Poor rehearsal, good performance — or at least that is the hope for Team Canada. It was only a pre-tournament game for the IIHF U20 world championship, but there were plenty of nits to pick during a sloppy 3-2 loss to Finland in Helsinki.
Where to start? The undisciplined part, the being a one-line offence outside of the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Ty Rattie-Mark Scheifele line part or whether Jordan Binnington should be the go-to goalie over Malcolm Subban part? Subban, who hardly distinguished himself in the selection camp last week in Calgary, was beaten by Miro Aaltonen for a shortside goal that decided the outcome. The Young Lions' first two goals were 5-on-3 tallies.
Some scattered thoughts about a game that should not leave anyone too verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves:
— Playing a game that turned into what TSN host James Duthie called a "special teams scrimmage" obscured getting a full look at Subban's readiness. Canada, it bears repeating ad nauseam, has never won a world junior championship staged overseas without having the tourney's all-star netminder. Subban did not have a signature performance. The plan all along likely was to give Jordan Binnington the Sweden exhibition on Saturday (9 a.m. ET/6 a.m.. PT, TSN/RDS).
"Obviously, we'll come back now with Jordan Binnington and the battle will continue," coach Steve Spott said.
Former big-league goalie Jamie McLennan was harsher in his post-game assessment. "He does not look comfortable whatsoever ... That's not the Malcolm Subban I know from Belleville."
Subban was asked directly if he had done enough to rate opening as the No. 1 goalie: "No, obviously. It's still the first game and we have to see how Binner does on Saturday. I just have to keep playing my game
Young goalies have slumps, even ones who are Boston Bruins first-round picks. In a short touranment, the peaking performer should be in goal.
— Nugent-Hopkins and Scheifele, as forwards reliant on timing who hadn't played a game together, looked great. The two 19-year-olds were like buttah on two deft touch passes for a second-period goal. That was a positive, but please keep in mind that it is also supposed to be a given that the pair would dominate.
"I thought Mark did a good job, You can see their ability to find each other on the ice. We've got to get more lines going."
Their linemate Jonathan Huberdeau returns Saturday when his IIHF-honoured QMJHL suspension expires.
— Finland probably should have won, what with being at home and being physically comfortable with its surroundings. Canada had a fish-out-of-water look about it, but it's supposed to have enough talent to adapt to the surroundings when (key phrase) the time comes. Thursday was not the day to peak. Huberdeau sitting out and right wing Brett Ritchie being removed as "precaution," along with playing under a constant whistle, played hell with the lines.
"We got some teaching clips, there's no doubt about that," Spott said in his post-game TV interview. "The areas of concern for us tonight were discipline, that's first and foremost. The second was our ability to generate offence. We've got to do a better job of getting pucks over the blueline and not turning pucks over. Those are lessons learned and ultimately we've got to better."
— With regard to the officiating that gave both teams multiple two-man advantages, it's all about the adjustments. Bob McKenzie noted ""even by sensitive international officiating standards, there were a lot of head-shakers." Complaining only exacerbates a problem.
— Finland, which is finalizing its lineup, sat out draft-year dandies Aleksander Barkov and Ramsus Ristolainen, who each returnees from their fourth-place 2012 club. Even in a scrambly, sloppy game where flow was fleeting at best, though, the Halifax Mooseheads' Nathan MacKinnon had some nice moments. There were a few times where his skill gave him that sliver of space that usually generates a Grade-A chance when he has a linemate beelining for the net in the QMJHL. It didn't happen today, but MacKinnon (14 shifts, 11:35 of ice time) arguably made a case to play more on Saturday. Granted, those are just two cents dug out of the couch I watched the game sitting on.
"I thought Nathan was hard on the puck. He was physical and I thought Jonathan [Drouin] made some real good plays as well," Spott said of Canada's two 17-year-olds.
(Since this world junior championship will demand a lot of early mornings and late nights, Buzzing The Net will be doing a "coffee talk" after every Canadian contest.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.