Seriously, Canada's McDavid 'having a lot of fun’
Connor McDavid skates with the puck during world junior play against Germany December 27, 2014 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. (JOHANY JUTRAS /QMI Agency)
Connor McDavid would like to clear something up.
“You guys have made a big deal of how serious I am, but behind the scenes I am having a lot of fun,” Canada’s 17-year-old star forward said after the Monday morning skate at the Montreal Canadiens’ suburban practice facility.
“At the same time, we have a job to do and I like to focus on the task at hand.”
With that in mind, the next task for McDavid and his Canadian teammates is attempting to beat Finland Monday night at the Bell Centre. It will be the third game of the 2015 World Junior Championship for Canada, which is looking to post three consecutive shutouts to start the tournament for the first time.
Canada will face a Finnish team that is desperate to win after losing its first two games, scoring just two goals. The goalie for the defending gold-medal champs will be Juuse Saros, who helped end Canada’s gold-medal hopes a year ago when he made 23 saves in a 5-1 Finland victory in the semifinal of the 2014 world junior.
Canada will start Zach Fucale.
“Right now we are focused on tonight, but when you look at last year for the guys who were there, it was a disappointing day and I don’t think those things ever really go away,” said Canadian defenceman Josh Morrissey, one of seven players on this team who were part of that loss.
“They sit in you and fuel the fire a little more.”
What will Canada expect tonight?
“Like the Finns always have been, they are very good checkers,” Morrissey said. “They have good sticks, take away passing lanes and they come back with back pressure. As a defenceman, you make that initial breakout play and you can’t relax. You have to keep skating.”
During the third period of an eventual 4-0 win against Germany on Saturday, Canada coach Benoit Groulx made some changes to his lines. The indication at the morning skate is he will return to the original trios, so McDavid will be back between Curtis Lazar and Nick Ritchie, and Nic Petan will centre Nick Paul and Robby Fabbri.
Frederik Gauthier will centre Lawson Crouse and Jake Virtanen, with Brayden Point getting some shifts.
The top line remains Sam Reinhart between Max Domi and Anthony Duclair.
“When you look at our last three, four games it is more about the chances we generated,” Groulx said. “I thought we had quite a bit. It’s a matter of being patient. We thought we had to shake things up a little bit after our second period against Germany.
“We also think our lines were fine so far. We want to give the team a chance to perform. We have many options. It is a matter of using them properly. Right now I think the chemistry is pretty good.”
The Finns, despite not registering a victory, easily will be Canada’s toughest opponent so far. There are seven players on the Finland side who helped send Canada to the 2014 bronze-medal game against Russia, which the Canadians lost to finish fourth.
“They have good flow right now,” Finland coach Hannu Jortikka said of Canada. “They have played quite strong. Skating, everything, they have a good power play.
“But always, Finland plays good against Canada in the juniors and the world championship, too. We trust that we can make a good game tonight.”