Far from starting the tournament with cream puffs, Team Canada faced off against both the home team Czechs and nearby Slovaks to begin the World Junior Championship. The results should have every Canadian fan pleased.
Even though neither game was a blowout, Canada had yet to give up a goal through two contests. Future Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier shut the door on the Czechs en route to a 3-0 tourney opener, while Columbus pick Steve Mason posted a goose egg of his own as the Canadians bested Slovakia 2-0.
Several things in those games were very positive for the future of Canadian hockey. First off, the phenoms played their roles. Steven Stamkos assisted on all three goals versus the Czechs, while John Tavares tallied two power play goals in the same contest. Against the Slovaks, defenseman Drew Doughty showed off his skills, notching two assists and even pulling off the spin-o-rama move he had confessed had resulted in a benching earlier in his career.
As for the drafted players, Kyle Turris put in both goals against Slovakia and certainly has Wayne Gretzky’s interest in Phoenix. And the captain, defenseman Karl Alzner, has shown a great deal of poise as the team leader. The sturdy blueliner is just what the Washington Capitals will need in the future in order to strengthen a core that has some fantastic parts, but seemingly not enough glue.
As for some other early tournament observations, it’s great to see Kazakhstan give Russia a run for its money in a 5-4 loss. It’s always cool to see a new hockey nation develop (until Martin Gerber shuts out a poorly constructed Canadian team in the Olympics – then it’s a bummer).
Another interesting wrinkle is the fact Russia had seven goals from seven different skaters in its opening victory over Finland. The Russians have always been knocked for playing individualistic hockey, so maybe these lads are determined to share and win together.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.