Team Canada downed USA 3-2 in the New Year’s Eve game at the world junior championships in Malmo, Sweden, and advanced to the playoff round thanks in large part to Quebec Major Junior Hockey League players playing significant roles.
Canada’s two best forwards in the tournament Anthony Mantha, 10 points in four games, and linemate Jonathan Drouin, a threat every time he has the puck, have really played well. In addition, big centre Frederik Gauthier, another Q star, finally got more ice time and won key faceoffs, especially in the USA game. And let’s not forget Halifax Mooseheads goaltender Zach Fucale finally got a start and was first star in the win over the Americans who fell to 3-1-0 in the tournament.
And to think, Team Canada officials were undecided about Mantha making the team two weeks prior to the tournament, he was on the bubble. Perhaps it’s time for Team Canada organizers to stop looking at Ontario and western Canada players first and take a closer look at the Maritimes and the Quebec league.
Canada’s victory over Team USA was a huge one as it resulted in the Americans playing and eventually being eliminated by a strong Russia team (5-3 on Thursday) while Canada eliminated Switzerland with a 4-1 victory.
The first-place club in the A division Sweden plays Russia while Canada plays Finland today in semifinal play.
Most Canadian and international hockey fans want to see a Russian-Canada game somewhere in the tournament. It is not likely to happen as Sweden beat Russia in their divisional game and are likely to beat them today. Matching Canada against clubs like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, or Germany tells me why the seats are empty when the big boys play these clubs. Beating the defending champion USA 3-2 when your goalie is the first star is hardly a yardstick to measure anything.
Canadians need not complain about the tournament because I have never witnessed an easier draw to a gold medal game. It would have been the same had USA won and that tells me a better format may be needed if this tournament is to draw fans in a market other than in Canada or the traditional USA hockey markets.
In other hockey news, the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed captain Dion Phaneuf to a seven-year, $49 million contract extension. Leafs general manager David Nonis seems to think Phaneuf is a leader and that’s a hard sell with the majority in Leafs country.
He’s good at best in my books, and his play in last spring’s Bruins-Leafs series brings his leadership into question. As for Phaneuf being Team Canada Olympic material, that’s highly unlikely. I see the lips of Nonis moving, but I keep hearing Brian Burke’s voice and that’s what scares me.
It was Burke who appointed Phaneuf as Leafs captain without the usual team vote. Burke was the Team USA GM at the 2012 tournament and he is involved with the current team under GM David Poile. Burke’s assessment of and his role in Bobby Ryan’s omission from the current Team USA may have more to do with Ryan not committing to the Ducks when Burke was GM than his play with Senators. Ryan’s 18 goals to date is among the top five in USA-born snipers and top 15 in the NHL and skating on the big rinks would suggest he’s a great asset for USA.
The omission of Ryan and Columbus defenceman Jack Johnson has already generated plenty of uproar in some USA markets. Politics play a role in all these matters and it will too when Team Canada announces it’s team on Tuesday.
There are a lot of guys that should not be on Team Canada based on their play and one such player is Rick Nash, who has done nothing thus far with the New York Rangers. Of course, he’s a Toronto boy and some of the media love him (don’t know why) and that helps. Team Canada officials have insisted all along that Montreal’s top defenceman P.K. Subban, who should be a lock, is reputed to be on the bubble.
I wonder what Team Canada’s junior officials think of Mantha now. So much for on the bubble.
Here are the answers to last week’s hockey trivia:
1. Most goals rookie – Bill MacMillan, Toronto Maple Leafs, 22, in 1970-71 and Rick Vaive, 22, with the Canucks and Leafs.
2. Serge Savard, goals defenceman, 22.
3. Serge Savard, four wins and a tie in the 1972 series.
4. Bill MacMillan, 1967 Canada Centennial tournament, Canada 5- Russia 4. MacMillan’s goal was the winner.
5. Jamie Kennedy, referee.
6. Rick Vaive, captain Toronto Maple Leafs; Errol Thompson, captain Detroit Red Wings.
7. Bill MacMillan, New York Islanders; Brad Richards, Tampa Bay; Adam McQuaid, Boston Bruins; and Al MacAdam, Philadelphia.
8. The Big M, Frank Mahovlich wore No. 10 for one game before Lafleur.
9. Last goal Maple Leaf Gardens, Bob Probert.
10. Gord Drillon, 1938.
Live harness racing continues today at the city track with a 13-dash card, post time 1 p.m.
The $2,200 feature is a good one with the likes of Mcmaverick (Ken Murphy), Doll R General (Mark McKinnon), Cancum (Ken Arsenault), Mcjestic (Brodie MacPhee), Pinner (Mark Campbell), Stayoutofmyaffair (Gary Chappell), P C Shockwave (Brian MacPhee), Cambest Kisser (Jason Hughes) and Pancetta (Blaine Baglole).
No racing at Woodbine tonight or Yonkers, which is closed until Monday. Flamboro goes Saturday afternoon and is available via simulcast today at Red Shores Charlottetown.
Veteran trainer Wally MacInnis didn’t last long in semi-retirement. The popular horseman left a few days ago for Montreal where he’ll train six head for Marcel Barrieau. He was spoiled by his sister Donna (Gallant) and couldn’t take the soft life. Wally also played on Jim Kennedy’s Monday night Horsemen’s Bowling League team, but Jim let it be known “he’ll not be missed on the bowling lanes.”
There are plenty of Islanders and familiar faces racing down at Pompano Park, Florida. Wally Hennessey is driving for brother Danny and for Ontario trainer Shane Arsenault. Top Rideau Carleton driver Johnny MacDonald is racing there, as is Simon Allard, who had been a regular at Pocono. Simon has a few for his brother Rene Allard as well as for other USA owners.
Also from Rideau, Richard Simard who had been at Pompano last few winters. Tickets for the kitchen party on Friday night of the O’Brien Awards weekend are moving quickly and I’d advise buying now. I talked to Jody Jamieson this week and he’s coming for sure.
Somebeachsomewhere’s driver Paul MacDonnell and soon son-in-law to be James MacDonald took in the Leafs and Wings winter classic hockey classic at The Big House and came away all smiles. Paul has had much to cheer about in recent years so the Leafs win was a treat.
See you at the track.
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles – New Orleans is three-point underdogs and I like the visiting Saints. Drew Brees was second in TDs and pass yardage and he has a great passing attack. The Eagles have the worst secondary in the NFL, enough said.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts – The Colts routed the Chiefs 23-7 in week 16 at Arrowhead and now they are at home. The Colts have a great QB in Andrew Luck and they’ve beaten San Fran, Denver and Seattle this season. I know the Chiefs have a great back in Jamaal Charles and their defence is back together, but I’ll take the home Colts because of Luck. The spread for the home team is just 2.5 and that’s a cover.
San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals are unbeaten at home (8-0) and although they lost in round one the past two years, they were on the road. Home field makes a big difference for the Bengals, who beat the Chargers 17-10 in week 13 at San Diego. The spread is seven points and that’s high because Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas are big-play performers for the Bolts. Be careful, but Bengals win.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers – The temperature will be below -31C with winds and the wind chill will be something like what we’ve endured this week. The Packers have a terrible pass defence and the 49ers a top QB in Colin Kaepernick and great receivers in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin.
Under ideal conditions, San Fran wins easily but in the frozen tundra of Green Bay who knows? We saw the magic of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last week, so just watch this game. As always, pay the mortgage first, the picks are for fun.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears in The Guardian each Saturday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org