Canada defeated Finland 5-2 to open the group stage of the World Junior Championship and begin their defense of consecutive gold medals. The Canadians got off to a bit of a shaky start, but quickly got the game together in the first period. Once he gets going, he doesn’t stop, and thanks to a ton of depth scores, he got off to a good start in this tournament. They found a way to score in all three periods and never really let Finland back into the contest.
The forecheck was a big key to Canada’s overall success, as Finland struggled throughout the game while Canada relentlessly chased the puck. Despite the win, head coach Alain Letang is definitely not happy with his team’s lack of discipline. Canada committed six penalties in this match, two of which led to Finland’s only two goals. Canada needs to fix this issue to avoid a major upset throughout the tournament. Overall, it was a good start for one of the favorites to win. Here are a few things that stood out to me.
ADB line attack again
The line of Owen Allard, Nate Danielson and Owen Beck was once again Canada’s best, with the trio combining for two goals, three points and eight shots. It was a nightmare for Finland for the entire 60 minutes. Danielson in particular had a power that could not be ignored. Drafted ninth overall by the Detroit Red Wings last year, he scored his first goal of the game in the first period and assisted on Allard’s goal in the second period. He showed some signs of being a top-10 pick.
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As for Allard, he gave it his all on the ice and showed the rawness that allows for such tough matchups every night. The Soo Greyhound forward has scored in back-to-back games after today’s performance. He added a goal a few days ago in the final pre-tournament game against the United States and carried that momentum into the game against Finland. In Beck’s case, although he didn’t score, he used the forecheck well to keep the puck in the offensive zone many times, allowing his linemates to get on the boards. This line will continue to have opportunities, and Letang should rely on them more and more as this tournament progresses.
Rousseau was sharp from the beginning.
Despite allowing two goals, it’s notable that Canada’s starting goaltender was in the game from the first puck drop. Matisse Rousseau needed to be sharp today, and he was. As the match progressed, Finland found more and more ways to create scoring chances. The twice-undrafted netminder shut out Finland for most of the game, giving Canada the confidence it needed to win. There was no greater moment than his incredible diving glove save from New Jersey Devils prospect Leni Hamenaho late in the first period to give Finland an assured goal to take an early lead.
Shortly after that heroic save, Danielson scored a goal to give Canada the lead. When the Montreal, Quebec, native stopped 24 of 26 shots, the team and Rousseau never looked back from what happened. There was a question mark in this tournament as to who would backstop the defending champions. This was especially true after the game against USA, the last game before the tournament. But those questions could be answered today after Rousseau’s play. It’s still early, but it’s a good start for a goaltender looking to improve his draft stock and confidence in his home country.
Celebrini that instantly makes an impact
The biggest storyline for Canada heading into this year’s tournament was how Macklin Celebrini would perform. It’s safe to say he passed his first test and made an immediate impact. The projected No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft not only scored his first career goal at the World Juniors, but it turned out to be his first career game-winning goal as well. It took a moment to register, but the puck went under the Finnish goalie and into the net, giving Canada a 3-1 lead.
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Despite playing in Canada’s fourth row, Celebrini ran away with every chance. He continued to show skill and speed that had NHL scouts salivating at what he could do in pro hockey. Canada itself should be very excited about what this young player can do for the rest of the tournament. There’s a lot of pressure on the 19-year-old, but so far he’s thrived under it. Counting the goal he scored in the team’s last pre-tournament game, Chebrini has scored in each of the last two games. He hopes to continue his success as the tournament progresses.
Canada will look to continue their good start heading into the group stage when they take on Latvia tomorrow afternoon. That match will take place at 1:30 PM ET and should be a very good opportunity for the defending champion to flex his muscles and build confidence in every phase of the match.