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World junior championship: Team Canada coffee talk; getting away with mistakes vs. Germany

Canada's Phillip Danault crashes the net (Nathan Denette, The Canadian Press)

Waking up to news of Team Canada's 9-3 win over Germany will tide over a lot of fans until they dig into the leftover turkey. Of course, in a matchup between the Maple Leaf and the lowest-seeded team in the world junior championship, Canada's margin of victory is the suspense. Cue the Boxing Day blowout headlines.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had five points and Malcolm Subban was, well, adequate in goal. Really, the whole point of the exercise was looking for the rough spots that will have to be buffed out of Team Canada's game to improve its chances at capturing its first IIHF world U20 championship gold medal since 2009.

Nits to pick? There were a few. Talk amongst yourselves.

— Does Canada have a shutdown pairing yet? Coach Steve Spott has already changed his top pair once by putting steady Scott Harrington with Dougie Hamilton after first putting the latter with Morgan Rielly.

The first two German goals both involved a member of the shutdown pair, pointing out potential problems that could arise for Canada on the large international ice. Germany's opening for its first goal came on a power play. Harrington ranged toward the boards, while his partner on the penalty kill, Tyler Wotherspoon, shaded toward the corner. That gave Germany an obvious passing lane.

Canada was caught in a bad player change on Leo Pfoderl's second-period tally. That is a correctable mistake. Hamilton's positioning made it appear that he didn't realize there was no defensive help coming from Harrington on the odd-man rush.

That second Germany goal (and its third goal off a bad turnover) came during a rather undisciplined penalty. Canada played like it could get away with being sloppy because it was playing Germany. It got away with it because it was playing Germany.

From Patrick King (@SNPatrickKing):

There was laziness in choices of penalties taken, laziness in caretaking of the puck and an overall sluggish attitude towards an opponent all too willing to take advantage of Canada's gifts. The Germans were ready to trade chances with the Canadians, something that will always work in Canada's favour, but the habits forming were disconcerting.

There were Canada's first two penalties in the second frame to Jonathan Huberdeau and Scott Harrington, both a result of Canadian players losing position and chopping Germans players down from behind.

Then there was Mark McNeill, who did little to prove he should have been on the team all along, by softly guiding a puck back towards his defenceman in his own zone. It was picked off by Nickolas Latta, who proceeded to beat Malcolm Subban to the blocker side top corner.

... Had this been a game against the Russians or the Americans, both on Canada's schedule before the calendar turns, the outcome would have been different. The top echelon teams in this tournament won't let Canada off the hook for these costly turnovers, and a momentum swing gained could be ridden much longer than it was by the Germans.

Canada's goaltending, a soft spot for many, remains a question mark. Although Subban can't be faulted for the three goals allowed, he didn't exactly instill confidence in a nation begging for dependable goaltending in this tournament. (Sportsnet)

— Discipline was less of an issue than it was during the pre-competition games, with Canada taking only four minor penalties. That coaching point was probably made very stridently. At least one call was chinty but at the same time it's not something to take to the bank, since emotions were muted once Canada built a three-goal lead by the five-minute mark of the second period.

It is a little early to declare that being in the real tournament has improved the players' focus, as one might expect it would. By the way, you're not the only thinking there's a missed opportunity here to joke that there were fewer penalties because Boone Jenner is suspended.

— Jonathan Drouin (1G-1A) continues to offer more for the draftniks than Halifax Mooseheads teammate Nathan MacKinnon. Of course, Drouin is on the second line with Ryan Strome (first in OHL scoring) and Brett Ritchie (fifth) and is also playing power play. MacKinnon, who was centring the fourth line, earned an assist in a lot less ice time.

— Morgan Rielly is the No. 4 overall pick of the franchise in Canada's largest city, where about 50 per cent of the country's media is based. So how is it not more of a thing that he went from being hyped up for the first pairing to the third? Toronto Maple Leafs fans who want to see one of their draft picks log heavy minutes on the blueline will have to watch fourth-rounder Tom Nilsson on Team Sweden.

To be fair to Rielly, he was only road-tested for the role due to Ryan Murray being injured. Being on the third pairing is par for the course for an 18-year-old, even a top 5 pick. The Florida Panthers' Erik Gudbranson did so for Team Canada in 2011 after being selected No. 3 overall. It's not a setback, but it is still story-worthy. Rielly will be heard from yet.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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