The panic button can be put on hold for at least another day.
After trailing most of the game, Team Canada scored a late comeback win over the Slovaks with a 5-3 decision in round robin play on Monday. Zachary Fucale made his first start of the tournament and settled in after a shaky start to the game that nearly had the team fall behind two quick goals. His teammate in Halifax, Jonathan Drouin, played a Jekyll and Hyde game that saw the skilled sniper’s best and worst in a span of 60 minutes.
While indiscipline remained a downfall, Team Canada was ultimately able to pull off the victory with a strong finish that they will hope to carry over before facing their toughest opponent yet in the border battle against the United States on Tuesday.
Just call him Good Jo and Bad Jo. Team Canada got both at various points in Monday’s game, as the Halifax Mooseheads’ sniper made his impact both positively and negatively. Brent Sutter’s squad needs Drouin to be his electrifying best, but they got Bad Jo to start the game, as Drouin took an ill-advised penalty just 10 seconds in.
Although small in stature, he’s not afraid to throw his weight around and did so a little too recklessly on his early penalty and at times in the second period. During one sequence in the second, Drouin hit two players on plays that were borderline penalties, though neither was called.
Good Jo came alive in the second period as Drouin got the comeback started when Canada was down two. He took on three defenders before passing to Aaron Ekblad, whose shot led to Anthony Mantha’s rebound goal. Drouin then scored the tying goal late in the third period. These are the types of plays Sutter will need from his most gifted offensive player, not the head-hunting, physical presence who teeters on the wrong side of the line.
TV TIMEOUT WONDERS
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Sutter’s extensive coaching résumé, but Canada’s coach is using the television timeout smart tactically. With three per period, as opposed to just one in the Canadian Hockey League, Sutter is strategizing during the break and his players are coming out guns blazing following the abbreviated breaks. The largest bursts of intensity and offensive creativity are consistently coming after the timeouts.
Team Canada often appeared to be on the power play while at even strength when play commenced after the break and it led to a few goals. Canada’s second goal of the game came shortly after a break in the second period, and the game was later tied in the third following the last TV timeout. Canada’s best offensive sequences came once the play re-commenced, often generating just as much, if not more, than when the team was on the power play.
DISCIPLINE, DISCIPLINE, DISCIPLINE
Team Canada took far too many penalties as a lack of discipline continued to haunt their game. Their penalty kill is proving to be a weak link in this tournament, and coupled with an inability to stay out of the box, this trend is becoming a big concern. The Slovaks expertly passed the puck around which forced Canadian players into taking additional penalties while already down a man, and then found the open man on similar passing plays for goals during five-on-threes. All three of the Slovaks’ goals came while on the man advantage.
Not only are the Canadian players lacking discipline from the standpoint of staying out of the box, but their decision-making similarly could require some discipline. The puck appears to be bouncing an awful lot, making one wonder how crisp the ice is in Malmo, which means perhaps the simpler plays need to be made instead of risking turnovers. Leaving their own zone is sometimes proving to be an obstacle, as the Canadian players are moving the puck with less urgency than some situations call for given the forecheck.
SLOW STARTS KILLING CONFIDENCE
It’s beginning to sound like a broken record, but once again Team Canada ceded the first goal of the game. Canada has not scored first in this tournament in three round robin contests or in the three pre-tournament games.
The problems go deeper than simply which team scores first. Against the Slovaks, Team Canada appeared in a daze to start the game, which could be influenced by Drouin’s undisciplined penalty just 10 seconds in. Slovakia scored on the power play while Drouin sat in the box, starting the downhill slope that nearly put the team down two. Later, Fucale, who was playing in his first game, mishandled a routine shot from the corner and the rebound was whacked off the far post.
Team Canada was in a funk from the moment Drouin was sent to the box. They weren’t playing with intensity and handled the puck like a live grenade. Nicolas Petan and Mathew Dumba each gave the puck over with crucial turnovers in the first 10 minutes, and the score could have easily been worse before they woke up and got back to playing their game.