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Quarterfinal day is here at World Juniors; NHL's new broadcast landscape

August 17, 2022, 12:49 PM ET [333 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Wednesday is quarterfinal day at the World Junior Championship. And because all four games are being played at the same venue, it'll be an all-day experience at Rogers Place — kicking off with Joni Jurmo and Finland taking on Germany starting at 9 a.m. PT.

This should be a relatively straightforward matchup for the Finns, who have departed from their stereotypical gameplan by scoring a ton of goals so far: 22 in four round-robin games, with Joakim Kemell and Aatu Raty tied for second in the scoring race with nine points each.

The Finns have reached at least the semifinal stage in the last three tournaments. Of course, they beat out Team USA for gold in Vancouver in 2019. Then, they dropped the bronze-medal game to Sweden for a fourth-place finish in the Czech Republic in 2020, but rebounded to beat Russia for bronze in 2021.

Canucks prospect Joni Jurmo will be looking to collect some hardware in his first major international tournament. Given his status as a late addition to the squad, he has played reasonably well, with his strong skating as the highlight of his game. And even though he got 'posterized' by a 17-year-old in Canada's 6-3 win over Finland to close out the preliminary round on Monday, the general consensus seems to be that Connor Bedard's goal was more about his own skill — especially his otherworldly shot — rather than any particular mistake by Jurmo.

The pinpoint pass from tournament scoring leader Mason McTavish was also pretty-much perfect. But Jurmo did get caught a bit flat-footed, did he not?

Early leads have been a trademark for the Finns, and that's holding true early in the quarterfinal. They're up 3-1 after one period. Jurmo, once again, is anchoring the third defense pair, partnered with Florida Panthers prospect Kasper Puutio, and was on the ice for Finland's first goal, which was scored at even strength just 3:37 into the first.

The Canucks' own young prospect, Jonathan Lekkerimaki, will skate in Wednesday's second game, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. PT. Sweden is taking on Latvia, and even though this will be the Latvians' first-ever appearance in the knockout round at the top level of World Juniors, this is the game that has the most potential for an upset, to me.

Sweden's 3-1 record in the preliminary round isn't terrible — and they did score twice in the third period after going down 3-0 against the Americans in their only loss, making a game of it. But I presume Jesper Wallstedt will get the start on Wednesday, and he has been somewhat spotty in net; Calle Clang has much better numbers in his two starts, but he got the easier games against Germany and Austria.

And the Swedes haven't been feasting offensively like the other top teams. They have just 15 goals in four games compared to 27 by Canada and 22 each by the Finns and the Americans. Their top scorer is undersized defenseman Emil Andrae, with seven points. Their top-scoring forwards are Oskar Olausson, with five points, and former Vancouver Giant Fabian Lysell with four.

Averaging 11:53 of ice time per game, Lekkerimaki is one of five Swedish forwards with three points. But the player who was drafted for his own laser-beam shot hasn't rippled the twine since Sweden's preliminary-round game against Canada. All three of his points in tournament play are assists.

One bit of good news for the Swedes: after top defenseman Simon Edvinsson missed his team's final game against Germany, reportedly with food poisoning, he should be back in the lineup on Wednesday — although it's hard to know if he'll be at 100 percent.

The Latvians had one of those galvanizing moments that will go down in history when they decisively took down the Czechs by a 5-2 score for their first-ever win at the top level of World Juniors. So they'll be playing free, with nothing to lose. All the pressure will be on Sweden: let's see what they're made of.

The two strongest teams from the preliminary round will close out the action on Wednesday.

Canada finished first in Group A with a perfect 4-0 record, and will face Switzerland — who gave Sweden a run for their money in a 3-2 loss but earned their only win against Austria in group play. Puck drop for that game is at 4 p.m. PT.

Then, Jacob Truscott and the Americans will take on the Czechs at a west coast-friendly start time of 7:30 p.m. PT — 10:30 p.m. out east. Team USA also ran the table in the round robin, going 4-0 in Group B.

Goaltending was a question mark for the U.S. squad coming in, but undrafted Kaidan Mbereko of Colorado College has carried the ball admirably. He has allowed just four goals in his three starts — all wins, of course.

Truscott and his mates have also done an excellent job at limiting chances by their opponents. They've allowed just 80 shots on goal over four games — an average of 20 shots per game, by far the lowest in the tournament. Canada is second with 95 and Finland is third with 99.

Thursday will be a day off, then the World Junior semifinal games will be played on Friday, with the medal games on Saturday.

After that, I imagine, the hype train for the new NHL season will kick up another notch.

One thing that has my attention this week: in case you missed it, there's a change in the NHL's out-of-market streaming service in Canada for the upcoming season. Previously administered within NHL.com and recently called NHL Live after having been known as Rogers Gamecentre Live for several years, Rogers/Sportsnet will be taking over the package this season. It becomes part of the Sportsnet Now Premium streaming bundle, which also includes some additional international soccer and rugby programming, as well as WWE. The annual price is $249.99, which is an increase from the old NHL Live price — especially the early-bird rate of $179.99 which I have been paying. But they are currently offering a free preview of the service for NHL Live subscribers, which I signed up for yesterday: I'm not especially interested in Blue Jays baseball, but I am interested in getting a feel for the interface. And there is a promise that NHL Live subscribers will be able to sign up to the new Sportsnet service this season for the same price that they paid for NHL Live. A promo code is supposed to be mailed out sometime before the season begins.

As an obsessive viewer of out-of-market games, I liked things the way they were. I even upgraded my Apple TV last year so that I could take full advantage of all the NHL Live features on the interface. It was still a bit buggy, but I appreciated the live game scores at the bottom of the screen while I was watching one or two games up top. Sportsnet is saying that it might not carry both home and away broadcasts for all games, which is disappointing. And they're eliminating the radio feed option, which is something that I used from time to time in my car or when I was out on foot.

Speaking of radio rights, there has been a lot of chatter over the past few weeks about whether or not the Canucks will be back on Sportsnet 650 this fall. It's an interesting situation — where Rogers likely felt like they were in a strong bargaining position since they wouldn't have to bid against TSN1040 this time around, but the Canucks are open to bringing their broadcasts in house, as some other NHL teams and clubs in other sports have already done.

Both these situations are evolving out of the changing technology landscape around media, which don't have the same barriers to entry that they once did. It'll be interesting to see how things shake out.
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