Can Team Canada Handle the Pressure?

It’s déjà vu all over again for Canada’s highly touted World Junior team.

After steam rolling their opponents so far, Canada finds themselves facing a solid Finnish team in the final round robin game.

Obviously, Canada is the class of the tournament or are they?

Could a team upset the heavily favoured Canadians?

It’s hard to be critical given their performance, depth and skill, but Canada has some areas that they could certainly improve on heading into the games that matter most.

Clearly one has to look beyond all the goals, highlights and hype to spot potential weaknesses.

Photo Credit Hockey Canada

Obviously, they have out classed their opponents thus far, but they are a long way from capturing Gold.

I realize 95% of the team are shaking off the rust, but they could be in some trouble when the stakes get higher.

We all know what Canada’s high profile D-corps are capable of.

They are all phenomenal skaters and puck movers, but how are they going to handle pressure? Canada’s greatest strength, their defence, could also be one of their weaknesses.

How is Team Canada’s defence going to handle pressure?

I’m not talking pressure of the tournament or big games, I’m talking forecheck pressure.

Does Team Canada support the puck well enough when pressured?

Are their forwards committed enough to go back to the puck and breakout as a 5 man unit.

Can they execute when it matters most?

How are they going to adapt to the pace and pressure of a strong forechecking and aggressive team?

It’s extremely difficult to flip the switch especially when you haven’t played a ton.

With so many puck movers and transitional guys back there are Team Canada’s backend going to be committed to making the small subtle plays or are they going to try to force the issue and skate out of trouble when the chips are down?

A less is more approach will no doubt be needed for Canada moving forward especially when facing stiffer competition and teams that are relentless on the forecheck.

As for Canada’s forwards, there’s enough solid two-way players on their roster to understand the importance of supporting the puck coming out of their own zone.

It would appear Andre Tourigny has solidified his lines. Nevertheless, I would love to see more of Alex Newhook and Dawson Mercer.

It would be great to see them play together on a line.

What about Canada’s shut down pairing moving forward?

Who is Tourigny going to rely on the most in a defensive role?

From a transitional or breakout perspective, another big question mark for Canada is the puck handling skills of Devon Levi.

Don’t get me wrong Levi has been great between the pipes thus far.

One scouting colleague who has watched Levi a lot said that he would never bet against the kid due to his amazing compete level.

My one concern is his puck handling skills.

Levi struggled last game and got crossed up several times with his defencemen when handling the puck.

Small mistakes aren’t magnified when playing against inferior opponents, but they tend to rear their ugly head at the worst times when the pressure is on.

There’s no question Tourigny will have his team prepared entering the final round robin game tonight.

Let’s all hope Canada can flip the switch and rise to the occasion once again and capture Gold.

There’s still work to be done and one can only imagine the pressure that these young future stars are facing.

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