Happy New Year, and let's hope 2021 is… waaaaay better. Usually we'd be excited about watching the upcoming Winter Classic, but you shouldn't need me to explain why it isn't on. We will probably need to wait a while before we see any real improvements and a return to normal, but at least there's a feeling of hope as we can finally rip the 2020 calendars off the walls.
I haven't watched every game in the World Junior tournament, and I had quite honestly checked out of the games where Canada was steamrolling Germany and Switzerland. However, I made a special point to watch the Sweden/Russia game on Thursday night, and I'd have to believe it was the best game of the World Junior tournament.
Sweden's 54-game preliminary round winning streak, which came to an end in this game with a 4-3 overtime loss, is quite remarkable. It seems odd that the Swedes have won only one gold medal during that span (in 2012), but I could see how the usual heavyweights don't quite get it together or turn it up a notch once they get to the playoff round.
Back to the one-sided games. On one hand they don't reflect well on the tournament and how many teams are included. Yet in order for the game of hockey to grow, there has to be a mix beyond the usual 7-8 teams every year. There probably isn't an easy answer for this. I've always thought a mercy rule would be a good idea, but then there's the goal differential tiebreaker. So things are probably going to stay the way they are.
Speaking of which, another one-sided game happened again today, with the Czech Republic defeating Austria 7-0. Shots were 61-15 in favor of the Czech Republic. I find these shot totals at least as astounding as the scores.
So maybe we needed to look to Canada and Finland for a more competitive game. Well, Canada held a 3-0 lead after two periods, which seemed flattering considering that they also had a 35-7 lead in shots. Finland did claw back in the third period with a goal and the edge in terms of shots (12-5), but Canada put it away with an empty-net goal to win 4-1. Canada wins Group A and faces the Czech Republic in the playoff round on Saturday.
It was more of the same in the US/Sweden game, with the Americans scoring two goals in each of the first and second periods to cruise to a 4-0 win. The US wins Group B and faces Slovakia in the quarterfinals, while Sweden faces natural rival Finland. Russia faces Germany in the other quarterfinal matchup.
For a more detailed team-by-team overview of the World Juniors, check out the Prospect Ramblings from our Journey writer Mr. Dave Hall.
Good news for Brad Marchand owners. According to Boston Hockey Now, it appears that the pesky forward should be ready for the start of training camp. Marchand underwent sports hernia surgery in September and was expected to be recovered sometime in January,