Today’s game was a case of two teams moving in opposite directions—Canada performing worse than expected, Finland performing better—and meeting somewhere in the middle. The result was an even match up and a tight game.
Canada got on the board first with a power play goal from Drew Doughty.
It became obvious as the game went on that Finland had a distinct advantage on the larger ice, with many players familiar with it. When Canada entered Finland’s defensive zone, Finland forced Canada’s offense against the boards. In the NHL you could maybe get a decent shot off from a foot away from the boards—but not here. Any time Canada’s offense tried to move the puck into prime scoring position, towards the middle of the ice, Finland’s defensemen would pick off the puck and bolt.
With two minutes left in the second Finland’s Tuomo Ruutu (whose birthday is today) positioned himself in front of the net and redirected a slap shot from the blue line to tie up the game. Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, and so on.
The game remained mildly heart attack inducing and tied through to the end of the third, forcing over time.
Jamie Benn a great breakaway, that didn’t end so great—face meet board—after the same thing happened to him that seemed to be happening to all the Canadian players all game, and one of the Finnish players just plain out-maneuvered him.
In the end, it was Doughty again who came through—taking a quick shot off a pass from Carter to win the game for Canada, 2-1.
When all was said and done, Canada had outshot Finland 27-15, but only narrowly claimed victory.
Looking at those numbers, and Canada’s lower-than-projected standings going into the Quarter Final, and it’s easy to say Canada has a scoring problem. What’s a bit harder is figuring out exactly why Canada has a scoring problem.
NBC saw fit to blame Crosby. Referencing the pitiful amount of points Crosby’s put up so far in the tournament, and the revolving wingers he’s had, they decided the fault was with him.
I think Crosby’s lack of production is symptomatic of a larger problem that exists within Canada’s Management. It’s not just Crosby’s lines that have seen significant shuffling—Canada’s put up a different combination of players every game so far. With the amount of talk going into the Olympics,about how teammates were chosen for the Olympic teams often to help boost chemistry on-ice considering the quick pace of the tournament—it’s hard to see how constantly line shuffling helps any.
It was a bit boggling to find Kunitz on another line today. Another strange misstep was scratching PK Subban—who has been a consistent player these games. Meanwhile, Duncan Keith had two bad turnovers that I could see.
Babcock and the rest of Canada’s management have to sit down and have a serious conversation about line mates and ice time. Keeping players together and keeping them on the ice for longer periods of time could go a long way towards fixing Canada’s “scoring problem.”
So would possibly telling Sidney Crosby he can take shots on goal. Something Babcock seemed to be leaning away from, if his amount of posturing with Carter being a shooting guy there to shoot is any indication. Crosby is great on the assist, but if he’s floundering with new line mates, you have to let him just be Sidney Crosby.
Both teams will play Wednesday, with their opponents to be decided in Tuesday’s Qualification round.