Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Is This Our Game Plan?

Canada and the United States met in their ongoing battle towards the gold medal in Pyeongchang, and it felt like the animosity between the two teams was at a four-year high. Things had gone well for Canada leading up to the games in the pre-tournament action seen in North America and over in South Korea, and that led me to believe that perhaps Laura Schuler and her coaching staff may have solved the American onslaught we were used to seeing in these games. Canada carried the play for periods of time in the pre-tournament games, and that, in my mind, boded well for these Olympic Games.

And then we saw the Americans throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Canadians tonight, and the onslaught on the Canadian net was back as it had been previously. If this is the game plan that Schuler and her staff are employing against the Americans, how long can they play with fire before they get burned?

Make no mistake that Canada buried the chances they had with Meghan Agosta scoring on one of six Canadian power-plays while Sarah Nurse introduced herself to the world with a gorgeous goal as well in helping Canada win 2-1. It wasn't like the reigning gold medalists just sat back and let the Americans skate circles around them, but it looked like the Americans were the better team for the majority of the night.

Perhaps that's ok in Schuler's world but it seems a little risky when you consider the firepower that the Americans possess. The chances the Americans had were certainly plentiful, but they just couldn't finish. You can credit the Canadian defence and Canadian goaltender Genevieve Lacasse for part of that, but you simply can't give up the number of chances the Americans had on this night without having them burn you at some point.

In Canada's defence, they did score four goals, but two were disallowed. Brigette Lacquette's goal was waved off due to a mass of humanity in Maddie Rooney's crease that included a couple of red jerseys, and Haley Irwin's redirection as she stopped was determined to be a kick so it too was disallowed. While the first goal may be hard to allow under Olympic rules, the second goal could have gone either way in this writer's view.

However, talking about these chances is moot had America been able to convert any of it chances. Four goal posts helped Canada. Renata Fast swept a puck off the goal line. American chances were thwarted by shots that were fanned on. They tried to make one extra pass when a shot was probably the better choice on a few occasions. For a team that poured 45 shots on the Canadian net and only found the twine once, the Americans won't be happy with those results.

Both teams will undoubtedly go back and review the video of this game in looking for ways to generate more offence and capitalize on chances and reduce the opportunities of their foes. The physical side of the game, which is always present in these Canada-USA games, was certainly shown as there were skirmishes and checks that would make the men's game proud, but this preview of what could potentially be the gold medal game certainly offers a lot for the coaches and players to reflect on when it comes to the end results.

While Canada may have won the game, the Americans certainly had every opportunity to win this game as well. A victory is a victory and I won't take that away from Canada as they found a way to claim this win, but I feel that this game only sets up what could possibly be another gold medal game to remember between these long-time rivals as the tension, the bulletin board material, and the animosity continues to grow.

If you're Laura Schuler, though, you have a lot of work to do before the final game of this tournament. If Canada does meet the Americans in that game and they play as they did tonight, it could easily be an American victory. That should concern Schuler because her team is better than what they showed tonight, and she needs to get them back to the level of play they showed in winning five of six pre-tournament North American games.

Let's go, Canada!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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