That was quite possibly the least-close 1-0 game between two great teams that’s ever been played. The zone time was preposterously lopsided, the scoring chances weren’t that close. Carey Price was asked to be great in the first period and was absolutely that for Canada, but in the second and third period he was simply just asked to…be. Canada’s back-pressure through the neutral zone kept the Americans second chance opportunities to just about nil.
Holy line changes, batman. At one point in the third the CBC broadcast mentioned that no Canadian forward had an average shift length above 40 seconds. And as the game progressed, they grew increasinly militant about it. Puck in, off the ice, fresh legs, puck in, off the ice. I’m pretty sure Jeff Carter was on the bench for 25 seconds once after a 17 second shift.
It’s funny watching guys like Rick Nash and Matt Duchene play more humble roles in games like this. On their teams in the NHL they’re looked at as The Guys, the players who need to score or their teams have no chance to win, so it’s hilarious watching them dutifully dump pucks in and change, keep their shifts short, and do the right things. There seemed like about 10 players on Canada/US trying to create (Kessel, Kane, Parise, Crosby, Benn and so on) and the rest of the guys were just trying real hard not to become national punchlines.
The real shocker for Canada is how many of their fringe picks have turned out to be so valuable assets. Jeff Carter is playing on the PK and PP and taking a regular shift, Patricks Sharp and Marleau have been great, even a guy like Marc-Eduord Vlasic has played extremely well. Those were all “maybe” names before the tournament, and they’ve played huge roles.
The biggest takeaway from the matchup is how Canada answered all questions about how to stop a high-flying US team from scoring by simply having the puck. It was a classic game of “the best defense is a good offense.” The US had occasional moments of hope through the neutral zone, but spent so much time in their own zone they didn’t get many opportunities to be dangerous.
Phil Kessel has elevated himself from the status of “great offensive player” to “one of the best players in the world.” He’s a little bit older now and seems to have gained a measure of confidence that makes him just terrifying for defenses every time he touches the puck. Unfortunately for the Americans, again, he didn’t get many chances to show it. (You can basically say the same thing about Patrick Kane, too.)
I just can’t wrap my head around lining up for a faceoff against Ryan Getlaf, Corey Perry and Jamie Benn. I mean, eff me. These guys have some of the best mitts on the planet, and they just happen to be eight-foot-twelve, 600 pounds each (ballpark). They’re just so crafty and strong, trying to D-up on them from the corner out must take so, so much energy. What a game they played today, Benn in particular. The vision and tip on the first goal were silly.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Sidney Crosby’s greatest attribute aside from his decision making might be puck acquisition. I feel like if you throw the puck into the corner with him and _____, he’s coming out with it, and there’s no name you could put in that blank that would change the thought. He lifts sticks with ferocity, deftly fishes pucks out with consistency…it’s a real gift.
The United States managed to do a good job hanging around long enough to make the game as close as it was. The Canadians missed a lot of nets and had a lot of shots blocked, which left the US in a “one shot ties it” scenario, which is pretty isn’t such a bad spot to be in. Credit to Jonathan Quick, Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Suter for keeping it from being a disaster.
It’s pretty remarkable how a team with the talent of Canada can be so useless on the powerplay. It’s not even like they’ve been unlucky, they’re rarely even generating a chance. Against a defensively responsible Swedish team, Canada would sure benefit from figuring out what’s going on there, cause right now it’s pretty ugly.