Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reactions to the Canada's First Hockey Game


After a shaky first period, Canada's Men's Hockey team turned up the heat and ended delivering a great performance in their opening game. You expect that a team like Canada should be able to beat a team like Norway quite handlely in this tournment, and although the score ended up 8-0 for Canada, we did have a rocky first period.

In the first, Canada was trying to be too pretty. They tried to make too many passes in the zone to set up perfect scoring chances, and the Norwegians did a good job of getting into the passing lanes, and taking these chances away. When Canada did get a shot on goal, there was hardly any traffic in front of the net, and so the Norwegian goalie was able to make the saves. To make matters worse, Canada's defence tried to make too many long passes up the ice - hardly any of which connected, and we ended up being called for icing countless times. The Norwegians are a hard working team, so although Canada outshot them 14-4 in the first, the game was much closer than was expected.

But in the second, Canada settled down. Coach Mike Babcock took my advice and put together Crosby, Nash and Iginla, and the result was a great line - Iginla ended up getting a hat trick, the best goal of which was the first on the power play, where he got himself open and hammered it home. This seemed to open the floodgates, as Heatley scored a few minutes later (although almost all the credit for that goal has to go to Chris Pronger), and then when Mike Richards grinded out a goal a few minutes later, Canada had it in the bag. Heatley added another goal, Ignila another two, with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry rounding out the goal scorers.

Sidney Crosby (3), Drew Doughty, Chris Pronger, Joe Thornton, Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, Scott Niedermayer, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle (2), Rick Nash (2) and Eric Staal all added assists. In fact the only players on the ice yesterday who DIDN'T get at one point were Roberto Lunogo, Brendan Morrow, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

This has got to be seen as a great start for Canada. In Torino, the team struggled on the power play, and struggled even more to score goals - only getting a total of 15 in the entire tournament. They have reached more than half that mark at the end of the first game.


The only thing you can really say bad about Canada's performance in the last two periods is that they took two stupid penalities. Dany Heatley's penalty for slashing was pure laziness, and Sidney Crosby's retatilation penalty was silly. You cannot do that against the more elite teams in the tournament and get away with it. Getting Canada to shoot as much as they did in the last two periods, and not concentrating on the pretty plays that don't work as they did in the first, and getting them to not take stupid penalaties will be what the coaches want to concentrate on before the game Thursday.

Except on the penalty kill, we didn't see much of forward Morrow on the ice, and we saw even less of defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (which explains why these were the three who didn't register a point last night). I expect this to change as the tournament wears on. Morrow was brought in to kill penalaties, and because his good defensive play as a forward will come in handy against the more elite teams in the tournament. Keith and Seabrook are seen as Canada's shutdown team on defense, and against Norway, you don't really need them. When they face Russia or Sweden, or even the USA later in the round robin, they will be relied upon more heavily. By not playing these three, it allowed coach Mike Babcock to play youngsters Drew Doughty and Jonathan Toews more. Doughty was put out in all situations - even the penalty kill - and Toews was the lone forward out there to start the long 5-3 penalty kill the Canadians had in the second period. By playing the two youngest players (Doughty is 20, Toews 21), you give them confidence that they really do belong there, so even if in future games they are not used as much, you know when they are used, that they'll be fine.

Roberto Luongo was perfect in net last night - but then again facing Norway, and not many shots, he should have been. I expect to see the same type of performance by Martin Brodeur in net against Switzerland on Thursday. These games will not really effect who Canada chooses to be the starting goalie in the more important games. Those decisions have either already been made, or will be based on much more than what we see in the first two games - unless Marty stinks it up on Thursday.

All in all, it was a good first game for Canada. Bring on the Swiss!

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