So today's the big day. Record break...or heartbreak.
New Years Eve was a game where many Canadian fans were close to the same nervous feelings as last year against Russia...maybe not quite as dramatic, since elimination wasn't on the line...but still a very important match.
When Canada and the USA met on New Years Eve it was like hitting a brick wall for the Canadian players. They had been free-wheeling and essentially scoring at will in the 3 games prior. But it seems as though the United States paid close attention to that and were able to create way too many turnovers and scored shorthanded a few too many times.
Canada being Canada somehow found a way to fight back and take the game to a shootout that looked like it was going to go on for ever. The first 5 shooters all scored...including what became a Highlight of the Night nominee from Nazim Kadri. However this game is going to be a lot different than the last.
If Canada wants to beat the Americans tonight they HAVE to stop the individual efforts. When they work they're glorious, beautiful and usually result in a goal...but against a team like the USA it isn't going to work. The PP has to be better than the 0% it was New Years Eve...it's not a good sign when your PP is a minus on the night.
If this game were to go to a shootout again I'm a little worried. On NYE Allen had the memory to know where Schroeder was going to go with the puck...and it was the only one that either goalie was able to stop. This time around I'm sure that Schroeder isn't going to try the same thing a 3rd time.
The last time Canada and the USA met in the finals was 2004...ironically the last time Canada DIDN'T win the gold medal. Since losing to the Americans Canada has won 5 straight Gold medals...and has won the last 5 meeting between the 2 countries.
Looking at the stats for both teams it's actually a lot closer than you might think. Canada is first in the tournament in Goals For with 41, but the US isn't that far behind, they're 2nd with 37. The PK is an 86.9% for Canada, good for 2nd place, and the US is 3rdf with 84.6%. The Save %'s are pretty close considering that the tournament is very short and it can be drastically adjusted in 1 game. Canada is 1st with a .931 and the US is 4th at .923. Where Canada will have to take advantage is with the gap in the PP %. The US has a 28.5% good for 4th while Canada is almost 10% higher at 37.8, which surprisingly is 2nd in the tournament not 1st.
On top of needing the PP to be working Canada also needs to use their size advantage on the forecheck. Both teams have 13 players who are over 6 feet tall...however, Canada has 10 players who are more than 200lbs compared to only 5 on the American roster.
This is going to be one of the most exciting...nerve racking...intense World Junior games in a while...of course that's if you leave out last years heart attack creator against Russia.
The game will be on TSN today at 7:30pm Eastern.