Canada Takes On USA For Gold: The Breakdown
There were no Canadian hockey players spotted smoking cigars and drinking beer on the ice after Canada’s 3-2 victory over Slovakia last night; same can be said for the American players who embarrassed Finland by a score of 6-1.
With Canada and the United States winning, it sets up the match that everyone in North America wants. In what should be one of the most watched hockey games in the history of the sport, both Canadians and Americans will put all the niceties aside, replacing it with fierce pride for country and I suspect a little hatred—let’s face it folks, the United States and Canada may be cordial neighbors, but when it comes to hockey, it’s another story all together.
The Americans will come into the gold medal final as the tournaments only undefeated team, including a convincing 5-3 victory over Canada in the preliminary round. Here’s some food for thought: three times a team has come into the gold medal game undefeated, each time that team came away with a Silver medal, losing the Gold…Just say’in is all.
For Canada, a rematch against Team USA offers them a chance at redemption and, more importantly, an opportunity to win a gold medal on home turf—something that was all but expected coming into the games.
Ryan Miller has been sensational during the Olympics, allowing just seven goals in five games and looking every bit the tournament MVP.
After undergoing an early goaltending change, Canada has watched Roberto Luongo play three great games, but hardly dominating as Luongo has allowed seven goals during those three tilts.
Clearly, Team USA will come into the game with the advantage in between the pipes and, quite possibly as the favorite to win the gold medal game.
Team USA will be playing a very different team on Sunday afternoon, a team that is full of confidence and has found that elusive chemistry, something that was clearly missing from Canada in their first matchup.
That said, there is no reason to believe that the Americans will not dominate Canada for a second time. Their speed and tenacity has been on display throughout the tournament and I suspect they will bring it once again.
Last night’s game against Slovakia saw head coach Mike Babcock splitting up the likes of Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, a line that looked dominant against the Russians and seemed destined to become Canada’s number one unit going forward.
There was no reason given from Babcock, leaving many Canadians (including myself) wondering exactly what line combinations will be on the ice against the Americans.
Defenseman Brain Rafalski, Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson have had a great tournament thus far, as have forwards, Zach Parise, Ryan Kessler and, more recently, Patrick Kane, who emerged as a real threat against Finland.
One things for sure, after Patrice Bergeron’s poor performance last night, I suspect he will see plenty of pine on Sunday, spending most of his afternoon stapled to the bench.
Look for Sidney Crosby to come up large for Canada—he has been very quiet thus far, which makes you believe his best hockey is yet to be played.
Phil Kessel (two points), Bobby Ryan (two points) and Dustin Brown (no points) have all struggled offensively, but have contributed in other ways, most notably Brown who has been a monster for the Americans.
Look for Zach Parise and Ryan Malone to have big games for Team USA, with Patrick Kane (who had Luongo’s number in last years playoffs) chipping in with a big effort as well.
Defensively Canada has been good, but never great. If they are to be successful against the Americans they will have to be quick on the puck and use their physical prowess to slow down the quick/tenacious American forwards—something the likes of Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and others struggled to do the first time around.
I think I speak for many hockey fans when I state the obvious, this is the match everyone wanted to see and now we have it, so don’t miss out, it’s going to be a barn burner and a game to remember.
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(Your source for post-to-post hockey coverage). AND…For the Gold Medal Game Breakdown, check out my fellow Bleacher Report contributor (Louis Pisano) and I at www.morencysports.com for our show “GET THE PUCK OUT”—6:00pm-7:00pm, Saturday Night!!!!!!! We’ll be taking calls all night long, phone in and voice your opinion at 1-866-964-5710….Call in, unlike your wife, we want your opinion!!!!! Will Canada get revenge over the United States or will Team USA reign supreme?????
Until next time,