The gold medal game is upon us, and fittingly, Canada will face off against their US rivals in a battle of hockey’s elite. The US team, led by Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, and of course Ryan Miller, will look to grind out another victory over Team Canada, while the Canadians will seek to avenge a tough 5-3 loss to the Americans in the round-robin phase of the tournament.
Keys To The Game
- The first goal. Â In their previous matchup against the US, an early goal threw the Canadian players off their game, and they never fully recovered.
- Goaltending. Ryan Miller has been fantastic for the US, but is not invincible; the Canadians were able to put three goals past him in the previous matchup. Between the pipes for Canada will be Roberto Luongo, who took a huge step toward proving his doubters wrong by coming up with the big save against Slovakia when his team needed it most.
- Defensive play. Too often in this tournament, the Canadian players have been guilty of leaving their goaltender to his own devices while chasing the play in their own zone (and confusing their assignments as a result – although to his credit it was a pretty sweet hit that Bergeron put on Doughty in the Slovakia game – too bad they’re teammates). Â The US, meanwhile, boast the tournament’s top shot-blocking team, although their propensity to dive in front of nearly every blast can lead to fortuitous bounces for the opposition.
- Physical play. Canada has dominated the tournament in this regard, and in the process Shea Weber has become a household name. Unlike the Russians, the US will not back down from the physical game; however, the Canadians will look to force turnovers with the physical game, taking advantage of their team speed to create odd-man rushes.
- Team play. The US scoresheet has been populated by three names in particular: Parise, Kane, and Rafalski. Canada, on the other hand, has rolled four lines throughout, with each taking a starring role in various games. For all the heat placed on Sidney Crosby for not being at the top of the scoresheet, he has, like his teammates, played an excellent two-way game. Â One of the keys to any championship team is the ability for players to set aside their own egos, and to defer to the abilities of their teammates rather than pursue the spotlight on their own. Â This is perhaps Canada’s greatest advantage: any line, at any time, in any game, can have an impact on the scoresheet.
- The adversity factor. The US team has not had to face a great deal of adversity beyond being tagged as somewhat of an underdog. Â Canada, on the other hand, had to deal with questions about Getzlaf’s injury, lost a game they were expected to win against this very US team, and has gone through a much-ballyhooed goaltending controversy. They have overcome it all, and will play with a confidence borne of knowing they can overcome any game circumstance. Â Â The US has held the lead through most of their games in tournament, often by several goals at a time, and as such it is fair to question how they would respond should they suddenly find themselves behind by a couple of goals. Canada, on the other hand, has played several games during which the opposition held the game close (Switzerland, Slovakia), yet were able to maintain their focus and pull out the win.
Today’s game will be a close one, without a doubt, and will ultimately come down to Miller vs Luongo. Defensive play will be key, and the team which dominates the physical game will give itself the best chance to win. Â This match has all the intensity of a Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final. Â It is one-and-done, winner gets gold, loser gets four years of excuse-making.
I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to those excuses … there are some things you just never get tired of hearing!
Of course, as a typical Canadian, should we lose I will tip my cap to the better team. I may not cheer for the US team, but I certainly respect their abilities. This is not a game to be taken lightly by anyone — these guys are good. Â It’s up to our boys to be better.Â Here’s hoping the Revenge Factor be enough to will push our team to a victory in this very evenly-matched contest.
Looking forward to your thoughts as always,