Team Canada got by with a streamlined forward corps vs. Slovakia at the world junior championship. With JC Lipon suspended — as expected — for his checking-to-head major/game misconduct, the Maple Leaf will have just 11 forwards eligible for Sunday's important showdown vs. Team USA.
Even though Team USA is very strong, it might not be a worrying matter for the Canadians. A team that is growing often comes to rely on its major cogs, so having fewer than four full lines means more will be put on the plates of the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jonathan Huberdeau-Mark Scheifele and Ryan Strome-Jonathan Drouin-Brett Ritchie scoring lines. They accounted for four goals vs. Slovakia. And Canada gets Lipon and centre Boone Jenner on Monday for the second of its back-to-back games vs. Russia, when depth could be more imperative.
Remember, it's junior hockey. Teams rely on their big wheels. From Rob Vanstone:
Canada finished Friday’s game with 10 forwards. Is that necessarily a negative? The depleted roster led to increased ice time for players who are accustomed to logging significant minutes with their junior teams. Canada elevated its play when its remaining forwards were able to establish a rhythm and set the pace. That is not always possible when the roll-four-lines mentality dilutes everyone’s effectiveness. (Regina Leader-Post)
Given the IIHF's strict standard on headshots, Lipon's suspension reads like a minimum sentence. As Tim Wharnsby pointed out Friday, "The IIHF usually tacks on an extra game with these sort of five-minute major and game misconduct penalties." There was no injury, of course, to Slovakia's Tomas Mikus, who added insult by scoring on the ensuing power play and criticizing Canada during the post-game interviews.
The IIHF has suspended Canada's JC Lipon one game for his hit on Slovakia's Tomas Mikus. #WJC2013
— Sunaya Sapurji (@sunayas) December 29, 2012
There did seem to be an absence of malice on the check itself. It always feel kinda wrong to point out from the ivory tower that a player in the fastest team sport on earth had his arm in an incorrect position when he made a check, but that's what happened. It's an easy call for the IIHF.
Ultimately, Canada seems to have the top-end talent to override the lack of bodies on the bench. How Jenner and Lipon get into the rhythm upon their return will be a storyline going into the Russia showdown.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (video: TSN).