USA vs. Canada is the matchup that hockey fans in North America wanted, and we got it. The World Junior Championship is a tournament like no other. It’s among the greatest in the world.
Team Canada is the favorite. Don’t get that twisted. There’s no possible way to say anything otherwise. Devon Levi, on paper, has been the best goalie in the tournament, and that’s just the way it is.
— sportsology (@sportsology) January 5, 2021
Dylan Cozens (Sabres) is the leading scorer in the tournament tied with Trevor Zegras (Ducks) from Team USA. Connor McMichael (Capitals) centers that top line for Canada, and he’s been nothing short of spectacular at times, but Cozens has been earning most of that spotlight.
Canada’s defense is highly mobile and physical, and that’s where Braden Schneider comes in. He has three points in five games, but his physical edge got him a suspension but also the admiration of New York Rangers fans across the globe. He and Kaiden Guhle (Canadiens) has chipped in offensively, but it’s his other contributions like hard play in his own end, and his physical play that could be a key to beating the U.S. Jamie Drysdale is the most dynamic defenseman in this game, the U.S. team doesn’t have anybody like that.
Cam York (Flyers), has been very good and was voted the best player of the game. He gets a watch for his trouble and a chance to win gold. Defenseman Drew Helleson (Avalanche) has become enormously important to the success of this team because of his steady play, good choices with the puck heading up the ice, and his willingness to block shots as he did late in the game to help defeat a pesky Finnish squad. He’s a +7, tied for second on the team, and he’s averaging 43 seconds per shift, showing his importance when he’s in the game. Jackson LaCombe (Ducks), has earned his ice time, and he got his first point against Finland and was a key contributor late in the game with great skating and accurate passes.
On offense, Zegras has been all-world. Nothing to add there. John Farinacci (Coyotes) has been clutch. It was a LaCombe pass that sprung Farinacci free to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead.
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Cole Caufield (Canadiens) has been playing both ends of the ice lately, and that’s helped make the second line, along with dynamic center, Matty Beniers, a hard line to deal with. Beniers doesn’t have the highest face-off percentage on the team, Farinacci does, but Beniers does face better centers on the second line, and he is the U.S. go-to guy late in the game for that, and in the interim, he creates havoc out there with his skating and edgework and Matt Boldy (Wild) has been hard to cover. He’s tied for the team lead in goals (5) with Farinacci.
Arthur Kaliyev (Kings) scored the game-winner, and he’s been playing much better in tight quarters. Getting off some impressive shots and finally another goal. He only has three and maybe, just maybe, he will heat up for the gold medal game.
For those who decided Spencer Knight was overrated or needed to be replaced, you saw why that would have been a mistake. Now you have a goalie who doesn’t panic and has a ton of experience in big games. He can’t do it alone, and his defense in front of him has to keep the Canadian players to the outside and clear out any rebound. That’s easier said than done against one of the best forward groups Canada has ever assembled in this tournament.
The U.S. has to keep the puck in the rink. They can’t have as many as they did against Finland.
I think Canada will win this game.
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