Power play needs a tuneup

Canada's Ryan Ellis is grabbed by Sweden's Adam Larsson during second period World Junior...

Canada's Ryan Ellis is grabbed by Sweden's Adam Larsson during second period World Junior exhibition action in Toronto on Tuesday. (QMI Agency/Michael Peake)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:12 PM ET

TORONTO -- One-for-10 isn't going to cut it in Buffalo.

The Canadian world junior team's power play has to get better in a hurry. They have three days left to fix it.

They beat the undisciplined Swedes 4-1 before an announced 15,353 at the Air Canada Centre Tuesday night but because of the poor production with the man advantage, a potential blowout turned in a nail-biter until Ryan Johansen's insurance goal with 4:05 left in the game.

"I thought our power play was like our game," Canadian head coach Dave Cameron said. "Sluggish and sloppy."

The home side couldn't make the angry Swedes, who got the bulk of their airline-wayward equipment about 90 minutes before puck drop, pay for their sins.

"We got lots of practice on the (penalty kill)," Swedish head coach Roger Ronnberg said, "and we did pretty well against them, but we've got to tone it down a bit. We can't take that many penalties against a team like Canada when we play them again (New Year's Eve)."

They can if the Canadians continue to fire blanks while up a man or two. Their only power play goal ended up the winner when Zack Kassian beat Swedish goalie Robin Lehner, Ottawa's version of the mini-Monster, in tight on a two-man advantage.

The Canadians also had a long 5-on-3 in the third, but didn't score.

"It takes some getting used to different guys out there," the big Windsor Spitfires forward said. "We've worked on the power play for five days and you have guys from different teams trying to come together as a unit in our system.

"We made some nice passes out there but need to get more pucks to the net and get big bodies in front. You want to bury a team when they take that many penalties."

Canadian captain Ryan Ellis, power-play quarterback for a third straight year, doesn't think this team is too far away from humming on all cylinders.

"We did some good things with it but had some blocks and hit some sticks in front," he said. "It'll get better. The power play is important in this tournament, but so is the PK and 5-on-5. We want to win all those aspects in a game."

So what's going to be the key ingredient for Canada when the ref whistles down another opposition infraction?

Chemistry? Ellis? Shaking up the two units?

"Skill," Cameron said.

That's the best way to make a team pay.

Other countries know, minus the gifted scoring of a John Tavares or Jordan Eberle, the Canadians will need a strong power play to make up for those types of missing star scorers.

"I thought we held in really well against them," Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog, the Kitchener Rangers captain, said. "We can play physical and our penalty kill was very good. It was good to go through this kind of game before the tournament starts."

If Canada can't convert their PP chances, they'll struggle to win a tough pool.

In Ellis, they already have junior hockey's premier point man with the man advantage.

But clearly, they need more.

"We've been working on our power play a lot the last few days trying to find the chemistry," said Canada defenceman Tyson Barrie, who has an offensive flair. "We want two strong units. Being able to score a lot on the power play is a huge advantage and we think we have the guys here to do it."

Because the power play will be vital for this Canadian group, it gives a player like Barrie a shot at more ice time and a bigger role.

He knows it, too.

"When you play for the national junior team, there are a lot of good players here and you're not going to get the ice you normally do," said the Kelowna Rockets blueliner and Colorado prospect, who's the son of former Tampa Lightning co-owner Len Barrie. "If you can show you can contribute on the power play, it only helps you."

For now, it's back to the drawing board.

"The power play wasn't that good," said forward Brayden Schenn, who sparked the Canadians with his first-period goal. "We know we've got to be better at it. We'll keep working at it. It takes some time."

And on the bright side, they didn't get booed off the ice like Schenn's big brother Luke's team -- the Maple Leafs -- in Monday's loss to Atlanta at the ACC.

"I saw some highlights of it and saw a few waffles flying," Brayden joked.

The power-play goals might not be there yet, but the sense of humour is still going strong.

twitter.com/ryanpyette


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