Thank your lucky Brodeurs Canada, if it wasn’t for the outstanding play of Marty, Canada would be looking at a 2-3 record in the preliminary tournament.
Team Canada had a strong first period and then surrendered the play to the Czech Republic for the following two, it was only save after save by Brodeur that denied the Czechs a victory on Tuesday.
Canada benefited from two soft goals on a tired looking Tomas Vokoun, and appeared to be on their way to a convincing win in their final tune up. But as the second period got underway it appeared that the Czechs were not going to roll over and give up the night. Replacing Vokoun with Milan Hnlicka, the Czechs went to the attack and came in wave after wave. Canada got away from it’s mindset of hitting in the offensive zone and knocking the Czechs off their game.
Brad Richards, Simon Gagne and Kris Draper were the workhorses in this one, pushing the play in the Czech zone tying up their players and denying them the break out plays that seemed to occur more frequently as the game progressed. Canada was outshot horribly in the final two frames as the Czechs ended up with a wide margin of 33-16 on the shot clock by games end.
Missing in action on the ice Tuesday were Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla who have had problems getting untracked in this tournament, huge players on their club teams they have yet to show the potential we expected of them on their way to Torino.
Defensively they played a little better, though the third period once again provided some cause for concern as we neglected to pick up our Czechs and clear the slot area, Canada allowed the Czechs to take the play in the Canadian zone. We tended to scramble in our end of the rink, allowing the Czechs to get too many shots directed at Brodeur.
Canadian goal scorers included Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Chris Pronger, the St. Louis and Richards’s goals ones that a sharper Vokoun would have stopped. Pronger’s blast from the slot was bona fide scoring play, nicely set up and one that should have made the Czechs take notice. The goals were the first Canadian markers in over 120 minutes of hockey and lifted a large weight off of the shoulders of Team Canada’s players.
Canada now waits to see how the rest of the tournament shakes out to see who our next opponent will be; one thing is certain it won’t be the USA which will be relief to Canadians. A Canada/USA elimination match would surely motivate the Americans like no other match. Instead, most likely Canada will play the Russians to start off the medal round, no walk in the park but something that should get the Canadian blood pumping.
In the end, you never criticize a win, but Canada will need to take a look at their final two periods. The mistakes made there cannot be repeated in the medal round; Canada needs to play all three periods like they played the first today.
The first period of today’s game provided all the elements towards successful Canadian hockey, hard hitting, fast paced action in the offensive zone, good defence, stellar goaltending and a lucky bounce or two. The second and third provided all the elements of a near disaster in the making, we need much more of the first and a lot less of the final two.