Sunday, 21 February 2010

We Don't Get The Concept

Huge win tonight for Team USA against the Canadians. Not only does Team USA get the bye to the quarter-finals, but Canada now has to go through Germany and Russia just to get to the semi-finals. The one thing, however, that stood out to me tonight seems to be a repeat of the same thing I said about the Canada-USA final at the World Junior Hockey Championships. For all intents and purposes, Canada looks like it wants to be playing in an all-star game while the Americans put their hardhats on and rub on copious amounts of elbow grease. Once again, the better team won tonight, and I take nothing away from the Americans in that regard. They were better for the majority of the game.

I do want to take a little time to get a few things off my chest.

First, Chris Pronger is a waste of humanity at the Winter Olympics. They brought him in for his "veteran leadership" and how he can help lead the young blueline that Canada is employing, but he looks slow and old out there against the younger, faster teams. For my money, Chris Pronger might be the worst player on the Canadian roster right now, and, if I were coaching, he'd be sitting.

Secondly, for all that Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash bring to the table in terms of talent and effort, it was those two who brought home a pair of -3 ratings in the Canada-USA game. With the tournament round beginning, it's time to shore up the defensive zone for the Canadians, starting with these two youngsters. If you aren't scoring many goals like Canada currently is, you had better keep opposing players off the scoresheet. Neither Nash nor Crosby has done that yet.

Thirdly, this obsession with Martin Brodeur's NHL stats needs to end. You play your hot goalie until he falters, and that's that. For the game against Germany, Luongo would be my starter. Brodeur didn't play well against Switzerland, and he looked average against the Americans. The only goaltender who has won a game in regulation for Canada right now is Luongo. Case closed.

Fourth, and, in my estimation, the most important thing that the Canadians can do to start changing their fortunes is shooting the puck. Notice in the last 10 minutes of the game how many shots the Canadians had? If Ryan Miller hadn't been brilliant, there could have been two or three goals. The Canadians need to start hammering the puck on these talented goaltenders. No more dipsy-doodles and cross-ice passes looking for the highlight reel goals. Drive the puck on net, crash the crease, and get some garbage goals like the other teams do.

Ok, to the Americans.

With all the hoopla surrounding General Manager Brian Burke's choices of who plays for Team USA, perhaps the biggest statement he made was his "underdog" statement about Team USA. It was a role that he wanted, and it was one that he was fine with in respect to the other countries.

Does anyone realize that this is exactly what Wayne Gretzky did in 2002? Remember how the Canadians were struggling, and Gretzky held that press conference to tell the world that it was Canada versus everyone else?

Brian Burke took all the pressure off his players and coaches by telling everyone that they were the underdogs going into the Winter Olympics. The result? A very relaxed, very composed team. And for all the criticism that I've given Ron Wilson over the years about his coaching in Toronto, Team USA has all the earmarks of a Brian Burke-built team, and a Ron Wilson-coached team: they're gritty, they work their butts off, and they win.

And that's the difference between Canada and the USA. Canada is literally an all-star team from top to bottom on its roster, but it plays like an NHL All-Star team as well. For the last ten minutes of the game, Canada played like the house was on fire, but the first 50 minutes was lackadaisical and loose.

Why is this? Canada is experiencing the same problems it found in Torino, Italy four years ago. They struggled against weaker teams - including a loss to Switzerland - and they can't seem to turn on the effort or the scoring against the better teams.

I get that the Canadians only have a few days to get some chemistry going, but that excuse wears thin when you consider the other countries who have the same issues. It's not like the Americans, the Russians, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Swedes, and the Finns have spent the last few weeks getting lines in order and working on systems. Yet the Canadians seem to be lacking something that the other six countries aren't: team cohesiveness.

It was evident tonight in how the Americans played as a team throughout their lines. The Americans deserve their top seed because they were the best team in their pool. If you're a Canadian and you disagree, you're fooling yourself. The Americans are a BETTER TEAM than the Canadians despite having less talent on a per-player basis.

In the Olympics, individuals win individual medals. The best teams win team medals. As it stands right now, Canada is not a medal favorite in my view.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


David said...

To be fair that game was on the wild side. To me, the US team seemed like they were on their heels the majority of the game (despite the score). Canada had 45 shots on goal! I wouldn't say the US was exactly over matched but they seemed to play on the edge of disaster if not above their abilities. It certainly was exciting to watch from Minnesota but I felt a little sorry that team Canada had to lose a game like that at their home olympics. Good luck Canucks.

Sage Confucius said...

I have never hated my work hours more than I do tonight. I was able to keep up with the game online but would much rather have been watching it in HD at home. That, and when the US scored the empty net goal I jumped up out of my chair and cracked my knee on my desk. Still hurts but it's a happy sort of pain.

From the highlights I saw online, the US outworked and outplayed Canada. The empty netter was a prime example. The Canadian player assumed he had the USA played blocked and Kessler proved him otherwise. Awesome! The US wanted it more. Happy happy night!

Dan said...

It's like Herb Brooks believed, not the best players, the RIGHT ones.

As I watched the game last night, I couldn't help wondering, "Really, Canada? You don't think Mike Green could have helped more than Chris Pronger?"

Imagine if this game were being played on a REAL Olympic sheet...Pronger would br little more than traffic calming device with all that extra space. As it is, I didn't see much from him.

The sad thing is that down here, people will take pride in the win...and talk a big game about "we kicked their butts" but most of those same people, if you asked them who Jack Johnson was...they'd tell you he's that surfer dude with the guitar.

At this point, I'm rea,,y looking forward to that potential Thursday match-up between Canada and Russia.