TSN Hockey Reporter Mark Masters reports from the World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton. Team Canada held an off-ice meeting and media availability on Tuesday ahead of the gold-medal final against Team USA.
This is the longest a Team Canada has ever been together and tonight they have a chance to go down in history as one of the greatest World Junior teams ever.
“You obviously look at the skill the team has but, beyond that, over the past 51 days we’ve been together we’ve developed a bond within the group and that’s special,” said defenceman Jamie Drysdale. “I can honestly say that all these guys are my brothers now.”
Team Canada has not trailed for a second at the tournament and has yet to allow a five-on-five goal while outscoring the opposition 41-4.
“A big part of it is the time we’ve spent together,” said forward Cole Perfetti. “We’ve been together since mid-November. Even through the [18 days in] quarantine we were doing a lot of stuff together, a lot of team bonding. At a normal World Juniors you see guys come in in mid-December and have two weeks to get ready and we had a month and a half to get ready for this and we used that to our advantage. We’ve come together nicely and we’re a real tight group now and I think that’s real big for our chemistry and success so far.”
Canada smothered the Russians right from puck drop on Monday. If they replicate that performance tonight, can they be beaten?
“That’s a good question,” said centre Quinton Byfield with a smile. “No, I don’t think so. We had an unbelievable game and we need to keep building off each game.”
The job is not done and head coach Andre Tourigny was channeling his inner Phil Jackson this morning reminding everyone that despite all the hard work so far “it doesn’t mean a thing without the ring.”
“I like their feeling this morning,” Tourigny said of his players. “We’re composed. Nobody’s overexcited or whatever. We’re in the right place mentally right now.”
Tourigny served as an assistant coach at four previous World Juniors, suffering heartache in Saskatoon in 2010 when the United States beat Canada in overtime of the gold-medal game. He was there one year later when Canada blew a third-period lead in Buffalo against the Russians. He was in Ufa, Russia, during the NHL lockout in 2013 when the last Canadian “Dream Team” failed to reach the podium.
And Tourigny was also on the bench last year in Ostrava, Czech Republic, when Canada stormed back from being down 3-1 in the third period to beat Russia in the final.
“A big reason why we had success is we stayed with it and never changed anything whatever the adversity,” Tourigny recalled. “If we start to want to enjoy the moment now, we’re in trouble. We’re in big, big trouble. For us, it’s to stay in the present. We have a lifetime to enjoy that game and a lifetime to remember that game.”
Standing in the way of Team Canada tonight is Team USA.
“What else can you ask for,” said Byfield. “You’re playing the U.S. in the gold-medal game. It’s probably the deepest rivalry in hockey … It was pretty tough falling asleep last night just thinking about the game and all the situations and just dreaming about everything that could happen.”
Team Canada has six players back from last year, including Byfield although the Newmarket, Ont., native didn’t get a shift in the gold-medal game. He’s been waiting a year for this chance.
“I’m definitely excited to get my first shift and get involved right away, get a hit and make a play or something and then a quick change,” he said. “Want to get that first shift under my belt and I think the rest of the game will come to me after that.”
Byfield didn’t play in the final last year, but he was taking notes.
“I had the best seat in the house,” he said. “It was unbelievable to watch the comeback and how much effort we put in and all the sacrifices we made in that game. The drive that we had to come back was unbelievable to watch.”
The fashionable Byfield didn’t have any special outfit in mind for tonight.
“Honestly, I feel like people are expecting me to bring something out, but I only brought three suits and I’ve shown them all off,” he said. “I’ll wear the one I wore last game and I’ll go with that.”
His good friend Connor McMichael was the one making a statement with his attire on Tuesday morning, sporting red and white socks with Maple Leafs on them. On the bottom of each sock it says, “Good Luck Sock.”
The London Knights sniper said the socks were a gift from his girlfriend and he also wore them on Monday when he scored in the semifinal win.
McMichael has now scored in all five knockout-stage games he’s played at the World Juniors.
It’s going to be a late night on the Rock.
“I’m sure the whole island will be up and rolling,” said Bay Roberts, N.L., native Dawson Mercer. “It’s an exciting time with the support back home. It’s a late start time for them at 11 p.m., but the next morning I’m sure they’ll be happy with the outcome (smile).”
Last year, Mercer played a fourth-line role and was roommates with Akil Thomas, who also filled a depth role before emerging as the hero in the gold-medal game. In an interview with TSN last month, Thomas predicted big things for Mercer in Edmonton.
“I think he’s got an important goal this year,” Thomas said. “I’m calling it now.”
Told about that prediction this morning, Mercer made it clear he’s comfortable in the big moment.
“I love playing in big games like this,” the Chicoutimi Sagueneens forward said. “Every player wants to be put in this situation. When I get my opportunity, I’ll do my job every time I step on the ice. I want to make sure I have a positive impact.”
Boston College teammates Alex Newhook and Spencer Knight will be facing off tonight. Does Newhook have an idea for moves that will work on the Team USA goalie?
“I’ve got a little bit of a playbook, being with him for two years, so we’ll see how it goes,” the St. John’s native said with a smile.
Knight laughed that off saying he wasn’t sure what Newhook had in mind. The pair have been in touch during the World Juniors via the Boston College group chat.
“He’s an awesome guy,” Knight said. “Everyone loves him and he brings a lot of energy to the lineup at BC and so that’s what I know he’s probably bringing to their lineup.”
Team USA may have a source of information on Team Canada goalie Devon Levi. The Northeastern University freshman leads the tournament with a .975 save percentage.
“I know one of our guys here, Sam Colangelo, is roommates with him [at school] and says he’s a really good goalie,” Knight noted.
Nobody has been able to solve Levi at this year’s tournament.
“Every game feels the same,” Levi said. “I try to play every game the same way whether it’s a Junior A game, a midget game or one of these games and I’ve been able to be consistent, because I’ve been able to feel consistent going into the games.”
Levi, a seventh round pick of the Florida Panthers, listens to music quite a bit on game days, including during intermissions. What’s on his playlist?
“I listen to songs that I’ve been listening to throughout my hockey career,” he said. “Just some good music to get me pumped and get my mind off things. Some of the songs I’ve been listening to since my midget days and they sort of bring me back to times when I played well and I guess it sort of gets me into a zone and fired up.”
The rest of the team steers clear of Levi on game days, including Tourigny.
“I stay as far away as I can from this guy,” the coach told TSN’s Ryan Rishaug. “He’s focused. He’s in his bubble.”
It’s been mostly radio silence between Wisconsin Badgers teammates Cole Caufield and Dylan Holloway during the World Juniors with one exception. The Team Canada forward sent birthday wishes to the Team USA sniper when he turned 20 a couple days ago.
“Going back to Wisconsin one of us isn’t going to be too happy,” Holloway said.
Does he have any trash talk in mind when he’s on the ice with Caufield today?
“I got some stuff that I could throw out there, yeah,” he said with a smile. “Probably nothing I could say on camera though.”
The championship game will pit the top scorers at the World Juniors – Canada’s Dylan Cozens and Trevor Zegras of the United States – against each other. They are tied with 16 points apiece entering the final day of the event.
“Dylan’s an unbelievable player,” said Zegras, “Kind of been going at it with him and that group for a long time now so it’d be nice to stick it to him and win this thing.”
What’s the key for Team USA tonight?
“A lot of energy,” Zegras said. “Get the puck low, grind’em and put the puck in the back of the net.”
Cozens, who scored Canada’s first goal in the gold-medal game last year, wasn’t available to the media this morning.
Team Canada winger Jakob Pelletier was at it again last night. After setting up Cozens for an empty-net goal, the Val d’Or Foreurs winger leaned over to kiss his linemate’s helmet at the bench. Pelletier did the same thing to Holloway after he assisted on his goal against the Finns on New Year’s Eve.
Tourigny was asked who, other than the always chatty Bowen Byram, had stepped up as a vocal leader.
“It’s Pelletier hands down,” Tourigny said. “He’s the only one who can challenge Bo in terms of being vocal. He talks a lot, brings a lot of energy and is positive and really focused. He brings a lot in the room.”
Canadiens 5, Canucks 2: Lacklustre performances becoming too common – The Province
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But as has been the case too often through the first week and a half of the season — an astoundingly short period that also feels like it’s taken forever — they couldn’t put enough together and then surrendered two goals in the third to the Habs, settling the game for the visitors.
“Frustrating, for sure,” Pettersson said about losing the way they did, as both goals came off turnovers by the Canucks.
“We’ve got a lot of things to work on. I need to be better, play better defence.”
Head coach Travis Green tried to put a positive spin on his team, saying he liked the effort over the first 50 minutes.
“Sometimes when you’re not on top of your game, you’re looking for a better game. I thought we got a better game out of our group,” he said. “By good game, I don’t mean we were out and creating all kinds of chances, but I think we stuck with it.”
The Canadiens’ goals were scored by Nick Suzuki, Corey Perry, Brendan Gallagher, Jonathan Drouin and Joel Edmundson into an empty net, while Pettersson and Höglander scored for the Canucks.
It was also the 350th career win for Habs goalie Carey Price.
Here’s what we learned …
You know he needed that
Pettersson has had a rough start to the season. He mostly hasn’t looked himself. There have been moments of confidence — like his between-the-legs effort on a breakaway on Wednesday that didn’t lead to a goal — but mostly he’s looked to be squeezing his stick too hard.
Finally, Saturday, he got a bounce, making a perfect tip of a point shot by Jordie Benn, deflecting the puck down toward the ice and past Price into the Montreal net.
FRIESEN: Jets failed with Laine, top to bottom – Winnipeg Sun
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He didn’t mention he never did find a centre that would best utilize Laine’s talents until, ironically, the day he traded him.
Dubois might be that player. We’ll never know.
Cheveldayoff was quick to point out Laine played with No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele last season, but it was an analytical failure. OK.
It doesn’t take an advanced stats whiz to see Cheveldayoff has constructed a roster that doesn’t leave much wiggle room for Laine’s next contract. Instead of finding a way to make it work, he sent him packing.
Down on the dressing room floor, Wheeler was asked about his leadership role through all this, acknowledging, perhaps a little vaguely, he could have handled the rising star better on occasion.
“If I have any regrets, my regrets would be some of the frustrations that took place over the years,” the captain said, quickly adding he and Laine never fought, never yelled at each other.
So the regret?
“Maybe I could have communicated a little better instead of just getting frustrated,” Wheeler said, explaining when he did get frustrated with Laine, he just clammed up.
In the next breath, he says if anything he coddled the kid.
Ultimately, Wheeler didn’t think he could have made things better.
If the captain and the GM didn’t want to bear the brunt of the responsibility, the head coach claimed to be more than willing.
“That’s the environment that you’re trying to create for each player is for them to feel like they have the opportunity to be at their best,” Maurice said. “We were constantly trying to work on that, trying to constantly get to the point where Patrik appreciated who he was playing with and the opportunity he was given.
Blue Jackets excited to add Laine, Roslovic in blockbuster deal – BlueJackets.com
Put in the difficult position of having to trade his No. 1 center, Jarmo Kekalainen hit a home run.
At least that’s the opinion of his head coach, John Tortorella, who was effusive in his praise of the Blue Jackets general manager after Kekalainen swung a blockbuster deal Saturday.
Center Pierre-Luc Dubois was traded to Winnipeg along with a third-round pick in the 2022 draft for All-Star winger Patrik Laine and Columbus native Jack Roslovic, a haul of two forwards that should quickly add some offensive punch to the CBJ lineup.
That Kekalainen could fetch such a return for a player who the entire NHL knew wanted a deal left Tortorella as perhaps the happiest man in Columbus.
“It was a hell of a spot (Kekalainen) got put into,” Tortorella said after the Jackets’ 5-2 win against Tampa Bay on Saturday. “He stood right in there. I talked to him a couple of times yesterday (about) the amount of time he was putting into things, so we’re very happy that he found a way here, him and (Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff).
“We are really excited about these guys coming to us. Jarmo is not afraid of trying to make his team better and putting his neck out there a little bit at times, so I think that’s a really good trade for us.”
Adding two big pieces — a first-line winger who has averaged 38 goals per 82 games in his NHL career and a homegrown center whose best days in the NHL are likely still ahead of him — was seen as a coup in Tortorella’s eyes, and the hope is the pair will help a team that finished 27th in the NHL in scoring a year ago and had scored just 10 goals in its first five games this season.
The offensive abilities of Laine need little introduction as exploits of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft — one spot ahead of Dubois — are known throughout the league. Laine burst onto the scene as a rookie with 36 goals in 2016-17 then added a career-high 44 a year later. The 22-year-old is coming off a 28-35-63 line posted in 68 games last year, and one of the league’s top snipers has 140 goals and 250 points in 306 career NHL games, including 52 power-play tallies.
Roslovic, meanwhile, was born in Columbus, came up through the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets junior program and played his college hockey at Miami University. The first-round pick (25th overall) in the 2015 NHL draft has a 26-41-67 line in 180 career games including career highs of 12 goals, 17 assists and 29 points a year ago. The thought is with more consistent playing time, those numbers could blossom even more for the 23-year-old.
“I think both of those guys bring offense to our team,” Kekalainen said. “Jack Roslovic, I think he had (29) points last year. His ice time increased a little bit, but Winnipeg has a lot of skilled forwards, so I think he’s going to get a more offensive role with our team. Obviously, he’s going to have to earn that.
“Patrik Laine is just a pure goal scorer. He scored 36 goals when he was 18 years old in the National Hockey League. I think his best year was 44 goals. I’ve known him since he was 16 years old, watching him play in Finland. He won a championship there, being one of the top scorers and MVP of the World Juniors when they won gold, and he came into the National Hockey League and has done what he’s done so far. He’s still very young. Those are all very exciting things.”
Roslovic was a restricted free agent this past offseason and did not report to Winnipeg, so he is yet to play a game this year. He has been staying sharp in Columbus and quickly signed a two-year contract with the Blue Jackets, so he has already entered the team’s COVID protocol program and hopes to be able to join the team this week.
Laine, meanwhile, had two goals and an assist in the one game he has played this year but has missed recent games with an upper-body injury he says he does not consider serious. Before he can report to Columbus, the native of Finland must obtain a work visa and get everything with COVID protocols squared away, so his first day on the ice remains to be seen.
Both said they’re excited to see what they can bring to the Columbus team when they do suit up.
“It’s awesome to be part of the Blue Jackets organization right now, and I’m happy that they wanted me on board,” Laine said. “I couldn’t be more excited. It’s always a new chapter, and going to a new place, meeting new guys, I’m kind of scared but it’ll be fine. There’s a bunch of guys that I know and a couple of Finnish guys, too, and I’m just super excited to meet everybody and get things going.”
Added Roslovic: “I’m just really excited about the opportunity. It just makes it that much better too that it’s in Columbus. I’m super happy to be here. Obviously I grew up living here, watching the team play, and it’s definitely just an extra cherry on top.”
It was a quick end to the saga involving Dubois, who was the team’s top pick in the 2016 draft and had developed into the team’s No. 1 center the past two seasons. Dubois didn’t miss a game in his Columbus career, suiting up 239 times in the union blue sweater and posting a 66-93-159 line. He had career highs of 27 goals and 61 points two seasons ago and led Columbus with 49 points a year ago before adding 10 in 10 games in the NHL playoff bubble.
But when Dubois signed a two-year extension with Columbus as an RFA on New Year’s Eve, reports got out that he was also looking for a change in scenery. Dubois had just one goal in the team’s first five games and did not skate in the last 45-plus minutes of the team’s overtime loss Thursday against Tampa Bay, leaving a trade all but an inevitability. Less than 48 hours later, he was on his way to Winnipeg.
“We’ve been working on this for a while,” Kekalainen said. “We always said it could take a while until we found the right deal, but if the right deal is on the table, we’re ready to move fast. Everything came together, and we’re happy with the deal.”
Kekalainen has shown he’s not afraid to make big moves before, including the acquisition of Brandon Saad in 2015, the deal that sent Ryan Johansen to Nashville in 2016 for Seth Jones, returning Saad to Chicago for Artemi Panarin in the summer of 2017 and trade deadline deals to acquire Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene in 2019.
Those trades involve some of the biggest names in the game, but you could argue none is quite as captivating as this one. How it works out for both teams will be a storyline for years, and Kekalainen hopes it’s positive for each side.
“I think the best trades are always the type of trades that help both teams, and I think in this case that’s what happened,” Kekalainen said. “They are going to get a good player and we are going to get two good players, and we both move on.”
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