Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mr Tortorella's forced sabbatical.

We don't know if there's an actual name for the tribunal of Monday that delivered a verdict on the John Tortorella case, so we're going to introduce yesterday's developments as coming from the newly created  Department of Coaches Safety.

From it, came Judgment Monday, as the NHL's top brass delivered a rather stern suspension, sending the Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella off to banishment for the next fifteen days.

 "Mr. Tortorella's actions in attempting to enter the Calgary Flames locker room after the first period were both dangerous and an embarrassment to the League," ... "Coaches in the NHL bear the responsibility of providing leadership, even when emotions run high, and Mr. Tortorella failed in his responsibility to the game." --  NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell speaking to the events of Saturday night.

The suspension providing for a period of quiet reflection for the Canucks coach, that will  leave Vancouver to play the next six NHL games with but fond memories of Saturday night and maybe a lesson plan or two for the temp, assistant coach Mike Sullivan to work with.

For those that somehow have not been made aware of the Saturday night cage match at Rogers Arena, a thumbnail refresher, the Canucks head coach quickly looked over the Calgary Flames line up pre game and raised a suspicious eyebrow.

His review of it all suggesting that the starting five for the Flames were a collective not particularly known for their fancy skating, more to the point, when Bob Hartley pulled into Vancouver it was as if he had decided to bring the travelling cast from a remake of Slapshot.

Such well known play makers as Brian McGratton and Kevin Westgarth, appeared set to take an opening face off. Though no doubt in Tortorella's mind, skating, would be limited to a simple one step, two step, throw em down affair.

Faced with such an apocalyptic vision, the Canucks coach, put together his own crew, sent them out to protect the home turf and as The The once put it, Armageddon Days are here again...

The fireworks were quick from the puck drop, two seconds in a donnybrook not seen often of late and one that rekindled visions of the epic battles of the eighties featuring the Nords/Habs, Habs/Bruins or Flames/Oilers was there on the closing act of the CBC's tribute to Canadiana, Hockey Day in Canada...

Once the officiating crew had restored order, assessed the expulsions and left the timekeeper to call Staples for more parchment, the hockey would resume, all be it minus a few players.

Included among the banished young Kellan Lain, making his NHL debut in front of the parents, who would watch as all of those early morning trips to minor hockey tournaments through the years finally paid off, for all of two seconds.

The game moved forward, with a lots of space on the bench and the ice time of a bag skate for most that remained and with the following 19 minutes and 58 seconds a passage of time that featured  an undercurrent of tension that lasted through the first period.

The Ill will carried over into the now infamous hallway incursion, where Tortorella, having been denied a vein popping toe to toe conversation at the benches, took his complaints to the door of the Flames dressing room.

More than any of the previous anarchy, it was that rush to the door frames of the bowels of Rogers Arena that landed Tortorella in New York on Monday.

The afternoon hearing determining that the Canucks coach had brought embarrassment to the game (a theme not universally shared on the West Coast where there was some thought that Mr. Hartley had a fair share of the responsibility)  and for his actions would be denied pay and contact with his team until February 2nd.

For many that weighed in over Sunday, the amazing visuals out of the West Coast struck a familiar chord, past grievances between the two coaches carrying on like grudges carried on through the centuries.

For some. the arrival of the Tortorella explosion was deemed to have been something that was destined to be, the only surprise it seems being, what took so long.

From the old acquaintances or interested observers, memories of the past came to mind.

Fighting the Flames was just Torts being Torts
John Tortorella suspended 15 days by NHL for antics after Canucks-Flames brawl
Vancouver Canucks' John Tortorella just did what NHL coaches do in fight filled game against Calgary Flames
Suspension looms for Tortorella after sparking brawl
Harsh words send message to Tortorella

For those new to the Tortorella watch, the Saturday night hostilities were a case of old time hockey at it's best, or maybe it's worst.

From the British Columbia side of the Rockies...

Saturday Night was the Real Heritage Classic
Fists Fly and tempers flare as Canucks take shootout win over Flames
John Tortorella faces league discipline for storming Flames' dressing room
Bieksa won the face-off: On the absurdity of the Canucks and Flames
Canucks' teachable moments from Saturday's Flames rumble
Tortorella faces a suspension, but Hartley shouldn't be able to skate away undisciplined
The Goonies brawl over shadows Canucks' 3-2 shootout victory over the Flames

A somewhat different perspective on the eastern side of the divide

Hartley maintains he's innocent in the aftermath of Saturday's line brawl
Flames coach Hartley discusses brawl with Canucks
Spezza couldn't believe old truculent mate McGrattan played peacekeeper
Malarchuk found himself at centre of dressing room melee
Fight Night between Flames-Canucks

Post suspension; the comments have continued to flow, Saturday night's mayhem holding a shelf life of 48 hours and counting.

Canucks coach John Tortorella suspended 15 days by NHL for fanning Flames
Canucks players support suspended Tortorella: He's had our back
Canucks turn to Mike Sullivan as new bench boss after Tortorella suspended
Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella suspended 15 days by NHL
Canucks night at the fights: Turning point or pointless?
Flames react to Hartley's $25K fine for sparking Saturday's melee in Vancouver
Decision to send Westgarth out for faceoff costly for Calgary Flames head coach
John Tortorella gets a raw deal from the NHL

The events of Saturday seem to be pulling the Canucks players together to circle their wagons, something required after a horrid trip to California and Arizona.

The banishment of the coach providing for the instant classic twitter feed of #freetorts which quickly delivered up the requisite posters and tee shirts that we imagine will be seen quite prominently at Canucks home games through until February.

It also provided Keith Olbermann with yet another opportunity to ensure that a vacation to British Columbia, probably won't be something to make plans to take for a century or so.

Saturday night, Bob Hartley lit the fuse, Tortorella carried the dynamite through the arena, with the explosion crossing the continent to echo in the offices of the NHL.

The finally tally of the flashback to the past, leaving Tortorella suspended the six games for a total of fifteen days, Hartley fined 25,000 dollars and the Canucks to acknowledge the punishment, while still supporting the head coach.

For Hockey, what's left it seems is to try and explain it all in the larger picture of a puzzled American audience, who often can't figure the game out at the best of times.

Where it all leads to in the post Olympic rush to the playoffs remains to be seen, but for many Saturday night may one day be viewed as the pivotal moment for the Canucks season.

It may not be right on many counts, but in a game played in an emotional state, how the Canucks respond to the events of the weekend could shape the focus of the team through to the final game of the regular season.

For a team that was having serious problems finding itself in January, Saturday night may very well be the moment when the purpose and sense of mission to the season finally arrived.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jets dismiss Noel and Pearn bring in Paul Maurice to turn around season gone wrong

Sunday's decision to remove Claude Noel from his position and along with him his trusted assistant Perry Pearn, most likely was not much of a surprise to anyone in River City.

The rumblings of discontent of a season that has clearly run off the rails had been heard since November, still whenever any coach loses a job, the departure tends to leave more questions than answers.

The tipping point for the dismissal of Noel it appears was Saturday night's 6 to 3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team with a record of 21-20-4 somewhat similar to that of the Jets. On Saturday night however, the Blue Jackets appeared to be channeling the Edmonton Oilers of their Stanley Cup era. While the Jets stumbled around like the Jets of the baddest of the bad old days, seemingly trying to get their coach fired. Which as the night evolved should have called for a Mission Accomplished banner to be raised to the MTS Centre roof.

In the case of the Jets, it's the unknown reasons as to why Noel seemingly had lost his team that still leave many puzzled. In the end he was unable to coax a reliable standard of play from his players through the season, the never ending inconsistency finally moved General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to look for a new voice in the dressing room and behind the bench.

The new voice, is an old name most recently associated with the Toronto Maple Leafs as the Jets turn Paul Maurice, who has been spending part of his recent between jobs time as a hockey analyst. Which perhaps gives him at least a general overview of the woes of Winnipeg and how to solve them.

It's interesting that the Jets have chosen a former Maple Leaf head coach, though there is a rather large pool of available subjects with that CV with perhaps more to be added before this season is out.

Maurice, had a fair bit of success coaxing the best out of the version of the Maple Leaf roster of his day, though in the end, the Leafs were the Leafs and Maurice found himself departing from the building, like so many had before him (and after).

The high mark of his resume can still be found from his days in Carolina, where the managed to get the Hurricanes to the Finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2002. Ten years later, Jets fans can only dream of a day when the semi-finals are in reach, a winning streak most likely would suffice for now and the promise that maybe things are going to go in the right direction soon.

Still if the Jets were to go to the Maple Leaf coaching mill, one wonders if they gave Ron Wilson a call?  Word earlier this month had it that the former Leafs coach and Stanley Cup winning coach from Anaheim was looking to return to the coaching ranks.

And while the Winnipeg media might not have been thrilled at what that might have provided for content, the Jets could perhaps have benefited from his approach to coaching and the required wake up call for their player personnel.

Far too may nights this season they left Noel exasperated behind the bench. Scoring opportunities were wasted, with defensive play sloppy and the goaltenders all but abandoned at times, a lack of focus seemingly was the standard of late. That is part a coaching problem yes, but it also indicates that the GM has perhaps not provided the core group required for any coach to succeed.

After a few years now in the Manitoba capital, the Jets still seem a lot like the Thrahsers, though the crowds are clearly a lot larger and much more knowledgeable.

The Jets have been a mysterious group over the last few seasons, with the mulligan of a free year of euphoria of the return of the NHL to Winnipeg behind them, expectations of the fairly astute hockey fans of Manitoba were that some progress would be made this season.

The excuse of a lock out year lost no longer acceptable, for many this was to be a break out year for Winnipeg, instead it seems as though perhaps it may be a break up year instead.

The first of the breaks arrives with the coach that took over the reins when the Jets relocated to Manitoba from Georgia.

The short term goal for Maurice we imagine is to reverse the current atmosphere of losing with the Jets, with a playoff shot something that Jets fans we imagine still have desires to achieve.

Mr. Cheveldayoff suggested that a longer term for Paul Maurice may be discussed sooner than later, though we imagine one eye will be focused on the Maple Leafs and the twists and turns of their season.

Keep in  mind that Randy Carlyle has strong ties with Winnipeg from his playing days and from his time as an AHL coach, in the end, should his time come to a conclusion in Toronto, he may be the Maple Leaf coach that the Jets are pining for.

Mr. Maurice may wish to take some of the advice, that all players receive whenever they get traded, wait and see if it's going to work out before you buy a house, his position in Winnipeg may just be a transitory one, depending on how things evolve both in Winnipeg and elsewhere.

Likewise for rookie GM Cheveldayoff, while he has the benefit of long term contract extension in his pocket, once you've changed the coach and some of the roster, if the wins don't come there's only one more place for ownership to look.

And if they're looking to the Leafs for their stockpile, they also feature a long list of former GM"s, though considering their success in Toronto over the years,  one were not sure that is the best template to consider for success to.

January 13-- New Jets coach Maurice not sure what to expect in tonight's game
January 13-- 'Feels like a bit of a fresh start': Bogosian
January 13-- Players feel 'entirely responsible' for firing
January 13-- Reading between the lines
January 13-- New Jets coach Maurice already on familiar ground
January 13-- Jets new head coach Paul Maurice sees potential, challenges
January 12-- The quote machine has been shut down in Winnipeg
January 12-- Winnipeg Jets fire Claude Noel, hire Paul Maurice
January 12-- Ex-Hurricanes players expect Maurice to thrive as coach of Jets
January 12 -- Jets not trending in right direction: Chevy
January 12-- 'The way things were going... it wasn't going'
January 12-- Coaches tried their best, Jokinen says
January 12-- Jets fire Noel, hire Paul Maurice
January 12-- Jets fire Claude Noel, hire Paul Maurice
January 12-- Did Chevy do enough to help Noel succeed?
January 12-- Shocked Jets know they will be next to pay price
January 12-- New Jets coach Maurice already on familiar ground
January 12-- Fans split on nixing Noel
January 12-- Noel likeable and engagine, but didn't get most out of Jets

Thursday, January 09, 2014

And now for the second guessing!

The twenty five names to carry Canada's hopes for a Gold medal in Hockey at the Sochi Olympics were announced on Tuesday, many of them expected a few of them surprises.

The thankless task of assembling the roster going to a committee led by Steve Yzerman, the collective fully aware that if Canada does indeed claim Gold then all will be hailed as geniuses and with that, if Canada should stumble, then every armchair GM in the nation will hold up their list of 25 as the one that could have won the day.



While the majority of the team was announced as expected, there were a few surprises, a few names added, a few left off that have formed much of the debate since Tuesday's announcement.

The three players that have held the most attention for their absence from the announced roster are Martin St. Louis, Claude Giroux and defenceman Brent Seabrook.

Many felt that St. Louis was destined for a spot on the roster considering his season in Tampa Bay, where for the most part he's been the glue that has held the squad together in the absence of the injured Steven Stamkos. The fact that Tampa is still mentioned in the same breath as a playoff possibility, seems completely on the shoulders of St. Louis.

He handled the disappointment of the Team Canada announcement with class and won more fans over on Tuesday, most likely pencilled in as the first to call should injuries require a tweaking of the Team Canada roster.

Likewise, Claude Giroux's offensive output continues to make its mark this season, with more than a few Team Canada reviewers bemoaning that lost offensive skill come February in Sochi.

Many thought that the chemistry between  Duncan Keith would secure him a spot on the roster, but it seems that in the end Team Canada chose speed over stay at home stability for the final back end position.

All of that being said, the roster as announced provides a good mix of skill and experience, skating perhaps trumping the more physical assets, as might be expected on the large stage of Olympic ice.

From today through to the first puck drop in Sochi, fans of Team Canada will be reviewing the roster, comparing the stats, contemplating the combinations and wondering if this is the group to bring Gold home.

Or if perhaps in the midst of all those meetings over the last few months, chemistry has been altered and with fortune will be changed.

We find out in less than month, if this month offers up no shortage of second guessing from Canada's hockey legions, one wonders what it all may be like when February comes to an end and the flame of the Olympic games is extinguished in Sochi.

Reviews and thoughts on the Team Canada announcement can be found below:

January 8-- Thorough Team Canada selection process trumps armchair hockey GMs: Hitchcock
January 8-- Former Flames defence man Bouwmeester thrilled with Team Canada inclusion
January 7-- No shortage of surprises as Team Canada builds roster around Sidney Crosby
January 7-- How choosing Canada's hockey team was a 'difficult exercise' for Steve Yzerman
January 7-- Olympics a prefect stage for habs' Subban
January 7-- Price and Subban excited to be named to Team Canada
January 7-- Team Canada's best shot might not be enough: Cox
January 7-- The All-Snub Team: Canada's incredible Olympic Hockey B Team
January 7-- Speed and smarts were prerequisites for roster spot on Team Canada
January 7-- Crosby once again welcomes pressure of being Canada's marked man
January 7-- Naming of Team Canada unites hockey-mad nation
January 7-- Hamhuis snags first Team Canada roster berth
January 7-- Team Canada debates rage on as roster is announced
January 7-- Team Canada's roster superlative - so long as they win: Feschuk
January 7-- Zize breaks down Canada's Olympic roster
January 7-- Steve Yzerman says Christ Kunitz perfect complement to teammate Sidney Crosby
January 7-- Three Saskatchewan born NHL players make Olympic hockey roster
January 7-- MacKinnon, Hall, Eberle take Olympic omission in stride
January 7-- Team Canada's Sochi Olympics roster
January 7-- Crosby headlines Canada's Olympic hockey roster
January 7-- Emotional day for players who were snubbed by Team Canada
January 7-- Spezza feels for St. Louis...
January 7-- Nothing is ever guaranteed in Olympic hockey tournament
January 7-- Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman made right choice by picking P. K. Subban
January 7-- Introducing Canada's 'B' squad for the Sochi Olympics
January 7-- Canucks Roberto Luongo, Dan Hamhius 'proud, excited' to play for Team Canada at Sochi
January 7-- Sochi selection the toughest job in hockey
January 7-- Hammer ready for shutdown role in Sochi
January 7-- Sid feels like a kid again after call to Sochi
January 7-- Is Canada's embrace of Crosby pay Kunitz like bringing 'a plow horse to a turnout of thoroughbreds"?
January 7-- Kunitz, St. Louis among final tough decisions for Yzerman's staff

Monday, January 06, 2014

Swarmed by Suomi

Canada's quest for Gold came to an end on Saturday in Malmo, as a fast skating and focused Finnish squad dispatched the Canadians to the Bronze Medal game on the strength of a 5-1 score.

Canada's fortunes hinged in the end on the final period, having fallen behind the Finns through forty minutes of play, the first thirty of which were all Finland as the Finns out skated the Canadian team and but for some high quality saves from Zach Fucale could have been blowing the doors off by the end of the second.

The Canadian woes were best summed up by a short simple tweet by TSN during the course of the second period, which provided a fairly succinct explanation as to the troubles that Canada had through the first thirty minutes.

Indeed, that simple message from Coach Brent Sutter  offers up the best snapshot to the key difference of the game, the Finns were flying, the Canadians almost stationary for the majority of the game.

Canada did get untracked to a fashion in the final ten of the middle frame, however, penalties as they always seem to do in international hockey provided for a sub plot to the game and left Canada to try and regain composure, a task that they never really quite seemed to achieve.

Since Canadians have taken to International hockey decades ago, every player that steps on the ice knows that the standards of officiating will be wildly fluctuating from game to game, an infraction in one is somehow of no consequence in the other. It's up to the players and coaches to gauge the game they are in and adjust and more importantly act accordingly, Canada did not and found themselves fighting short handed for portions of the play.

And while many might point to two key penalties, a high sticking penalty to Johnathan Drouin and something called abuse of an official to Nic Petan (whatever that might have been) as pivotal to the Canadian defeat, that would not provide the Finns with their due.

They as a team seemed to remain on focus through the sixty minutes, they were fast, their passes sharp and on the mark, the goals hard earned. As they built up the lead in the third you could see their confidence grow while the Canadians began to turn to frustration at missed opportunities, something that seemed to weigh on their minds as the minutes ticked down.

Finland with the win prepared for Baltic rivals and the hosts of the World Juniors Sweden, for Swedes perhaps a game that was to bring forward as much energy (and eventual disappointment as it turned out) as any showdown with Canada, the US or Russia might.

That gold medal game offered up a most entertaining match up,with Finland claiming the championship with a 3-2  Overtime victory.

The Canadians for their part had moved on to the Bronze medal game. Not exactly where they had hoped to be found on Sunday just a few days ago.

For Canada and the Russians too we imagine, the Bronze is an event that is akin to having to dance with an unpopular cousin at a wedding. You know you have to attend the function and yes you have to dance with your cousin, but really you would much rather just be heading out of town all in all.

Dance time for Canada and Russia was 9 AM ET/ 6 PT on Sunday, with the Russians outlasting the Canadians to a 3-2 victory to claim the Bronze medal, leaving Canada medal less for the second year in a row.

Some reviews of the 48 hours of Canadian woe can be found below:

National Post-- Canada goes home empty-handed again with 'heartbreaking' loss to Russia in bronze medal game
Ottawa Sun-- Team Canada feels pain of missing world junior podium
Ottawa Sun-- Canada falls to Russia, misses world junior podium
TSN-- Russia beats Canada at World Juniors
CBC.ca-- Canada falls to Russia in bronze medal game
Ottawa Sun-- Team Canada drops semifinal to Finland, to play Russia for bronze medal
Canada.com-- Canada loses to Finland 5-1 in semi final
CBC.ca-- Canada loses 5-1 to Finland in semi final
National Post-- Canada falls victim to bad luck in semi-finals loss to Finland

Friday, January 03, 2014

USA Olympic Team provides for a few surprises on announcement day

As part of the festive atmosphere of Wednesday's Winter Classic, the US Olympic Hockey Team was unveiled, a listing of the names that has spurred on a fair amount of debate regarding some of those that will be left behind when the US team heads for Sochi in February.

The official announcement came following the Winter Wonderland experience of the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, offering up a spectacular setting and launching the run up to Sochi.

Twenty five players, many of them familiar from Vancouver of 2010, others the rising blend of youngsters and on the cusp of stardom veterans, all of them in the minds of the US Olympic team as the right mix, at the right time.

USA 2014 Olympic Roster 

The two biggest surprises of the scratches on the day, the omission of Bobby Ryan and Keith Yandle from the final 25.

Two key players, that when  left off the final list, left more than few observers shocked by the changing of the guard that the US has embarked upon for Sochi.

The simple fact of it all is that the hockey in the US is finally paying off many dividends for the sport and the US Olympic team is reaping the reward of the larger pool of talent now available than in the past.

From the College ranks and through experience in the World Juniors over the years, USA Hockey has clearly found that with more and more Americans taking up the sport and excelling at higher and higher levels, tough decisions are then part of the territory when it comes to the highest of profile selection sessions, such as the Olympic team.

It's an endless debate, who to pick, where to place them, one that has raged on in Canada for years ever since Professionals began to represent the country in International events. Like Canadians, American fans now enter the preview phase of their Olympic experience, where the average hockey fan weighs in  over who made the team and who has been passed over this time around.

A territory where there are more than enough thoughts on the topic to go around.

ESPN's Scott Burnside offers this fascinating glimpse into the selection process and how the US Olympic Team's managers put together their roster.

It gives much insight into the moving parts of the decision making and what factors are used when considering how each player fits together to the greater goal of the quest for Gold in Sochi.

As we gear up towards the Olympics, we will continue to update our lead up to Sochi Archive page, which can be found here.

Some of the reviews from Wednesday's announcement can be found below.

Leaf linemates Kessel, van Riemsdyk named to U. S. Olympic team
Team USA announces 2014 Sochi Olympics hockey rosters
Canadiens Pacioretty named to U. S. Olympic team
Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick, Cam Flower named to U. S. Olympic team
Three Blues named to Team USA Olympic roster
Rangers' Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan named to U. S. Olympic Hockey team
Kesler named to USA Olympic team
Blackhawks Kane named to Team USA 
Red Wings Jimmy Howard named to Team USA Olympic hockey team
US Olympic men's hockey roster loaded with talent
Miller gets nod for Olympic team
What I learned from U. S. Hockey selection process
Behind the scenes in choosing U. S. hockey team
Players react to Team USA snubbing them from Olympic roster
Ottawa Senators' Bobby Ryan fires back at Brian Burke for "gutless' comments
U. S. Hockey invites 67 year old Canadian to play in Sochi games
Jets' Wheeler says being an Olympian is 'surreal'
Yandle calls Team USA Olympic Snub a Tough PIll to swallow
Omissions could define U. S. roster

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Headlines 2013-14: January

Our Archive of Headlines for January

January 31-- Red Wings pepper Capitals, but need seven shoot outs to score win
January 30-- Flames' streak reaches four straight after stifling sliding Sharks 4-1
January 29-- Ben Scrivens' shutout one for the books as Edmonton Oiler blank powerhouse Sharks
January 28-- Brodie's overtime winner decides crazy, wild game against defending Stanley Cup champs
January 27-- Sharks lose to Kings 1-0
January 26-- Brodeur hooked as Rangers rout Devils at Yankee Stadium
January 25-- Ducks Beat Kings, SoCal Style
January 24-- Red Wings Down Struggling Habs
January 23-- And that's a wrap around win for the Ducks
January 22-- Red Wings win thriller at Joe Louis Arena
January 21-- Leafs' top line leads the way in sixth straight win
January 20-- Canucks coach John Tortorella suspended 15 days by NHL for fanning Flames
January 19-- John Tortorella facing league discipline for storming Flames' dressing room
January 18-- The Goonies brawl overshadows Canucks 3-2 shootout victory over the Flames
January 17-- Blackhawks take down surging Ducks 4-2
January 16-- Quick again stands tall in goal for Kings
January 15-- Ducks set two club records in 9-1 rout of Canucks
January 14-- Maple Leafs avoid another Beantown meltdown with big win over Boston Bruins
January 13-- Jets hammer Coyotes 5-1 in debut for new coach Paul Maurice
January 12-- Jets not trending in right direction: Chevy
January 11-- Markov ends Habs-Blackhawks goaltending duel in overtime
January 10-- Lack turning into the big feel-good story for Canucks
January 9-- Murray's straight talk sealed deal
January 8-- NY Rangers beat Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks...
January 7-- No shortage of surprises as Team Canada builds roster around Sidney Crosby
January 6-- A look at 10 bubble players on Team Canada's hockey radar
January 5-- Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo's return short lived
January 4-- Canada falls victim to bad luck in semi-finals loss to Finland
January 3-- 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic watched by record 8.2 million viewers across North America
January 2-- Blues show grit by walloping a West Coast nemesis
January 1-- Maple Leafs beat Red Wings in shootout at snowy Winter Classic

After New Years Eve Thriller, Canada sets its focus on the Swiss

As seems to be the case whenever they get together, Canada and the United States once again provided for high drama and entertaining hockey on New Year's Eve, a thriller of a game which saw Canada squeak out a hard earned victory over the USA, grabbing a 3-0-1 record to claim top spot in Pool A of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

Tuesday's game had all the excitement, passion and physical play that typifies the North American game, as two teams more than a little familiar with each other produced yet another chapter in their long running series of hockey and continental bragging rights.

The intensity of the showdown, shakes away any concerns over how either team can focus when the time comes to play and for the Canadians side, put away any worries over goal tending moving through the quarter finals and with a continued focus on the task at hand beyond.

Tuesday's match up with the Americans could have gone sideways pretty quickly before the first twenty minutes had expired if not for the goaltender of Zach Fucale, the Halifax Moosehead who faced a good portion of his 26 shots in those first twenty and kept the Canadians on balance until the offence could get into gear.

And when Canada finally got untracked, they took a fair portion of the play to the American end, with Connor McDavid finally securing that elusive first WJHC goal, with Nic Petan also chipping in on the way to the 3-2 Canadian win, the winning marker from Curtis Lazar at 6:13 of the third, leaving the final six minutes to the Canadian defence and Fucale to shut the door for good on the USA.

With a day off to recuperate from the New Year's Eve excitement on the ice (and maybe elsewhere) Canada is back at it on Thursday AM, with a Quarterfinal match up with Switzerland their next challenge on the path to a hopeful Gold Medal Game.

Thursday's game starts at 10:30 AM ET/7:30 AM PT on TSN.

For the American's the New Year's Eve loss set up a whole new challenge, as they now must pass through the Russian squad to have hopes of defending their Championship status.

The Russia / USA game is the early bird special for TSN on Thursday, with a puck drop at 6 AM ET/ 3 AM PT. Other games to be played on Quarterfinal Thursday include, Finland and the Czech Republic, Sweden and Slovakia.  Germany and Norway will get the day underway with their Relegation Round match, the loser banished to the lower ranks of World Junior Hockey for a year.

For those that are still in a medal hunt, should both Canada and the USA find success on Quarterfinal Thursday, they would be but one more game removed from another epic showdown, one that would have a Gold Medal on the line once again.

There are of course, a few things to take care of first should the Americans gain their much desired rematch, but considering the passion and focus both squads bring to the ice wherever they are, the chance to see the two neighbours match up one more time at the World Juniors should not be discounted.

Some preview material for Thursday's games can be found below. You can find our full account of World Junior notes, scores and upcoming matches from our Archive page.

January 1-- Canada taking do or die approach at WJC
January 1-- Pressure is on Canada vs. Switzerland
January 1-- Chatterbox Fucale keeps lines of communication open for Team Canada
January 1-- Swiss prepare for 'gagme of their lives' against Canada
January 1-- Brent Sutter not letting Canada off the hook ahead of Quarter-Finals against Switzerland
January 1-- Sutter Not Looking Past Swiss in World Juniors Quarters
January 1-- 'Shrek' Bolsters Canadian Blue Line at World Juniors

December 31-- Canada beats U. S. in thriller will face Swiss in quarter-finals
December 31-- Canada hangs on to beat U. S., claims top see in group
December 31-- Canada defeats United States at World Juniors to claim first pace in Group A
December 31-- Canada claims Group A with nail-biting win over U. S.