Team Canada strutted to a 6-0 victory over Austria this afternoon in what was a more satiating scoreline for Canadian hockey fans.
More offence from the defence got Team Canada on the board early. An easy faceoff win by Jonathan Toews sent the puck back to Drew Doughty, who threw an-off balance shot through traffic on net that handcuffed the Austrian goalie.
After Ryan Getzlaf threw a great aerial pass for Corey Perry to bat down in a stunning display of puck control, Perry made a slick drop pass to Shea Weber, who launched another high-rising clapper over the glove hand of Bernhard Starkbaum.
If there was something to nitpick in the first, the Canadian powerplay will need to find another level when the games start counting; while they were controlling the puck with Harlem Globetrotter-esque, aesthetically-pleasing passing plays, Canada seemed reluctant to shoot and were looking for highlight reel goals, as is perhaps expected with so much elite talent on the team.
After Jeff Carter tripped an Austrian player in the early second period, he came out of the box and was joined by Sidney Crosby fresh off the bench. Austria turned the puck over at their own blueline, and Crosby had a ton of time to draw the goalie out and send a pass into Marleau and Carter in the crease for Carter to jam in after Marleau’s initial shot hit the post.
Carter added to his account shortly after, pouncing on a misplay by the Austrian goalie and wrapping the puck into the net.
Carter completed his natural hat trick inside a period in what was his best goal of the three; the other two goals were kind of gifted to him, but on his third he made a heads-up play and showed off the goal-scoring instincts that earned him a spot on the team. He rotated back to cover for Shea Weber, who was pinching, before drifting back into the slot unnoticed to find a rebound and complete his hat trick.
The forward Mike Babcock plays the least seems to produce. Yesterday it was Jamie Benn with a goal in 8:52 TOI, today it was Jeff Carter with a hat trick in under nine minutes of ice time.
The game was officially a laugher at this point. Ryan Getzlaf made it six with a shorthanded effort, poking the puck past a pinching defence on the Austrian PP and rushing down ice and finishing on the backhand after a fancy toe drag around an Austrian defenceman.
Obviously, there was lots to like about Canada’s second “warm up” match of the tournament. We’ll see our first measuring stick game against the Finns on Sunday.
For what it’s worth given the opposition, the Canadian defence has been making good decisions and showing off its skill and mobility. Sweden’s D is pretty damn talented and mobile, but Canada’s is in a league of its own. Canada’s ability to attack in five man units is looking promising; providing they continue to make the appropriate switches, this makes Canada very dynamic on the attack.
The two games tell us practically nothing about the goaltending situation — The Finland game on Sunday should be the first test. It seemed Roberto Luongo made one or two big saves today which Carey Price didn’t have to make yesterday, for whatever that’s worth. Luongo made a point-blank save in the second period, after Shea Weber fell behind the net and a pass came out in front, and needed another nice one in the third to preserve the shutout. Luongo made 23/23 saves to Price’s 19/20.
There are a few lines emerging, subject to change of course. Benn, Tavares and Bergeron have been looking very effective generating off the cycle – those are three elite all-around players who are very firm on pucks, and the line should be able to spend shift after shift in the right end of the rink. Carter/Nash/Toews looks like something to carry forward based on today’s effort. Getzlaf and Perry will obviously remain together, and Duchene looked pretty good on that line, but there may need to be some more fiddling with both the top line and the third member of this line. Duchene – Crosby – St. Louis got some looks in the third and may be the solution there.
Speaking of Duchene, it was his debut Olympic appearance and he looked to be taking this game more serious than any other Canadian player. His speed and talent in traffic is remarkable, and his industry stood out.
As we’re Canadians and this is the national hockey team, we have to find something to complain about in a 6-0 win over Austria. Today’s subject is Chris Kunitz. The understanding was that Team Canada wanted to ensure Crosby hit the ground running after, golden goal aside, he wasn’t a huge factor in Vancouver. It’s not as though, on account of him being the best player in the world, he’s the easiest guy in the world to play with; as Dave Poulin once told us about playing with Gretzky in the Canada Cup, he just “couldn’t think that way.” In Crosby’s case, it’s not like everyone can make plays at the speed he plays the game at or know his preferred areas of the ice. There was some logic to the decision to bring Kunitz given his numbers stood up as well. However, there were a couple of occasions where the pair just didn’t connect, such as on Crosby’s lead pass to Kunitz in the second period, as the chemistry benefit hasn’t been immediately obvious.
Not to sound alarmist, but
based on the first two games the top line is a mess and we’re screwed nine goals have been scored against Norway and Austria; Crosby has one secondary assist, which came when he was on the ice with Marleau and Carter, and Kunitz has no points.
The other question is: where else could Kunitz play in the lineup? The Crosby connection is the only reason he’s there and he should probably sit if it doesn’t work out. The coaching staff may stick with this longer than they should to justify the selection of Kunitz in the first place; not to disrespect a solid NHLer, but he certainly stands out as not being in the same talent stratum as the rest of the Canadian roster.
Canada will play Team Finland next on Sunday morning.
Canada vs Austria Boxscore / Stats