Saturday, February 22, 2014

A stake in the heart of the Americans dreams, gives Canada a stake for a claim for Gold on Sunday...

For a one goal game, Friday's showdown between Canada and the USA was anything but a boring affair.

From the opening face off, the two teams played a very North American style of the game, despite the wider expanse, there would be no lining up of players on the blue line, no traps to stifle offence.

 Instead some frantic play at times, with a pace that went from end to end was featured through much of the game. Though  if one was to be truthful, a good portion of the play, frantic as it was,  would be spent in the American end.

Canada was quick to its fore check, the forwards hemming in the American attack on most attempts. Those few forays into the Canadian end, were limited to one shot, if that and out, rebounds banished for the most part, second chances but a wishful thought for the USA forwards.

As expected, Canada's defensive pairs played a strong game, limiting any dangers in their own end and making their mark when crossing over into the American zone, setting plays, firing rockets at Jonathan Quick.

With quick shifts that saw new players on the ice about every 40 to 50 seconds, the Canadian squad set the pace of the game, a go go go, kind of cadence that seemed at times to leave the Americans on their heels. For those wearing the Maple Leaf  Friday's was as disciplined a performance as a Canadian team has delivered on the International scene in a long time.

Canada again had plenty of scoring opportunities, pucks would skip wide, high or around Quick's nets, but a bounce away from adding to the lead and providing a much desired opportunity for Canadians to take a breath.

Yet, for all of Friday's game, taking that deep breath was not on a Canadian fans agenda. Thanks to Quick's stellar work, the Americans remained in the mix for the full sixty minutes, one shot, one goal, dirty or spectacular away from wrecking the Canadian plans of a Gold medal opportunity.

While not called upon often, Carey Price delivered when the occasion arose, providing some early saves in the first period denying the USA from the opportunity to take the lead and put on any added pressure to the Canadian side.

For the third period he again found a bit of work to do, though most of it simply tracking the puck, as Canadian defenders steered pucks to safety, up and out of the zone.

Through the final frame the Canadian goaltender was called on only once to really have to deliver a game saving stop, a save that left the Americans shaking their heads in ongoing frustration.

The Montreal Canadiens goaltender solid in  his performance, would by the end of Friday banish the nervous ones to the sidelines.  Leaving behind those who questioned Mike Babcock's decision process to on goaltending and most likely enshrining himself as Team Canada's new go to guy for competitions to come.

And while the US did have chances, at no time did it appear that Canada was going to let the game slip away from it, a quiet confidence arrived on the ice with every shift change. A workmanlike dedication to whatever task had been assigned, sacrificing body and ego to work the game plan.

Outside of some early bursts in the first period, the Americans never really mounted much of a sustained attack, turned aside by tenacious Canadian fore checking and solid blue line play, the Americans could not get into any offensive rhythm, rushes would evaporate by the time they reached the Canadian zone,

Particularly strong for Canada on Friday was captain Sidney Crosby and his line of Chris Kunitz and Patrice Bergeron. A trio which controlled play whenever they were on the ice, from crisp passes, to clearing sweeps, to taking the body through the game. Crosby in particular found an extra gear for speed on Friday and stayed with it through the game, his line mates in lock step with him .

And while the scoring opportunities came and went for the Canadian captain, Quick was on the spot to deny him,  While quiet on the scoring summary, Crosby's presence and role was still key to the Canadian play.

Likewise, Jamie Benn had a strong game, never more than when he converted a furious slap pass from Jay Bouwmeester, as wondrous a deflection as you could see, putting the puck high to the corner of the net behind the USA goaltender.

A pass and deflection that delivered the one goal lead, a marker that would hold until the handshake line at the end of the game.

For those that worried about scoring, the one goal victory offers up another chapter in Canada's lack of points gathering at Sochi. And none of that matters a whit now.

A win, whether by five or six goals or just by one is a win. The larger picture of the Gold Medal game trumping any need to claim title to the tournament scoring leaders list, a summary that will be lost to history following Sunday's gold medal game.

No better indication as to the relative un-importance of the naming of the names of the goal scoring elites, can be found from the American squad. Where for the bulk of this tournament, the Americans appeared to be able to score at will.

Yet, in the key match up of the tournament for them, the scoring well ran dry, stymied by a Canadian team which provided little space and limited time to set up an attack. And in those few instances where they came within range, the were denied by the steady hand of Carey Price.

When faced with a squad that played the complete game, the Americans found that the Canadian squad had all the answers for a semi-final victory.

Still, when it comes to that final summary, from the final game of this Olympic tournament, scoring will still count.

On Sunday, Canada will be looking to have at least one name more than the Swedes recorded in the official record.

One successful shot, a final marker that will secure some gold medals to wear and provide for the right song to sing when the final buzzer sounds.

February 22-- Team Canada reaches gold medal game by developing dominant defence
February 22-- Babcock leads Canada into the men's gold-medal hockey game
February 22-- Canada's hockey brain trust formulated game plan long ago
February 22-- No guarantee Canada's terrible puck luck will change against cagey Sweden
February 22-- Score not indicative of Canada's dominance in semi-final win over U. S.
February 21-- Canadian defence men come through once again
February 21-- Team Canada sets sights on Gold after thrilling victory over U. S.
February 21-- Crosby's game more than the numbers
February 21-- Olympic win over U. S. cements the fact Canada is a hockey factory
February 21-- Carey Price gives Team Canada huge confidence heading into the Olympic gold medal game against Sweden
February 21-- Carey Price and a shutdown defence have been golden for Canada in Sochi
February 21-- Sidney Crosby's line plays with furious precision, leading Canada over the USA
February 21-- Canada reminds Americans that U. S. is still playing Catch-up
February 21-- Americans fire blanks, must settle for shot at hockey bronze
February 21-- Canada edges United States 1-0 in Olympic men's hockey semi-final
February 21-- Americans schooled by Canada in Olympic loss
February 21-- U. S. Men's Hockey was "Terrible in Loss to Canada"
February 21-- Carey Price helps Canada shut out U. S., reach gold-mdeal game
February 21-- Plain and simple: Canada beat USA at its own game
February 21-- Canada was - and always has been - better than the U. S.
February 21-- Team Canada exactly where they needed to be
February 21-- Olympic men's hockey semi-final between Canada and USA featured several key moments
February 21-- Canada-USA Olympic semi-final hockey analysis from Bruce Garrioch
February 21-- Defence first approach fuels Canada
February 21-- Canadian defence suffocating in win over U. S.

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