The Canada-Russia Challenge, which ended with an unusual situation in which Canada had to win in overtime despite leading 4-2 after the end of regulation, featured two Boston Bruins draft picks performing well and earning even more approval from fans like me.
Dougie Hamilton and Malcolm Subban were among a Canadian team full of recently-drafted talent, many of them putting together big performances in the four-game series that may increase their standing with the teams that drafted them.
The series opened in the city of Yaroslavl, Russia, home of the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team. Last summer was a tragic summer for Lokomotiv as a plane crash took the lives of 44 players and staff, including Brad McCrimmon, an NHL alumnus who was coaching the team. His father Byron accompanied the Canadian team to Russia to pay his respects before the Canada-Russia Challenge began. The players paid their respects as well and proceeds from Yaroslavl-hosted games one and two went to the victims' families.
The series was also an anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series played between Canada and the old USSR, featuring NHL greats like former Bruin Phil Esposito, who delivered an impromptu televised speech chiding a Canadian crowd that booed the team after the series' fourth game. This time around, Esposito did not need to chide anyone--instead, he gave a pep talk phone call to the Canadian team before the decisive fourth game.
Hamilton scored a game-winning power play goal in game one to give Canada the series lead with a 3-2 victory. His prowess on the power play is especially encouraging, considering the Bruins' struggles with the man advantage. Though that would end up being his only time on the score sheet in the series, still the fact that he's a defenseman capable of offense and of doing things on the power play is a good thing indeed for the team he might be on as soon as training camp.
Subban performed especially well when called upon to mind the net for Canada: they won both the games where he was the goalie of record--games one and four--but lost both games two and three, where he was on the bench. During game four, he made a huge sliding save on fellow 2012 first-round draftee Nail Yakupov to hold the game at a tie and allow Canada to surge ahead. But even though Canada had a 4-2 lead at the end of regulation, the series could not end with a two-win tie since Russia had two wins under its belt. So, a very unusual overtime period began--and then ended when New York Islanders prospect Ryan Strome put away the game- and series-winning goal.
Subban's youngest brother Jordan is currently playing for Canada too at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament for under-18 players. These are all players who are eligible for drafting in 2013 or 2014. Perhaps the Bruins could make a move for the youngest Subban, who plays defense, when he's ready for selection next summer.
Hamilton and Subban doing well at the Canada-Russia Challenge shows the high caliber of Bruins draft picks and gives me hope, as a fan, for the future of the team.
Emma Harger is a Bruins fan who is happy to see hockey being played again, even if only at the exhibition level, because it is August after all.