TCGD: Putin it all on the line

Canada’s performance against Russia in the past few World Juniors tournaments leaves a lot to be desired. Fortunately, every year the roster is completely turned over and there isn’t any reason to believe that trend has to continue. Nonetheless, the Russian’s still have the same head coach in Valeri Bragin that has kept the Russians so damn competitive over the past half decade.

The Russians have forsaken their stereotypical enigmatic roster, and have opted for a blue collar, lunch pail, physical lineup that Hockey Canada would be proud to dress. Canada will have its first true test of the tournament against its historical and greatest rival.

Here is the statistical breakdown of Canada and Russia (via CHLStats.com)

Team Canada

While Russia has been great, Canada has been nearly flawless. With three lines producing solid offense, and the fourth line doing a solid job of controlling play, there is little concern about the forward group. The defense has been equally strong, and with the Russian team opting for a more conservative style, Nurse and Theodore should be available whenever they are needed to matchup against Russia’s top line. 

Josh W. has been tracking Team Canada throughout the World Juniors over at NHLNumbers.com, here is his analysis:

2015 World Juniors Round Robin Hotwash

Canadian WJC Bottom 6 Forward Usage

Canadian WJC Top 6 Forward Usage

Team Canada’s Defencemen

Canada Lineup via Bob McKenzie’s twitter

Petan – McDavid – Lazar

Domi – Reinhart – Duclair

Point – Paul – Virtanen

Crouse – Gauthier – Ritchie

Morrisey – Bowey

Nurse – Theodore

Hicketts – Heatherington

Morin

Team Russia

Here’s the story of a group of plucky underdogs who overcame a loss against the Czech Republic and fought their way past the United States and Sweden to earn themselves a spot in the tournament final. What a great story, of course that won’t change the narrative that Russians don’t play with heart and all of these players would prefer to stay in the KHL than ever report to the NHL teams that drafted them. 

The interesting thing about this matchup is the juxtaposition of the two teams. This year Team Canada has the lineup with incredible depth of skill and the Russians are the team hoping that grit and heart can close the gap on talent.

Russian Lineup (used vs. Sweden)

Buchnevich – Barbashyov – Leshenko

Fishenko – Mamin – Bryukvin

Golyshev – Sharov – Dergachyov

Kamenev – Goldobin – Tolchinski

Rafikov – Bryntsev

Cherepanov – Gavrikov

Yudin – Paigin

Valiev – Provorov

Starting Goaltenders

Zach Fucale (image via @Dr_Habs)

VS.

Igor Shestyorkin

Since Shestyorkin has been the starter for Russia throughout the tournament he’s the likely candidate to start again tonight, however Bob McKenzie, on TSN 1260 Edmonton this morning, speculated that Ilya Sorokin could get the start on the strength of a great performance against Canada in pre tournament play.

For Fucale, it’s a chance at redemption from last years tournament, as well as a decision that will likely be criticized in the event of a Canada loss, as Comrie has played just as well and starting on back to back nights isn’t ideal. Once again, here’s Josh W. with a look at Canada’s goaltenders.

What to Watch for

  • A game ending with a 6-5 final score
  • References to the ’87 bench clearing brawl, Gretzky to Lemieux, and Paul Henderson
  • Let’s face it, if Canada’s winning all we’re going to see clips of are the goals from the collapse four years ago.
  • Hey look, there’s Tretiak in the stands. Let’s get a reaction shot of him after every goal
  • Either way, the anthem at the end will be nails. A Canada win would be preferable, but the Russian anthem is a lights out tune
  • Does McDavid take that extra step towards building his legend tonight?
  • Do you like Rocky IV and Yakov Smirnoff jokes? Your twitter feed has you covered.
  • This will probably be the best game of hockey any of us watch until the NHL playoffs