Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Shift By Shift Approach

It's been a long time since I could post a picture like the one to the left. If you're on the Canadian team, you're breathing a bit of a sigh of relief. Canada finally found some scoring, got a decent defensive effort, and Luongo was sound. There were some excellent personnel moves made by Canada's coaching staff in preparation for this game, and a couple made during the game that certainly went a long way in helping the Canadians down Germany 8-2 tonight. And, for the first time at this Olympiad, the Canadian men's hockey team looked like a team.

I liked Mike Babcock's moves of getting the energetic and physical Eric Staal on to a line with Crosby and Iginla. Staal is a good playmaker and finisher in his own right, so having him with a sniper like Iginla and a playmaker like Crobsy is a great combination. While it was tough watching Nash, Getzlaf, and Perry struggle, the top Canadian line looks like it's getting its act together.

I also appreciated the wise move by the Canadian coaching staff when they kept Pronger stuck to the bench. Look, the guy is past his prime in terms of his effectiveness. He doesn't have the wheels, he is no longer an intimidating physical presence, yet he still perceives himself to be what he was a decade ago. Chris Pronger is, at best, the seventh defenceman on this Canadian team. I'd love to see Drew Doughty and Shea Weber eating up a pile of the minutes that Pronger is getting.

So it's onward to Wednesday's quarter-final matchup with the Russians. The winner gets a shot at a medal. The loser gets no better than a fifth-place finish. This is certainly a game that both teams would have expected to come later in the Olympic tournament, but this is where we find ourselves.

If I'm Canada, I send out the checking line of Brendan Morrow, Jonathan Toews, and Mike Richards against Ovechkin's line every chance I get. Richards should be assigned to Ovechkin like he's his siamese twin. For Malkin I'd deliver a healthy dose of Crosby's line. You know that Crosby would relish the opportunity to play against his NHL teammate.

The other major factor could be the Washington-Pittsburgh matchup from last year's NHL Playoffs. There was so much chatter about how the Penguins hammered the Capitals in Game Seven of their series, with Crosby's team coming out on top. You know that Alexander Ovechkin can't be satisfied with how that series ended, and this is the world's biggest stage in terms of knocking Crosby and his team out of medal contention.

With all of these storylines, the Russia-Canada game tomorrow should be very interesting. Again, Canada has to be mindful of the speed that the Russians possess. However, if they remain disciplined and stick to their puck control game, there's a good chance that Canada could advance.

The schedule says the game starts at 4:30 PT tomorrow, so tune in where ever you may be. This is one game that could turn into a next-goal-wins type of game if both teams come out firing!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Fatty McFatterson said...

Great article. Canada needs to keep up the physical play against the Americans again and hope that Miller isn't on his A game.

Either way, with Luongo in net over Brodeur hopefully they'll get better goaltending.

Oh yeah, don't overlook Slovakia either (I think most of the country is just focusing on the gold medal game now).

Go Canada!