If Team Canada were to play Team USA in 100 contests, I’m guessing the final total from those games would end up being something like Canada 53, USA 47. They’re as tight as two great teams can be. And at this point, they both respect the heck out of each other, so they’ll be bringing their best on Friday, so I think it’ll be a battle.
Here’s what I think happens:
The Canadians will focus on Kessel/Pavelski/JVR
Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski and James van Riemsdyk have been the best line in the Olympics outside Bob Costas’ self-deprecating “Eye’m back” comment. They’ve combined for 18 points to date, and they’re the main American threat.
The rest of the team is very good, but they’re “very good” in a North American sense. They work hard, they bang in rebounds….they’re not necessarily open-ice creators.
Canada’s depth should create lopsided possession.
The United States has a great team, but over half their forwards wouldn’t make team Canada, and maybe none of their d-men outside Suter get in. While their best players are great, I expect Canada’s top-to-bottom depth to mean more possession, more zone time, more opportunities, and more chances.
Canada’s forwards will excel against the United States’ middling depth d-men
If you looked at both rosters – forwards, defense and goaltenders – and presented them to the smartest hockey minds on earth and asked them which position on which team is the weakest, it’s the American defense, unanimously. And, because of Canada’s depth up front, you’re not going to be able to shelter that group.
A physical game
The Americans are a brutal group, and I mean that in a good way: look at their forwards. Backes, Brown, Callahan, Kesler, Oshie, JVR…it’s a team of steamrollers. In a game this big between two rivals that hate each other, I expect them to go at each other from the drop of the puck and not stop. The best part is, with international rules, it’ll never get stupid. Just clean violence on clean violence on clean violence. Should be fun.
A close game
The goaltending is just too good, and the game matters too much to assume that players will be positionally lazy and give up a bunch of chances. Even if the goaltenders have off-days, no player is taking a shift off, so there shouldn’t be much to System Analyze. I’m expecting a 3-2 win, maybe 4-2 with an empty-netter.