So much for the pre-tournament punditry that had the U.S. favoured for this world junior tournament, and Canada something of a darkhorse.
That's Canada into Thursday's final after a punishing 4-0 dispatch of Finland, and Russia joining them after a 5-1 defeat of the hyped Americans in the nightcap.
Oh, yes, Happy New Year. Like it or not, I'm back. And I confess, what with some time off for the holidays and the early, silly refereeing (and even last night, being birthday No. 1 for grandson Pete), to not watching these juniors as closely as previous editions. But this lunchbucket Canada vs. this flashy Russia, the rematch that's more like a renewal (Five times in the final since 1999, including Canada's gold-medal win last year) -- Snap back to reality. Just like one of those bodychecks our guys were handing out last night, the ones that seemed to rattle the rabbit ears right off the TV set.
Among the reviews this morning, Damien Cox is on the scene and figures that, five years from now, the individuals on this no-frills, all-grit Canadian team could be pretty much forgotten -- clip and save material, that. Over at the Globe, Eric Duhatschek has a nice wrap on the Russia game. And team Sun has a yarn on Leafs draft pick Tuukka Rask, the guy in the net for Finland last night who's had such a good tournament.
Oh yeah. The Leafs. Remember them? They've graciously yielded the stage for these few days, taking their aches and pains on a western road trip, although they've been away from the hottest spotlight since the weekend. This from a TSN email missive from yesterday, on Saturday's Canada-USA round-robin game:
The New Year's Eve match-up attracted a national average minute audience of 1.4 million viewers.
The audience level for the Canada/USA game is even more notable, considering the match-up outdrew the combined total viewership for the Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader (CBC - Game #1: Leafs/New Jersey - 612,000; Game #2: Edmonton/Calgary - 742,000).
A 2-to-1 difference. Impressive. And I didn't even mention Sidney Crosby. Until now, that is.