Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Young guns find a solution to stifling Swedish defence; Canada powers on past Team Europe

The afternoon opener to Day five got off to a furious start for the North American kids, who came flying out of the gate, ready to take the play to the Swedes and stake a claim for some playoff time when the weekend arrives, should the Oracles of Hockey allow for it.

Such was the lethargic start to the Swedish game, one wonders what it was that their players had blasting through the dressing room prior to game time.

While we can't confirm this, judging by the style of Swedish play in the first ten minutes anyways, it would seem that the Swedes went with this:

While the young guns clearly had tuned into their own Euro mix with some let's get ready to roll tune-age that left nothing to doubt about how they planned to take to the game.

North America jumped out to a fast two goal lead thanks to markers from Auston Matthews who has already won over his Toronto fan base, picking up his 2nd goal of the tourney at the as the first thirty second came to pass, while Vincent Trocheck added to the furious tart with aother one minute later.

The youngsters could have had another as well if Johnny Gaudreau's penalty shot had found the mark, all of which  left the Swedes just a little shell shocked before five minutes of play had even passed by.

They did however right their Nordic vessel by the midway point of the first, snatching one goal back at the eight minute mark with a Filip Forsberg marker, it was at that point that the game began to level out a bit, with the Swedes finally regaining a bit of their composure after the flurry of near disasters they had faced.

There would still be more scoring before the first twenty was done however, with Gaudreau atoning for his earlier miss at the 14 minute mark, most likely sending the Flames accountants back to the scratch pads, looking for ways to increase the next contract offer, while keeping everyone else on the NHL roster content.

Nicklas Backstrom pulled the Swedes to within one with less than four minutes to go in the first period.

The Swedes finally figured out how to deal with the energetic upstarts through period two which featured a slightly slower pace that the previous frame, (perhaps to let everyone in the rink and watching at home to catch their breath) with no scoring results to show by the time they all headed back to the dressing room for their second period intermission.

The same pattern marked the start of period three, with the Swedes pulling even with the young guns in the first half of the period with a Patrik Berglund goal, a wake up call that saw the North Americans finally return to their run and gun style through the final ten minutes of the final frame making for some of the finest hockey that fans have seen in a long, long, time.

It was fire wagon hockey at its best, with end to end rushes, spectacular scoring opportunities and equally impressive saves from both Henrik Lundqvist and John Gibson, as they both flashed leather and batted pucks away.

The chances were oh so close for both teams, with the North Americans almost taking the victory in regulation time, but on Wednesday the hockey Gods said play some more and so they did.

Nathan MacKinnon brought the Air Canada Centre to its feet at the 4:11 mark of the overtime period, solving Henrik Lundqvist on final time to send the kids to a victory and into a night of hoping for a positive result from the Finns in their match up with Russian on Thursday.

The Finnish squad is going to be feeling  a lot of love when they step onto the ice Thursday afternoon, should they knock off the Russian squad then it's the North American gunners who move on to the playoffs.

Finland may never, ever, have such support in Canada again, as they will find when the puck drops Thursday.

The night cap to Day Five of the tournament was about as anti-climatic as the previous one was manic.

 Such is the depth of Team Canada that even by resting some of their biggest names, the inserts more than took on the challenge of the day, knocking down the European squad a peg or so and securing themselves Top Dog status as they head down the path into the playoff round.

With workmanlike precision the Canadians dominated all three periods of their match up with Team Europe, Corey Crawford while not overly challenged was strong in the nets, while Canada's big guns on offence, Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews took care of the early scoring.

Crosby opened things up at the four minute mark, with Toews adding to the lead with less than a minute to go in the opening period.

The Europeans managed to snare one back in the first five minutes of the second thanks to Marian Hossa, but any thoughts of a European comeback were getting smothered by the Canadian play at both ends of the rink.

Defensively they surrendered few scoring chances in the Canadian end, were strong on the forecheck in the European one and such was their control of the play, by the time the game came to an end they had out shot the European collective by a 2 to 1 margin.

Jonathan Toews picked up his second goal of the game at the fifteen minute mark of period number two, by which time the Europeans more or less retreated into the ever popular save it for the next game mode, taking few rushes, gaining few scoring opportunities.

Logan Couture salted away the game at the 17 minute point, sending Sports Lottery players to their tickets to check out the goal differential options from their local retail vendor.

The victory gave Canada an unblemished record in Group A play and sets up a semi-final match that will find a very interested and large audience either way, with the prospect of either facing off against the young guns or the Russians, depending on what kind of a frame of mind the Russian team comes out with in their Thursday match up with Finland.

A win sets up the always fascinating competition between hockey styles and emotional pull that a Canada/Russia gave offers, though if the Youngsters should somehow find themselves in the semis, it may be the first time that Team Canada plays a game with an audience that may not be fully onboard, with perhaps a few silently rooting for the kids.

Whichever way the narrative to come may go, the hockey is going to be something to watch.

You can catch up on the torrid pace of the afternoon special, or digest the entrails of the evening light workout through our Game Day Archive, which features game summaries and a collection of commentary from those that took in the game.

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