Friday, February 21, 2014

Canada Outplays USA, Wins 1-0

When the Team USA roster was announced, there were criticisms that it didn't have enough offensive firepower. Those critics, sadly, were proven right as Canada shut out Team USA 1-0. Canada will now play for the gold against Sweden on Sunday, and the US will play Finland for bronze Saturday.

The argument defending USA's roster choices was that guys like Phil Kessel and Patrick Kane would do the scoring. The team lacked offensive depth, but had powerful offense at the top. Kessel had a good Olympics. Patrick Kane failed to score a goal. Team USA needed Kane in this game and he didn't deliver.

The US got 30 shots on goal, but only a handful truly challenged Carey Price. Most possessions were one and done. Most shots hit Price right in the maple leaf.

Give lots of credit to Canada's layered defense, a testament to assistant coach Claude Julien, whose layered defense has been a staple of the Boston Bruins' success for several years.

While Canada's layered defense remained strong, Team USA allowed a goal because of defensive mistakes. Ryan Callahan got careless and didn't cover his man (Jay Bouwmeester) on the point, and didn't cover his space in that part of the ice. An open Bouwmeester threatened to shoot, which Jonathan Quick had to respect, and an opportunistic Jamie Benn slipped into the space vacated by Callahan, and tipped Bouwmeester's shot-pass into an open net.

Phil Kessel's game was a microcosm of USA's game as a whole. He had a few chances on breakaways, using his speed. But after the initial shot there wasn't enough support to maintain pressure on Price. Kessel also had a number of giveaways and passes intercepted in the neutral zone. So did Ryan Suter. So did Kevin Shattenkirk. Too many USA possessions ended before they made it through the neutral zone.

Kessel's play in this game is exactly why I'm glad he's no longer a Bruin.

While Canada's defense reminded me of the Bruins, Team USA's power play also, unfortunately, reminded me of the Bruins. There wasn't any movement away from the puck, which put the onus of creating passing lanes on the puck carrier. So the puck carrier was forced to protect the puck AND move around enough to get his 4 teammates open. That's just not good.

The ice sheet is 100 feet wide, and Team USA only used the 10 feet along the boards when they had a power play. This was exactly what Canada wanted.

Canada won the battles behind the net, in front of the net, along the boards. It's not that the US didn't have enough talent to beat Canada. The US didn't have execution. Jonathan Quick played a great game, good enough to neutralize any talent edge Canada had. The US wasted 3 power play opportunities, didn't support the puck, didn't take care of the puck in the neutral zone.

Just a bad game. And I'm disappointed in this team. Had they played great and lost, I'd be content with a bronze. They didn't play great, most didn't play good.

Go Sweden.

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