World Junior Championship gold medal game breakdown
Team Canada takes on Team USA tonight at 7:30 pm (eastern) in Saskatoon for all the junior marbles. Here's how I see the game breaking down:
* They manage the puck better than they did on New Year's Eve. That means eliminating the turnovers that ended up as solid scoring chances or in the back of the net. Normally sure-handed
* They negate the American speed advantage. Winning face-offs and controlling the puck is critical, but that shouldn't be a problem. Canada's top four centers all have better winning percentages in the circle than the top American. When they don't have the puck, the Canadians need to muck up the middle of the ice and force the Americans to the edges. Making them skate farther to get to the goal buys the split second that Canadian defenders will need to eliminate a scoring chance.
* They adjust to the loss of
* They maintain their discipline. It's been a problem throughout the tournament, with captain
* Embrace the moment. This is Canada's chance to win a record-breaking sixth consecutive title. Pressure? Sure, but there's also the sense that this game is theirs for the taking. Take advantage of the last change, ride the emotions of the crowd and count on the hockey gods to smile their way. They usually do.
* They get secondary scoring. The Americans have been carried throughout the tournament by the top line. New York Rangers draft pick
* Get the superior goaltending performance.
* Establish their forecheck early. The Canadians simply couldn't match the US foot speed in their first matchup. They'll adapt (expect them to abandon the 1-3-1 power play), but that shouldn't alter the American approach. Aggressively attacking the puck carrier will create the turnovers they need to make the most of their advantage.
* Control their emotions. The Americans played a smart, disciplined game against the Swedes in the semis, but the passions will run a little higher in this one. Staying out of the box is critical. They got a pair of shorties in the first matchup, but they won't be able to count on that kind of production this time.