Friday, 9 May 2014

No Pushovers In This Tourney

Earlier this morning, we saw how an unprepared team can come into the IIHF World Championship and be out-worked by a team that wants to add another upset to their resumé. Canada suffered a somewhat-humiliating loss to France at the tournament in Belarus this morning in the shootout, and will now carry that stigma with them for a while. Of course, France shouldn't be considered a pushover at all considering they have an NHL-caliber goaltender, a star AHL player, and a decent set of forwards. However, when compared to the roster of Canada, France should have been on the wrong side of the ledger at the final score.

Canada, to their credit, did pick up a point for getting the game into the shootout, but this should have been a three-point game in their pocket. France annoyed, pestered, checked, and re-checked the Canadians at every turn as they looked like they were playing for the Stanley Cup rather than the opening game of the World Championship. However, when it comes to measuring sticks, there's no better test for a rising team than squaring off against one of hockey's superpowers and coming away with a win.

Ironically, it was one year to the day when France picked up their most notable win on the international hockey scene. Goaltender Florian Hardy allowed one goal on an Alexander Perezhogin shot, and Damien Fleury and Antoine Roussel scored the goals to help France to the 2-1 win over Russia, a team to which they had dropped all six previous games. Hardy stopped 28 shots in the win, including an Aleksandr Radulov penalty shot midway through the second period, in leading France to its biggest win at that point in their history. Highlights from that game can be seen in the following video.

Today, France added another notch to their belt, so to speak, in taking down Canada in the shootout. Those are two major powers in the hockey world that they have defeated in back-to-back years with similar styles of play: check hard, capitalize on chances, and defend the net like a bear defending its cubs. Canada, for its part, never really seemed to find its game and appeared to be going through the motions more than working hard and letting talent take over. That's all it takes for an upset, readers: hard work trumps talent every single time.

Congratulations to France on their victory as they jump to the top of the standings early this morning. It feels weird writing this, but Canada had better get a better effort together against Slovakia tomorrow, or they might be looking up at a lot of teams they are expected to beat fairly handily.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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