Every year at the World Juniors, Team Canada brings family and friends together around the TV. This year, the only difference is maybe you are watching the game with your friends on Zoom, however, the passion to cheer on Canada hasn’t changed. In this article, I wanted to look at Team Canada and why, after five games, they have yet to allow an even-strength goal against.
No team has scored against Canada playing 5v5, after five games, and yet, we are still looking for issues with the team. When you have a team full of first-round picks, you might assume they don’t work hard, or they don’t compete. A team that works harder than a skilled team will beat them any day of the week.
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But at the moment, not only is Canada packed with high-end players, they are working harder than their opponent with and without the puck. Let’s take a look at four things Team Canada has done exceptionally well when they don’t have the puck.
1. First on puck
How difficult it is to chase the puck the whole game?
On both sides of the rink, Canada is hungrier when hunting the puck. On every offensive and defensive rebound, they want to be first on the puck. If they are first, it makes the opponent’s life way harder to score off a rebound. And if they are not first, goaltender Devon Levi is there to step in and make the big save.
Being first on the puck not only applies after a shot, but it could also be on a foot race. Again, take a look at Team Canada hunting the puck and doing everything they can to be first on it, giving no chance for the opponent to establish possession. If you can’t establishes possession in the offensive zone, it’s a little more difficult to score.
On the forecheck, Mike Babcock once said there’s a difference between “the forecheck,” and “a team that forechecks.”
That was the difference with the Tampa Bay lightning this year compared to last. No exception here, Team Canada tries to retrieve the puck every single time they dump it in. If they are not first, they will be in your face, relentless and physical.
Their 2-1-2 doesn’t give many options for the opponent and is even tougher when the goaltender tries to play the puck. Canada’s forecheck is made with purpose and has a plan. They are coming with speed and trying to attack right after they retrieve the puck.
They are able to shutdown the opponent and not allow any goals, because they are so good when playing without the puck and establishing their forecheck to create turnovers or giveaways. You can notice that even if they are all first-rounders, they are all hungry to be F1 and be physical.
Lastly, when Canada is not able to establish their forecheck, all three forwards reload and come back through the middle with their stick on the ice.