Those darn Canadians,you’d a thunk they invented the game of hockey. In a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated, Team Canada beat Team USA 1-0. In a pitchers duel atmosphere, the goalies were their respective teams most valuable players with Carey Price outdueling Jonathan Quick by calmly controlling the tempo and flow, forcing faceoffs or playing the puck to the corner where there always seemed to be plenty of red sweaters below the goal line and along the boards. The US could not mount any sustained offense at all, their chances were frequently one and done as Jeremy Roenick put it so eloquently in the post game wrap. Team USA could not use its speed to get free in the neutral zone and almost all the shots Price faced were clearly seen with little to no traffic in front of him.
Canada played the game in a chessmaster fashion, thwarting the US offense by having their center play below the goal line and even a forward occasionally when the US tried to make plays in the expanded zone behind the net. Using Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty’s speed to exit the zone, Team Canada was able to transition out of danger over and over and create excellent offensive chances constantly. Coach Mike Babcock had the last change and was the winner in the chess match with US coach Dan Bylsma by matching D lines that included an offensive D with a defensively minded D man, ala Drew Doughty with Shea Weber. He also used forward lines that paired two players from the same team, like Ryan Getzlaf with Corey Perry of the Ducks with Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, the game’s lone goal scorer and Penguins line mates Sid the Kid with Chris Kunitz.
Another aspect of the chess match was how both coaches matched players against their teammates. Chicago teammates Keith against Kane, or San Jose Sharks teammates Vlasic against Pavelski. It was obvious to this observer that playing against players you practice with and against daily, negated possible creative plays because they could sniff em out before they happened.
To sum it up, almost total domination by Canada with goalie play, defensive scheme and enough consistent pressure that forced the US to play without the puck for most of the game. With the exception of Kessel and Kane trying to use their speed to create chances, Team USA’s offense was stymied. Ryan Kesler’s injured hand factored into the loss in that when the Americans had something going down low on a few occasions, the Canadian D lifted his stick and took it from him. James van Riemsdyk had a couple good shots but Price was never screened and saw everything. David Backes and Ryan Callahan were unable to play their game, banging down low and creating chances off their forecheck because the Canadian D was too strong down low. Four years is a long time to wait for another crack at the gold medal but that is what America faces as the neighbors from the north go on to play for gold….again.