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Team Canada Game Day Preview: Game Two vs Slovakia

Well, Canada’s tournament got off to a bit of an ugly start. Yes, they won their opening game, in an almost historic fashion, but I’ll be honest, it was tough to watch. Germany was playing for the second night in a row and had just 14 skaters due to COVID-19 issues. On the best of nights, they likely wouldn’t have been very competitive but even I didn’t think that this game would go the way that it did. 

Canada’s 16-2 drubbing of Team Germany sparked a debate around sportsmanship. Should Canada have taken their foot off the gas and not racked up 16 goals? The simple answer to that question is no. This isn’t a house league tournament and while Canada should certainly have respect for their opponents, they also need to prioritize winning, getting their goal differential up, and making sure they shake off the rust that comes with only having played a handful of games over the last ten months, which most of their players have.

For me, it’s pretty hard to find something bad to say about Canada’s game. Yes, you could say took too many penalties, including a major penalty from Braden Schnieder, but when a team wins by 14 goals, it’s hard to critique them. It’s also hard to pull specific positives from a game where they dominated the way that they did. Still, there are a few things that stood out to me.

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It seems like every year Canada has a player who comes from the bottom of the lineup and finds a way to make a big impact. In last night’s game, it was Phil Tomasino, who was a healthy scratch in their pre-tournament game against Russia but was added in after Kirby Dach was injured. Tomasino, who finished fourth in scoring last year in the OHL, made an immediate impact in the opener, scoring Canada’s second goal of the game while adding another goal and an assist later on.

The scoring depth of Canada is just incredible and that was certainly on display in the first game. I thought Dawson Mercer, who was the extra skater at points during training camp, was excellent as well. He ended up with four points on the night.

Dylan Cozens was fun to watch as well. He had six points and made finding the back of the net look rather easy.

Confidence should not be an issue as they head into their second game of the tournament tonight against Slovakia and while their opponent tonight will have a full lineup, I don’t think tonight’s game will be very close. It likely won’t result in a 14 goal lead for Canada at any point, but I’m expecting to see them dominate once again tonight.

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THE OPPOSITION

Slovakia opened up their tournament by upsetting the Swiss 1-0. Not a major upset, which is what they’ll be looking to do tonight against Canada, but a win nonetheless. Of course, the star of a 1-0 win is often the goaltender and that was the case on Friday for Slovakia as Simon Latkoczy was very good, making 28 saves.

Offensively, Roman Faith got the lone goal while both Simon Nemec and Michal Mrazic grabbed assists. I suspect that creating offence is going to continue to be a struggle for Slovakia as we move through the tournament. 

Their opening game win will go a long way in making sure they don’t play in the relegation round, but they aren’t much of a threat to do more than just make the medal round.

WHAT I’M EXPECTING

Honestly, I think we’ll see something similar to what we saw yesterday in Canada’s opener against Germany. I really don’t think Slovakia has the ability to keep this game close. Canada just should by at least more than five once again, unless we get a legendary goaltending performance from whoever’s between the pipes for Slovakia.

THE OILERS PROSPECTS

Dylan Holloway didn’t really stand out too much. He almost got a goal early in the first period and ended the game with one assist. Aside from a few moments where he zipped up the ice and showed off his speed, I really didn’t notice him too much.

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Phillip Broberg had an incredible tournament-opening performance in Sweden’s 7-1 dismantling of the Czech Republic. The Oilers first-round pick picked up three assists and was clearly one of the best players in both the offensive and defensive zones. Whether he was carrying the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone, or breaking up a rush, he was noticeable and impactful. Team Sweden has the day off but Broberg will look to pick up where he left off on Monday when they play Austria.

AROUND THE WJC

Canada wasn’t the only team to blow out their opponent on Boxing Day. In fact, every game was a blowout. The Swedes started off the day by winning 7-1 against the Czech Republic, while Team USA took down Austria 11-0. Trevor Zegras had four points and eight shots on goal while Brett Berard, Matthew Boldy, and Alex Turcotte all had three points. Dustin Wolf had to make just ten saves in the shutout.

Today, we should see some closer games. At noon, Finland will look to improve the 2-0 when they face Switzerland. The late-game tonight, which starts at 7:30 pm, will see Team Russia, who’s 1-0-0 on the tournament, face the Czech Republic.