To say there was a lot of hype surrounding this year’s Canadian World Juniors team would be an understatement. Loaded up with players like Dylan Guenther, Shane Wright, and Brandt Clarke, who have all played NHL games this season, and soon-to-be first-overall pick Connor Bedard, there were some experts saying this could very well be the most talented roster Canada has iced at this tournament in a decade.
Yet they managed to fall flat on their faces in the tournament opener.
There were just as many failed attempts at ‘The Michigan’ as there were goals scored by the Canadians in their 5-2 loss on Boxing Day and that sparked a conversation about the team’s style of play. Are they perhaps too concerned with scoring highlight reel goals and not focused enough on the little things that will bring you success in a tournament as competitive as this?
“We’re not going to Michigan our way to the final” said former Edmonton Oil King Dylan Guenther on the team’s day off yesterday.
He’s right. Yes, there are moments when you can get away with trying a fancy move but that moment probably isn’t in the first game of the tournament when the game is tight. 
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The concerns for me are that Canada just didn’t have a lot of intensity on too many shifts. There were too many moments where it seems like the four other players on the ice were just content watching Connor Bedard try to wheel his way through five opponents like a young Connor McDavid. They need more at 5v5 from their big guns if they want to get things back on the rails.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Far from it.
Canada did have a goal get waved off because of a very close offside call. That’s a bad break. Also, the game misconduct given to Zach Dean was not a good call. It gave Czechia a five-minute powerplay that they scored twice on. There’s your three-goal gap.
Still, Canada didn’t deserve that game. They can however still grab the top spot in the group. If Canada wins out in their games against Germany, Austria, and Sweden then all they’ll need is for Sweden to also beat Czechia or have Czechia lose their other round-robin game against Germany. Those are not far-fetched outcomes at all.
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Tonight though, Canada will have to take care of business and their matchup against Germany presents a great opportunity for them to really get their game back to the level that they need it to be. Germany opened their tournament with a tight 1-0 loss to Sweden, a game that was much closer than most expected.
Here’s what our prospect analyst Steven Ellis wrote in his Team Germany preview over at Daily Faceoff:
“If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Germany over the past few years, it’s that regardless of who’s in the lineup, they’re not willing to give up against anyone. Sure, there’s been some ugly results, but the effort is usually there. This year’s team will need that more than ever with the reintroduction of the relegation round. 
This isn’t going to be easy for the Germans, but few teams tend to work as hard as they do. They have some decent top-six talent and their goaltending has the potential to steal a few games, but they lack a difference-making forward upfront or a stable defensive core. They tend to play well against stronger teams, though, and there are enough players with something to prove that they’ll likely give some of the top squads some headaches along the way. Don’t expect them to make it out of the quarterfinal, though.”
We saw that all shine through in their first game of the tournament and honestly, this is the perfect opponent for Canada to face today. Yes, the Canadians are more skilled but they’ll need to work hard and get to the tough areas of the ice in order to generate dangerous chances tonight. Long wrist shots from the top of the circles and fancy passing plays might not work all night against Germany, Canada will have to have a crash-and-bang element to their game tonight and I’m excited to see if they can find that.
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The lineup should stay consistent for Head Coach Dennis Williams. One change we can probably expect though is that Thomas Milic will get the start after going a perfect 10/10 in relief of starter Benjamin Gaudreau against Czechia.

REID SCHAEFER

The Oiler’s first-round pick from the 2022 NHL Draft really didn’t factor into things in the first game of the tournament. He played just 6:15, which was the lowest of any player who wasn’t ejected during the game, and he didn’t have a shot on goal.
I would obviously like to see him have a more expanded role and maybe with Williams searching for a spark tonight against Germany we’ll see him to look to some depth players a little bit more.
I had a chance to chat with Reid before the tournament started. You can watch that full interview here:
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