benn wrap

Canada opened their Olympic tournament with a 3-1 victory over Norway this afternoon – you can follow our story stack on that here. As for analysis, here’s 10 things I thought while watching the game unfold.

***

#1

We’ll start with the easy stuff. From the superficial, meaningless file:

* Team Canada’s jersey’s look pretty damn good on TV– or at least better than many initially thought they would – but good lord, are they wearing awful hockey socks. (I said the first point was superficial. Hush. We’ll get to the actual hockey soon enough, and I have a history of caring about these things.) They look like they’re wearing volleyball kneepads.

* I find the jersey number hierarchy fascinating. I get that Kunitz gets #14 over Benn because he’s older, but when there’s a huge talent disparity – say, Jay Bouwmeester getting 19 over Jonathan Toews despite the latter being a team captain and Bouwmeester only wearing the number for a portion of his career – it’s just interesting. Toews is in 16, Tavares is in 20 (out of courtesy to Steven Stamkos?)…it all just seems odd. Feel free to weigh in with any insight/opinion in the comments.

#2

Norway’s captain (and ex-NHLer) Ole-Kristian Tollefsen was pretty close to murdering a few innocent Canadians today. For years Canada’s modus operandi was to come out and smash opponents and take control of the game physically, but they’ve learned they don’t need pure plugs on their team…which is good.  That’s left the team with a very skilled group that’s less inclined to engage in the senseless banging, and it showed. Tollefsen ran roughshod over Canadians, one after another, particularly in the first period.

#3

An addendum to point two -  Tollefsen ran roughshod over Canadians, one after another…until he ran into Canada’s best player on the day, Jamie Benn. He tried to smoke him cutting across the middle, but it’s really, really hard to run over an actual refrigerator on skates, as he learned. In 8:52 of ice time – again, in words this time – in eight fifty two of ice time, the least of any Canadian player (next lowest forward was St. Louis at 10:47) , Jamie Benn scored, had the second most shots amongst forwards (to Marleau, who played 15:50), won puck battles and looked like a rock.

What I’d like to see Canada do: play a line of Benn-Crosby-St.Louis. Crosby is a disher and o-zone possession master, Benn has a great stick, is a shooter and a physical presence, and St. Louis is a rusher, shooter…whatever you want him to be. This is my line of choice for Canada, and I won’t even listen to an argument that Kunitz-Crosby-Carter is better.

(Oh, and also: more John Tavares. Like St. Louis, he’s the type of savvy thinker/creator that can dominate events like this. 11:31 of ice time isn’t enough.)

#4

Jeff Carter was among Canada’s top forwards in ice time, but it looks like they have him brainwashed to be hockey’s version of a “chucker.”

All you heard in the lead-up to the tournament was how if Jeff Carter passes the puck back to Crosby and doesn’t shoot, he’ll be off that line. So now he’s just mindlessly whipping pucks at the net and not playing hockey, which is not a great strategy. I once wrote this for The Hockey News:

Essentially, throwing the puck to the net against most of today’s ‘tenders, when there isn’t any traffic, is a turnover. Hopeless shots are the equivalent of dump-and-chase in today’s NHL – why are you giving your opponent the puck for free?

Yeah.

#5

Sidney Crosby is special. I mean, you knew that, so I’ll keep this short, but the guy is a puck-acquirer to the ‘nth degree. He causes turnovers, he maintains possession, and he’s great at using his feet, so anytime there’s a puck bouncing somewhere near him it’s suddenly flat and his team has possession. It’s just one of his many talents, but it’s a big one.

#6

It’s not the worst thing in the world that Canada had to actually play 60 minutes in their tournament opener. Sweden, for example, played 25, then stopped playing their top guys as much, slipped into a prevent defense, and ran the clock out. These players don’t have much time to gel. While you’d like to see your team be so dominant they don’t need to play a whole game hard, it’s not such a bad thing on night one. It’s an up-tempo practice with opponents that are actually trying.

#7

Full respect to Norway for keeping it close with Canada, but holy onions and gravy, how did they come up with a d-zone game plan that involved any man-on-man coverage? Canada often had their third forward high in the o-zone to the point where it looked like they had three d-men, and Norway ran a guy all the way up there to stick with him. That meant that Canada’s more talented forwards rarely faced out-numbered situations down low, and were able to keep puck possession for huge swaths of time. That also left a big soft spot in the slot – I would’ve liked to have seen Canada’s D be more active because of that.

#8

Speaking of Canada’s D, here’s what we learned about them today:

…yeah.

Their job largely consisted of taking passes at the blueline and dispersing the puck to the next place. Norway had a couple high quality chances, but I mean that literally – just a couple. Otherwise all we saw from Canada’s D was offensive play. Surrre would’ve liked to have seen some Subban in there.

#9

As someone rooting for Canada, I don’t hate that they didn’t score a pile of goals. I thought they answered my initial questions for them pretty well, and they heavily out-chanced Norway throughout the game (24 to 5 to be specific, 23 to 2 at even strength – for more on that, check out Thomas Drance’s in-depth piece). “Luck” fluctuates, so all you can do is create those opportunities and hope the bad will even out with the good down the road. It almost always does.

And finally…

#10

How about being Shea Weber in this tournament? Your whole career in Nashville you’ve never played with a better scorer than…I dunno, David Legwand (Nashville’s all-time leading scorer!)? Martin Erat? Alexander Radulov for an hour? I don’t blame him one second for signing that offer sheet that inevitably kept him with the Preds, but you have to think experiences like this are a breath of fresh air for him. He looked like he enjoyed today’s game, he scored a beauty, and he got to pass it hard without knocking over any of his Preds teammates, who over the years have been using their sticks as tripods to not fall down.

…Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but I do think he’s going to have fun playing with Canada’s embarrassment of riches.

Comments (20)

  1. Regarding jersey numbering, yes, totally weird. However, I think Toews in 16 is because he wore that in 2010, because…. well I can’t imagine why. Just looked it up and Thornton wore 18 apparently. I remember Thornton wore 97 when Yzerman was 19 and Sakic was 91. Again, Tavares wearing 20 because that’s now his “international number” like he wore in juniors?

    • Thornton was wearing 19 in 2010. Richards wore 18. I think there’s a mistake on the 2010 roster page.

  2. I’ve always wondered how taking another number fits into some guys’ superstitions. Corey Perry is extremely superstitious – he touches doorways and his teammates a certain number of times before hitting the ice (which I think they finally showed on NHL Revealed). He even used to go through a certain doorway backward before home games, probably still does.

    But he gets here and takes a new number in favor of the older player, Sharp. How does that sort of thing fit into a guy’s superstitions then?

    • Im pretty sure guys that are THAT superstitious will always find a way to rationalize changes. New number? It’s fine, im in a different country. The rules are different in Sochi…

  3. Good article but I don’t like the partial jabs at Nashville at the end. Maybe I’m misunderstanding it but as someone who watches a hell of a lot of Predator games, the Weber that played tonight is the same Weber we see on a nightly basis. Don’t appreciate being looked down on because Nashville is a team that isn’t as offensively capable as other teams and is in a smaller market. The whole reason why Weber signed that offer sheet to begin with was to force Poile’s hand into giving him a long term deal. He likes being a Predator and it shows when we see him play.

    • Nashville is going to get looked down on for the offensive skill so long as they aren’t “offensively capable”. Sorry about that.

  4. My guess is the number seniority isn’t based upon age, but on who has the longer history with Canada at the senior level. Bouwmeester first played at the senior level in the 2003 world championships, so he’s got the seniority on Toews. Same deal with Morrow over Perry in 2010 and with Stamkos over Tavares.

  5. This topic has probably been beat to death on this blog, but I don’t see any one else address it. Why are they playing Kunitz, like at all. I’m pretty sure Jamie benn or matt duchene would still put up points playing with crosby without having played with him before. What does everybody bring up about olympic hockey, speed and skill, which matt duchene has significant advantage over kunitz.. Is there something im missing other than Canada’s obstinance on sticking with player pairs? I also realize its one game and am trying not to overreact but i still really dislike that selection

  6. How about they keep Benn with Bergeron and let Sid keep playing with his pal Kunitz? Isn’t that why he’s here?

    • I was thinking the same line – Crosby/Benn/Bergeron.
      I know they tried Bergeron there in Vancouver, but I just don’t think he was ready for prime time. He can’t skate with Crosby, but he never wastes a step and is always in the right place.
      Benn just owns the puck when he wants it, and has a rifle shot.
      I don’t mind the writer’s line of Duchene either.
      GET CARTER! (…off that line….)…

      • “He can’t skate with Crosby”??

        You know they played together on Team Canada Junior as a line and Bergeron won MVP outscoring him right? Stellar line. Both in the face-off circle were stupid good.

  7. Bergeron is good.

  8. Weber – “he got to pass it hard without knocking over any of his Preds teammates”

    Hahah the best comment in this write up! Great observations as usual

  9. I agree with every word written here, specifically the suggestion of a Benn-Crosby-St. Louis line. Canada is negating the advantage of having the best player in the world by playing him with the two worst forwards on the team.

    Also, the faster Duchene and Subban get in the lineup, the better.

    • Perfect comment. If someone asked you a year ago, who will be the wingers on Canada’s first line, nobody on the planet would have said Chris Kunitz and Jeff Carter.
      The joke’s over.
      GET CARTER! (off that line…)

  10. Tavares wore #20 at the Worlds I believe and also the Spengler. Actually he may have worn it at the WJC (not entirely sure).

    Jay-Bo is a bit of a mystery. He wore #3 in 2006.

    I’m guessing the other guys that have odd numbers that are from the last team are keeping them out of superstition.

    For some reason, I also think #19 is unoffcially retired in regards to the Men’s Olympic team, because of Yzerman. Not sure where I’m getting this, but seems to me I’ve heard this before.

  11. One day you will write something that I disagree with, but that day is not today.

    Maybe there is something to be said for putting two less-gifted players with Crosby because whatever line Crosby is on will still attract the top checkers and d-pairings of the other teams, freeing up guys like Tavares, Benn, Getzlaf, etc. to dominate weaker competition? Just spitballin here.

  12. GET CARTER!! (…off that line….).
    Jeffy better be wearing a tie today.
    Crosby, Benn, Bergeron, and be done with the tinkering.

    Oh, and I really like the article, but any hockey writer who starts an Olympic analysis by talking about jersey numbers makes me cringe a bit. C’mon…

  13. #1
    Toews (16) and Tavares (20) seem to be just continuing on their previous international experience when choosing numbers. As you know, hockey players are extremely superstitious, and this might be part of it.
    #3
    Jamie Benn is an absolute beauty. I was also confused at his lack of ice time. A tandem of Benn-Crosby sounds lethal. I also think that Matt Duchene should be a no-brainer in this tournament, given the size of the ice and the huge difference that makes. A line of Benn-Crosby-Duchene might work as well – speed, muscle, and overall extremely talented.

    - Another well written piece, athough I miss the Thoughts on Thoughts pieces!

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