Canada Vs. USA: Two Teams, Five Keys To Victory- I Got Your Winner!

February 28th, 2010 No Comments

With Canada and the United States just a few hours away from dropping the puck in what can only be called an epic battle on the ice, fans from coast to coast wait with great anticipation and a little nervousness.

Both Canada and Team USA will have to bring their “A” game if they are to be successful in today’s gold medal game. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five keys to success form both teams and my final prediction of today’s outcome.

Team USA:

1. Must try to keep Canada off the scoreboard during the first ten minutes of the game. While the crowd is bound to be littered with both American and Canadian fans, Team USA does not want to allow the crowd to be a factor, a quick goal would allow that to happen and, in the process, give Canada a massive boast of confidence, which may be lethal for Team USA.
2. Team USA was able to put Canada on it’s heals in their first match by using their speed in the neutral zone. If Team USA can have a repeat performance it will undoubtedly serve them well.
3. Ryan Miller has to be brilliant. We all know Team USA defeated Canada by a score of 5-3 in the first match, what people need to remember is that Canada mustered 45 shots against the Americans and have continually outshot their opponents all tournament long. Needless to say, Canada will likely continue this trend today, which means Miller will be busy.
4. Team USA will need to be tough along the boards. Dustin Brown, Ryan Kessler and Ryan Callahan must be a thorn in the Canadian forwards sides, winning battles along the boards will go a long way in doing that, as will playing a physical game.
5. While Zach Parise, Ryan Malone and (more recently) Patrick Kane, have been responsible for most of Team USA’s, they will likely need others to step up today. Establishing secondary scoring may very well be the biggest key to the United States success with the likes of Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny and Phil Kessel, needing to step it up.

Let’s face it, Canada is going to be hyped up for this game. The noise of the crowd, motivation for the gold medal and the revenge factor will all culminate into a very different effort from Canada. An early goal from Team USA would go a long way in deflating all of that, as will taking advantage of power play and odd man rush opportunities.

Team USA comes into this game undefeated, with tons of confidence and with absolutely no pressure on their shoulders. Lose and everyone says “The States wasn’t supposed to be here, so we’re happy”, win and they are hero’s. It’s a win-win situation for the States, as many feel they can’t lose.

Team Canada:

1. Goaltender Martin Brodeur struggled with the puck and was out of position on more than a few occasions in Canada’s first match against the United States. It was a black mark on an otherwise brilliant career, something Canada did not anticipate happening. One of the positives that resulted from Brodeur’s poor play is the emergence of goaltender Roberto Luongo, who, while not brilliant, seems to have given Canada a shot in the arm and renewed confidence. Luongo will need to be at his best against the Red, White and Blue— as the saying goes, I believe Luongo is “yet to play his best hockey”, hopefully he manages to bring it today.
2. Canada must remain disciplined. Bad penalties resulted in the Americans sucking the momentum right out of Canada and in a game like today you do not want to allow your opponent the opportunity to get power plays. Canada must also resist the temptation to hit everything that moves—this may cause Canada to get running around, which, in the end, may lead to scoring chances for the States and, quite possibly odd-man rushes.
3. Defensemen Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer did not have their best game against the Americans, simply put, they need to be better. Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty will also need to be on their games, but Niedermayer and Pronger will likely be put in the position of having to be Canada’s shut down pairing, something that undoubtedly will be a tough assignment against Team USA’s speedy forwards.
4. Score the first goal. The American’s are yet to trail at the Olympics, getting ahead early will put them in unfamiliar waters, something that may cause Team USA to crack. The added bonus will be the electricity that the crowd will bring if Canada gets up early, which could be a huge bonus and source of motivation for Canada.
5. “Do you”. Canada’s players need to play within themselves. There will be a lot of temptation to be the “hero” today, Canada’s forwards need to concentrate on filling their role, not on scoring the big goal.

In the end I think Canada will bring it’s “A” game. They will be highly motivated, looking for revenge and wanting to fulfill the pre-tournament gold medal predications form most experts.

Canada’s focus will need to be there in order for them to be successful. If they get too amped they may be made to pay a price by the States.

The Prediction:

American’s will be routing for Team USA, Canadians will be routing for Canada, but there can only be one winner. In my last article I pointed out that on three occasions a team has arrived at the gold medal game undefeated only to leave with the silver medal.

The bottom line is, the team that has the most check marks beside my bullet points will win today’s game, end of story.

I would be remiss if I didn’t voice my concern about Roberto Luongo—I have never been a huge fan, especially in the big games. For me, Luongo is the biggest quagmire here, if he brings he best game, Canada will win, if Team USA gets him moving east-west, he’s going to struggle.

This will be a very close game, one that I suspect will need a shoot-out to decide. In that situation I like Ryan Miller, which is why I am predicting a 3-2 victory for team USA.

Until next time,

Peace!

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