Team Canada played the first semi-final of the World Junior Hockey Championships this afternoon against a very surprising Swiss team. The Swiss found their way to the semi-finals by stunning Russia 3-2 in overtime during their quarter final game on Saturday. To say this was an upset is a huge understatement. I don’t think that when the tournament began there was anyone, other than the odd delusional Swiss fan, that would have predicted they would be playing in the semi-finals.
The game started pretty much as predicted with Canada getting an early goal on the power play off the stick of Edmonton Oilers prospect Jordan Eberle. After that, the rest of the first period was scoreless although the Canadians dominated much of the play but were unable to solve Swiss goalie Benjamin Conz. Conz was one of the main reasons the Swiss beat Russia yesterday as he had 50 saves on 52 shots. Both teams had powerplays throughout the remainder of the first.
Canada came out flat to start the second period and gave the Swiss a couple of early power plays chances to even the score but the Canadians ended up with a great short handed goal by Marco Scandella. This was followed less than 2 minutes later with a great play by Taylor Hall to make it 3-0. Canada continued to play lazy and soon after took their third penalty of the period. The Swiss finally capitalized to make it 3-1. The Canadians still didn’t learn and took their 4th penalty of the period but they were able to kill this penalty off and were able to close out the period with a 3-1 lead.
The reasons were different but the result was the same. The Oilers finished the 2009 portion of their season losing to Calgary 2-1 in a game that could have been much worse had it not been for Jeff Deslauriers’ great job goaltending. His 37 saves was the reason it was only 1 goal loss. The rest of the Oilers decided to start their New Year’s celebration early and never showed up to test the Flames back-up goaltender Curtis McElhinney. 22 shots is hardly the kind of work needed to test a second string goalie who plays so infrequently that he has slivers on his butt from riding the pine.
Saturday night the Oilers started the 2010 portion of their schedule with a 4-1 loss to the Sharks in San Jose. Same result, one big difference. Again, the Oilers offence didn’t create the kind of chances that win many games but today they didn’t have the goaltending to give them any chance to win. While he stood on his head to make the saves against Calgary, Deslauriers appeared to be sleeping through portions of the game and 3 of the 4 goals should have been saved. Yes, as usual there were defensive breakdowns but fluff shots should not go in no matter who is in goal. Critical saves need to be made at critical times in order to give your team and chance to win and this happens to infrequently.