Ok. It was only Norway, a team many believe should not have been at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
But Brayden Schenn of Saskatoon simply had one of those nights on Wednesday when everything he did was right. His four goal performance has only been matched twice by Team Canada in World Junior Hockey Championship history– 1983 by Mario Lemieux against Norway and 1999 by Simon Gagne against Kazakhstan.
Already down to 18 skaters because of injuries to Cody Eakin (hand), Calvin de Haan (lower body), Jaden Schwartz (knee) and a controversial suspension to Zack Kassian, Canada had to shorten its bench, but still came away with a commanding 10-1 blowout victory.
But, if you thought that a four goal performance by Schenn would be good enough for him to be named player of the game– you’re wrong. That honour went to defenceman Erik Gudbranson, who scored a pair of goals himself. The selection of Gudbranson over Schenn led TSN analyst Pierre McGuire to comment that the entire process for the player of the game award needed to be reviewed– a comment I agree with immensely.
The bottom line is it’s going to get significantly more difficult from here for Team Canada. They play the Swedes Friday. Sweden is led by Oiler prospect Anton Lander, and Senator goaltender Robin Lehner, and could be the team to beat. Then it’s a quarterfinal or semi-final game where Canada will have to play the likes of the United States or Finland– which is simply no easy task.
A completely healthy lineup is required for Canada to win the World Junior Hockey Championship next week.