For about 50 minutes of tonight's game, Canada did pretty much everything right. The forechecked well, they got shots through from the point, capitialized on the power play and got great goaltending from Roberto Luongo. Canada was up 3-0 with less than 10 minutes to go in the third period - and that's when the wheels fell off the wagon a little bit.
It's hard to blame Canada for letting up a little bit. They had a comfortable lead. The Slovakians had not been pressing them at all up until that point. The arena was rocking with the fans chanting "We want USA". It appeared that Canada had it in the bag. But that is when Lubomir Visofsky scored to make it 3-1. The goal is one Luongo should probably not have let in. He cheated a little bit, moving off the post anticipating a pass across the crease, and instead got a little bank shot off his leg. Things got worse from there, as the Slovakians came out flying, and Canada sat back a little bit. The second goal they allowed was because of a faceoff loss by Patrice Bergeron in their own zone. Trying to hard to make up for it, Bergeron fell around the ice, and ending up landing a hit - not only on the Slovakian player, but also on Drew Doughty. This left Michael Handzus alone in front, and he buried his chance. Not chance for Luongo on that one. The last five minutes were a flurry of activity around the net, where the Slovakians came close to putting in the tying goal, but Luongo stood tall, and shut the door, and Canada hung on for a 3-2 victory.
Still though, I am not that worried heading into the gold medal game on Sunday. Yes, Canada took their foot off the gas in the last 10 minutes of this game, but they won't make the same mistake against the Americans - believe me. I am little concerned that the Crosby-Staal-Iginla line hasn't scored in the last two games, but they are playing strong hockey regardless, so I don't think it matters much. Plus, since the Thornton-Heatley-Marleau and Getzlaf-Perry-Morrow line (who between them scored all three goals tonight) is firing on all cylinders, it really doesn't matter.
Even though American beat Canada last weekend, and handed Finland a convincing loss today, I still think Canada is in a good position to win on Sunday. For one thing, even though America won the last game, Canada outplayed them, and only got beat because of great goaltending by Ryan Miller. But now with a steady Luongo in net instead of a shakey Brodeur, I don't think that will be an issue. Also in last week's game, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and especially Dan Boyle had weak game on defense - all three, especially Boyle, have stepped up their game since then. Last week, Rick Nash was struggling and had yet to score. Now, he's scored two big goals, and is looking better out there. Last week Getzlaf and Perry were pretty awful - now they are two of Canada's best forwards. The weaknesses in Canada's game that existed last week have been fixed. Plus, Ryan Miller has played twice since then - and not really been tested in either game. Will he still be at the top of his game on Sunday?
Of course, this doesn't mean a gold medal is assured. In a one game scenario, anything can happen, and anyone can win. The Americans have played a very strong tournament up until this point - never losing a game. They came in as massive underdogs, but showed everyone what they can do. If Canada does lose, there will be no shame in that - no matter what the media says the next day.
But I don't think Canada will lose. That rink is going to be rocking on Sunday afternoon. This is what Canada has been playing for - a chance to win the gold medal on home soil. They have not made it easy on themselves - and faced a mountain of criticism throughout the entire tournament from "loyal" Canadian fans - many of whom are still bitching even though they have made the finals - but on Sunday everyone will be behind them. Do you really think there is not a player on Team Canada who will do whatever is necessary to prevent America from winning the gold medal in Canada? The Americans have pretty much breezed through this tournament. Canada has fought tooth and nail. And when all is said and done on Sunday, I think Canada will win.