Kaiden Guhle vs. Oliver Kapanen: Canadiens Players Have Quiet Night In World Championship Showdown

Kaiden Guhle and Oliver Kapanen were kept off the scoresheet in the Canada vs. Finland showdown. What did we learn from the game?
Oliver Kapanen celebrating Jesse Puljujarvi's goal at Men's World Championship
Oliver Kapanen celebrating Jesse Puljujarvi's goal at Men's World Championship / RvS.Media/Robert Hradil/GettyImages

Team Canada mounted a comeback to win 5-3 against Finland in Saturday's matchup. It was a much-hyped game, as Canada began going through the tough part of their schedule. Canada was 3-1-0-0 entering the game, with their only blemish coming in an overtime win over Austria. Finland was 2-0-1-1 after suffering overtime and shootout losses to Austria and Czechia, respectively.

Finland will still be safe in the standings, as they hold a lead on Denmark with a game in hand. Finland will play Denmark on Monday, a must-win for the Finns as the Danes could jump them in the standings. They still have a game against the top-seed Switzerland team, which gives them no guarantee of a win.

Canada had an easy schedule to begin the tournament, playing all the teams on the outside looking in the playoff picture. Canada has two games remaining in the round-robin, against Czechia and Switzerland. Both teams make up the rest of the top three in Group A, and Czechia may have reinforcements in the game with Martin Necas already arrived and David Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha from the Boston Bruins possibly on the way. 

Kaiden Guhle and Oliver Kapanen's Performance

It was a quiet night for both Guhle and Kapanen. Neither player found the scoresheet, despite Kapanen's linemate Jeese Pulujarvi having two goals. Guhle was thrust into a more prominent role after Bowen Byran was kicked out of the game for slashing.

The Canadians had Olen Zellweger as their seventh defenseman, but he didn't take many regular shifts after Byram's departure. Guhle was part of a five-man unit that played the final 25 minutes. Guhle had some shaky moments during that stretch, where Finland's speed and tenacity troubled him.

Guhle fired one shot on the net in the game, and Canada will need more from him to succeed going forward. It's easy for Guhle to shine against Pool A's weaker teams, but we'll see how he fares against Czechia and Switzerland before the playoff round.

It was also nice to see Oliver Kapanen perform well against a team like Canada. Kapanen's success in this tournament has some people saying he could soon challenge for a spot in the Canadiens lineup, possibly as soon as next year, as the team's fourth-line center.

It could be premature to pencil him in as the team's fourth-line center next season. However, once he moves from Finland and gets accustomed to the North American game, Kapanen has shown in this tournament that he can play against NHL competition.

A Budding Partnership

Oliver Kapanen may not have found the scoresheet in this game, but he was a big part of Finland's most successful line. Jesse Pulujarvi scored two goals in this game, and he is playing his best hockey in years since joining Kapanen's flank.

Pulujarvi hasn't been able to replicate his international success at the NHL level but returned to the world's premier league by signing a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins this past season.

Pulujarvi will be looking for another contract after the 2024-25 season, which could line up with the debut of Kapanen in North America. Could the Canadiens bring Pulujarvi in for some added forward talent in the bottom-six, and ease Kapanen's transition? It could be an avenue worth exploring for Kent Hughes and his staff.