'Tis the season to look forward to next year while lamenting the fact that this year's team is playing like so much garbage. Fortunately, we've got some decent hockey players in the system, one or two of whom might be worth a damn, which is frankly the only reason I decided to embark on this ridiculous quest. It's served to remind me why I don't really write at my regular site anymore: I just don't have the time, interest, or motivation to keep it up consistently. But, since we're in the home stretch, let's see what we can manage over the next couple of days.
USA 6, Finland 2: I tuned in for the last minute of the game to watch the Americans polish off the game with an empty-netter, then add insult to injury by rifling home an eminently saveable shot about ten seconds later. The story of Finland's tournament, at least from my perspective, has been the fact that this team is long on try but short on real talent, and what talent is there has only shown up intermittently. Perhaps most gallingly for Finns is that their Kiprusoff-inspired young 'keeper has turned in a decidedly 2008-09 Kiprusoff performance against good teams -- the Finns got lit up by Sweden and the US, and only lost by three to Canada in the pre-tourney because Canada couldn't get their shit together in front of the net -- when they needed a 2009-10 (or 2003-04, to be honest) Kiprusoff performance to have a shot at a medal. Too many bad goals, and not supported by a good enough team. As for the aforementioned talent, I'm told Toni Rajala and Mikael Granlund made the trip to Saskatchewan, but damned if I could tell. Seems Rajala had six shots while Teemu Hartikainen had eight, but the line ended the day with no points and a -2 rating each, and I wonder about how good the chances they generated were: if there's one thing I learned from the couple of games I did see of Finland, they can outshoot you from here to the moon, but they don't seem to be dangerous with any consistency. Put succinctly: after lighting up the relegation-round teams (CZE, AUT) to the tune of 14-4, Finland was outscored 15-3 by the three medal-round teams (RUS, SWE, USA) they faced. The Finns finish off the tournament with the fifth-place game (?) against Russia tonight.
Canada 6, Switzerland 1: It was closer than many expected for quite a while -- it was only 1-0 Canada until a fortuitous trickle and a terrible five-hole goal opened it up, and 3-1 going into the third period -- but in the end, the final numbers were as nature seemingly intended. Benjamin Conz put up a hell of a fight, and probably earned himself a late draft pick from someone in LA this June, but in the end, his flaws were mercilessly exposed whenever Canada took time away from taking stupid penalties (Patrice Cormier, Jordan Eberle) and flubbing easy one-timers (Nazem Kadri) and actually played good hockey. While Eberle and Taylor Hall had good individual performances, I truthfully liked the "Stampeding Elephants," Stefan Della Rovere, Luke Adam, and Jordan Caron, the most out of the Canadian forwards, simply because the puck stayed in the Swiss end every time they were out there, and more than one of their shifts ended in a white sweater doing the Skate of Shame. Speaking of shame, there was a moment late in the third, after the game was well in hand, when Jeffrey Fuglister ran Travis Hamonic from behind, seemingly injuring his shoulder. He got the appropriate penalty (five and a game), but even a suspension will be small comfort if Hamonic can't play in the gold-medal game, given that Calvin de Haan is playing through a "head injury" and Jared Cowen is...well, not playing, though that may change if Hamonic's down for the count, though maybe Brandon McMillan goes back there again, as he did when injuries struck against Slovakia. Final stat lines: Eberle (G, 2 PIM, 3 SOG, +1), Hall (2 G, 5 SOG, +2). Canada finishes the tournament in the gold medal game against (spoilers!) the United States tomorrow.
USA 5, Sweden 2: After a decidedly uninspiring game against Finland, Anton Lander showed up in a big way, or so the scoresheet would suggest, scoring both Swedish goals on four shots and finishing +1 in a 5-2 defeat. I read the comment thread on LT's site, and I think they can pretty well sum up how the game went. Strange that Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (4 SOG, E), after being one of Sweden's best players in the tournament, isn't out on the ice at all for a crucial late-game PP with the score 3-2, but Bruce actually watched the thing (my mom was sick, so I had to help out around the house), and might be able to give a better sense of how he played. Sweden finishes up in the bronze-medal game against surprise participant Switzerland tomorrow afternoon.