WJC Canada Pregame: The Quarterfinal

Going into this year’s World Juniors if you told a hockey fan in Toronto that Canada was going to be the underdog in their quarterfinal game they probably would have laughed at you. Believable a week ago or not, that is the exact situation Team Canada finds themselves as they prepare to face-off against Finland on Saturday morning.

After their practice, Friday afternoon a number of Canadian players spoke to the media about the team feeling like the pressure is off since little is expected of them at this point. “It feels like there’s really no pressure on us”, Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner told TSN. This attitude is probably a good thing for a team that has looked like they have been pressing and letting the magnitude of them games get to them. If a team with as much skill as this Canadian on has is able to go out and just play a loose game, they could be incredibly dangerous. 

Marner will look to build on his great performance in the final preliminary game against Sweden and the hope is that some of the team’s other big guns can follow suit. Canada is going to need a big game from guys like Jake Virtanen and Brayden Point who have not produced offensively but are capable of being difference makers. The two returning players will have to draw on their experience from last year’s elimination games in hopes that they can settle down their game and show what they’re capable of.

Suomi

Through the first four games of the tournament, Team Finland has looked like an offensive powerhouse with their top line of Jesse Puljujärvi, Sabastian Aho and Patrik Laine sitting as the top-3 scorers in the tournament. Puljujärvi has looked incredible and is staking his claim as the second best prospect in this June’s NHL Entry Draft behind Auston Matthews. In just four games he already sits eighth all-time in points by a player under the age of 18 at the World Juniors.

rankin

The Finns will hope to put pressure on a Canadian defence that has been underwhelming. As we saw in the game against Sweden, the Canadians have had trouble neutralizing offensively dynamic pressure. Many believed Finland had one of the better chances to eliminate Canada from this tournament, however, most probably didn’t think it would be this early.

Bulletin Board Material 

The Finns seem to be a cocky bunch. They have the confidence of having the home crowd behind them and showing a bit of a ‘giant-slayer’ mentality. In the World Juniors Canada is always the big dog regardless of the situations and many of the other countries want nothing more than to be the ones that knock them out. They need to hope that their confident talk pregame doesn’t light a fire under a Canadian team that could use any opportunity to look for motivation. 

With the lackluster play thus far in the tournament by Team Canada, a loss in the quarterfinals would be disappointing but not all that surprising. On the flip side, this team has the talent to win any game they are in and a win against a team like Finland could be just what they need to elevate them back into contention for the gold medal. If nothing else, this promises to be a game filled with tremendously talented players on both sides and one that promises to be very entertaining. And on the bright side at least if Finland wins we’ll get to see a little more of @JeffVeillette’s favorite player Kaspari Kapanen.