SOCHI, Russia – Go ahead and guess how many power plays Canada, the favorite to win gold in Sochi, had in the preliminary round.
That would be four. Four power plays in three games, for a total of 7 minutes and 16 seconds of power play time. Two penalties against Norway. Just one penalty against the Austrians, who gave up 10 power plays overall, and Finland.
They’re the only team in the tournament with less than 14 minutes of man advantage time, and have half as many power plays as the next lowest teams, Finland and the USA.
In Vancouver’s preliminary round, Canada had 11 power plays and 19:05 on the man advantage.
Of course, the ice was smaller there.
Some of this power play disparity is due to Canada’s skill players still trying to figure out the bigger surface in Sochi, especially against a team like Finland that decided the best defense was to forgo offense.
“I think when you put a whole bunch of skilled players together, you have a tendency to be on the outside and having the puck and you think you’re doing something,” said Coach Mike Babcock. “You’re hanging onto the puck and you’re hanging on to the puck and you’re hanging on to the puck, but nothing’s going on. You have to get these lessons, and that’s what people don’t understand.”
But when the Canadians do attack the zone, they’re finding that drawing calls isn’t easy.
“There was a lot of clutching and grabbing out there and the refs just seemed to put the whistles away. You just try to adjust to your game,” said center John Tavares after the Finland game, a 1-0 overtime win.
“You certainly hope when there are infractions, the calls are going to be made. We haven’t had too many power plays. Not trying to use that as an excuse, but we want to play an up-tempo pace and make teams defend and part of that is going to be to draw penalties.”
Patrice Bergeron said not getting the calls is just another adjustment for the Canadians.
“It’s a little different that way with the obstruction and the grabbing and what not. That being said, it seems to be part of it here and we all have to fight through it to beat it. I’m not really worried about it,” he said.
Question is, will the trend continue in the medal round.