Following an 8-2 dismantling of Team Switzerland, which even Swiss Head Coach Christian Wohlwend kind of predicted before the game even started, Canada will now shift their focus to the semi-finals as they continue their hunt for a World Junior gold medal.
Simply put, Canada just had more talent than Switzerland and it showed in the quarters. They controlled that game from start to finish and it’s really hard to critique a team who wins a medal round game that easily. Every facet of their game seemed to be going at 100%, which is encouraging given that their opponents only get more difficult.
They’ll need to continue firing on all cylinders if they want to beat a Czech Republic team who is by no means an underdog.
The Czechs came into the medal round as the #2 seed from Group B, but in all honesty, they were the underdog against Finland.
They came out and were outplayed for long portions of their quarterfinal match but were held in the game by their goalie Josef Korenar, who ended up making 51 saves and stopping four of the five shootout attempts he faced. If puts up another performance like that, it could be trouble for Canada.
The Czechs also have some serious skill up front and a big part of that is Filip Zadina. He scored twice in the win over Finland and currently sits in a tie for second in tournament goals with five. He’s been lighting the QMJHL on fire this year with Halifax and is projected to slot into the top five of this years NHL Draft. He’s the definition of a game breaker.
Other then Zadina they also Lightning second-round pick Libor Hajek, Hurricanes twelfth overall pick Martin Necas, and 2018 draft eligible Martin Kaut, all of whom are producing at a point per game or better rate so far this tournament.
For Oilers fans, this will be another chance to get a look at Ostap Safin, who the team took in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. I wrote a little more in-depth on Safin before the tournament started, but the big winger has found some success through the first five games of this year’s World Juniors, putting up a goal and two assists. He’s done a good job of showcasing his unique combination of size and skill, something the Oilers could use in their lineup.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- The Czechs have taken more penalties than anyone in this tournament and Canada has the most efficient power play in the tournament at 52.63%. If the Czechs keep up their undisciplined play, Canada has to make them pay.
- One of the biggest strengths of this Canadian team is their very skilled group of defensemen and they’ll get a good challenge today against a skilled group of forwards from the Czech Republic. Making quick and zone exits will be very important. If you can get the puck out of your end without any problems, you’ll make it tough for the Czechs skilled players to get comfortable in the offensive end.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Drake Batherson scored a pair against Switzerland, and his stick added one more as he handed it off to Jordan Kyrou right before Kyrou scored. He looked good and took advantage of pretty much every opportunity he was given.
He forechecks hard, and clearly has a nose for the net, both of those were clear against Switzerland. The game against the Czechs should be a much tighter checking game simply because the skill gap isn’t so wide, and I think that plays well to Batherson’s style.
He appears to be getting hot at the right time, with only have two more games left in the tournament. He’s put himself in a Head Coach Dominic Ducharme’s good books and given himself a chance to have a real impact on Canada’s fate as a team.
Puck drop between Canada and the Czechs will go just after 6 pm.
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