...concluded Monday and once again Canadians are disgruntled and angry. The pride of the juniors blew yet another gold medal opportunity with the game practically in the bag.
Another silver medal: Hi-Ho Silver!! A silver medal is similar to pocket change: shiny, heavy, and doesn`t buy much.
This under-20 competition is great hockey - fast, hard-hitting, and skillful. The top five or six teams usually build their game around scoring; well, the Swedes don`t, but how often do they win? Goaltenders and defencemen are run ragged trying to stymie high powered forwards.
This year the high octane attacks belonged to the United States and Canada. Canada scored 25 goals in the preliminary rounds and the Americans 21. Both had 4 goals scored against them. The Canadians figured they had an advantage off the top playing goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury is playing in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins at 19 and managing to keep his chin above water.
Fleury was last year`s top goaltender at the World Juniors so with him returning, bringing that precious NHL experience, Canada`s goal had a brick wall.
Canada won five straight gold medals in the mid-nineteen nineties, bringing their haul of gold to ten. In earlier years Canada seemed to either win gold or nothing. One year really was nothing as the team was disqualified for a massive brawl with the Russians. At least we won most of the fights.
Canadian gold medal ceremonies stopped in 1997, replaced by head-scratching, finger pointing, loud roars from Don Cherry, and wails of despair over our crude coaching techniques from the top of the food-chain to the bottom. At times teams lost because of factors not related directly to the players: one group was over-confident(coaching); one coach convinced his team the more they hit, the more they`d win; another lost control of his players on the bench. Now and again coaches made bad decisions, or none at all, and cost their teams gold medals.
Each subsequent team promised to eliminate its predecessor`s weakness: too slow? pack the lineup with burners; can`t score? load the team with centres; can`t hit? Well, we know where that one leads.
Our latest failure had 11 club team captains. Next year - no captains.
This year`s edition broke down at the one position on the ice thought to be puck-proof - goaltending. Up till the championship game, Fleury had been adequate, not spectacular. No-one flapped, our guy`s a big-game `keeper. Maybe not.
Fleury`s teammates appeared to settle into the final game much more quickly than he. Fleury looked nervous; once or twice he lost sight of the puck after a shot. He made a series of great saves in the second period and the Canadians entered the third leading 3-1.
After a great shot made the game 3-2 Canada, they began to look rattled.
Then Fleury gifted the Americans the tie when a weak shot from Ryan Kesler rolled up his stick, over his shoulder, and into the net. The winner was flat-out terrible. After a shot Fleury wildly swung at the puck, bouncing it off one of his defencemen and into the net.
The last five minutes of the game were irrelevant.
So, let the inquest begin; the gavel naturally will be Maxwell`s silver hammer.