Canada Vs. Norway: Highlights and Analysis
Four years after finishing an embarrassing seventh in Turin (2006), Canada’s Men’s Olympic Hockey Team started on it’s journey towards redemption in front of a capacity crowd—and the legend himself, Wayne Gretzky in attendance, in Vancouver.
With the crowd decked out in a sea of red and white and the benefit of having Vancouver’s golden boy, Roberto Luongo, in between the pipes, Canada looked poised to demolish a virtually unknown Norwegian squad that primarily features players from the German, Swedish and Russian Leagues.
Given Canada’s stacked lineup it is easy to understand why expectations are so high. That said, the Norwegian team has the benefit of familiarity—something Canada will have to try to develop as the Olympic Tournament goes on.
It is this familiarity, combined with a defense first hockey system that much resembles the dreaded “trap”, that gives Norway a chance against Canada early on.
During the first period Canada attempts to stretch the Norwegian squad by attempting numerous 20 foot passes. On more occasions than not the puck gets through the neutral zone untouched, resulting in an icing call against Canada—hardly the result they were looking for.
As expected, Canada’s coaching staff rolled out four lines, doing their best to get every player involved in the game. Mike Babcock (Canada’s head coach), wants his players to get acquainted quickly, and there is no better way to do this than by rolling four lines.
Canada pasted Norway with 14 shots and, if not for the solid play of Norwegian goaltender Pal Grontes, would likely have lit the lamp at least twice—especially a chance which saw Sidney Crosby thwarted by Grontes glove hand late in the first period.
Despite Canada’s inability to score in the first period, you suspected they were just getting started….queue the second period…
Canada came out strong in the second period, seemingly playing with much more determination and speed than they demonstrated in the opening 20 minutes of play.
With Norway once again in the penalty box, Canada was finally took advantage when Jarome Iginla opened the scoring for Canada on the power play—hammering a blistering one-timer past Grontes for a 1-0 lead.
The goal would lift the weight of the world off the Canadian’s backs, as it was just a matter of time before the crowd was going to get impatient with the all-star calibre squad—instead the Canucks heard deafening cheers from the crowd, a noise they hope to hear often in Vancouver.
The crowd would get ignited once again when Dany Heatley got his stick on Chris Pronger’s point shot to give Canada a two goal lead and a ton of confidence to boot.
After killing off a 48 second two-man advantage, Canada stormed down the ice and into the Norwegian zone, eventually resulting in Philadelphia Flyers Captain Mike Richards jamming the puck past the overworked Norwegian goalie—three nothing Canada!
Canada continually got the puck deep throughout the third period and, unlike the first period, were able to keep the puck away from Norway’s defensemen, which, in turn, stopped the Norwegian’s from dumping the puck back into the Canadian’s zone.
Canada’s penalty kill did a good job of stopping the Norwegian’s late in the third period, protecting their 3-0 lead, which put them in pristine position heading into the third period—it was very apparent that Canada had found it’s legs.
Canada outshot Norway 16-6 in the period, getting nine points from nine different players—Mike Richards and Drew Doughty, two players that many expected to see limited action in tonight’s tilt (if not the entire tournament) played huge roles in Canada’s early success.
The third period saw Sidney Crosby take an early penalty for roughing—something head coach Mike Babcock was noticeably annoyed with. Roberto Luongo made a huge pad save when a Norwegian player was left unattended right in front of the net—if that play is against the Russian’s it’s in the back of the net; Canada will need to be better in that regard.
Canada stormed down into the Norwegians zone soon after the Norwegian’s power play ended; quickly establishing themselves down low, culminating in Canada’s fourth goal when Anaheim Ducks forward, Ryan Getzlaf—a player that almost didn’t make the trip to Vancouver due to injury concerns (ankle), slid the puck past Grontes at the side of the net.
Norway made a goaltender change, electing to bring in Andre Lysenstaen, who stands 6’4” and weighs in at an alarming 245 pounds—what a beast!
Norway would get another penalty soon after the goaltending change, which would result in Canada scoring it’s fifth goal when Dany Heatley ripped a shot past Lysenstaen from atop face-off circle.
Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley (all of whom play for the San Jose Sharks) were all on the ice at the time of the goal, demonstrating the importance of bringing players that were familiar with each other to the games.
Rick Nash, Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla would play a little tic-tac-toe shortly thereafter, ending with a beautiful goal by Iginla—his second of the game. The Chemistry of this line is alive and well—don’t be surprised if it is kept together for the remainder of the Olympics.
Canada would score again when Corey Perry finished off a beautiful end-to-end rush by the Canadians. Eric Stall shot the puck at the net a moment earlier, which just narrowly missed crossing the line—fortunately for Canada Perry was in position to bury the puck.
Jarome Iginla completed the hat-trick late in the third when he tipped a shot from Rick Nash past the Norwegian goaltender, 8-0 Canada, the fat lady is singing loud and proud.
Overall, Team Canada should be proud of their effort. Despite their early struggles, they played hard, skated well, took the body and took advantage of the power play opportunities they were given.
The San Jose trio of Heatley, Marleau and Thornton was dominant, as was the line of Iginla, Crosby, Nash. Look for Babcock to exploit their early chemistry throughout this tournament—these two lines looked dynamite!
With confidence high, Canada now turns their sights on Switzerland, this Thursday night, a team that should give Canada a tougher test—as they proved earlier in the day, losing a close contest the the highly favored American squad, 3-1.
For the record, the crowd, was boisterous, on point and looks to be a factor at these games.
My thre Stars: 1. Jarome Iginla 2. Shea Weber 3. Sidney Crosby
Great job Canada!
Until next time,