Right from the drop of the puck this morning, it was more than apparent that the USA came to play. Canada looked very much like they had earlier in the tournament, with unorganized attacks and extremely sloppy defensive play.
It wasn't long before that poor play caught up with them, as American captain Jake McCabe scored twice in the first to lead the Americans to a great start.
John Gibson was flat out brilliant in the game, and should have had the shutout, but the referee made a terrible call on a Ty Rattie shot that hit the crossbar, and blew the whistle. Rattie put the rebound home right after the whistle went, in what was definitely a goal, but also definitely after the whistle. Somehow it was called a goal, even though there's pretty much no precedent for it.
Gaudreau ended any semblance of a comeback when he was given the puck while hanging out at Canada's blueline and beat Binnington on a breakaway, sealing the deal at 5-1.
Before I get into the criticism, let's just note that this is a tournament for teenagers, and these kids have a ridiculous amount of pressure on them to win.
There also aren't any excuses for Canada, since the lockout afforded them complete access to all available players.
That said, Dougie Hamilton and Jonathan Huberdeau were unmitigated disasters for this tournament. Huberdeau was a perimeter player the entire time, his points coming off of plays by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mark Scheifele, or empty nets. For being one of the most talented players outside of the NHL, he just wasn't good enough. Similarly, Hamilton was hailed as the best defenseman outside the NHL coming into this tournament, and he looked slow, behind the play and ineffective in every game but the one against Russia. Hamilton was soft in his own zone and displayed a startling lack of defensive awareness.
Steve Spott deserves perhaps the largest share of the blame here, as the team looked like a mess from the very beginning in the preliminary round, and that never really changed. Canada played 4 great periods in this entire tournament, the game against Russia and the 3rd period against the USA in the round robin.
One of Spott's biggest blunders was pushing Ryan Murphy not only onto the team, but onto the ice constantly. Murphy is an 'offensive' defenseman, and like many one-dimensional defenseman at his age, he's completely lost in his own zone. However the problem is that Murphy hasn't produced any offense whatsoever. In fact, despite getting primo powerplay time, Murphy is the only Canadian defenseman without a point in this tournament.
It's tough not to dwell on a game like this, Canada's worst loss to the USA in World Junior history, and dwell if you'd like. However let's not pretend that Canada was somehow robbed here. The US dominated from the drop of the puck, and they thoroughly deserved the game.
The USA will face Sweden in the gold medal game on January 5th at 8:00AM EST on TSN, while Canada will face Russia for Bronze earlier in the morning at 4:00AM.