There was plenty of consternation to go around on Friday when France stunned Canada in the tournament opener, handing them a 3-2 shootout loss. There’s no getting around it: Canada played poorly, Cristobal Huet did not, and anything can happen once a game gets to the shootout.
You’re not supposed to lose to France. You’re supposed to attack them quickly, occupy their defensive zone, and wait for them to surrender. Yep, jokes about France surrendering. That’s what you get on the weekend.
France looked like a team, while Canada just looked like a collection of players, with many quick to point fingers at the team’s leadership, headed by newly-minted captain Kevin Bieksa. It’s not entirely fair — with 12 players under 25, some early nerves were inevitable — but Bieksa, along with fellow Canucks Jason Garrison and Alex Burrows, are among the few veterans on the team and will bear the brunt of responsibility for any failures.
It also means they’ll take a lot of responsibility for any victories, and all three played a major role in Canada’s bounceback victory over Slovakia.
Bieksa’s impact started with a literal one, when he ran over David Skokan halfway through the first period, but his most important contribution came late in the third period. With Canada up 2-1, there was a nervous feeling in the air, as one mistake could lead to a tying goal and another potential loss.
So, when Bieksa wound up his seldom-used slap shot and sent the puck past Jan Laco — with a little help from Ladislav Nagy’s knee — Team Canada looked visibly relieved.
Garrison assisted on both of Canada’s first two goals. After Slovakia opened the scoring, Joel Ward tipped in a Garrison slap shot from the point to tie things up. Then, midway through the third, Garrison made a nice pass up to Nazem Kadri in the neutral zone to catch Slovakia on a sloppy line change, picking up the second assist on Cody Hodgson’s eventual goal.
That goal stood as the gamewinner, with Bieksa providing the insurance. Burrows, not wanting to be left out of the fun, added his own contribution, shouldering aside defenceman Jan Brejcak along the boards with a power move before setting up Ward in front for his second of the game.
Bieksa and Garrison, skating together on the top pairing, are averaging 23+ minutes per game and are leading Canada with plus-3 ratings thus far. Bieksa is also second on the team in shots, with 6, behind only Kadri’s 7.
Garrison actually leads Canada in scoring with his 3 assists through two games.
Slovakia is not a top-tier hockey country by any means, but they did win silver in 2012, albeit with Zdeno Chara on the team. They’re certainly a big step above France and the win should give Canada some confidence heading into Monday’s game against the Czech Republic.
TSN has highlights of the game up online, but they’re not embeddable, which is infuriating. Instead, here’s highlights from Friday’s loss to France.Tags: Alex Burrows, Jason Garrison, Kevin Bieksa, Team Canada, World Championship