment and acting like a complete idiot, as did most of my peers, and while it should be frowned upon it didnt turn out to be too indicative of my overall character (dont ask my ex-wife though).

  • Professor Q

    Love the passion and swagger in Yakupov and really
    Dont mind the celebrations. No idea how Ryan Murphy is a 1st rd NHL draft pick, he is a total weak link and was a massive liability all tournament… To much politics and bias in Canadian hockey and a massive overhaul and house cleaning is needed.

  • Love the passion and swagger in Yakupov and really
    Dont mind the celebrations. No idea how Ryan Murphy is a 1st rd NHL draft pick, he is a total weak link and was a massive liability all tournament… To much politics and bias in Canadian hockey and a massive overhaul and house cleaning is needed.