MINSK, Belarus – The Edmonton Oilers Ben Scrivens will start in goal for Team Canada against Finland Thursday in the quarter-finals of the world hockey championship.
Scrivens beat out James Reimer for the No. 1 goaltender job after they split games during the preliminary round.
“Tight decision, both of them played well,” coach Dave Tippett said Thursday. “Just he’s the guy we decided on.”
Scrivens won all three of his starts at his first international tournament for Canada, putting up a 1.31 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage, second only to Kevin Lalande of Belarus, an Ottawa native.
Reimer lost the opener to France in a shootout, won his next three starts and had a 2.20 GAA and .911 save percentage.
Tippett hinted earlier in the week at Scrivens being the likely choice after Reimer started against Norway. Canada’s coach mentioned the difficult schedule of four games in six days, and Scrivens not facing Norway gave him a chance to be fresh for Finland.
Scrivens is now the man, barring injury or a rough outing against Finland that doesn’t end Canada’s tournament. Tippett said Tuesday that his quarter-final starter would likely continue in that role as long as he won.
Canada’s challenge, from Scrivens on out, is a Finnish team that has only six players back from the Sochi Olympics but plays a similar style.
“They’re what you’d classify as a typical Finland team where work ethic is one of their strongest points,” Tippett said. “(They) play well as a team, (have) good structure, don’t have a lot of NHL players on it but still players that are committed to play the way Finland’s identity is. It’s a structured, hard, one-on-one game.”
Finland’s three NHL players are goaltender Pekka Rinne, captain Olli Jokinen and forward Erik Haula, who was a late addition after the Minnesota Wild were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
One player back from Sochi is Petri Kontiola, who has been Finland’s leading scorer and arguably its best player.
But Canada’s biggest concern against Finland is Rinne, who’s now healthy after being out from late October until early March with a hip infection. Nashville Predators teammate Ryan Ellis said he and his Canadian teammates are more worried about keeping the puck away from Rinne behind the net and in the corners than figuring out how to score on him.
Rinne’s strong play (1.65 GAA, .929 save percentage) has helped a turnover-prone Finnish defence. Still, that’s something Canada might be able to exploit with an aggressive forecheck.
“Your whole game has got to be built on it,” Tippett said. “It doesn’t matter who you play, we’re going to play two things that we think are the strengths of our game and certainly we think forechecking is one of the strengths of our game.
“The ability to play in the offensive zone, come up with loose pucks, hold pucks and play in the offensive zone is one of the traits of good, Canadian-style hockey. Whether it’s Finland or whoever it’s against, we think that’s one of the strengths of our game.”
Canada will have its full roster for the first time in almost a week as Alex Burrows returns from a two-game absence with a leg injury. Given Jonathan Huberdeau’s success on a line with Brayden Schenn and Nathan MacKinnon, Burrows is expected to be the 13th forward.
“He’s a good, veteran player,” Tippett said of Burrows. “We talk about he’s going to see a lot of different situations. He’s played on the penalty kill for us, he’s played on the power play and he’s played a regular shift, so he’ll jump in there, he’ll give us a spark.”
Defenceman Tyler Myers, who missed Wednesday’s practice with the flu, took part in Thursday’s optional skate and Tippett said he’s feeling much better and will play.
The United States plays the Czech Republic in the early game at Chizhovka-Arena for a spot in Saturday’s semifinals against the winner of Canada-Finland.
© The Canadian Press, 2014