It was about as disastrous a performance as could be imagined. The US outplayed Canada right from puck drop, dominating them in every facet of the game. But it wasn’t just that the US played a great game, although they certainly did. The bigger problem was that Canada played their worst hockey of the entire tournament at exactly the wrong time.
It wasn’t a game worth waking up or staying up for; the game was out of reach by midway through the second period, as the US went on to win 5-1. Even Canada’s lone goal was a joke, as the puck went in well after the ref had already, albeit mistakenly, blown his whistle. In sum, it was an awful game that showed Team Canada was both poorly constructed and poorly coached. And I watched it. Like a chump.
How else do you explain the complete defensive breakdown that was the entire first 40 minutes of this hockey game? The Americans’ first goal is the most egregious example. When Scott Harrington slipped and fell to the ice, it should have led to a momentary breakdown, while he recovered. Instead, it led to a fire drill as every Canadian skater collapsed to the net. By the time Jake McCabe took his shot from the point, there were six skaters between him and Malcolm Subban. Four of them were Canadian. Subban never even had a chance to see the puck.
The forward line on the ice for that utter disaster of defensive coverage? The supposed checking line of Boone Jenner, Philip Danault, and Brett Ritchie.
The second goal wasn’t much better: both Ty Rattie and Ryan Strome got caught puck-watching, failing to pick up McCabe once again, this time off the rush. There was a slight improvement. Only one Canadian skater screened Subban, as Morgan Rielly cut in front just as the shot was being taken.
There are some fans that would say Subban needed to make the timely, clutch saves. The problem is that he made several good stops on other defensive breakdowns. Had Canada rallied after any one of these stops, they would have been labelled key saves and Subban would have been lauded for keeping Canada in the game during the early going. Instead, Canada continued their uninspired play and Subban got roasted.
Ryan Murphy, who made the team on the basis of his offensive ability, has no points in the tournament, but was a defensive liability all night. His worst moment came against the shifty John Gaudreau, who dragged the puck easily around Murphy’s soft pokecheck and roofed the puck for the third goal of the game. Gaudreau is the leading goalscorer in the tournament, with 5 goals in 5 games heading into the semi-final; it might have made sense to match him with someone with more defensive ability than Murphy, but that would have taken foresight.
Some amount of blame can be placed on Subban for the fourth goal of the game, as he was a little deep in his net and left an opening for Jim Vesey on the far side. That said, Xavier Ouellet also should not have been standing still, allowing Vesey to walk right around him to shoot the puck in the first place.
Subban was pulled at that point and, since Jordan Binnington only allowed one goal through the remainder of the game, some will argue he should have started in the first place. The US didn’t need to score any more goals, however, and Canada finally seemed to wake up in the third period, getting 16 shots on net.
They couldn’t beat John Gibson, who continued his dominating performance and looks to be enroute to the tournament MVP. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had approximately 7 minutes alone in front of the net to pick a spot and still couldn’t elevate it over an outstretched Gibson, with what was his most absurd save of the game.
By the time Murphy got caught up the ice and coasted on the backcheck, allowing Gaudreau to get a breakaway for the fifth goal of the game, I had stopped caring. It looked like Canada should have started caring a whole lot earlier.