Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2011 WJC: CAN/SWE Exhibition

Last night I was fortune enough to attend the Canada vs. Sweden game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. I'm a huge, huge fan of this tournament (I witnessed Jordan Eberle's heroics versus Russia live and in-person at Scotiabank Place in 2009) so I have to make sure I take any chance to get a live viewing in. That said, here are some of the thoughts that ran through my head around the same time as some Molson Canadian (if anyone from Molson is reading this, please feel free to sponsor me).

Olivier Roy will not be the starting goaltender for Canada.
  • In exhibition play, giving up some big rebounds is expected, but I'm sure Dave Cameron would agree that Roy gave up too many. Not only that, but there were some quality chances that Sweden just couldn't capitalize on.
Robin Lehner is soft.
  • The Senators are my #2 favourite team in the NHL, so I was greatly anticipating the chance to see their prized goalie prospect in action; however, I'm Canadian through-and-through. Being the person I am, I know how much a goalie's confidence can affect his game and I took the opportunity to see how Lehner's composure fared with a loud-ass Canadian fan chirping him the entire game. Sure, my seats weren't that great but, as mentioned above, I'm a loud-ass so I have no doubts that I threw him off his game, at least a little bit (I would go as far as to say I deserved a goal and assist on the stats sheet, but that's another story...).
  • Either way, Lehner, a future Sen, is going to have a lot of that kind of treatment when visiting Toronto so I'm not happy to see him fare as poorly as he did.
Brayden Schenn is going to wreak havoc playing with Leblanc and Schwartz.
  • Schenn scored the first goal of the night - a nice one-on-one with Lehner in which he had to manoeuvre around someone's equipment on the ice - and easily could've had a couple more after beating the Swedish defenders. He's clearly the top of the class in this tournament and should be on the tourney All-Star Team when things are said and done. He's going to look great in LA next year.
Carl Klingberg was the best Swede on the ice - by a long shot.
  • Prior to the game, I had no knowledge of the Swedish players' numbers other than Lehner. I kept asking my buddies if they could read who #17 was for Sweden, and I have a feeling there will be a lot of people doing the same thing after this tournament. Every time Klingberg was on the ice he made a big play: whether it was in pursuit of the puck on the forecheck, without the puck in his own end, or with the puck on his stick attacking the net. The Atlanta prospect is one of Sweden's vets so don't be surprised to see him lead the team in goals at the end of the tourney.
Not much happened on the Couturier/Larsson front.
  • Being a draft fiend, I was expecting to see greatness from these two top prospects for the 2011 NHL draft. I can't say I was necessarily "disappointed", but I definitely expected more from both of these players.
  • Couturier showed a solid two-way game, which I think is what's going to make him stand out as the #1 pick in 2011, and he even threw his body around a bit (not what I expected at all). Offensively Couturier was alright, but I didn't see what all of the hype was about.
  • Larsson looked flat-out bad, to me, for most of the game. He is another Swede I looked out for, to see if I could rattle his cage a bit and get him on edge, and I noticed his play in front of Lehner was horrible. He wasn't willing to use his big frame to knock the Canadian players off the puck, and it cost the Swedes on more than one occasion. Larsson can obviously still make amends with his play, but if he keeps playing the way he did in Toronto I wouldn't even expect him to be the first defenceman drafted this year (see: Ryan Murphy).
Canada's D needs to improve drastically.
  • To say things concisely, Canada lucked out against Sweden. Captain Ryan Ellis was the only positively noticeable Canadian defender, yet again. Simon Despres and Tyson Barrie each made a god-awful play which will cost Canada if it happens during the actual tournament. Gudbranson was very mediocre and Jared Cowen looked like he'd never handled the puck inside the opponent's blueline. Shape up, boys.
Tim Erixon is a baby.
  • I loved the fact that Swedish defenceman Erixon, a 19 year old who's played in at least one WJC prior to this year, got so wound up over some equipment problems. Sure, it happened in the third period, but something happened which resulted in the blade of his stick snapping off, and Erixon ran off to the Swedish bench looking like a 10 year old only child who wasn't getting enough attention from his parents. Toughen up, kid.

I could go on and post more tidbits from this noggin of mine, but a lot of those thoughts would probably be about the smokin' hot blonde girl sitting in front of me. Live world-class hockey, good looking women and beer: nothing wrong with that at all. Even better, I didn't even see Pierre...

More post-game thoughts to come later on, most likely after Thursday's exhibition game against Finland.

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