Don't let the photo fool you. There wasn't a lot of open ice out there.
Canada defeated Finland 2-1 in overtime on Sunday and have won Group B. Here are five things we learned:
No finish against Finnish. Canada won the scoring chances in this game and the final score by the same ratio: 2 to 1. But the overall scoring chance count was just 14 to 7. In other words, there wasn't a whole lot happening out there. That's pretty surprising, considering Canada is stocked with the greatest collection of talented forwards you're going to find anywhere in this tournament. Sure, Finland wasn't giving them much, but these guys aren't supposed to need any help generating offense. They need to figure it out.
Doughty is Canada's best forward. Fortunately, while the forwards are struggling, Drew Doughty has transformed into a sniper. The LA Kings' defenceman scored both Canadian goals in this game, his third and fourth of the tournament, to propel his club to victory. Both came from just about the same spot. The first was on a powerplay, with Doughty beating Tuukka Rask with a perfectly-placed wrister. The second was a bit of a knuckler, but it got past Rask because, simply, everything off of Doughty's stick is magic right now. On a team loaded with standouts, he's been the supra-standout.
Shutdown hockey is still a thing on the big ice. The Canadian forwards absolutely need to get it going, but let's give credit where credit is due: Team Finland played a nearly flawless game of lockdown hockey, clogging the neutral zone, stick checking aggressively, and keeping Canada to the outside in the offensive zone. There was grumbling from Canadian fans that Finland was playing a boring brand of hockey, but did they really have any other option? The team is shorthanded, and even with their full collection of forwards, they can't hang with Canada's. Run-and-gun isn't really an option. You take away open ice, and hope the Canadians, used to scoring and knowing it's expected of them, get impatient and make a mistake.
We'll likely see this strategy again. Canada can expect this to continue. By winning their group, they get a bye to the quarters, and will probably see the stingy Swiss there, barring an upset by Latvia. The Swiss are even better at this "don't let the other guys score" thing than the Finns. All three of Switzerland's games have ended 1-0. They're no walk in the park, and if Canada can't figure out how to generate in a hurry, an upset could be in the cards.
Sidney Crosby is still contributing, but more would be preferable. One thing that could help Canada make the Swiss look like their cheese: getting the captain going. Crosby is the best player in the world, but thus far, he's been quiet. Mike Babcock tried shuffling Crosby's line mates around, dropping Chris Kunitz, finally, and bringing up Jamie Benn and Patrice Bergeron, but still nothing. Now, Crosby did have an impact on this game, drawing the penalty that led to Canada's first goal. (You could say he went down easy, and Teemu Selanne certainly told Crosby that, but a drawn call is a drawn call.) Still, more scoring would be ideal next time, and it's going to be especially necessary if Canada meets the USA in the semis. America's forwards are getting it done.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey