Team Canada Will Find It’s Way
Canada has been hampered by a number of injuries (including forward Calvin De Hann, Cody Eakin and Jaden Schwartz—who will not be back), the questionable suspension of power forward Zach Kassian and some truly spotty goaltending from Olivier Roy—who has been guilty of going down into the butterfly position far too early, leading to a number of short side high goals from the opposition.
With all this in mind, as much adversity as Team Canada has had to endure, they are still 3-0-1, in position to compete for a medal game and have played some inspired hockey along the way.
Even after the loss to the Swedes, there does not seem to be a sense of panic from the Canadian players or their coach. The fact is, it’s just one game, and despite the fact the Canada would have benefited from the rest they would have received with a win against Sweden, Canada may actually benefit from having to play the extra game.
With Kassian set to return in Canada’s match against Switzerland on Sunday afternoon and a goaltending change looming, both players (Kassian and goaltender Mark Visentin) could benefit from the extra playing time, finding chemistry with their linemates (Kassian) and timing between the pipes (Visentin).
To suggest that Canada’s roster runs the risk of burning out is a possibility. That said, given the magnitude of the tournament, the energy from the crowd and the added motivation to avenge their loss to Team USA (who have not exactly been lighting it up in this tournament) in last years gold medal game and their subsequent loss to the Swedes in this years round robin, should provide Canada with enough of a spark to get the desired result—the gold medal.
If Canada manages to get by the Swiss (a team that was beaten by the United States by a 2-1 score on Friday night) they will get an opportunity to meet the United States and, if all goes well, meet the Swedes in the gold medal final.
It’s a tall order to ask the Canadian roster to beat the United States and Sweden in back-to-back games, but if any roster is capable of pulling it off it is Team Canada.
Adding fuel to the fire are a number of comments coming from the players and head coach of Team Sweden.
Prior to the preliminary round, Swedish forward Johan Larsson said of their meeting with Canada, “We met them in Canada, we’re not impressed with them. I think we are the better team. They scored on less chances. We know we can beat them”.
At the time it seemed foolish of Larsson to provide Canada with extra motivation to go out and hammer the Swedes, but give credit where credit is due, Sweden pulled off a nice 6-5 shootout victory against Team Canada and, in my mind, were the better team for much of the game.
Sweden’s head coach Roger Ronnberg threw more fuel on the fire by stating he felt Sweden “had tougher games against the Czechs and Russians,” during the post game interviews after Sweden’s 6-5 shootout win on Friday.
I think anyone that watched all three games would suggest that Ronnberg was mistaken. In fact, if not for some incredibly shaky goaltending from Canadian Olivier Roy, the Swedes may very well have lost to Canada—who, were definitely outplayed by Sweden on Friday, but still managed to put five pucks past Sweden’s Robin Lehner who was thought to be one of the best goaltenders heading into the tournament.
To be fair, Canada is yet to play their best game. Their defense has been suspect on more nights than not and, while the offense has scored 28 goals in just four games (the tournaments best), they have benefited from a number of lucky bounces—especially in Fridays game against the Swede’s.
It appears as if Canada’s head coach Dave Cameron has some decision making to do with respect to his starting goaltender the rest of the way, that said, it really seems to be an easy one. Roy simply has not been good enough, and when you factor in the fact that Roy is often criticized for being an “all or nothing” type of goaltender (either red hot or ice cold), it appears as if he is on the wrong side of hot right now, which is to say, he’s ice cold!
No question in my mind, Mark Visentin needs to be Canada’s goaltender going forward. Sweden keyed in on Roy’s penchant for going down early, it’s not as if the other teams will not take notice of that, which means Roy will be vulnerable to giving up the short side high goals.
When everything is said and done, Canada will find it’s way. It will not be easy, but I suspect Canada will be there when they are handing out the gold medals on January fifth. Which color medal they will earn is still a mystery.
Until next time,