Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Going for a skate! The Juniors run a clinic for the B Pool!

The massive power of the Canadian Junior Team is beginning to resemble the touring days of the Harlem Globetrotters. With fancy passing, laser like shots and a crushing physical game the Juniors seem to be focused completely on the mission at hand. With a team that showcases a complete game night after night, one wonders if anyone is going to step up and make a game of it soon.

Not meaning to be cocky, which is a decidedly un-Canadian outlook on life, but this group of Sutter cowhands are making the game look oh so easy. Beside the magic of Crosby and Bergeron (and if you’re the NHL you had best get busy making sure you have a place for Sidney to play next year!) this is a team that has bought into the much vaunted Sutter work ethic. Every period, every shift seems to provide a complete effort. Even the few mistakes that have been made have been quickly corrected; they already have meshed into a complete unit that can provide scoring from line number one down to the grinders’ line. The back end has held up its own and the goaltending has been quite fine thank you very much. While the competition thus far hasn’t been of an intense nature, you sense that this Junior team may be one of our better assembled units of recent history.

Granted the Germans, the Swedes in this tournament and the Swiss in their exhibition game haven’t really tested the Juniors yet, there haven’t been many things to cause worry above the frozen plains of the North Dakota/Manitoba border. We await with interest the challenges of the United States and the Russian squads should we meet up later on. For now the focus is on Finland the last block on the way to clinching the first place spot in the B pool of the World Junior Championships.

With Brent Sutter running the show you can rest assured that the team will not lose its focus as they ponder the road ahead. A one game at a time approach is the Sutter way and his charges won’t be allowed to forget it. Finland on Thursday will be just as important as any potential gold medal game down the line. For Sutter though it must be a satisfying sight to see his players buying into the system, playing it full tilt and correcting their own errors while still in the play.

With a runaway score of 9-0 on Tuesday, the Canadians did not take the bait of the cheap shots administered by a star struck but much frustrated German squad. Sidney Crosby once again the focus of attention time and time again, as the German defenders tried their best to corral him by whatever means necessary, to their credit the Canadians did not get involved in the post whistle shoving and spearing and such. The showcased much restraint and maturity beyond their ages. There were no settling of scores and such just a knowledge that there was another game in two days and all hands were required on the ice. The only slowing nature of this competition will be that of injuries, which are beyond a player and coach’s control. But should one fall, there is no doubt someone ready to step up and fill in the spot.

It may not be nail biting hockey, but that’s ok. The sheer skill level on the ice and the complete effort as a team more than makes up for the edge of your seat expectations. Like those Globetrotter games, the show itself is the skill on display and the wait to see if the Generals might sneak one by them. So far for Canada it’s a marvellous display of our game, played our way. There doesn’t seem to be any danger of the “Generals” ruining the outcome in the near future!

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