December 20, 2011
Canada's net presence a hot topic
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
CALGARY - This year, the pressure is on early.
The world junior hockey championship hasnít even officially begun yet and people are talking about the goaltending position being the potential weak spot for Team Canada.
The first period wasnít even over Monday night before those skeptics started to surface ó the gameís opening goal fluttering into the back of the net off Team Canada starter Mark Visentinís glove.
While Visentin snatched the job away from Olivier Roy last winter after the Canucksí loss to Sweden, Visentin collapsed in the third period of the gold-medal game against Russia, allowing five goals in the final frame en route to a 5-3 loss.
Some wonder if the combination of a young defence and Visentin might be Team Canadaís weakness.
The early goal to Teemu Pulkkinen probably made that scrutiny a little more intense before Canadaís potent offence started to get rolling in the 3-1 victory over the Finns.
But considering itís just the first of many games that donít really matter before the tournament officially begins, or the elimination games come into play, thereís plenty of time for an eager Visentin to prove he can win big games again as he did in the quarterfinal against Switzerland and the semifinal against the U.S. a year ago.
AGAINST THE GLASS
Team Canada fans should thank the Anaheim Ducks for loaning out winger Devante Smith-Pelly for the tourney. Heís a load at 212 lb. on a compact 5-foot-11 frame. Smith-Pelly was fun to watch as he threw his weight around all night. One of his big runs came against the other No. 22, Finlandís Miikka Salomaki ó who one Finnish writer compared to former Oilers pest Esa Tikkanen and ex-Flames gnat Ville Nieminen ... The Canadians didnít get their first shot off until nearly seven minutes passed in the first period. Of course, it is just a pre-tournament warmup, and the kids did start to show signs of a potentially dangerous offence as the game went on ... Not sure how many would have guessed Ontario farm boy Boone Jenner would be the first member of Team Canada to score, but he tied things up in the second period with a wrister through Finnish goalie Christopher Gibsonís five-hole. He snuck one through the same hole in the third but it hit the post.
IN THE CREASE
Nice display of patience by Jaden Schwartz, who on a one-on-four rush waited for Mark Stone to enter the zone before dishing the puck off late in the second period. Stone got off a shot from the high slot and then charged in after his own rebound to put Canada ahead 2-1 ... If every Canadian who missed the net on a glorious scoring chance had better aim, the hosts probably would have won by a handful ... He wasnít alone, but Tampa Bay Lightning youngster Brett Connolly, loaned out by his NHL club, displayed a big-league move late in the game in an effort to pad the lead. It came just short ... The Canadians have brothers Freddie and Dougie Hamilton, the Finns have Mikael and Markus Granlund. The latter Granlund is a Flames prospect, but neither flashed too much in their battle against the Canucks while playing on the same line. Their lacrosse moves are legendary but there wasnít much opportunity with the Canadians hogging the puck most of the night.
To the guy who brought his trumpet into the Dome, just for that one opportunity to blast off those three timely notes during the playing of the Canadian national anthem: That was a lot of lifting for such a short time in the spotlight ... A first for Flames fans who took in the game Monday night ó celebrating to the Fratellisí song Chelsea Dagger. Itís the same song the Chicago Blackhawks play after goals at the United Center, and the Flames have heard plenty of it ... Official 2012 mascot ĎPucksterí looks like some sort of Vulcan mutt with a bad Justin Bieber hairdo. Just sayin.í