Sunday, December 26, 2004


Boxing Day Bombs: WJC Day 1 Thoughts

Canada 7 - Slovakia 3 - Despite my predicition, I had a feeling that something like this would happen.

I hate you, Santa!

Oh, the Slovaks did get some good news before the game started. It seems Andrej Meszaros' nose is not broken after all. In fact, Andrej didn't even appear to have a scratch, so he must possess some incredible healing powers. Of course, the good news ended there...

It all went downhill after just 3 minutes when Tomas Bulik took a checking-from-behind penalty (kind of a cheap call) and was given 2+10. Sidney "Nextzky" Crosby (2 goals, 1 assist) and Patrice Bergergon (2 goals, 2 assists) decided to put on a Christmas Day masterpiece for the crowd and it was 4-0 before the game was even half done.

Canada got a little complacment when the score was 5-1, and Slovakia managed to take the score to 5-3. With 4 minutes left in the game, Slovakia had a 2-man advantage, and couldn't take advantage. Instead of setting up in the usual formation, the Slovakian kids got a little too anxious and just started firing shots at any opportunity. The Canadians cleared the easy rebounds and then Clarke MacArthur completed a spectacular combination play to make it 6-3. MacArthur liked that goal so much that he wanted another and boosted the score to 7-3 with a Penalty Shot goal.

Even though the score was close in the 3rd period, the 7-3 final score really is a reflection of how the Canadians dominated the Slovaks for most of the game.

Thoughts on various prospects...

Sidney Crosby/Patrice Bergeron/Corey Perry - Like a cat playing with a dead mouse, Canada's top line had its way with the Slovakia defense. Bergeron looks like he belongs in the NHL (Oh, wait...) and he has some wicked-mad chemistry with Crosby. Perry is the 'hanger-on' guy, but he's good enough to hang with the Big 2. I had a feeling Crosby/Bergeron could have even piled up more points with a few more fortunate bounces, but they kind of took it easy on the poor Slovaks when the score was out of reach.

Shea Weber - He's been a big part of the defensive juggernaught known as the Kelowna Rockets for the past couple of years, and I am making a special effort to watch his play these days. Despite the fact he is 6'3" and skates quite well, you may not notice Weber all that much when he is on the ice. Weber quietly does a great job defensively (playing the angles and taking out his check) and doesn't really rush the puck all that much.
You can't go around him, you can't go through him, and you can't go under him...maybe you can jump over him?
At the very least, Weber looks like a very good bet to be a positive-impact 20-point-a-season defensive defenseman in the NHL down the road.

Jeff (not David) Glass - It's Roman Turek's love child, I'm telling you! Glass is the type of goalie I could never be comfortable with on my team. I can live with a flopper like Hasek, but not a clumsy oaf like Glass (He's got Devan Dubnyk-like quickness). Glass looks like he's never quite sure of where the puck is at times, and he doesn't seem to have the agility that you want in your backstopper. Rejean Beauchemin will probably get the nod in the 2nd game, so maybe he can steal the #1 job from Glass.

Jaroslav Halak - It's not entirely his fault the Slovaks lost, but Halak did his part by letting some weak goals squeak by him. If Halak can't bring his 'A' game, then it's time for coach Gregor to try Marek Novotny or (preferably) Michal Valent.

Branislav Fabry - This was a typical game for Fabry, who has struggled with Bratislava and Zilina of the Slovak Extraleague. Fabry, who has all of the natural skill one could hope for, just simply doesn't know how to finish and produce some actual offense. The scouts obviously love his size and skating ability, but when he's deep in the offensive zone, he really doesn't have more ability down there than Kelly Chase did in his prime.

Stanislav Lascek (1 goal and 4 shots) - IF you didn't believe my previous (and numerous) rants about Lascek, did tonight's game convince you? Lascek was given Team MVP for the Slovaks, and pretty impressive in the offensive zone. His skating isn't that bad, people! Can you believe all 30 NHL teams passed him over in the 2004 draft?

Marek Zagrapan - The 2005 draftee managed to put himself on the scoreboard, but seemed a little overmatched physically along the boards. Still, Zagrapan showed pretty well in a tournament where he is one of the younger players.

Marek Hascek - I know his dad, Otto, was a great player with Dukla Trencin back when I was wearing diapers, but Marek doesn't have one-tenth of his father's hockey talent. Please send Marek back to Slovakia on the first flight out of Grand Forks. Thank you.

Boris Valabik - You have size, please don't be afraid to use it!

Slovakia-Finland and Canada-Sweden are scheduled for Monday.


Meanwhile, Czechia beat up on the B-Grade Belarussians by a 7-2 score. As expected, Rostislav Olesz and Petr Vrana made some Disney magic together (Michal Kvapil played the role of 'hanger-on'). I was most happy to see 2006 draftee Michael Frolik score his first WJC goal. If you get a chance, you most definitely need to watch this kid play.


As a last note, here is an interesting little bunch of facts that has dug up about this year's WJC tournament.

One little factoid that kind of blew me away:

All the Canadian players but one (Patrice Bergeron) are playing in the CHL.

It didn't register with me earlier, but Team Canada doesn't have a single player from the NCAA on their roster. Given the success of some former NCAA playes for Team Canada, it's really surprising that not a single player from the NCAA was chosen. Daniel Bertram was the obvious star candidate, but he's still 17 and will have to wait a year to join Gilbert Brule on Team Canada.

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