January 05, 2010
SASKATOON -- Well, it's time for The Big One. Canada/USA Part Deux: The Rematch. The last time they played, they tied. Then they had one of those stupid tiebreaking procedures and Canada got the win. Let's hope it doesn't come down to that tonight (and there will be a full 20-minute OT on resurfaced ice before a shootout is brought in this time); and if it does, let's hope it doesn't become "First save wins" like last time.
Goaltending is probably the most interesting part of the equation here: Neither Jake Allen(notes) (CAN) or Mike Lee (USA) have had to be all that good to get here. Sure, Allen got two shutouts to start off the tournament, but Latvia and Switzerland fired a meagre 25 shots on him combined ... and they weren't of high quality.
Mike Lee hasn't cost his team a game yet, but hasn't had to make pressure saves even in the two playoff games against Finland and Sweden.
That said, the experience of Lee in those games will be valuable, while Allen will have to draw on his experience from New Year's Eve. In a one-game showdown, either could be the story by the end of the game, stealing a victory or losing it like Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) in 2004.
Ah, 2004. That was the last time these two met in the Finals. The USA won their only U20 WJHC gold medal to date. Since then, Canada has only lost once at the tournament: a preliminary round game in the 2008 tournament to Sweden lost with 7 seconds left in regulation on a goal by Tobias Forsberg. Canada avenged that loss in overtime in the Finals that year, with Matt Halischuk(notes) the hero.
Twice since 2004, the USA has pushed Canada to a shootout, only to lose. The most memorable was in the 2007 semi-final when Jonathon Toews, now of the Chicago Blackhawks, scored three times and Peter Mueller(notes) scored only twice in the coin flip, giving Canada the win.
Canada has a better PP, but the US has a better PK, and scored twice shorthanded against Canada on Dec 31. Canada has more puck skill, but the US has more speed. Canada has Schenn, Kadri, and Cormier down the middle. USA has Stepan, Schroeder and Jenks.
De Haan and Cowen will be used sparingly, and if the game goes into OT or is close late in the 3rd, the speedy Yanks could be too much for the group. The US enters the game with no significant injuries on the back end, and boasts the tournament's top two way defender in John Carlson(notes).
Head to head, the advantage tilts slightly to the Americans going in. But will Canada really lose the streak on home ice? Join Puck Daddy for the live blog as the puck drops at 8 p.m. EST.
Notebook: Switzerland and Sweden go for bronze at 4 p.m. EST. D Lukas Stoop and D Patrick Geering will likely play for the Swiss despite having some injury concerns. ... F Nikita Filatov(notes) (RUS) had his captaincy stripped prior to the 5th-place game between Russia and Finland. A berating by Coach Vladamir Plyushchev during an intermission in the quarter-final vs. Switzerland preceded the action. F Kirill Petrov served as captain as Russia lost 4-3 to finish 6th... Latvia got a win, beating Austria 6-4, while the Czechs beat the Slovaks 5-2 in games that were merely academic.