Boychuk likely to play in semifinals
Top line star left game against the U.S. after injuring ankle
Zach Boychuk wasn't on crutches when he walked into a Canadian junior team function on Thursday.
That was the good news.
The better news was that the way things sound, he will play in Saturday's semifinal of the world junior hockey championship.
Until he strolled into a downtown hotel, the last sighting of Boychuk had been him on crutches, favouring his left ankle, as he left the Scotiabank Arena after Canada's wild 7-4 win over the United States on Wednesday.
It was Boychuk who put Canada ahead 4-3 early in the second period after the Americans jumped to a 3-0 lead in the final preliminary round game for both teams.
He limped off the ice in the third period, however, and there was concern after the game the Canadians would have to be without one-third of their top line for the game against the winner of Russia and the Czech Republic.
The swelling went down overnight and X-rays showed nothing to be overly concerned about.
"It feels good, and I have been icing it all day," said Boychuk, as the Canadians feted the New Year with a team dinner with local dignitaries. "I will have more of a feel about it when I go on the ice (on Friday).
"I think we are really optimistic. I think it feels really strong now, way better than it did (after the game)," he said.
"I think the semifinal is a realistic goal for me. I can walk on it, and I wasn't able to walk on it last night."
That was welcome news to head coach Pat Quinn.
"He has been one of our better forwards, making big plays for us on part of what has been our best line probably," Quinn said.
The Canadians stayed away from the rink on Thursday. Players spent most of the day hanging with family members. Frigid weather that has frosted the national capital kept most of the players indoors.
You can bet the Canadian juniors know they can ill afford to let their emotions get the better of them as they did in the opening 10 minutes against the United States.
It is one thing to be in charge of your emotions and another to let them get the better of you, which is what transpired.
"Some of them went catatonic and others expressed themselves in a physical nature and got caught up in stuff that was going on," Quinn said.
"By the time they scored the third one, they were going by our bench and giving it to us pretty good. It revved a few guys up."
The talk around the national capital was how the Canadians regrouped, snuffed out the American momentum and outscored their nemesis from south of the border 7-1 over the final 37 minutes of regulation play to win the game.
What was also impressive was how the Canadian parade to the penalty box went from a steady stream, to a trickle and then to none over the better part of the last 30 minutes of the game.
John Tavares showed why he has been anointed The Next One, and it was like a man playing with boys once he was inside the American blueline.
Tavares scored twice to slice a three-goal deficit to one, and he rekindled the fire. He rung in 2009 with a hat trick and secured a spot on the list of Canadian hockey heroes.
"When he gets chances, he does not miss," Quinn said.
Tavares shrugged off the effort on Thursday.
"I don't want to look back and have any regrets," he said.
While the Canadians basked on beating the Americans, the win wasn't pretty by any means and there was much for Quinn to be concerned about, especially since it is single-game elimination from this point on.
One of the top priorities for the coach is how to get his defencemen to stop making bonehead plays and to concentrate on what they do best.
"It [playing defence] has been a priority for us so, because we believe you win championships out of your defence, and you get scoring out of your defence," the coach said.
"We will go back to the drawing board [on Friday] to hammer home those principles, and hopefully there [will be] some lessons learned there."
If the Canadians don't learn to have better control of their emotions, they'll be hard pressed to win their fifth straight world junior title.