Friday, 31 March 2017

Zero Teeth

The image to the left of Nicole Hensley should be tacked to the bulletin board in Canada's dressing room following their 2-0 loss to the Americans to open the Women's World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan. That's not to say that the Canadians should have any ill will towards Hensley, but it's a sign of two programs that seem to be moving in opposite directions when it comes to their philosophies on the ice. The Americans and Canadians played a spirited game that had chances, but the issues of how Canada is teaching its best to play the game reared its ugly face in this one as one team was, by far, the more aggressive.

Is there some reason or some sort of coaching mandate that tells Canadian coaches to not attack the middle of the ice? This isn't just seen on the international stage. I witnessed it numerous times at the Canadian university and high school hockey levels this season as well, and it's shocking to me that the "home plate scoring chance area" isn't attacked repeatedly by Canadian players of all skills. For those unaware, the highest chances of scoring come from the area outlined below.

In tonight's game against the Americans, Canada had virtually no home plate scoring chances throughout the entire game. They seemed content to cycle the puck along the outside without ever penetrating into the middle of the ice. This has been a concern for me for some time now, and tonight's game only exacerbated those concerns. If you can't get pucks to places where you get good looks at the net, the chances of scoring goals against good goaltenders such as Hensley will be nearly zero. Or, in Canada's case tonight, it was zero.

Hensley made 18 saves in the victory for the Americans tonight, and there were maybe four or five really good scoring chances for the Canadians. Comparatively, the Americans had 30 shots on Shannon Szabados with at least 10-12 chances being of high quality. This isn't how Canada plays hockey. The loss I can accept as the Americans are an exceptional team, but the play of the game in which Canada was out-shot, out-skated, out-chanced, and out-scored is not indicative of Canadian hockey. The women on this team are some of the best in the world, but they looked off in a big way tonight. That should bother them as they prepare for Finland tomorrow.

The other thing that really bothered me about Canada's game is how careless they are with the puck in their own zone. There were few tape-to-tape passes, breakout passes missed their targets, and rimming the puck around the boards with no one to pick it up on the other side seemed to be Canada's "out" in most cases when it got in trouble. Without having anyone to receive the puck, those outs became turnovers and Canada was pinned in their zone for extended periods of time. They need to clean up their defensive quick quickly because an aggressive Finnish squad has just enough talent to make Canada pay for sloppy play.

All in all, it was a solid performance by the Americans and a very uncharacteristic performance by Canada. They'll need to play well against both Finland and Russia if they hope to meet the Americans for a rematch with medals on the line.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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