Inside Team Canada’s stunning loss to the Czechs: What happened?

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Dumba and Ekblad look on as the Czechs walk over Canada.

The Czech Republic was predicted 17/1 to defeat Team Canada earlier today at the World Junior Championships, and they did just that. The Czech Republic defeated Team Canada 5-4 in a shootout, pulling off a stunning upset. Who is to blame? How did this happen? Should we be worried? There are a lot of questions to be answered inside the Team Canada locker room as they look to rebound against the Slovakians on Monday morning.

Offence was once again not a huge problem for the Canadians, but there were only a few bright spots in the Team Canada offensive unit against the Czech Republic. Curtis Lazar looked great, he was constantly pressuring the puck carrier and driving to the net. Both Lazar and Scott Laughton were the mere highlights for Team Canada. Drouin was also good in the game, but his efforts weren’t enough to pull Canada back on top. The most scrutinized player on Team Canada today was Connor McDavid. McDavid took some bad penalties and really hurt his team in the loss. For the first time in his young career, McDavid looked like a 16-year old kid against 19-year olds, and it was bound to happen eventually. Hopefully McDavid isn’t too hard on himself, and he can rebound against the Slovaks. Anthony Mantha was also a major dud for the Canadians today, taking a costly too many men penalty leading to a Czech power play goal. I’m still trying to figure out why Mantha touched the puck, he knew he was going off for a change and just decided to play the puck. In general, Team Canada’s forward core lost the puck battles and were simply outplayed, outhustled and outclassed by their opponents from the Czech Republic. The Czechs were always first to the puck, always won the puck battles along the boards and always drove harder to the net. The Czechs simply wanted it more than Canada did, and it showed.

Canada’s defence was the main problem in this game. There were simply too many blunders made by the defence that led to Czech goals. Canada’s defence was scrambling and chasing all game,

Czechs celebrate a goal.

following the puck like a dog chasing raw meat. Senior leader Mathew Dumba was a zombie today, just seemed lost all game and didn’t seem to have any jump in his game at all. Not to mention, he was a turnover machine. Aaron Ekblad scored a goal, but he also had some bad plays as well, he wasn’t active enough with the stick and it gave the Czech offence time and space to create scoring opportunities. I’m still not sold on Chris Bigras, still not seeing what Hockey Canada is seeing yet. Pouliot and Pelech also had poor defensive game as well, including many slips and mistakes all game for Canada. Coach Sutter will have to spend extra time with his defensive core to solidify them for the rest of the tournament, because we’re not winning any games with defence like that. And it’s not just the defencemen either, the forwards aren’t doing a whole lot to help out either. The entire team needs to start chipping in defensively or the team is going nowhere.

Like I’ve said since the beginning of the tournament, Fucale should be the #1 guy. Paterson isn’t to blame for the loss, but he wasn’t good by any means. Paterson was beat on too many clean shots,

Paterson getting undressed.

plain and simple. Paterson went down way too early on multiple shots that led to goals, he would’ve easily stopped them if he stayed on his feet and challenged the shooter. Not to mention, Paterson got absolutely torn in the shootout by the Czechs, and that loss has to be taking a mental toll on him. In my opinion, it’s time for Fucale to get his shot. Paterson has allowed 6 goals in the first two games against teams that aren’t considered to be the heavyweights in the tournament, I don’t want to know Paterson’s numbers against teams like Sweden and the United States. It’s time for Zach Fucale to get a shot at taking the wheel, all that’s left is for Brent Sutter to make the call.

It was a shocking and upsetting day for Team Canada in Malmo, but the show must go on. Sutter is no longer undefeated at the World Juniors, and who would’ve thought it would be the Czechs that would end Sutter’s streak of 13 undefeated games. Guys like McDavid, Mantha, Dumba and Horvat will need to step up to the plate if Canada is going to go far in this tournament, because right now it’s not looking to good. Is it too early to panic? Yes. There is plenty of time for Canada to turn the ship around and get back in the hunt. Maybe it’s a good thing that Canada got a loss out of the way this early, who knows. All we know is, Canada is going to have to regroup big time for their next game on Monday morning against the Slovakians.

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