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Canada vs. Russia: updates from 2021 World Juniors semifinals

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The road to gold, to back-to-back gold, continues Monday for Canada, and a familiar foe will be across the ice — historically and in recent memory.

Just 364 days ago, Canada and Russia faced off for gold in the Czech Republic, with the Canadians mounting a ferocious three-goal comeback late in the third period to win 4-3 and capture the country’s 18th top prize. Now, the duo will meet in the semifinals of the 2021 edition of the IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

Six players return from Canada’s 2020 gold-medal winning squad (Quinton Byfield, Bowen Byram, Dylan Cozens, Jamie Drysdale, Connor McMichael and Dawson Mercer); Russia brings back three from its silver-medal team (Yaroslav Askarov, Vasily Podkolzin and Maxim Groshev). This year’s head coaches — Igor Larionov, aka “The Professor,” and Andre Tourigny — were at Ostravar Arena last year as assistants.

With a high number of returnees, will there also be emotional carryover?

“One hundred percent I think there will be carryover,” Drysdale said matter-of-factly. “We played each other in the finals last year, so, obviously, we want to maintain where we’re at and we obviously want to come out on top. But in saying that, obviously feel like they’re going to have something to prove because . . . It should be a really exciting, hard-fought game.”

Tourigny is just looking straight ahead.

“I think it’s enough there, we don’t have to add anything. The history between Canada and Russia, it’s well-documented and everybody knows how big of a game that will be and there’s nothing bigger than that at this point. . . . I think it will be a great game,” he said.

The history between these two countries does run deep at the World Juniors. In the last 28 years, since the Soviet Union dissolved, they’ve faced each other 27 times, with Canada holding a 14-12-1 edge. Its overall advantage is 20-19-2 when taking into account the Soviet Union years. These two teams also met in last year’s preliminary round, where the Russians handed the Canadiens their worst loss in tourney history.

“They’re going to be coming out for revenge this year and we’re going to be up for the task,” McMichael said Sunday. “It’s such a long rivalry between the two of the teams and we’re excited for it and we just can’t wait to get going [Monday].”

Both teams sport players who can bury the puck — Cozens leads the tournament with seven goals and is second to Trevor Zegras of the USA with 13 points. While the Canadians have spread out their scoring across all four lines — every skater has at least a point — the Russians rely heavily on their top six, which includes team points leader and Maple Leafs prospect Rodion Amirov (six).

The teams also sport two highly skilled netminders. Canada’s Devon Levi, the best goalie in the tournament statistically, has allowed just three goals on 90 shots, with all three goals happening when his squad was short-handed. Askarov, who surprisingly did not start the gold-medal game last year, has stopped 101 of 110 shots.

The Canadians have noticed a difference between this year’s crop of Russian players and last year’s squad — as if the cerebral style of Larionov, a Hockey Hall of Famer and three-time Stanley Cup winner, has rubbed off on his young charges.

“I’ve noticed they’re more patient with the puck,” said Drysdale, who scored the lone goal in these teams’ exhibition — but not against Askarov. “A lot of regroups, not throwing the puck away, things like that. Not afraid to just take it out of our offensive zone to regroup in the neutral zone.”

“Day and night. It’s totally different style, different philosophy, different objective in their game,” Tourigny noted. “They like to possess the puck, they regroup a lot, they have a good stretch on their breakout. . . . They’re still really stingy defensively, they still defend really well. They are strong on pucks, they’re fast. They’re a good team.”

Alex Newhook’s status for the game is unknown. Listed as day to day by Tourigny on Sunday, the Newfoundland native missed the quarterfinals with an upper-body injury. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Monday that Newhook is a game-time decision. His addition to the lineup would be an offensive boost.

His buddies are ready to face their toughest challenge of the tournament, and with a spot in the ultimate game on the line.

“We all know what’s at stake [Monday], we’re all excited,” McMichael said. “You just got to keep control of your nerves. . . . I think if we do that and stick to our systems, we’ll be fine. You just don’t want to overthink about it too much.”

Sporting News has all the action as Canada and Russia go toe-to-toe for a spot in the gold-medal game.

Canada vs. Russia scores, highlights from 2021 World Juniors semifinals

(All times Eastern)

Third period

7:57 p.m. — Final frame. Just twenty minutes standing in Canada’s way of another chance at gold.

Second period: Canada 4, Russia 0

7:37 p.m. — Great stop by Askarov with the toe. Wow.

7:37 p.m. — Lots of action. After a turnover in the neutral zone, Dylan Cozens breaks in but gets a hook on the hand — and Askarov made a good stop — so he is awarded a penalty shot.

7:35 p.m. — Power play ends for Russia. They had five shots on net and one disallowed goal.

7:35 p.m. — Something happened to Podkolzin and he is shaken up at the bench.

7:32 p.m. — Play was offside. No goal. Time put back on the clock, so Russia now has 1:35 left on the power play. Canada leads 4-0.

 

7:30 p.m. — Hold on. Canada challenging an offside call that happened like a million years ago. Looks like the attacker may have had his skate off the ice and not have possession as he was crossing the line.

7:29 p.m. — PP GOAL. Shot from the point gets blocked but goes straight to Abramov, who buries it into the empty net. Canada leads 4-1.

7:28 p.m. — Devon Levi with two big saves, and then it looks as if it was Jakob Pelletier who knocked the puck away to prevent what would have been a sure goal.

7:27 p.m. — Canada is short-handed as McMichael gets called for tripping.

7:21 p.m. — Devon Levi making a few stops with the paddle on a scramble in front. He has faced 11 shots thus far and turned them all aside.

7:14 p.m. — HAHA. They just played the 2020 penalty song. Memories.

 

7:14 p.m. — Canada heads back to the power play. Canada 1 for 2 already in the game.

7:11 p.m. — Ryan Suzuki rips it off the pipe.

7:05 p.m. — GOAL. Askarov again loses his stick — what, is that the third time tonight? — and Braden Schneider gets the puck at the point. The Rangers prospect rips it home. Canada is in control of this one. Canada leads 4-0.

 

7 p.m. — Second period is a go. Dylan Cozens notched assists on the last two goals and is now tied with American Trevor Zegras for the tournament lead with 15 points. He’s also now tied with Jason Allison for fifth all time for Canada at the WJC.

First period: Canada 3, Russia 0

6:45 p.m. — Solid first period from the Canadians.

6:34 p.m. — PP GOAL. Just seconds into the second two, Cole Perfetti, the Jets prospect, gets the puck just below the blue line, skates into the circle and rips it past Askarov’s glove. Canada leads 3-0.

 

6:33 p.m. — First two minutes over and nada.

6:30 p.m. — Podkolzin called for a four-minute high-sticking penalty as Bowen Byram gets some fixing on the bench. Canada’s power play has been meh, however; the team hasn’t scored one on the man advantage in the last two games (0 for 6). Russia, by the way, is 16 for 17 in the tournament on the penalty kill.

6:28 p.m. — Thirteen minutes and change into the period and Canada is outshooting Russia 11-4

6:25 p.m. — GOAL. Canada pads its lead. Jakob Pelletier, playing on that top line, feeds Connor McMichael, who knocks the puck into the empty net. They had a good chance earlier in the shift and then connected while Askarov was playing with a teammate’s stick as his goalie stick was lost along the way. Canada leads 2-0.

 

6:24 p.m. — Great defensive play by Kaiden Guhle in his own end as he steps up and breaks up the Russian rush in the circle after a drop pass.

6:21 p.m. — Another stop by Levi off the rush on a shot by Yegor Chinakhov (Blue Jackets).

6:20 p.m. — Russia’s top line gets some pressure and Levi has to make a good stop. Podkolzin (Canucks) smacks one off the outside, too.

6:13 p.m. — Dylan Holloway’s backhander has Askarov looking behind him. The Predators prospect is looking a little shaky off the top.

6:11 p.m. — GOAL! Hold on. That Newhook shot that went off the pipe — it dinged the back pipe in the net! Just 59 seconds in, he gives the Canadians the lead. Canada leads 1-0.

 

6:10 p.m. — Hmmm. Interesting. Horn in the building sounds while play is going on.

6:10 p.m. — Welcome back, Alex Newhook. He rings one off the post during a strong shift where he was a force on the forecheck.

6:09 p.m. — Puck has been dropped. Slightly disappointed in the referee — “Nothing to say about this one.” Sigh. A little bit more oomph would have been nice.

 

Pregame

5:55 p.m. — Newhook took line rushes.

 

5:14 p.m. — Lines are here.

 

2:18 p.m. — Alexis Lafreniere is keeping an eye on things, too.

 

2 p.m. — Hmmm, I wonder who Sidney Crosby is rooting for.

 

World Juniors 2021: Latest news

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Source: – Sporting News

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The Montreal Canadiens depth is about to be tested – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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The Montreal Canadiens have had a very straight forward season thus far. They have used 18 skaters and two goaltenders. The only transactions they have made have been to save cap room on off days.

Even Victor Mete, who is the only extra player on the active roster, has yet to play a game this season.

That will very likely change on Saturday when the team plays their third straight game against the Vancouver Canucks. The Canadiens depth has been the strength of their team through five games. From every line scoring, to minutes being distributed evenly, the team has proven that they have effective depth.

The other prong to that depth is having internal replacements. It was the reason the team added Corey Perry and Michael Frolik before training camp opened even though the lineup appeared set. A team with playoff aspirations — especially in the reality of the current season — needs to have players come in and perform.

With Joel Armia suffering from a concussion and Paul Byron leaving early after taking a shot off of his foot, there is a good chance someone will have to come into the lineup. Canadiens coach Claude Julien has no issue going to his taxi squad, especially for the two veteran forwards.

“Those two players have been a great example to our young players,” Julien said after Thursday’s 7-3 win against the Canucks. “They are leading the way right now. What we like about that is their experience and what they are showing to young players who want to become good professionals. They have a great attitude. That’s why [general manager Marc Bergevin] went out to get them: If things happen along the way, we have depth. They are players who can play, who can help us. We’ll see what our injury situation is and how we can react with any changes.”

The situation to bring both into the lineup isn’t as simple as changing the lineup card. Between the team’s cap situation and waiver situation, there will need to be some maneuvering. The Canadiens may have enough cap space to bring one player up without needing anyone to go on long-term injury reserve (LTIR). LTIR would require a player to miss a minimum 24 days or 10 games which is a lot of time for what could be a short-term injury just to get around the cap. LTIR would allow a team to replace the salary of the player. Regular injured reserve is only a minimum of a week but provides zero cap relief.

There is the chance, if both Armia and Byron — who Julien said would be evaluated day-to day — are out that the Canadiens may have to play with 11 forwards and seven defencemen since Mete is on the active roster.

Another possible option would be to send down Alexander Romanov for Saturday’s game, and play Mete in his spot on defence. That would allow both Perry and Frolik to be called up even if no one is placed on LTIR. It’s not ideal for the rookie defenceman, but it wouldn’t need to be a long-term solution either.

Bergevin knew he would have to pull off some cap gymnastics this season. He did his stretching during the off-season to prepare for the inevitability of injuries. Now we’ll have to see what happens now that those gymnastics, and the depth, is being tested.

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Habs Headlines: The Canadiens “really do have something” early on – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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In today’s links, the Habs are standing up to the likes of Matthews and McDavid, Tyler Toffoli brings back memories of Michael Ryder, and fallout from Washington’s Covid problems.

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Canadiens @ Canucks game recap: Montreal overpowers Vancouver in a rout – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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On Wednesday night, the Montrea Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks played arguably the most exciting game of the early NHL season. Despite falling 6-5 in the shootout, Montreal overcame some self-inflicted penalty trouble, battling back multiple times to salvage a point in their sloppiest game of the season. A hat trick from Tyler Toffoli, plus goals from Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Brendan Gallagher, helped pace Montreal’s offence.

Claude Julien stressed that the team needs to be more disciplined and toughen up on the penalty kill going forward. Despite the loss, there were no changes to the lineup, and given their play at even strength, it’s hard to argue that there should have been any changes made.

For the Canucks, they were without Travis Hamonic, who was hurt on Wednesday night. Brogan Rafferty drew into the lineup in his place. Also missing was Alexander Edler, who was replaced by Olli Juolevi. Between the pipes it was Jake Allen for Montreal, while Thatcher Demko got the nod for the Canucks.

In need of a fast start, the Canadiens got just that as Kotkaniemi outworked Rafferty along the boards and flicked a puck into the slot. Both Joel Armia and Toffoli missed their initial swings at the puck, but Toffoli connected and fired it past Demko for the game’s opening goal, and Toffoli’s fourth in two games.

The lead was short-lived as a failed clear by both Shea Weber and Tomas Tatar made it to the stick of Tyler Myers. The Canucks defender fired a harmless looking shot toward the net, and Bo Horvat deflected it by Allen to almost immediately tie the game.

The Canadiens followed that up by getting called for a dubious hook, triggering flashbacks to the previous night. Only this time the Canadiens put up the goal on a Vancouver power play, thanks to a brutal turnover by Nate Schmidt. The defender’s pass flubbed off his stick right to Toffoli, who in turn hit a streaking Joel Armia, who fired it past Demko easily.

The Canadiens proceeded to tale another penalty, this time for slashing, and the Canucks made them pay this time. Artturi Lehkonen misread where he was supposed to be covering, and by the time he noticed his mistake, Horvat had the puck and was firing it home for his second of the game, once again erasing the Canadiens’ lead.

Despite some more looks on a power play, Montreal couldn’t break the deadlocked game, and as the horn blew to end the period Joel Edmundson buried Tanner Pearson to take a penalty for his troubles. The teams went into the intermission with two goals each, but Vancouver started the second period with a full two-minute power play.

Once again, it was the Canadiens’ penalty-killing units bringing the pain against Vancouver thanks to sloppy play by the Canucks. Elias Pettersson’s pass was knocked away by Armia, who picked out Toffoli breaking in alone toward the Canucks zone. Armia hit him in stride and with a beautiful hard deke Toffoli fooled Demko, and tucked home yet another goal.

The penalty parade on both sides continued as Myers took a penalty, and then Nick Suzuki was called for a slash. The game continued to be choppy, sloppy, disjointed, and messy, but the Canadiens kept their lead intact.

Then Montreal remembered they were the far better team at even strength and pounded in three straight goals in just over 90 seconds to suck all the wind out of the Canucks’ sails. First it was Jake Allen playing a perfect rebound out of the Canadiens’ zone to Jonathan Drouin who fed it to Suzuki. Suzuki’s shot went up in the air as Demko got a piece of it, but Josh Anderson. trailing the play. choked up on his stick and swung, drilling the puck into the net for a two-goal advantage.

Off the ensuing faceoff, a dump-in caught Demko in no man’s land allowing Paul Byron to sneak in and steal the loose puck. Byron fired his pass across the crease and Jake Evans fired his shot off the crossbar and made it a three goal Montreal advantage.

Then, just to add insult to injury, Joel Armia added one more goal before the end of the period, taking a Kotkaniemi feed and dangling around Demko and making it 6-2.

With the game more or less in the bag, Montreal was content to let the game ride out and get out of Rogers Arena without further incident. However, Brandon Sutter had to introduce Alexander Romanov to the NHL first, with the veteran putting the rookie through a spin cycle and lifting a backhand past Allen to make it a 6-3 game.

Montreal then managed an actual self-inflicted wound later in the period, crossing off the “stay healthy” part of the checklist for this game. Shea Weber fired a heavy slapshot on net, and it managed to catch Paul Byron right in the skate boot, knocking him to the ice immediately. Byron needed help to the tunnel, making it seem like it might be a serious injury. He was able to return to the bench after several minutes before then heading back to the locker room.

A late power play gave Montreal a chance to get Toffoli his second hat trick in as many nights, but a fantastic save from Demko denied him the chance.

The game wasn’t without one final horrible moment thanks to Myers. Armia was working along the boards for a puck, and Myers lifted up and into Armia’s head, dropping the Finn and earning himself a five-minute major.

The Habs scored on the ensuing power play, with Ben Chiarot netting the first man-advantage goal of his career, sealing the game for good at 7-3.

Montreal, now with potentially two massive injuries to Armia and Byron may have to dip into their taxi squad for Saturday’s finale against the Canucks. Carey Price and Braden Holtby are the expected starters for the 7:00 PM EST clash.

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