Just seven thoughts today, because I’m pretty sure most people are aware Canada’s win was a one-sided assault on an inferior opponent who got a lot of bounces and great goaltending. Right? Right.
Contrary to Glenn Healy’s thoughts, I thought the Canadians showed a lack of respect for Latvia’s goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. Healy’s intermission commentary was basically that in the NHL there’s no point in taking shots from far out or a bad angle because they aren’t going to go in, but against a guy who’s just an AHLer you should shoot from anywhere because hey, who knows!?
Unfortunately, the line between AHL and NHL goaltenders is actually razor thin, and Gudlevskis is a guy Steve Yzerman just drafted in the fifth round to the Tampa Bay Lightning who was named the AHL’s player of the week in January thanks to his 2-0-1, 0.65, .973 performance. At 21 years old he’s played to a 2.69 GAA and .900 save percentage with numbers trending in the right direction. Maybe he’s not Carey Price, but he’s far from a joke.
Mindlessly whipping shots at a legit goalie from all angles is usually a waste of time. Given the talent disparity between skaters (and whoa doggy was there a disparity), I’d have preferred to see Canada wait for better looks than opting to take up Operation Bomb Everything, which they did. They outshot Latvia 57-16. Showing Gudlevskis more respect probably helps them score a few more.
Speaking of Gudlevskis, here’s what the Latvian goaltender’s Wikipedia page was edited to say, courtesy @DrewMTips:
Well deserved, young Kristers. Well deserved.
Not to be lost in the “great game Kristers” movement is the performance of Carey Price. By the third period Latvia was basically a punch-drunk boxer trying to stay on their feet for one more round, but in the first two periods they actually created a couple legitimate opportunities. And, any goalie will tell you: when you don’t see a ton of shots, it takes a lot of focus to be prepared when Grade A quality ones come your way (which Latvia had – somewhere around eight, actually). Price, minus one puck-handling error (and a breakaway goal against on a nifty Latvian play) was solid, and should start against the US on Friday.
Oh, man, Canada/US is on Friday.
Oh man. *breathes into paper bag*
While it doesn’t necessarily mean much against a seriously weaker opponent, I thought Patrick Marleau was Canada’s best forward. He had five shots in 15 minutes of ice, controlled the play in the offensive zone, and seemed to be one of the few Canadians who was helping generate real opportunities, not useless shots.
John Tavares is hurt and done for the Olympics, and that sucks. Not just from the position of an Islanders fan, but because he’s the type of guy who can raise his game against the best in the world (not just “can,” he thirsts for it), and I didn’t think he got a chance line-up/minute-wise in the early going. I felt like he’d end up being a difference-maker for Team Canada at some point.
The good(?) news is that there’s no more decisions to be made about who to scratch, so I can stop worrying about Martin St. Louis getting the hook, another guy who I feel will impact a big moment at some point.
I didn’t think Sidney Crosby was particularly effective against Latvia. After missing a breakaway attempt and helping set up the struggling Chris Kunitz, I barely noticed him. When everyone was on the “complain about Crosby’s output” wagon prior to the game, I couldn’t have disagreed more. He had been Canada’s best forward, he had created the most chances, and he had been the most consistent. Against Latvia…a single shot in 18 minutes, rarely threatened. The good thing about Crosby is that he’s harder on himself than anyone, and is probably better suited to play a good team than he is some guys who aren’t in his league (literally, mostly).
I keep thinking that the hono(u)r of making Team Canada, the thrill of being at the Olympics, and the novelty of playing with such talent must be a bit distracting for players (same goes for other countries, of course) at first. But just like anything, at some point the novelty has to wear off, and you’d expect the more talented teams to fall into some sort of rhythm.
Canada sneaking by Latvia probably wasn’t their goal (okay, not just “probably”), but I’m certainly not willing to say that because the US has won games by larger margins they’re favored against the Canadians on Friday. In fact, if the US is actually favored and you’re a gambler, I’d consider tossing some money at it (though it won’t realistically happen). The Canucks biggest job will be containing the Kessel-Pavelski-JVR line. Beyond that, Canada still has that group out-matched.
I expect it to be a hell of a game, but I also expect to see the Canadians play their best game of the tourney.
Bonus thought: Marc-Edouard Vlasic wasn’t that great and Dan Hamhuis played just over five minutes Wednesday. Do we see P.K. Subban against the US?