Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games
Men's Hockey Preliminary Rounds
Group B: Canada vs. Norway @ Bolshoy Ice Dome
The time most of us Canadians have been waiting for: the start of the men's hockey tournament! Can Canada do what they did in 2010 in Russia? Will Russia redeem themselves from their uncharacteristic and disappointing performance in Vancouver? Is the USA fit to win the gold this year?
All these questions (and more) were asked before the first puck drop of the first game of the men's hockey, but all of them were put aside when Canada's first game came near. No one cared too much to ask the questions, but everyone was pumped to know if Steve Yzerman's and Canada's team was able to match the awesomeness of four years ago.
In the game versus Norway, we got a look at what the young guns of Canada could bring.
For the first 7 minutes, I would say Norway did a pretty good job and got to the right start against Canada. They had more chances on goal and kept the Canadian offence away from the dangerous area right in front of the net. They kept us cycling around, trying to get a chance, but none of them big chances. But despite their good footing and good start against the hockey giants, Norway gave up the first power-play of the game, a little past seven minutes into the game. And after the power-play, Norway started to look a little frazzled. Canada started to apply some more pressure, evened up the shots on goal, and created more good scoring chances. You could also see Canada get more comfortable in the atmosphere. Their choppy, tentative passes became aware and comfortable; their strides were more confident; and the typical Canada game was starting to come out (minus the true grind-into-the-boards part, international ice and all that).
The first period, was spent more about getting comfortable, getting used to the bigger ice, and finding the right set of players to play with each other. Watching the first period you see this transition as the ice tilts towards the Norwegian end. A lot of hockey time was spent in the Norway zone, but when it was out, the Norwegians were so fast, they were quick to attack into the Canada zone and away from theirs.
The second period start saw Canada a lot more comfortable than when they started. And their amount of comfort pulled through well! A little over 4 minutes into the second, Shea Weber released a cannonball of a shot up at the blue line and it just soared past the Norwegian goaltender's shoulder! It plainly, cleanly beat Lars Haugen, and you can see it on his face! I don't think Haugen was prepared for a shot like Weber's. Assists go to Duncan Keith and Patrice Bergeron.
The tempo picked up after Weber's shot. Canada continued to push on their gas pedal as Babcock kept their shifts short. They peppered the shots and dominated the Norwegian zone! But no way was Norway going to stay down. Eleven minutes into the period, Canada had a huge chance when Patrick Sharp had a wide open net and Jonathan Toews nearly deflected the puck in! Both were two great scoring chances, and the Toews deflection just happened to unluckily bounce off of the net post! The scramble that ensued from those couple of chances started to feed the hunger of the Canadians!
Canada refused to let up and as the hunger grew, so did the chances. And when you get chances, you get goals! Jamie Benn scored Canada's second goal on one foot 15:19 into the middle period! It didn't look like he had a good handle when he shot it, but it was good enough to hit the knob of Haugen's stick and find the back of the net! Patrice Bergeron picks up his second assist of the tournament and Drew Doughty gets an assist as well.
And the ice shifted a little towards Norway. For the majority of the game, Carey Price was able to just watch his teammates do an incredible job, and then it was his turn to back his team up! With two penalties going against them, Canada was put on the penalty-kill. On the penalty against Duncan Keith for holding (which continued into the third period), Norway's Patrick Thoresen scored the first goal for his nation in the tournament! Just 22 seconds after the puck drop for the final 20 minutes, Norway gets some momentum going their way. Thoresen deflected Mathias Olimb's shot to sneak one under Price's arm. Price's arm went up for Olimb's shot, but he didn't see the re-direction from Thoresen.
Not liking the one-goal lead, Canada hunted for their next goal. A minute and fifteen seconds after Norway's goal, Drew Doughty reinstated the two-goal lead. Haugen had to fight the big bodies in front of him to find the puck, but it was too late. Doughty picks up his second point (one goal, one assist), and Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Marleau pick up points in the assist.
The teams get more physical in their attack as the game pursued, but you could see the Canadians finding their game on the international ice. Russia, USA - look out. We're coming for gold again!
Way to go, Canada! Way to start the tournament! As much as I had my doubts about this team, this team is starting to look like the gold-medal winning team. Hopefully Canada doesn't get too cocky and the returning Olympians help cool the heads of the new Olympians, because while confidence is good, cockiness could be catastrophic.
(Image credit: sochi2014.com)