With 16 players returning from the Russia/Canada Super Series tournament there was some question if this year’s junior national team could come out and dominate like they did against the Russians.
Many are completely sure that this will be no cake walk like it was last September for the powerful junior team, but after shutting out the host Czech Republic team 3-0, team Canada definitely carries some confidence as they continue further on into the tournament.
It was two 17-year-old juniors in their very first World Junior Tournament who had an outstanding game for Canada on Boxing Day. Jonathan Tavares and Steven Stamkos are already some pretty big names in the hockey world as they look towards careers in the NHL.
Stamkos is said to be the top guy chosen in the 2008 NHL entry draft and Tavares looks to go number one in the 2009 draft, but nobody could have scripted a better start for the youngsters in the World Junior tournament. Tavares currently sits second on his Oshawa General team in scoring but on the Team Canada roster he is first.
In today’s team Canada opener against the Czech host team Tavares came up huge netting two powerplay goals against Czech goaltender Michal Neuvirth, helping Canada to its first victory in the tournament.
Stamkos also had an outstanding game. At this point in the season he has 21 assists with the Sarnia Sting, third on team stats. On Boxing Day he came out huge assisting on all three of team Canada’s goals.
Another reason for Team Canada’s victory was goaltender Jonathan Bernier. He kicked off this year’s hockey season in London as the netminder for the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL’s London opener.
This game, Bernier looked down the barrel of 44 shots that the Czech team tested him with. The test was no match for him as he stopped them all and was awarded the Canadian player of the game. Even though Team Canada seemed to have all the answers to getting goals into the Czech Republic net, there are still many questions concerning the team and the amount of penalties taken.
The Canadians came out looking a little shaky in the first period—one might say they seemed almost nervous playing on the international stage. The Canadians took nine penalties the entire game, two of which came in the first three minutes. This is one thing Team Canada must work on. As as strong as the penalty kill looked on Wednesday, there are possibilities it might not stand that strong the entire tournament.
Team Canada will now try and get as much rest as they can because they don’t have much time until their next game. Thursday morning they will face off in their second game of the tournament taking on the Slovakians, a team that lost to Sweden earlier on Boxing Day.