Russia and Denmark played in a World Junior quarter final that checked all the boxes you should want as a fan. There was a clear underdog, there were 7 goals scored, it was close the whole way, there was a last minute tying goal and an overtime. What could be more exciting than that? Except it wasn’t. The only thing that really held my interest was the implication of the game. The hockey itself was for the most part horrendous, and it was a great example of the cons that go with the styles chosen by each nation.
The Russians are a straight possession team and we can learn a lot from them as far as patience and puck control. In this game though Russia was severely over selective in when to take a shot. They had amazing puck control and worked it around very well, but there was absolutely no purpose to it. It was passing for the sake of passing. Denmark was able to literally stand still in a 5 man cluster in the crease and the low slot and be spectators. There was rarely any real threat to their net, and when there was it didn’t matter because they had clogged the lanes. For two glorious minutes at the end of the second, and maybe the last 8 minutes of the third, the beauty of Russian hockey was on full display. There was a sense of urgency to the passing that actually produced some quick attacks to the net. With time running out on both cases they really had no choice, but if they had done that in the first period this wouldn’t have even been close.
On the Denmark side, they were the complete opposite of possession. I’m pretty sure their strategy was chip from anywhere. I remember the commentators getting on Denmark up and comer Mathias From for not passing the puck because “he didn’t show any trust in his team to get it back”. No wonder. No other player held on to the puck long enough to look for a pass. No matter where they were on the ice, it was always push the puck forward. To no one. Just ahead. They did at least attack the net a bit early on, but for the final two periods and especially the third, it became blatantly obvious they would never score again. They had no business getting their third goal at all and there was really no drama at all to the overtime because it wasn’t even a contest. As close as the game was, the Danes were done playing after a period and a half, and it was a matter of whether the Russian reluctance to look selfish would be its downfall.
The end result was a game played at a slow pace with very few quality scoring chances. When compared to the pace and excitement of the Canada/Finland game there is absolutely no comparison.