Canada made some change to the lines going into this tournament. They had Gabriel Bourque on a different line in the pre-competition games, but they decided to put him with Patrice Cormier on the so-called checking line against Latvia. And they threw Brandon Kozun, a good offensive player from the Western Hockey League, on that line because they wanted to give it a bit more enery, a bit more of a dynamic quality to it.
My goodness, talk about dynamic! A Canadian world junior team record-tying performance by Bourque, with seven points, while Kozun had a big night with five points, and Cormier had four. Seven of Canada's 16 goals came from the so-called shut-down line.
You have to keep in mind that this was against Latvia, but that was part of the goal for Team Canada when they put this line together, to try and create more offensive upside for what is normally regarded as a checking line.
There was an inexpensive lesson learned by Nazem Kadri and Team Canada against the Latvians. Kadri made what a lot of people would consider to be a great hit - coming in on the forecheck, he streamrolled his man, but the Latvian player had his head down a little bit and Kadri shoulder went right into his head. In international hockey it is very clear - there is no such thing as a legal shoulder check to the head - and Kadri earned a head-checking penalty (two minute minor and a ten minute misconduct).
Kadri, though, bounced back with two goals. It's interesting, in another line change for Team Canada, they put Kadri on a line with Taylor Hall and Greg Nemisz, adding a London Knight to what had been the Windsor Spitfire line. Kadri did a great job to help create more offence. Hall is normally the finisher and Kadri the playmaker, but they reversed it against Latvia.
Before the game I questioned the Latvian strategy. I had asked the Canadian coaches, what do you know about the Latvian team? They reported that the Latvians trapped a lot in the neutral zone and when they get into defensive zone coverage, they liked to play a strict man-on-man.
I don't see man-on-man defence in hockey very much and certainly when you've got a physically inferior team like the Latvians, you can't play a one-on-one game at this level. You've got to play a zone game. You've got to pack in five guys as tight as you can and hope for the best.
Time and time again, powerplays were created because the Latvians simply could not handle the Canadians one-on-one. And when Canada went to the powerplay, they ate Latvia up with six goals.