The 2013 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship is set to start on December 26th. This year’s tournament is destined to be a bit more exciting because of the NHL Lockout. The lockout has given some of the younger NHL talent a chance to participate instead of playing for their NHL/AHL squads in somewhat limited roles. Team Canada has benefited the most from this as their roster is filled with NHL drafted players. That said, teams from Russia, USA, Finland, and Sweden are all capable of winning as is the case in any elimination tournament. So, I wanted to highlight some of the games you should check, record, wake up early for, and or stream on the internet.
Russia vs Slovakia may seem like a one-sided affair, but do not underestimate the mighty Slovakians. The fact is that the hockey program in Slovakia has improved, as it has in most parts of Eastern Europe, due to KHL exposure and overall improvement in the economies after the Soviet era. While Russia will be able to ice Mikhail Grigorenko, Nail Yakupov, Danil Zharkov, Kirill Kapustin, Nikita Kucherov upfront and some awesome goaltending in Makarov and Vasilevski, we can’t dismiss the Slovakian team’s talent. While having only one NHL drafted player, Peter Ceresnak of NYR, this team does carry lots of speed. The issue here is to be able to contain all the offense Russia has and preventing the turnovers. Russia can win this one 5-1, but just as easily it can be close. Regardless, it’s still worth waking up early so see!
One of the tournament favorites, Team Sweden took a bit of a blow when it lost a few of its top players. Mika Zibanejad was not given permission to play and Jonas Brodin and Oscar Klefbom will be out due to injury. This is still a helluva squad and is the defending champion. While, me being from over there and “there” being Eastern Europe, I may have a slight bias for these kind of games, but still, we know that Czechs can play hockey. This one is similar to the Russia vs Slovakia contest because of how one-sided it can go, but can also be a highly competitive game. To me the Swedes are not as good as they were last year and this could make for an interesting game. Wake up nice and early to catch this one!
Look, it’s not the Soviet era type of a rivalry, but come on! Russia vs USA in Russia? This is as good as it gets, and we may even catch Rocky Balboa and Ivan Dragon in attendance. Team USA is the underdog here, but it is still a good team. USA always plays with pride, but playing vs team Russia in Russia is going to be rough. Pride, history, and lots of talent on display during this game. I will be up and watching this one for sure! Alexander Galchenyuk was part of the Soviet Squad in 1987 in Piestany, and now his son Alex (born in Milwaukee Wisconsin) looks to be a key player for the Americans.
“If I can change, and you can change, everyone can change!” ~ Rocky Balboa
Well this is going to be another good one. While Canada is usually the punchline to a joke for most American sport fans, when it comes to hockey, Canada really likes to remind USA who the joke really is. A competitive game that will most likely have team Canada as the victor, but not without a few scraps. This is a true battle between two teams that have been bred to play that North American hockey style. No doubt, this will be one of the most entertaining games of the tournament. It is a very unfortunate time slot, but just keep on drinking until the game starts!
Finland and Sweden are two of my favorite countries to visit. I love the cold weather and just how nice people from Finland and Sweden seem to be. Well one of these countries is slightly better at Hockey than the other. While Sweden has been fairly more dominant the past few years, there is always going to be healthy competition between neighbouring countries. This is always an intense rivalry. While there might be less violence, compared to the USA and Canada game, this is one of those you want on your calender, and at least the time it airs is reasonable!
Here – we – go! This is the game everyone is really waiting for. Who can forget the Yakupov interview last year when Russia beat Canada 6-5. This year they are playing in Russia and expect this to be a mad house in the stadium. I almost planned a trip there myself for this game, but Hurricane Sandy put a damper on those plans as my car decided to be a submarine for the weekend. Anyway, what do you want me to say that won’t already tell you why your ass should be out of bed at 9 am? It will be a highly watchable game, and the game time is favourable, so if you can’t drag yourself out of bed for this one, please stop calling yourself a hockey fan. Oh, and… GO RUSSIA!!
These are my picks, but maybe you think I missed a good one. Please leave a comment below!
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