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Team Canada Game Day Preview: Quarterfinals vs Czech Republic

Canada finished off their round-robin with their toughest game of the tournament and they delivered their best performance of the tournament. They straight up dominated Finland for the first 40 minutes of that hockey game and that should leave Team Canada and their fans feeling very confident heading into the semi-finals.

Canada outshot Finland 40-19 and only allowed them to get one shot in the first period of the game. The Canadians controlled the play for pretty much the entire first two periods and that allowed them to carry a 3-0 lead into the final frame.

Things tightened up a little bit in the third period and Head Coach Andre Tourigny even said that he thought his group took their foot off the gas a little bit. But when things got a little shaky for Canada, that’s when Devon Levi really stepped up. Levi only had to make 18 saves in the victory but he stopped 11 in the third period and made some big stops when this was just a two-goal game. 

Speaking of big performances, I’m running out of ways to describe just how dominant Dylan Cozens has been. He opened the scoring for Team Canada with a beautiful shot on an off-man rush just under four minutes into the game and sealed the victory with a hard-fought empty netter. He’s consistently been their best forward and I have no reason to believe that won’t continue to be the case through the medal round.

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It hasn’t just been Cozens driving the offence though. Connor McMichael had a very good game against Finland with seven shots on goal and a handful of shots that found iron. He was the definition of snake bit against Finland. Peyton Krebs was excellent as well. He got a goal and could have had a few more.

Team Canada could be without Alex Newhook tonight who is “50/50” with an upper-body injury according to Head Coach Andre Tourigny. If Newhook can’t go, Tourigny told TSN’s Mark Masters that Flames prospect Connor Zary would take his spot on a line with Krebs and Cole Perfetti.

Other than that potential change, I would imagine that Tourigny will keep the rest of his lineup the same, as he should. This group is playing excellent hockey right now and that’s exactly what you want coming out of the round-robin.

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If there is one area where I think they could improve a little, it’s on the powerplay. Yes, they’ve scored on 33% of their chances but at times, their powerplay has looked unorganized. It’s had some really good attempts, but it’s just been a little too inconsistent, especially against some weaker opponents. 

Getting their powerplay going is really the only area of their game I think I can critique right now. Aside from that, they’ve been playing near-perfect hockey and that’s exactly what will be needed if they want to win a gold medal. 

If Canada continues to play the way they have for the last six periods of this tournament, they should have no problem moving past the Czech Republic.

THE OPPOSITION

The Czechs are certainly capable of pulling off an upset. In fact, they did it already once in this tournament when they beat Team Russia 2-0 in the round-robin. In that game, they got a 30 save shutout from Lukas Parik, however, the Czech goaltenders have not been great in any of the games since then. They allowed 14 goals in their other three games and neither Parik nor Nick Malik have a GAA better than 3.50 or save percentages better than .890.

That would be the biggest concern for the Czechs. They’ll need a very good performance from one of their netminders if they want to upset Team Canada and they just haven’t gotten enough of those so far through the tournament.

Offensively, they are led by Captain Jan Mysak who has two goals and an assist on the tournament. The Montreal Canadiens second-round pick is their most talented offensive player. They’ve also gotten really good production from Martin Lang who has a team-leading three goals. Aside from those two, the Czechs have really struggled to produce much offence though. As a team they only scored ten goals in the round-robin. The only team in the quarterfinals who’s produced less is Slovakia.

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WHAT I’M EXPECTING

Canada should absolutely win this game. I don’t think the Czechs are as good as Finland and Canada handled the Finns fairly easily. It’s important for them to not get lazy, or take their foot off the gas, but if they play as well as they have through their first four games of the tournament, I just don’t see how the Czech Republic can keep up with them. Canada is just too skilled and too deep. It’s as simple as that. They should win this game by at least two or three goals.

THE OILERS

Dylan Holloway got his first goal of the tournament in Canada’s final round-robin game and I thought he played his best game of the tournament against Finland. Head Coach Andre Tourigny loves the way that Holloway forecheck and that’s what makes him such a good fit on the team’s top line. As the games get tighter, I honestly expect Holloway’s physical presence to stand out even more.

As for Phillip Broberg, it’s tough to evaluate his performance right now because he’s clearly not at 100%. Hopefully, the day off allowed his leg to heal up a little bit before and he can go back to looking like the dominant player he was in Sweden’s tournament opener.

AROUND THE WJC

We are up to four games a day right now at the World Juniors with all four quarterfinal games taking place today.

The first game will see Team Russia, who finished second in Group B, face a German group that has been playing some very good hockey since getting their full roster together. At 1:30 Sweden and Finland will renew their rivalry. Then at 8:30 tonight, following Canada’s game, Team USA, the winner of Group B, will take on Slovakia.

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It’s worth noting that there will be no games tomorrow with the semi-finals set to take place on Monday.